The Lord is the king of martyrs: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 3. Liturgical Colour: Red.
St. Alphege became a monk at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, about 970, and eventually Abbot of Bath. In 984 he became Bishop of Winchester where he was known for his personal austerity and almsgiving. The king sent him to parley with the Danish raider Anlaf, and this he did with such success that Anlaf never raided England again.
In 1005 Alphege became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Danes were raiding once more and in 1011 they besieged Canterbury and captured it. Alphege was imprisoned and an enormous ransom was asked for his release, which he forbade to be paid. On 19 April 1012, at Greenwich, his captors, drunk with wine, and enraged at ransom being refused, pelted him with bones of oxen and stones, till one of them, called Thurm, dispatched him with an axe. He was buried in St. Paul’s and by his death he became a national hero.
As an act of reconciliation Canute in 1023 translated the body to Canterbury where it was buried near the high altar. Later Lanfranc confirmed the cult, and had a Life and Office written in his honour, and Thomas Becket just before his death commended his cause to God and Alphege.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: St Irenaeus (130 - 202)|
Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor (now Izmir in Turkey) and emigrated to Lyons, in France, where he eventually became the bishop. It is not known for certain whether he was martyred or died a natural death.
Whenever we take up a Bible we touch Irenaeus’s work, for he played a decisive role in fixing the canon of the New Testament. It is easy for people nowadays to think of Scripture – and the New Testament in particular – as the basis of the Church, but harder to remember that it was the Church itself that had to agree, early on, about what was scriptural and what was not. Before Irenaeus, there was vague general agreement on what scripture was, but a system based on this kind of common consent was too weak. As dissensions and heresies arose, reference to scripture was the obvious way of trying to settle what the truth really was, but in the absence of an agreed canon of scripture it was all too easy to attack one’s opponent’s arguments by saying that his texts were corrupt or unscriptural; and easy, too, to do a little fine-tuning of texts on one’s own behalf. Irenaeus not only established a canon which is almost identical to our present one, but also gave reasoned arguments for each inclusion and exclusion.
Irenaeus also wrote a major work, Against the Heresies, which in the course of denying what the Christian faith is not, effectively asserts what it is. The majority of this work was lost for many centuries and only rediscovered in a monastery on Mount Athos in 1842. Many passages from it are used in the Office of Readings.
Red is the colour of fire and of blood. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit (for instance, at Pentecost) and the blood of the martyrs.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 12:13 ©|
In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Titus 3:5,7 ©|
God saved us by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.
|Afternoon reading (None)||(Colossians 1:12-14) ©|
We thank the Father who has made it possible for us to share in the saints’ inheritance of light. He has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves. In him, we gain our freedom and the forgiveness of our sins.