The Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Year: C(I). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: White.
|Saint Augustine of Canterbury (- 605?)|
Christianity in Britain started early, but was largely submerged by the pagan Anglo-Saxon invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries. It remained alive only in the far west, which remained British because it was too remote and inaccessible for the invaders to attack.
It is said that Pope Gregory the Great saw some fair-haired Anglo-Saxon slaves exposed for sale in a market in Rome. He asked where they were from, and when he was told, replied non Angli, sed angeli – “not Angles, but angels,” and determined to secure their evangelization.
Whatever the truth of that story, it is certain that Gregory did organise a party of thirty monks to travel to south-eastern England and spread the Gospel there, and chose as their leader Augustine, prior of the monastery of St Andrew in Rome. They landed in 597, and were welcomed by the king of Kent, Ethelbert, who became a Christian along with many of his subjects. A second wave of missionaries arrived in 601. Augustine went to Arles, in France, where he was consecrated archbishop of the English, and then returned to Canterbury to set up his see. The mission prospered, and he founded two more sees, at London and at Rochester in Kent.
The evangelization of the country was planned in close agreement with Pope Gregory, and took care to respect existing traditions. Pagan temples and holy places were not to be destroyed, but to be converted to Christian use; and pagan feasts were to be superseded by Christian ones. This is consistent with the pattern of evangelization throughout the first millennium, which saw Christianity as a fulfilment of what went before, rather than a contradiction of it. Even in Rome itself, temples of Juno had a tendency to become churches dedicated to Our Lady. (It is only with the Spanish colonial evangelizations of the mid-second millennium that the policy of making a clean break with the past began: a policy that works faster but whose effects are not always permanent).
In the far west of Britain, where British bishops had survived the pagan invasions – or where they had fled to escape them – Augustine was less successful in establishing his authority. The traditions of the Celtic church were different from the Roman ones, and bishops who had guided their people for generations were not about to submit to a jumped-up missionary from overseas. It took several generations for the whole of Great Britain to become Christian and for the English and British liturgical traditions to be reconciled.
Augustine died at Canterbury on 26 May 604 or 605.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: Didymus of Alexandria (c.310-395)|
Didymus, known as “Didymus the Blind” because he went blind at the age of four, was the head of the famous catechetical school of Alexandria for over fifty years. He remained always a layman, and was one of the most learned and widely respective ascetics of his time: St Jerome once stayed with him for a month, to have his doubts resolved on difficult passages in Scripture, and referred to him as “the Seer” rather than “the Blind”.
Didyums was a leading opponent of Arianism, which held that Christ is not truly divine but a created being. He was, however, also a follower of Origen and took on some of his errors, so that, although he was not condemned by name at the time that Origenism as a whole was condemned, his works fell out of fashion and, as they were not copied, gradually disappeared over the centuries.
Didymus’ Trinitarian and Christological doctrine is, however, perfectly orthodox. He was a pioneer in expressing the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that was clear and unambiguous and could not be misunderstood. This was a delicate business requiring a careful choice of terms, especially in Greek, which lacked a direct equivalent of straightforward Latin words such as persona. “On the Trinity”, which is used in the Office of Readings, is his most important work.
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)||(Apocalypse 1:17-18) ©|
I saw the Son of Man, and he said to me, ‘Have no fear! I am the First and the Last. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld.’
|Noon reading (Sext)||Colossians 2:9,12 ©|
In Christ lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fulfilment. You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.
|Afternoon reading (None)||2 Timothy 2:8,11 ©|
Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’. Here is a saying that you can rely on: ‘If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.’