Today I’m going to delve into another aspect of the lectionary, that of commemorating saints and other significant figures from Christian history.
As well as offering the selection of readings that I described yesterday, there are a fair amount of days that are also used to draw attention to the lives of those who have made a key contribution to the Christian faith. These range from the obvious saints, including the apostles, the Church Fathers ( who you will recall Rev Shirley has been talking about in her recent set of reflections) and all sorts of others who have undertaken many diverse ministries for the glory of God.
Yesterday, there were three very different people whose lives were commemorated – Wilfred, who was an 8th century Bishop and missionary in Saxon England, Elizabeth Fry, the 19th Century prison reformer and Edith Cavell, the British nurse who helped hundred of British soldiers escape occupied Belgium during the First World War and who was executed by the German army as a result. All three of these remarkable Christians died on 12th October and it is often the date of an individual’s death on which the lectionary commemorates their lives.
Today it is the turn of Edward the Confessor, who reputedly died on 13th October 1066, as a result of which the infamous Battle of Hastings took place as William of Normandy staked his claim to England’s throne to which Harold Godwinson had succeeded after Edward’s death.
Less than a century later, Edward was canonised by Pope Alexander III on the grounds not just of his religious devotion and generosity to those in need, but also in the belief that he had taken a vow of chastity despite his marriage, and that he had healing powers which allegedly resulted in the performing of miracles after his death.
Perhaps Edward’s most significant legacy was his commissioning of the building of the church that eventually became Westminster Abbey, which of course has been the focus of many nationally important religious ceremonies, including the coronation of many of Edward’s successors as monarchs.
Whether or not we think Edward was worthy of sainthood, he was clearly a man of strong faith, who attempted to live by Gospel principles in what was a very turbulent time in history.
In these present day times of turmoil it can be helpful to reflect on those who throughout the preceding centuries have done their best to care and protect for others in very practical ways , just as Elizabeth Fry and Edith Cavell did, and those who committed themselves to bringing the Gospel to those who don’t yet know how God can transform their lives, as Wilfred endeavoured to do.
I am hopeful that we will continue to give thanks to all those who are doing their very best to help us all make it through this challenging season in so many diverse and wonderful ways and that their lives will be remembered with devotion for the sacrifices they made for the sake of others.
I leave you with the special prayer that is said today in Edward’s memory
who set your servant Edward
upon the throne of an earthly kingdom
and inspired him with zeal for the kingdom of heaven:
grant that we may so confess the faith of Christ,
by word and deed,
that we, with all your saints, inherit your eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen