Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
St Agnes Virgin Martyr
Holy Agnes was martyred on 21st January c305 AD in the Piazza Navona in Rome, at the tender age of twelve or thirteen. The son of the Governor of Rome proposed marriage, but Agnes preferred virginity. Her refusal to accept his hand, sent the Governor into a rage, and he threatened to expose Agnes’s parents as Christians, and so face certain death. He tried to persuade Agnes to change her mind by making her walk naked through the city, but her hair miraculously grew to cover her body and save her nakedness. This could not change her mind, so Agnes was burned at the stake, but the flames refused to touch her. She was sent to the lions, who made no attack on her. The son of the Governor goaded the lions who then attacked and killed him. The Father, distraught at his son’s death, pleaded with Agnes to pray for him, and at her intercession he was restored to health. Undeterred, the Governor had Agnes beheaded. Her body was buried in the Catacombs outside the city. On the octave day, she appeared in a vision, full of assurance of her well-being.
Her preference of death, rather than any violation to her young sacred body won her much renown in the early Church, most especially in Europe.
Her severed head is in the Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone in the Piazza Navona. Her body is in the Basilica of Sant’ Agnese fuori le Mura (St Agnes outside the Walls) on the Via Nomentana.
Because of the resemblance of her name, Agnes to agnus (latin for lamb) she is often represented in Art carrying a lamb. And, on her feast day in the Basilica of St Agnes the Holy Father blesses lambs, from which the sisters of St Agnes’ convent make the Sacred Pallia, worn by Archbishops. Once the Pallia are made, they rest above the tomb of St Peter in the Vatican, from where new Archbishops receive them from the Holy Father.
We celebrate with her and all the saints, their victory over death and suffering through Jesus. We also pray and hope that we will be amongst their number and remain loyal to the faith which she professed, live and died by.
Holy Agnes, pray for us and for my daughter until she stand beside you in heaven!
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
"Entirely medieval in spirit though are the inscriptions at the top of the scene. Around Edmund’s head, angelic hands (the one at the left clearer) hold a continuous scroll. Only the word ‘Edmund’ to the left of the tree’s foliage is readable, but the rest of the sentence probably identified him fully as martyred King of the East Angles. The second scroll on the right, curving around the head, shoulders and elbow of the upper right-hand archer, reads ‘Heven blyß to his mede, hym s[h]all have for hys gud de[de]...’. "
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
After giving the head and body a speedy burial, the kingdom rebuilt itself for several years before finally erecting a church worthy of Edmund's burial. Legend told that upon exhumation of the body, a miracle was discovered. All the arrow wounds upon Edmund's corpse were healed and his head reattached to his body. The only evidence of his previous decapitation was a thin, red line around his neck. Despite being buried for many years in a flimsy coffin, his skin was soft and fresh as if he were merely sleeping the entire time.
In Percy Dearmer's The Little Lives of the Saints, we are told of Edmund's posthumous revenge on the Danes:
“...the last heathen Danish king, Sweyen (the father of Canute), tried to destroy (Bury St Edmunds). He laid siege to it, and demanded all the treasure of the church, else he threatened to destroy the church and kill all the clergy; and this he said with many taunting words about the saint who lay buried there. But as he was sitting on his war–horse, waiting to attack the town, he saw in the sky St Edmund coming towards him, a crown on his head and a long bright lance in his hand. 'Help, friends!' he cried. 'Edmund is coming to kill me!' Then he fell down, and died in convulsions.”
Sweyn's son, King Canute, converted to Christianity and rebuilt the abbey at Bury St Edmunds. In 1020, he made a pilgrimage there and offered his own crown upon the shrine as atonement for the sins of his forefathers.
Monday, October 6, 2008
This is by far my favorite image of St. Edmund martyr from the famous "Wilton Diptych" This post will focus on this beautiful and moving piece of art. If you are a total nerd like me who loves the Catholic church and her saints, medieval English history and art - this post is for you! :)
From Wikipedia: "The Wilton Diptych (c.1395-1399) is a small portable altarpiece of two panels. It is an extremely rare survival within England of late Medieval religious painting.
The diptych was painted for King Richard II of England who is depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child in what is known as a "votive portrait".
The painting is considered an outstanding example of the International Gothic style and possibly of English art. It belongs to the National Collection and is currently housed in the National Gallery, London."
Here is entire left side of the diptych:
Interpretation: The identity of the kneeling king is known because the angels surrounding the Virgin are wearing the livery of Richard II, the White Hart, which also appears in the brocade of the left panel and the outside of the diptych. As Richard kneels, the Christ Child reaches towards him in benediction and also reaches towards the pennant held by an angel, and significantly placed between them. This pennant is the symbol of Richard's kingship and of the Kingdom of England as a whole, It bears the Cross of St. George, the symbol of England and furthermore surmounting the staff is an orb on which is tiny map of England.
All three saints who present the kneeling Richard to the Virgin and Child are believed to have been venerated by the king, as each has his own chapel in Westminster Abbey. Each saint holds the symbollic attribute by which they are recognised in art. Edmund the Martyr, who stands to the left, holds the arrow which killed him in 869, while Edward the Confessor, at the centre, holds the ring he gave to a pilgrim who transpired to be the disguised John the Evangelist. John the Baptist (right) holds his symbol, the Lamb of God.
