Christ is the chief shepherd, the leader of his flock: come, let us adore him.
Year: B(II). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: White.
|St John of Beverley (-721)|
John of Beverley was born at Harpham a few miles from Driffield on the Yorkshire Wolds. He studied at Canterbury under St Adrian, the African-born abbot of the famous monastery there, who was a great scripture scholar and a fine teacher of Greek and Latin. When John returned to the North, he entered the double monastery at Whitby under the remarkable abbess, St Hilda, who had a great influence on many of the outstanding religious people of her time.
In 687 John was consecrated Bishop of Hexham in succession to Bishop Eata, one of the twelve disciples of St Aidan and the teacher of St Cuthbert. During his time at Hexham, John ordained the future St Bede as priest. He was a good pastoral bishop, a man who loved the Scriptures, and a patient teacher. Like many of his contemporaries he also had a deep seated need for prayerful solitude and used to retire to a quiet place on the banks of the Tyne for prayer and the study of Scriptures, especially during the season of Lent. In 705 he was appointed to the See of York in succession to St Bosa, himself a former monk of the monastery at Whitby. John remained in the diocese for 12 years but the call of solitude remained strong, and four years before his death he retired to Beverley to a religious house he founded there.
John died on 7 May 721, having worked for more than thirty years as a bishop. His shrine became famous up and down the country and was considered to be one of the chief places of devotion in England for many years.
Many miracles of healing are ascribed to John, and the popularity of his cult was a major factor in the prosperity of Beverley during the Middle Ages. He was celebrated for his scholarship as well as for his virtues. He was canonized in 1037. In 1541, his shrine was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII. About a hundred years later workmen discovered a vault under the floor of the Minster’s nave. The inscription on it indicates that the contents contained the relics of St John. In 1738, when the present Minster floor was laid, these relics were disinterred and replaced in the same position with an arched brick vault over them. The inscription on the tomb now reads:
THE BODY OF SAINT JOHN OF BEVERLEY
FOUNDER OF THIS CHURCH
BISHOP OF HEXHAM A.D. 687-705
BISHOP OF YORK A.D. 705-718
HE WAS BORN AT HARPHAM
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.’