We are the people of the Lord, the flock that is led by his hand: come, let us adore him, alleluia.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 4. Liturgical Colour: Green.
In other years: St Alban (3rd century)
St Alban was the first British martyr. Almost nothing about him is known for certain – even the date of his martyrdom is unknown, and historians’ estimates vary between 209 and 314 A.D. (more recent historical research suggests the mid-3rd century).
Alban was a Roman who lived in Verulamium and sheltered a fleeing Christian during a persecution. He was converted, and was executed. Whether the persecution was that of the emperor Diocletian or the emperor Decius – whether Alban pretended to be the fleeing Christian, and so died – whether any of the miraculous circumstances of his martyrdom actually happened – all this is, by now, known only to God.
This does not mean that St Alban did not exist. His cult was already well established by the year 429, and on the hill where tradition said he was martyred, a great abbey grew up which eventually gave its name to the town. Such cults do not appear from nowhere; and the local people conserved in their tradition only what they needed to know – that there had been a martyr there. The fact that legends grew up around him is nothing unusual for the time, and does not cast any doubt on his existence, any more than the legends that gathered round Alexander the Great (who, as “Iskender,” became the hero of many oriental myths that had existed long before his birth) cast any doubt on his existence.
Scholarship has not dealt so kindly with the supposed companion of St Alban, St Amphibalus, who was at one time commemorated on 25th June. The trouble is that his name (derived from the Greek “amphibalos,” a thing thrown around something) means a cloak, and a cloak figures strongly in the later embroideries of St Alban’s story. St Amphibalus has not, therefore, been in the calendar for many centuries now. Science is not immune from this embarrassing phenomenon. In 1992, a letter to the prestigious science magazine “Nature” revealed the unusual biography of a biochemist named Chir, who had papers credited to him and appeared in all the right citation indexes. There turned out to have been a paper published in the 1960s, by [I am inventing the other names] K.J. Smith, M.Chir, and F. Williamson, Ph.D. Unfortunately, M.Chir is simply the abbreviation of the degree “Master of Surgery,” and so the second author of this paper turns out to be just a degree held by the first author!
All we know about Alban is all we need to know: that he was faced unexpectedly with a simple, straightforward decision, and he made the right choice. Easy, we think – obvious what to do – lucky man... except that when we envy him his opportunity, we would do well to remember that it was his entire life and character that were summed up in that single split-second decision. His life (of which we otherwise know nothing) made him the sort of man he was. We may imagine that we would do as he did, given the same chance, but given how idiotically most of us behave when taken by surprise, we may well be wrong. When we pray to be given, like St Alban, a simple opportunity to show what we are made of, we should perhaps add a second prayer – that the first prayer should not be answered.
Other saints: Saints Alban, Julius and Aaron
Veneration of Alban as Protomartyr of Britain depends on a cult of great antiquity at St Alban’s, known during the years of Roman occupation as Verulanium. Bede records in his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation how, during a persecution by Diocletian, Alban surrendered himself in place of a Christian priest, and so unbaptised by water, attained a baptism of blood. In the same persecution Julius and Aaron, at Caerleon on Usk, are named among others who gave their lives for the faith.
Other saints: The Irish Martyrs
Seventeen Irish Martyrs were put to death for the Catholic faith between 1579 and 1654 and were beatified in 1992. They include priests and lay people, men and women. Some were hanged, others were hanged, drawn and quartered. One or two died under torture. See the article in Wikipedia
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Faustinus
St Faustinus was Bishop of Brescia in the fourth century. No secure dates or biographical information survive, except that his predecessor in the see is known to have been active in 343 and his successor in 381. Some works of his have been preserved, though inevitably there are scholars who contest their attribution.
Liturgical colour: green
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the orderly sequence of weeks through the year, a season in which we are being neither single-mindedly penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ©|
Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Deuteronomy 10:12 ©|
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? Only this: to fear the Lord your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Song of Songs 8:6-7 ©|
Love is strong as death,
jealousy as relentless as Sheol.
The flash of it is a flash of fire,
a flame of the Lord himself.
Love no floods can quench,
no torrents drown.