Christ is the chief shepherd, the leader of his flock: come, let us adore him.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: White.
Little is known of St Swithun’s life. Born in Wessex, his name is sometimes spelled ‘Swithin’. He died on 2 July 862, though the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says 861. He left orders that his body was not to be buried within the church but outside in a “vile and unworthy place”.
Egbert, King of Wessex, chose Swithun as his chaplain and entrusted to him the education of his son Æthelwulf, who succeeded to the throne in 839. Æthelwulf appointed Swithun Bishop of Winchester in 852 and during the ten years of his episcopate he became famous for his charitable gifts and for his activity in the building of churches. He is reputed to have accompanied King Alfred to Rome in 856.
His body was moved from its almost unknown grave into the Old Minster at Winchester on 15 July 971, and this day became his feast-day. His transferral was preceded and followed by numerous miracles. His body was probably later split between a number of smaller shrines. His head was certainly detached and taken to Canterbury Cathedral, while one his arms found a resting place in Peterborough Abbey. His main shrine was transferred to the present (then new) Norman cathedral of Winchester in 1093. His remains were installed on a ‘feretory platform’ above and behind the high altar (the feretory chapel still exists). His shrine became a great focus for pilgrims, and the cathedral’s retrochoir was built in the early 13th century to accommodate the large numbers of people wishing to visit his shrine and enter the ‘holy hole’ beneath him. His shrine was moved into the retrochoir in 1476. It was demolished in 1538 during the ‘English Reformation’, and a modern representation was placed on the site by the Dean and Chapter in 1962.
|Other saints: St Osmund of Salisbury (-1099)|
Plymouth: 2 Dec
Clifton, Hexham & Newcastle: 4 Dec
Osmund, bishop of Sarum or Salisbury, was Norman by birth, the son of Henry, count of Seez; he followed William the Conqueror to England. Here he became Royal Chaplain, until he was promoted to be Chancellor in 1072. He wrote royal letters and charters, obtaining useful experience as an administrator. In 1078 he succeeded Herman as Bishop of Salisbury. The see had been formed by uniting those of Sherborne and Ramsbury and making the new centre at Old Sarum, where the cathedral was built in the same enclosure as the royal castle. Osmund completed and consecrated this cathedral, and formed a chapter with its own constitution, which later became a model for other English cathedrals.
Osmund died on 3rd or 4th December 1099 and was buried in his cathedral at Old Sarum. His chasuble and staff were among the treasures there in 1222; but in 1226 his body and its tomb were translated to the new cathedral of Salisbury.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Ambrose of Milan (340? - 397)|
Ambrose was born in Trier (now in Germany) between 337 and 340, to a Roman family: his father was praetorian prefect of Gaul. Ambrose was educated at Rome and embarked on the standard cursus honorum of Roman advocates and administrators, at Sirmium, the capital of Illyria. In about 372 he was made prefect of Liguria and Emilia, whose capital was Milan.
In 374 the bishopric of Milan fell vacant and when Ambrose tried to pacify the conflict between the Catholics and Arians over the appointment of a new bishop, the people turned on him and demanded that he become the bishop himself. He was a layman and not yet baptized (at this time it was common for baptism to be delayed and for people to remain for years as catechumens), but that was no defence. Coerced by the people and by the emperor, he was baptized, ordained, and installed as bishop within a week, on 7 December 374.
He immediately gave his money to the poor and his land to the Church and set about learning theology. He had the advantage of knowing Greek, which few people did at that time, and so he was able to read the Eastern theologians and philosophers as well as those of the West.
He was assiduous in carrying out his office, acting with charity to all: a true shepherd and teacher of the faithful. He was unimpressed by status and when the Emperor Theodosius ordered the massacre of 7,000 people in Thessalonica, Ambrose forced him to do public penance. He defended the rights of the Church and attacked the Arian heresy with learning, firmness and gentleness. He also wrote a number of hymns which are still in use today.
Ambrose was a key figure in the conversion of St Augustine to Catholicism, impressing Augustine (hitherto unimpressed by the Catholics he had met) by his intelligence and scholarship. He died on Holy Saturday, 4 April 397.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||2 Corinthians 13:11 ©|
Brethren, be joyful. Try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Romans 6:22 ©|
Now you have been set free from sin, you have been made slaves of God, and you get a reward leading to your sanctification and ending in eternal life.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Colossians 1:21-22 ©|
Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies, in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body. Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless.