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St. Makarii Glukharev, Missionary to the Altai

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Commemorated May 18

I am a little late, but still wanted to share this post put together by Fr. Oliver Herbel, at his blog Frontier Orthodoxy.

I thought I would share with you a summarized timeline of the life of St. Makarii Glukharev. Those wishing to know more should consult Kharlampovich, Konstantin Vasil’evich, Archimandrite Makarii Glukharev–Founder of the Altai Mission, Translated and edited by James Lawton Haney (Edwin Mellon Press, 2001). Haney is a past professor of mine and a friend. The book is well worth reading. You may also wish to check out the Orthodox Wiki page:

http://www.quotes.orthodoxwiki.org/Makarii_of_the_Altai

It is important to remember, when reflecting upon the life of St. Makarii, that he was greatly influenced by the reforms within ecclesiastical schools that occurred between 1808 and 1817. Essentially, these reforms focused upon academic theological integrity and translation work. St. Petersburg Academy was the epicenter of such activity and was the headquarters of the Russian Bible Society, which was involved in translating the Bible into the contemporary Russian at the time. The academy even had the first modern Russian Hebraist at the time, Gerasim Pavsky.

On July 18th, 1817, Glukharev graduated from St. Petersburg Academy, where Filaret is the rector. Filaret later became Metropolitan of Moscow.

In September, 1817 Glukharev is appointed professor of Church history at the Ekaterinoslav Seminary. In July, he is tonsured a monk, taking the name “Makarii” and goes to the monastery at the Caves in Kiev. In 1819, he returns to Ekaterinoslav Seminary in order to be the dean of students. He didn’t get along with Bishop Iov.

On April 20th, 1821 he is transferred to Kostroma seminary where he is raised to the rank of archimandrite and appointed rector of the seminary. In 1824, he leaves and goes to the Caves of Kiev briefly and then eventually to Glinsk Hermitage in the Kursk Province.

In 1826, the Russian Bible Society closes down as a reaction to western influences within Russia.

In 1829, Makarii requests to be a missionary and is transferred to the Tobol’sk Diocese, where he is head of the mission in that region. On September 7th, 1830, Makarii baptizes his first convert. During his time in Tobol’sk, Makarii learns several Turkic Dialects and receives permission from the Synod to translate parts of the Bible, the Divine Liturgy, and prayers into the native language. This resulted in Makarii translating most of the New Testament, the Psalms, other pericopes from the Old Testament, and creating a dictionary of the various dialects of the region.

Throughout all of his mission work, Makarii had a large, progressive vision. He believed that the mission needed to start schools and seminaries which would include women teaching orphans how to read and write and would even involve women translating works. This is at a time in which women professors or teachers were not the norm in the Russian academic world. He also believed the office of the deaconess must be re-established, not as some sort of pseudo-academic recreation, but to fulfill the needs of teaching the orphans life skills and serving as missionary nurses and Church cantors/readers. These proposals were, unfortunately, ignored by the Synod.

St. Makarii gave the missionaries under him three instructions. First, instruct the natives in the important dogmas and doctrines of the Church, including the distinction between veneration and worship (in reference to icons). Second, work with the natives lovingly and patiently without coercion or threats. Third, begin converting people from the nearest locations and settlements and then work beyond that sphere, all the while learning about the people themselves.

One quote that stood out for me was: “Jesus crucified is our righteousness, our justification, and our sanctification.”

During his fourteen years as a missionary in the Altai region, St. Makarii converted 675 natives and laid the groundwork to later conversions, resulting the conversion of 25,000 of the 45,000 residents. This later work was performed by Makarii’s followers, the priests Landishev and Vladimir. Makarii created one of the most organized missionary activities in the history of the Christian Church.

In 1839, he goes to St. Petersburg to discuss the financial situation of the mission and his work at translating the Bible into the Russian vernacular as well. He is sent to Moscow where he finds a major benefactor named Sofiia de Val’mon, the daughter of a Russian noblewoman and a French army officer who converted to Orthodoxy.

In 1840, he goes to Kazan to study the Tartar language even further before returning to the Altai region. In 1841, the Synod considers Makarii’s belligerent attempts at getting the Synod to publish his Russian translation of the Bible actions deserving of a mild punishment. He spends time at the house of his friend Bishop Afanasii, where he is technically under “house arrest.”

In 1844, Makarii leaves the Altai region (having requested transfer) and arrives in Bolkhov, where he is installed as the abbot of the monastery there.

In 1846, Makarrii publishes a book of poems with musical notations.

On May 18th, 1847, St. Makarii dies. In his dying moment, he rises up in his bed and cries, “The Light of Christ illumines all!”

In 1848, three of his sermons are published posthumously and in 1854 these same sermons are republished along with the publication of three others.

On August 20th, 2000, Makarii is canonized as a saint.

Source: Frontier Orthodoxy
I assume there are icons of St. Makarii available, but I couldn’t find one online. For some pictures, though, of the Altai, and Orthodox missionaries to them, you can view this page by Professor Andrei Znamenski.

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Written by Stephen

May 20, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

St. Dunstan of Canterbury

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Commemorated May 19

The early history of Christianity in England is marked by sharp fluctuations. Soon after the Romans withdrew from the island, staunchly heathen Anglo-Saxons virtually obliterated all traces of the first Christian communities planted by St. Joseph of Arimathea and Apostle Aristubules and watered by the martyric blood of St. Alban and others. The vigorous missionary thrusts of the sixth and seventh centuries-effected in the north by Celtic monks from Ireland, and in the south by St Augustine and his followers from Rome—-ushered in a golden age which saw the establishment of many great monastic houses and centers of learning–Iona, Lindesfarne, Wearmouth–and provided England with some of her most illustrious saints: Columba, Alden, Oswald, Cuthbert, Bede, the holy abbesses Hilda and Etheldreda. In the ninth century paganism against raised its head. Raiding Norsemen ravaged monasteries, burning their libraries; the interests of war eclipsed the interests of the Church, and spiritual life declined, hastened by the dissolution of the monastic ideal. Then, once again, the tide began to turn. It was just at this time that the Anglo Saxon Chronicle records the birth of St. Dunstan, a key figure in England’s subsequent recovery of Christianity, a magnificent flowering before its unfortunate departure with Rome into schism in 1054.
Although the Chronicle gives 925 as the year of St. Dunstan’s birth, most historians place it somewhat earlier, c. 910, on the basis of the fact that from 940-45 he was attached to the court of King Edmund as a priest, a rank which required that he be at least thirty year old.

St. Dunstan was born into a noble Wessex family whose property lay close by Glastonbury Abbey. Although monastic life was scarcely in evidence, Glastonbury’s tradition as Britain’s oldest Christian settlement still attracted numerous pilgrims, and its well-stocked library accounted for some Irish scholars in residence. There Dunstan received a good education before joining his uncle Athelm, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the court of King Athelstan. Another relative, Aelfheah “the Bald,” who later became Bishop of Winchester, encouraged the youth to become a monk. Dunstan had his eyes on marriage, but he became afflicted with a skin disease which he feared was leprosy, and when he recovered he acted upon his relative’s suggestion and was tonsured.Saint Dunstan
Returning to Glastonbury, Dunstan built a small cell adjoining the “Old Church,” and there he occupied himself with prayer, study and manual labor, showing a talent for fine metal work in his crafting of bells and church vessels. (In the Roman Church tradition, he became the patron saint of goldsmiths and jewelers.) His musical ability was reflected in the hymns he composed. He also spent time in the scriptorium, copying and illuminating manuscripts. Among his peers, he was considered to be a mystic. Nurtured partly in the strictly ascetic Celtic tradition, he concentrated on the inner spiritual warfare and wrestled with visible demons and heard mysterious, heavenly voices. One of his contemporaries wrote that when he sang at the altar he seemed to be talking with the Lord face to face.

Athelstan’s successor, King Edmund, recalled Dunstan to the court as a priest, but jealousy soon conspired to disgrace the monk. He was about to leave the country when the King, in a narrow brush with death while out hunting, had a sudden revelation of Dunstan’s innocence. In making amends, he granted Dunstan some land and, in 943, appointed him abbot of Glastonbury, charging him with the renewal of its monastic life.
One of Dunstan’s first steps as abbot was to reintroduce monastic discipline using the Rule of St. Benedict (+ 547). He enlarged the church and other buildings and bolstered the abbey’s reputation as a center of learning. Students at the school were taught by professed monks and were expected to participate in the daily monastic observances. This preparation provided a good crop of candidates for monasticism. Soon Glastonbury became a spearhead for a widespread monastic revival.

The period of St. Dunstan’s reforms coincided providentially with a change in England’s political fortunes: the death of Eric “Bloodaxe” of Norway in the late 940’s opened the possibility for England’s unification, and the country entered a quarter century of peace. Dunstan continued to enjoy royal patronage under Edmund’s successor, Eadred (946-55) and, as one of his closest advisors, he helped to conciliate the Danes.
As a statesman, Dunstan’s zeal for moral reform and his promotion of monastic interests were resented by some of the West Saxon nobles, and they were only too glad when he was exiled by King Eadwig, although the king’s motive was hardly political: the 16 year-old monarch had slipped away from his coronation banquet and was severely chastised by Abbot Dunstan–no respecter of persons–when he found him sequestered in a room with two women, mother and daughter, both making overtures with an eye to marriage. Resentful of such a reproof, Eadwig deprived Dunstan of his property and forced him out of the country, casting uncertainty over the future of England’s monastic revival.

Dunstan found refuge in a monastery in Ghent, where he scarcely had time to observe the reformed type of continental monasticism before he was recalled to England by Eadwig’s half-brother Edgar (“the Peaceable”, 959-75), who had been elected ruler by the Mercians and Northumbrians. It was Edgar’s ambition to restore all the great monasteries of England, and the partnership of these two ardent reformers shifted the monastic revival into high gear. Dunstan became successively Bishop of Worcester and London, and, in 960, after Eadwig’s death, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Monarch and hierarch were assisted in their’ campaign by two very able and saintly men: Ethelwold and Oswald of York. It was Ethelwold who was primarily responsible for drawing up the Regularis Concordia (c. 970), a common rule for monasteries. The English reformers were not innovators; the rule followed closely that of St. Benedict. From it there emerges a picture of the rigorous daily life of a tenth-century English monk: in winter he was roused at 2:30 AM for the first service of the day; two hours each morning were occupied in manual labor, the rest of the day was devoted to the cycle of services; five hours a day were spent in prayer, psalms singing and scriptural reading; the day ended at 6:30 PM. In summer the day was extended by an hour at each end.

There were, however, some unique features in the English rule: prayers were offered daily for the king, and an attempt was made to integrate monasteries into the life of the people. It was Dunstan’s aim that the monastic reform should encourage personal piety among the laity as well, and he attached great importance to the monastic schools.

As Edgar’s advisor, Dunstan persuaded him to defer his coronation until he reached the age of thirty. Dunstan himself composed the rite, shifting the emphasis from the crowing to the anointing, which gave it a sacred character and suggested strong parallels to the consecration of a priest, forging a mystical link with the ancient Hebrews and cementing the relationship between Church and Crown. It is said that Dunstan attended to all the details of the service, down to making the crown, its four equal sides representing the City of God. The form of the rite is still used in the coronation of England’s kings

After Edgar’s untimely death, Dunstan continued as advisor to his teen-age son Edward. But resentment at the Crown’s extensive land grants to the Church inspired a certain anti-monastic faction of nobles to support Edward’s more malleable younger brother Ethelred. Edward was viciously murdered and Dunstan withdrew from the affairs of state to concentrate on his pastoral duties there at Canterbury and his personal service to God. Even as he grew old, it was his delight to teach the boys of the cathedral school. He was, it seems, a gentle master. and after his death the boys would invoke the aid of their “sweet Father Dunstan” to mitigate the corporal punishment which was so readily meted out in those days.
After celebrating the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of Ascension, 988, St. Dunstanpreached a sermon in which he foretold that within the next three days he would die. He indicated the place he wished to be buried and, on the second day, May 19, after having communed of the Holy Mysteries, his soul departed to the Lord. His last words, according to tradition, were those of the Psalmist: The merciful and gracious Lord hath made a remembrance of His marvelous works; He hath given food to them that fear Him.

In the Chronicle, the entry for 988 says simply “In this year…the holy Archbishop Dunstan departed this life and attained the heavenly.”
This glorious chapter in England’s Orthodox heritage, in which St. Dunstan figured so prominently, gives the impression “of a religion of the sprat rather than of the letter, of a church not noted for its rigid enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline and. given its heritage from the Celtic Church and the size of its still not fully assimilated Scandinavian population, retaining much of that pastoral character of a missionary church whose first duty was that of patient conversion”

(LC.B, Seaman, A New History of England: 410 1975)

Source: St. Dunstan Orthodox Christian Church

Written by Stephen

May 18, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Posted in European Saints, Saints

St. Stephen of Perm

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Commemorated April 26

This life is from Orthodox America, found here, but I would also highly recommend Aaron Taylor’s post on St. Stephen, found here at his blog, Logismoi.

St. Stephen, the Enlightener of Perm, was a contemporary of St. Sergius of Radonezh, one of the great fathers of Russian monasticism. The spiritual affinity of the two saints is illustrated by the following incident, as recorded in St. Sergius’ Life:

Once, when St. Stephen was passing near St. Sergius’ monastery on his way to Moscow, he stopped and turned in the direction of the monastery with the words: “Peace to thee, my spiritual brother!” Seeing this with his spiritual eyes, St. Sergius, who at that moment was sitting in the refectory with his monks, arose, said a prayer and bowed in St. Stephen’s direction, saying as he did: “Rejoice also, thou pastor of Christ’s flock, and may the blessing of the Lord be with thee !”

Born in 1340, St. Stephen was the son of a cleric, Simeon of Ustiug, and his wife Maria. When Maria was only three, Blessed Prokopy, fool-for-Christ of Ustiug (July 8), foretold that she would give birth to a great hierarch.

From childhood St. Stephen was marked by exceptional abilities: only a year after beginning his studies he became canonarch and reader at his father’s church. At the same time there blossomed in his heart a yearning tc please God.

He was still quite young when he entered the monastery of St. Gregory the Theologian in Rostov where he was tonsured and ordained a hieromonk. When he wasn’t busy with his obediences, the youth studied the Holy Scriptures and the Greek language. He became inspired with the idea of bringing. the light of Christianity to the pagan Ziryans who inhabited the distant land of Perm on the western edge of the Ural mountains. In preparation for this missionary work, the Saint studied the Ziryan language and, after composing an alphabet based on Ziryan monetary symbols, he translated into that language from Greek the sacred texts. The head of the Moscow diocese at that time, Bishop Gerasim, blessed the young missionary and gave him necessary church utensils, while the Tsar provided him with a letter of safe conduct.

The preaching of Christianity progressed slowly. The pagans would have killed the Saint had they not been held back by fear, knowing that he carried a letter of safe conduct. On his part, St. Stephen tried not to miss any gathering of people as an opportunity to preach the Gospel. Gradually the pagans began to engage in religious debates with him.

They didn’t know what to think of his meekness, and suspected that it was a form of craftiness.

The young missionary was grieved by the Ziryan’s hostile attitude towards the Faith. But he was patient in his labors and God answered his prayers and touched the hearts of the pagans with His grace; they began coming in crowds, asking for Holy Baptism.

St. Stephen’s success angered the old wizard Pamoi who began to reproach the Ziryans for having abandoned their ancient beliefs and listened to the young Christian. “Go,” they told him, “argue with him, not with us.” The wizard proposed to the Saint a test by fire and water to determine whose religion was better. The Saint agreed:

You desire that which exceeds my humble powers, but I trust in the compassion and mercy of the Ail-powerful God. May those who witness the miracle be confirmed in their faith, and may you and your idols be forever disgraced !”

A hut was set on fire, and the Saint, having prayed and having asked the people for their prayers, turned to the wizard: “Let’s go together, hands joined as promised.” But Pamoi was terrified; even the jeering crowd couldn’t persuade him to go in.

They proceeded to the trial by water. On the river two holes were cut into the ice; they were to enter through one hole and come out through the other. When the wizard again refused, the crowd cried out demanding his death. St. Stephen interceded to save his life, ordering him only to leave forever the land of Perm. And that was the last anyone heard of the pagan wizard Pamoi.

In 1383 Stephen was made the first bishop of Perm. He provided a strong foundation for the fledgling Church–erecting many temples and monasteries, establishing schools for future clergy, teaching them himself, and showing an example of active charity in caring for the poor and unfortunate. When there was a famine in the area he collected bread and distributed it to the populace, free of charge. He sought the reduction of taxes and protected his flock from oppression by secular authorities.

St. Stephen died in 1396 while in Moscow on church business. He was buried in one of the Kremlin churches, a fact which greatly saddened his orphaned flock. The monk Epiphanius described their grief in his prose epic “The Lamentation of the Land of Perm” which forms the basis of the present Life:

“…Had we lost but gold and silver, these we could regain. But we shall never find another like you …. What right does [Moscow] have? She has her own metropolitans and hierarchs; we had but one, and she has taken him for herself. And now we don’t even have a bishop’s grave. We had only one bishop; he was our lawmaker, our baptizer, our apostle, our preacher, our confessor…”

Written by Stephen

April 26, 2010 at 2:35 am

St. Patrick, Enlightener of Ireland

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Commemorated March 17

The great Apostle and Enlightener of Ireland, St. Patrick, was born to a noble Roman family of Gaul or Britain in the year 387. At the age of 16 he was carried off by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain, who put him in charge of his sheep. Six years later, after the prompting of an angel, the saint fled to Gaul where he placed himself under the spiritual direction of St. Germanus of Auxerre. For 18 years he prayed and struggled and studied and was often granted a vision of Irish children calling out to him: O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us.”

Celestine I, the Bishop of Rome, commissioned St. Patrick to bring the people of Ireland into Christ’s one, true fold, and so during the summer of 433 he and his companions arrived in Ireland. They were immediately persecuted by the Druids and other pagans, but the saint’s meekness and wonderworking, as well as his God-inspired ability to preach the Gospel, resulted in the conversion of many thousands. In particular, St. Patrick had to do spiritual battle with the Arch-Druid, Lochru, who, by the power of demons and through many incantations, tried to maintain his influence on the Irish. On one occasion Lochru, like Simon Magus, was able to levitate himself high into the air In a display of sorcery; but the moment St. Patrick knelt in prayer, Lochru fell to his death. This was the beginning of the end for paganism on that island. The Orthodox Faith was victorious on that Easter Sunday when the saint explained the doctrine of the Holy Trinity using a shamrock with its single stem and three leaves.

After receiving Holy Anointing, St. Patrick departed to the Lord on March 17, 493. As he lay in state for several days, a heavenly light shone around his body.

Source: Orthodox America
Icon: Aidan Hart
Further information and links are available through the excellent blog Logismoi, here.

Written by Stephen

March 17, 2010 at 4:58 am

Posted in European Saints, Saints

Venerable Pimen, Fool for Christ, and Enlightener of Dagestan, and his Companion Anton Meskhi, the Censurer of Kings

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Commemorated on March 16.

Saint Pimen the Fool-for-Christ and Anton Meskhi (of Meskheti, in southern Georgia) lived in the 13th century, when the Mongols were regularly invading Georgia. The entire country, and the Church in particular, languished under the yoke of Mongol oppression. The Georgian people were once again faced with a terrible choice: to preserve their temporal flesh or attain spiritual salvation. Most would not yield to the temptation of the enemy and chose instead to die as martyrs for Christ.

At that time a monk named Pimen, a fool-for-Christ, labored in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. His ancestral roots were in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. Pimen rebuked kings and condemned the unjust and immoral acts of the nobility. The pious monk Anton Meskhi labored with him.

Enlightened by divine grace, the fathers recognized that the Georgian people were following their king’s poor example. Thus, the monks began a struggle for the spiritual salvation of the nation’s people that demanded the censure of the king.

In addition to their labors of foolishness and censuring of kings, the saints preached Christianity among the Dagestani.[1]

For their great spiritual achievements and struggles on behalf of godly purity, the Christian Faith, and the spread of the Gospel among the Dagestanis, the Georgian Church has counted Pimen the Fool-for-Christ and Anton Meskhi worthy to be numbered among the saints.

