Category Archives: Anglo-Saxons

Aidan and Cuthbert

New Blue book on the proposed revised calendar for the Episcopal Church is out to be approved at this summer’s general convention. There are a large number of changes and many additions.

Cuthbert has a vision of Aidan being carried to heaven on the night he died, from a version of Bede's Life of Cuthbert.
Cuthbert has a vision of Aidan's soul being carried to heaven on the night he died, from a version of Bede's Life of Cuthbert.

One of the changes combines the feast day for Bishops Aidan and Cuthbert of Lindisfarne on August 31st (Aidan’s feast day). We have been saying for years that Cuthbert is the politically correct version of Aidan and now they will share a feast day. On top of that, they share Aidan’s feast day. I think that is appropriate given that Aidan is the founder of Lindisfarne and is probably more popular among the neo-Celtic movement, but I’m sure in terms of historic popularity, Cuthbert was more popular. Having the feast in August will remove it from the complication of possibly falling in Lent. It will also move Cuthbert from the shadow of St Patrick a couple days earlier. Overall, I can’t say that I mind too much, but it does decrease the number of early medieval and Anglo-Saxons feasts. This is more relevant because they are proposing to add so many post-Reformation people.

New proposed collect:

Everliving God, you called your servants Aidan and Cuthbert to proclaim the Gospel in northern England and gave them loving hearts and gentle spirits: Grant us grace to live as they did, in simplicity, humility and love for the poor; through Jesus Christ, who came among us as one who serves, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Alcuin, Abbot of Tours

Odd how we always call Alcuin “of York” isn’t it? Perhaps it should be Alcuin, Abbot of Tours? Given the importance of St Martin of Tours in the monastic movement, this was surely a coveted position and perhaps how he would want to be remembered. Well, either way, we should remember Alcuin today as it is his feast day.

Today’s Speaking to the Soul over at the Episcopal Cafe has a short post on Alcuin’s influence here. Interesting how this book excerpt stresses the Celtic influence on Alcuin. It is worth pointing out here that Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter was one of the devotional materials that Alcuin put in at least one of these little books. Alcuin was responsible for spreading a lot of Bede’s works. This is a topic I’ll have to revisit someday when I have more time.

Juggling books

Derek has an interesting post here on early medieval liturgical materials. As Derek points out, to do the daily office in the early medieval period required juggling five different books — breviary, collectar (with collects, I presume?), psalter, antiphoner, and hymnal. How many clergy would want to juggle this many books, much less laity? Besides, this requires a mini-library and is not very useful for travel. Books of hours then provided primarily the laity with one book that contained everything they needed to pray the hours.

Now to be sure, some of the above books may have had a combination of materials in one book, say psalter and antiphoner or hymnal. Indeed, psalters were the most multifunctional early books, usually containing additional matierals like liturgical calendars, antiphons (sometimes in place before and after the psalms), and a collection of other prayers. Likewise, breviaries contained a wide variety of material and are the clerical version of a book of hours. As the liturgy became more complex, breviaries got not so brief, and became difficult to handle.

I think its a shame that antiphons have been largely forgotten and collects have become rather cookie cutter. I hope to post some new collects here in time.