Christ the Lord has promised us the Holy Spirit: come, let us adore him, alleluia.
Year: A(I). Psalm week: 3. 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temples and holy places were not to be destroyed, but to be converted to Christian use; and pagan feasts were to be superseded by Christian ones.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.
Other saints: Bl. Andrew Franchi OP (1335 - 1401)
27 May (where celebrated)
Dominican Friar and Bishop.
Blessed Andrew, a member of the noble Franchi Boccagni family, was born in Pistoia, Italy, in 1335 and at the age of fourteen entered the Dominican Order in Florence. He worked to restore regular observance after the plague of the Black Death. As bishop of Pistoia he was an active promoter of peace among the people and was known for his personal austerity and his preaching. He had a special devotion to the Infant Jesus and his Mother. He resigned his office in 1400 and retired to the priory of Pistoia where he died on May 26, 1401.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: St Gregory of Agrigentum (late 6th century)
Gregory was born near Agrigentum (Girgenti) in Sicily. He was ordained deacon while on a pilgrimage to Palestine, by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and was ordained Bishop of Agrigentum while on a visit to Rome. Pope St Gregory the Great addressed several letters to him.
There is a long biography of him, written some years after his death, but it is short on the kind of dry biographical detail that is valued in the modern West and long on the stories of personalities, feuds, injustice, divine assistance and eventual vindication which may well be true (there is no reason for them not to be) but which do not accord well with our current ideas of what history ought to be. Even the date of Gregory’s death is uncertain. By 594 he was no longer Bishop, but whether this was due to death, dismissal or retirement, nobody knows.
On the other hand, the “Gregory of Agrigentum” who wrote the exposition on Ecclesiastes which appears among the Second Readings may be another Gregory of Agrigentum from the late seventh, and not the late sixth, century. Or he may even be someone else altogether, from later still.
Faced with such rich material for controversy among scholars, this is one of those cases when it is better not to worry too much about the exact authorship, instead absorbing and deriving spiritual benefit from the rich line of interpretation which this work provides. It is the quality of the Exposition on Ecclesiastes, not the identity of its author, which has secured it its place in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Liturgical colour: white
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)||Romans 5:10-11 ©|
When we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we were still enemies; now that we have been reconciled, surely we may count on being saved by the life of his Son? Not merely because we have been reconciled but because we are filled with joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already gained our reconciliation.
|Noon reading (Sext)||1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ©|
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ.
|Afternoon reading (None)||2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ©|
The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead. The reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.