Tropar
Filled with theological wisdom and bearing the yoke of foolishness- for-Christ, O Holy Saints Pimen and Anton the Georgian Sun, pray to God for us!

Source: The Lives of the Georgian Saints, found electronically here, or in print from St. Herman of Alaska Press, here.

Written by Stephen

March 16, 2010 at 1:42 am

Posted in European Saints, Saints

St. Felix, Apostle of East Anglia

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Commemorated March 8

Felix was born at the end of the sixth century in Burgundy in what is now eastern France. As a young man he became a monk and priest, perhaps under the influence of the Irish monastery of St Columban at Luxeuil in Burgundy. It was here that he met a royal exile from East Anglia, Sigebert, to whom Felix introduced Christianity and baptised.

When in 630 Sigebert returned to East Anglia, he asked Felix to come and evangelise his kingdom and Felix was duly consecrated, apparently by Honorius, the saintly Archbishop of Canterbury. Sailing up from Kent, local tradition has it that Bishop Felix made landfall at the ruined Roman fortress at what is now Felixstowe. Although some believe that Bishop Felix made his base at Felixstowe, most believe that his See was fixed further up the Suffolk coast at the then thriving port of Dunwich.

Bishop Felix set about missionary work all over East Anglia. Suffolk lore says that it was he who taught local people how to build churches with the flint that lies so abundantly on Suffolk fields. Apart from his Cathedral and a School which we believe were in Dunwich, and his activities in and near the Felixstowe peninsula, for example at Hallowtree and near Sutton Hoo, he was also active in the north of the county. Here at Beccles and in the village of Flixton (believed like Felixstowe to have been named after St Felix), he preached the Faith. Also he seems to have sailed up the Stour and been active in the south of the county, at Sudbury as well as in central Suffolk, founding with the future St Sigebert, a monastery at what is now Bury St Edmunds.

Outside Suffolk St Felix is also said to have founded the oldest church in Norfolk at Babingley, near Sandringham. The nearby villages of Shernborne and Flitcham, which is said to have been named after St Felix, retain links with St Felix. The holy bishop also preached near Swaffham at Saham Toney and perhaps at Cockley Cley where a very ancient church still stands. The saint was also present near Yarmouth at Loddon and Reedham and in this area he worked closely with an Irish missionary, St Fursey. Finally tradition tells that Bishop Felix founded a monastery at Soham in Cambridgeshire.

Bishop Felix worked with the full approval of the pious King of East Anglia, Sigebert. After he died in 635, Sigebert was succeeded by his cousin, Anna. This man was the father of several holy children, the most famous of whom is St Audrey, who was baptised and instructed in the faith by Bishop Felix, thus ensuring the continuation of his apostolic work after his repose. Bishop Felix passed away on 8 March 647 and was at once honoured as the Apostle of East Anglia and a Saint.

Source: Orthodox England

Written by Stephen

March 8, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in European Saints, Saints

St. Anskar, Apostle of the North

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Today, 3 February on the old Orthodox calendar, we commemorate St Anskar (sometimes written Ansgarius, Ansgar, or Anschar) of Hamburg and Bremen (801-65), Apostle of the North and Patron of Germany. His Life was written by his disciple, St Rimbert, his successor to the see of Bremen-Hamburg, and unless otherwise noted, all quotations will be from the translation of that Life by Charles H. Robinson at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

St Anskar came from a noble family of Amiens, Picardie, in modern France, who may have been close in some capacity to Charlemagne. While still a boy, he received the first of many ‘celestial visits which admonished him to turn away his thoughts from things on earth and to keep his whole heart open to heavenly influences’. According to St Rimbert, the Mother of God appeared to St Anskar, who had previously indulged in childish games with his fellows, saying, ‘If you desire to share our companionship, you must flee from every kind of vanity, and put away childish jests and have regard to the seriousness of life; for we hate everything that is vain and unprofitable, nor can anyone be with us who has delight in such things.’ Apparently, the boy took this to heart, and spent more time in ‘reading and meditation and other useful occupations’, eventually receiving tonsure in the Benedictine monastery of Old Corbie in his native region (Chapt. II).

