Friday, May 20, 2016

Æthelberht of East Anglia

Died near Hereford, England, c. 793-794. King Ethelbert had a considerable cultus as a wonder worker and martyr during the middle ages. However, some, such as William of Malmesbury, have misgivings about the continuance of his veneration. He cited the authority of Saint Dunstan (f.d. May 19) and the witness of miracles as reasons to allow the cultus to continue. Ethelbert was murdered at Sutton Walls in Herefordshire, apparently for dynastic reasons at the instigation of the wife of Offa of Mercia.

His pious "vita," written by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales), tells us that Ethelbert was a man of prayer from his childhood. While still very young, he succeeded his father Ethelred as king of East Anglia and ruled benevolently for 44 years. It is said that his usual maxim is that the higher the station of man, the humbler he ought to be. This was the rule for his own conduct.

Desiring to secure stability for his kingdom by an heir, he sought the hand of the virtuous Alfreda (Aelfthryth), daughter of the powerful King Offa. With this in mind, he visited Offa at Sutton-Walls, four miles from Hereford. He was courteously entertained, but after some days, treacherously murdered by Grimbert, an officer of King Offa, through the contrivance of Queen Quendreda who wanted to add his kingdom to their own.

His body was secretly buried by the river Lugg at Maurdine of Marden, but miracles revealed its hiding place. Soon it was moved to a church at Fernley (Heath of Fern), now called Hereford. The town grew around the church bearing Ethelbert's name after King Wilfrid of Mercia enlarged and enriched it. Hereford became the second most important pilgrimage site (next to Canterbury) in medieval England. The body was burned by the Danes in 1050, but Ethelbert's head was buried at Westminster. Ethelbert's feast is kept in the dioceses of Cardiff and Northampton. He is titular patron of the cathedral at Hereford, and the churches at Marden (Herefordshire), Little Dean (Gloucestershire), and eleven others in East Anglia.

Quendreda died miserably within three months after her crime. Her daughter Alfreda became a hermit at Croyland. Offa made atonement for the sin of his queen by a pilgrimage to Rome, where he founded a school for the English. Egfrid, the only son of Offa, died after a reign of some months, and the Mercian crown was translated into the family descended of Penda.

Propers for Æthelberht II of East Anglia - King

The Collect.

O Almighty God, who hast knit together Thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of Thy Son Jesus Christ, our Lord: grant us grace so to follow Thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to the unspeakable joys which Thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love Thee; through the same, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost: ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The First Lesson - Revelation 7: 2-17

The Holy Gospel - St. Matthew 5: 1-12


No comments: