February 16th, 2014


This Collect has some 'splaining to do

Among my personal collection of saints that I identify with and treasure, there is one who has no name, nor is he commemorated in any Church's calendar. The Venerable Bede tells his story in his History of the English Church and People. The year was AD 627. King Edwin of Northumbria wanted to become a Christian; but before he was baptized or allowed the missionaries headed by St. Paulinus to preach freely throughout his kingdom, he called a Council of his chief men to consider the matter. One of two whose opinions were recorded (the chief pagan priest being the other, surprisingly) was a certain ealdormann who said,
Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter's day with your thanes and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.

With that in mind, here is a Collect for the Ealdormann of Northumbria.

Almighty God,
who alone who knows whence we come and whither we go:
As once you stirred the spirit of an ealdormann of Northumbria,
so also inspire us to desire a more certain knowledge of your truth,
that amidst all the storms and doubts of this life
we may be led at last to join the company of saints who dwell with you in heaven;
through Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the World and the Life of Men. Amen.