But it was a second set of experiences that seem definitely to have fixed St Anskar on the path of sanctity. The first was the death of Charlemagne, at which, upon hearing the news, the Saint was ‘affected with fear and horror’. St Rimbert tells us:

Accordingly he put aside all levity and began to languish with a divinely inspired remorse; and, devoting himself wholly to the service of God, he gave attention to prayer, watching and fasting. By these virtuous exercises he became a true athlete, of God, and, as a result of his persistent severity, the world became dead to him and he to the world. (Cf. Gal. 6:14)

Then, immediately after this, St Rimbert relates another vision, or more properly, an entire ἀποκάλυψη–

When the Day of Pentecost came, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which was at this time poured forth upon the apostles, enlightened and refreshed his mind, so we believe; and the same night he saw in a vision that he was about to encounter sudden death when, in the very act of dying, he summoned to his aid the holy apostle Peter and the blessed John the Baptist.

These two great Saints appeared to him, and guided St Anskar through an experience of torment to a vision of the throne of God, surrounded by the ranks of Saints and angels. According to the Saint’s own words, which he related to St Rimbert on condition that he tell no one before the former’s death:

In the east, where the light rises, was a marvellous brightness, an unapproachable light of unlimited and excessive brilliance, in which was included every splendid colour and everything delightful to the eye. All the ranks of the saints, who stood round rejoicing, derived their happiness therefrom. The brightness was of so great extent that I could see neither beginning nor end thereof. . . . When, then I had been brought by the men whom I mentioned into the presence of this unending light, where the majesty of Almighty God was revealed to me without need for anyone to explain, and when they and I had offered our united adoration, a most sweet voice, the sound of which was more distinct than all other sounds, and which seemed to me to fill the whole world, came forth from the same divine majesty, and addressed me and said, ‘Go and return to Me crowned with martyrdom.’ (Chapt. III)

Apparently, St Anskar served for a time as ‘master of the school dedicated to St Peter’ (Chapt. IV), but in 822 he was sent to the foundation of New Corbie far to the north, in the Sollinger Wald in Westphalia in what is now Germany. It seems his services as a schoolmaster and homiletician were desired there, a fact which St Rimbert emphasises in his concern that St Anskar not be thought to have violated St Benedict’s clear command of stability in RB 58—‘But let him understand that according to the law of the Rule he is no longer free to leave the monastery . . .’ (The Rule of St Benedict in English and Latin, trans. Justin McCann [Fort Collins, CO: Roman Catholic, n.d.], p. 131). (Chapt. VI)

It was at New Corbie that St Anskar came to the attention of King Harald ‘Klak’ Halfdansson from Denmark, who had been converted to Christianity at the court of Charlemagne’s son and successor, Louis the Pious. Upon returning to Denmark, King Harald took the holy man and his companion, Autbert, with him to build a church and school and to teach his people the new Faith (Chapt. VII). But while St Rimbert tells us that ‘many were converted to the faith by their example and teaching, and the number of those who should be saved in the Lord increased daily’ (Chapt. VIII), St Anskar was soon summoned before Louis again. Having been told not even ‘to stop and shave’ (believed to be a reference to his tonsure, one should note), he arrived to receive the king’s request that he go with an embassy to Sweden to preach the Gospel there. Indeed, Christopher Dawson observes that ‘Christianity first penetrated into Scandinavia through the work of St Anskar’ (Religion and the Rise of Western Culture [Garden City, NY: Image, 1958], p. 85). (Chapt. IX)

According to St Rimbert, the missionaries ‘were kindly received by the king, who was called Björn [at Haugi]’, and made great progress in spreading the Gospel among the heathens of the North (Chapt. XI). They eventually returned to Louis bearing letters written in runic characters from the Swedish king, and it was at this point (in 831, according to Butler) that Louis had St Anskar enthroned as abbot of New Corbie and consecrated bishop of the newly formed diocese of Hamburg by his half-brother Drogo of Metz, with the aim of sending the new hierarch on further missions in the northern regions (Chapt. XII). He was then sent to be confirmed in his authority by Pope Gregory IV, who, before the tomb of St Peter—

appointed him as his legate for the time being amongst all the neighbouring races of the Swedes and Danes, also the Slavs and the other races that inhabited the regions of the north, so that he might share authority with Ebo the Archbishop of Rheims [a co-consecrator of the new bishop], to whom he had before entrusted the same office. (Chapt. XIII)