The image on the left makes reference to King Richard's birth on 6th January. This is the feast day that Christians celebrate Epiphany, when Christ was adored by three kings and also the baptism of the adult Christ with John the Baptist shown touching Richard's shoulder.
John the Baptist was Richard's Patron Saint, and Saint Edward and Saint Edmund had both been English kings. Richard had a special devotion to Edmund, who with St. George is one of the patron saints of England.
The painting is indicative of both Richard's belief in his divine right to rule and his genuine Christian devotion. It also importantly symbolises (in the form of the Pennant), Richard II giving his kingdom into the hands of the Holy Virgin, thereby continuing a long tradition by which England was known as "Our Lady's Dowry" and was thought to be specially under her protection
Friday, October 3, 2008
"King Edmund stood within his hall of the mindful Healer with Hinguar (Ivar), who then came, and discarded his weapons. He willed to imitate Christ's example, which forbade Peter to fight against the fierce Jews with weapons. Lo! to the dishonorable man Edmund then submitted and was scoffed at and beaten by cudgels. Thus the heathens led the faithful king to a tree firmly rooted in Earth, tightened him thereto with sturdy bonds, and again scourged him for a long time with straps. He always called between the blows with belief in truth to Christ the Saviour."
The king's body was ultimately interred at Beadoriceworth, the modern Bury St Edmunds. The shrine of Edmund soon became one of the most famous and wealthy pilgrimage locations in England and the reputation of the saint became universal.
The date of Edmund's canonization is unknown, although Hermann's Life of Edmund, written in the late eleventh century, states that it happened in the reign of Athelstan (924–939). Edmund's popularity among the English nobility was lasting. It is known that his banner was borne in the Irish expedition of the Anglo-Normans and also when Caerlaverock Castle was taken in 1300. A banner with Edmund's crest was also carried at the battle of Agincourt. Churches dedicated to his memory are found all over England, including St Edmund the King and Martyr in London. There are a number of colleges named after St Edmund. His shrine at Bury St Edmunds was destroyed in 1539, during the English Reformation. His feast day is 20 November.
The Abbey of St Edmund at Bury
Next posts will be about the famous Wilton image and the fascinating "Legend of St. Edmund"
Thursday, October 2, 2008
St. Edmund, Martyr ~ Icon. You can see here the instruments of his martyrdom, the arrows. Also you see a wolf cradling a severed head. See next post for this story.
St. Edmund -Ora Pro Nobis!
We know the fate of those who are unfortunate enough to die in a state of mortal sin is hellfire. What of the torments that accompany the fire? The saints can tell us much of the plethora of sufferings that await the damned.
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that the sins of each one will be fully known to all other inhabitants of hell. Our sins will be fully visible in our bodies - we can imagine how horrible this would be. Can you think of what things would be more painful in this life than to live in open shame? That all around you, everyone knew of all your "hidden" sins and shameful acts?
The evil one will brand each reprobate with a mark of shame on each portion of thier body with which they sinned. This is in order that all shameful deeds may be known to all. This is the everlasting disgrace which God foretells of through His prophet: "I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame which shall never be forgotten." (Jer. xxiii 40) No effort will erase the mark, nothing may be used with which to cover it. According to St. Ephrem: "This shame and infamy will be more insupportable than the hell-fire itself, because it will keep constantly before thier remembrance the sins whereby they defiled themselves on earth."
Dionysius the Carthusian writes about a mystical transportation which occured to his fellow religious. The monks pressed thier fellow for a detailed account of what he'd seen. This was dutifully recorded and ought to serve us well as a reminder of our need to avoid mortal sin: "I was conducted by my guide a long way until we came to a region of gloom and horror, where were a countless multitude of men and women, all suffering terrible torments. These were the persons who had sinned with thier bodies; they were plagued by huge fiery monsters, who sprang upon them, and, despite thier resistance, clasped them and hugged them with thier paws until they shrieked with pain. Amongst those who were tormented in this manner I saw a man whom I knew very well, and who had been much esteemed and respected in the world. Seeing me he cried aloud in piteous tones "Alas, alas! Woe is me that I sinned as I did in my lifetime, for now the pain I endure grows greater every day! But the worse of all , what I feel most acutely, is the shame and disgrace to which my sins expose me, for all know them, and all despise me and mock me on account of them."
Think a moment, would you rather not become ill with a terrible illness than become the object of public scorn, shame and ridicule? Would you rather not carry in your body a terrible suffering than be openly mocked and treated with derision on account of your sins?
Just as hell is only one mortal sin away, so is grace only one confession away. Do not delay one more day. If you are embarassed to confess some secret sin - confess it anyway! Do it and be healed by Jesus - ask for the grace and strength to not commit it again. Any brief moment of embarassment in confessing such a thing behind a screen is nothing compared with multitudes knowing every shame you've committed and mocking you for all eternity without respite! Go to a priest and be healed and delivered from such a fate!
O sweet Jesus, whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Thy altar eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries, to which Thy loving Heart is everywhere subject.