St Rimbert tells us that his elder faithfully administered his diocese, converting many of the heathen by the example of his life. He also redeemed young boys from slavery to educate them and train them to serve the Church—a good work which has been depicted in the illustration above (Chapt. XV). According to Butler, St Anskar continued to oversee missions in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (the last being administered by an auxiliary bishop), built churches, and founded a library, giving himself over to this labour for thirteen years.

But in 845, Vikings destroyed Hamburg, and the bishop and his flock barely escaped with their lives (Chapt. XVI). Soon after, as the bishop of Bremen had fallen asleep in the Lord, that see was joined with Hamburg into a new archbishopric under the oversight of St Anskar (Chapt. XIII), who continued to foster missions in various parts of the North.

In Chapter XXXV of his Life, St Rimbert tells us that his elder would practice extreme asceticism, wearing a hairshirt in imitation of St Martin of Tours. While St Anskar also followed the great hierarch of Gaul in preaching the Gospel with zeal and serving the poor and the sick, ‘At the same time he loved to be alone in order that he might exercise himself in divine philosophy’, and thus he built himself a private cell in which to practice hesychia. He was tireless in his solicitude for the poor, for scholars, widows, and hermits, bringing them money and gifts, feeding them and washing their feet with his own hands. Once, when the large numbers of people he had healed through prayer were referred to in St Anskar’s presence, out of a desire to hide his virtue he replied, ‘Were I worthy of such a favour from my God, I would ask that he would grant to me this one miracle, that by His grace He would make of me a good man’ (Chapt. XXXIX).

It is interesting to reflect that St Anskar carried out many of his dangerous missions among the Northern heathens with the expectation that he would likely be martyred, in accordance with the commandment he had received from God as a young man (related in Chapt. III). But while the opportunity to shed his blood frequently eluded him, St Rimbert tells us, ‘The life that he lived involved toils which were accompanied by constant bodily suffering: in fact his whole life was like a martyrdom’ (Chapt. XL). At last, in his old age, St Anskar also began to suffer from a final martyrdom—a wasting illness which tormented him slowly over the course of some months. Having arranged for a glorious celebration of the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord, this holy hierarch fell asleep in the Lord the very next day. Even though he did not meet a violent end, according to St Rimbert, his can still be held to have been a martyr’s death:

For day by day, by tears, watchings, fastings, tormenting of the flesh and mortification of his carnal desires, he offered up a sacrifice to God on the altar of his heart and attained to martyrdom as far as was possible in a time of peace. And inasmuch as the agent, though not the will, was lacking in order to bring about the visible martyrdom of the body, he obtained in will what he could not obtain in fact. We cannot, however altogether deny that he attained actual martyrdom if we compare his great labours with those of the apostle. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from his own race, in perils from the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in lonely places, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren ; in labour and distress, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings; often, in cold and nakedness ; besides those things which are without, that which came upon him daily, the care of all the Churches. Who was weak and he was not ? Who was offended and he did not burn? (Cf. II Cor 11:26-9)

Reader Isaac Lambertson has written a beautiful Service for St Anskar. The first verse of Ode VI of the Canon reads, ‘The rivers and seas of the North were honoured to bear thee on thine apostolic journeys, O Ansgar, disciple of Christ, for the ship of thy soul was propelled by the Holy Spirit.’ Here, in conclusion, is the dismissal hymn of the Saint:

Ever moved by love for God and man, O Ansgar, like the apostles thou didst journey afar to bring salvation to the benighted, offering up thine afflictions upon the altar of thy heart, in thy toils and distress bearing witness unto thy Saviour like a martyr, enduring perils on land and at sea for His sake, undaunted by temptations and tribulations. Wherefore, pray with boldness, that our souls be saved.

Source: Aaron Taylor’s excellent blog, Logismoi

Written by Stephen

February 4, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in European Saints, Saints