Wednesday, September 9, 2015

St. Ciarán of Clonmacnois

Saint Ciaran (c. 516 – c. 544), also known as Kieran, who has been described as a lamp shining with the light of knowledge, was born in 512 and raised in Connacht, Ireland. His father was a builder of chariots, a carpenter. He was one of eight children, at least two of whom also embraced the religious life.Ciarán was born in around 516 in County RoscommonConnacht, in Ireland. He had a special affinity for animals, and even had a fox for a pet. The future saint left home as a boy, driving a cow before him to pay for his keep. He went to study with St. Finnian of Clonard (December 12), and became one of the “twelve apostles to Ireland.”One story tells that he lent his copy of the Gospel of St Matthew to fellow-student St Ninnidh. When Finnian tested the class, Ciaran knew only the first half of the Gospel. The other students laughed and called him “Ciaran half-Matthew.” St Finnian silenced them and said, “Not Ciaran half-Matthew, but Ciaran half-Ireland, for he will have half the country and the rest of us will have the other half.”Stories & Legends of St. Ciarán Kieran & A Fortunate FoxOne day as Kieran was watching the cattle some distance from the home of deacon Justus, Kieran realized he was able to hear his tutor’s instruction as closely as if he were in Justus’ house. On another occasion, while
Kieran was out in the cattle pasture, a fox emerged from the forest and approached him. He treated the animal gently, so that it returned quite often. Kieran asked the fox to do him the favor of carrying his text of the Psalms back and forth between him and Justus. One day, however, the fox was overcome by hunger, and began to eat the leather straps that covered the book. While the fox was eating, a hunting party with a pack of hounds attacked him. The dogs were relentless in their pursuit, and the fox could not find shelter in any place except the cowl of Kieran’s robe. God was thus glorified twice – by the book being saved from the fox, and by the fox being saved from the hounds.

The Dun-Cow of KieranWhen it was time for Kieran to leave home for the monastery of Clonard, he asked his parents for a cow to take with him as a contribution to the community. His mother refused this request, so Kieran blessed a cow of

the herd, and the cow followed him to Clonard, accompanied by her calf. Not wishing to take both the cow and the calf, Kieran used his staff to draw a line on the ground between the animals. After that, neither the cow nor the calf would cross this line, and the calf returned home. The milk provided by Kieran’s cow was reputed to amply supply all in the monastery, as well as their guests.

Kieran Helps in a Time of FamineDuring a time of famine, when it was Kieran’s turn to carry a sack of oats to the mill in order to provide a little food for the monks, he prayed that the oats would become fine wheat. While Kieran was singing the Psalms with pure heart and mind, the single sack of oats was miraculously transformed into four sacks of the
best wheat. Kieran returned home and baked bread with this wheat, which the older monks said was the best they had ever tasted. These loaves not only satisfied their hunger, they were said to heal every sick person in the monastery who ate them.

The Vision of the Great TreeWhile in the Aran Islands with St. Enda, both monks saw the same vision of a great and fruitful tree growing on the banks of a stream in central Ireland. This tree sheltered the entire island, its fruit crossed the sea surrounding Ireland, and birds came to carry off some of that fruit to the rest of the world. Enda interpreted this vision for his friend by saying, “The great tree is you, Kieran, for you are great in the eyes of God and all
people. All of Ireland will be sheltered by the grace in you, and many will be nourished by your fasting and prayers. Go to the center of Ireland, and found your church on the banks of a stream.

A Cow Comes to Kieran’s AidA careless monk dropped Kieran’s text of the Gospels into the lake surrounding Hare Island, where it remained underwater for a long time. On a summer day when the cattle went into the lake, the strap of Kieran’s book stuck to the foot of one of the cows. When the book was retrieved, it was dry, with not a letter blurred or a page destroyed.

St Ciaran founded another monastery at Clonmacnoise on the banks of the River Shannon. Within seven months, he became ill and asked to be taken outside and laid on the ground. He looked up at the heavens and said something about the way being steep and difficult. He departed to the Lord at the young age of 33.The monastery at Clonmacnoise became one of the most important centers of learning and religious life in Ireland. Unusually, the title of abbot – which included the title "Comarba of Saint Ciarán" – at the community was not hereditary, which reflected the humble origins of its founder. It managed to survive the plunderings of the Viking raids and the Anglo-Norman wars, and was only destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1552. The ruins still exist, and remain a centre of civic and religious activity to this day.

The treasures of St. Ciarán's shrine were dispersed throughout the Medieval era; although the Clonmacnoise Crozier still exists and is stored in the National Museum of Ireland

For young children, read "Saint Ciaran: The Tale of a Saint of Ireland" by Gary D. Schmidt

Thursday, September 3, 2015

St. Edward the Martyr King of England (translation of relics)

Saint Edward the Martyr (c. 962 – 18 March 978) was King of England from 975 until he was murdered in 978. Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar the Peaceful but was not his father's acknowledged heir. On Edgar's death, the leadership of England was contested, with some supporting Edward's claim to be king and others supporting his much younger half-brother Æthelred the Unready, recognized as a legitimate son of Edgar. Edward was chosen as king and was crowned by his main clerical supporters, the archbishops Sts. Dunstan and Oswald of Worcester.
King Edward "was a young man of great devotion and excellent conduct. He was completely Orthodox, good and of holy life. Moreover, he loved God and the Church above all things. He was generous to the poor, a haven to the good, a champion of the Faith of Christ, a vessel full of every virtuous grace."
On King Edward's accession to the throne a great famine was raging through the land and violent attacks were stirred up against monasteries by prominent noblemen who coveted the lands that his father King Edgar had endowed to them. Many of these monasteries were destroyed, and the monks forced to flee. The king, however, stood firm together with Archbishop Dunstan in defense of the Church and the monasteries. For this, some of the nobles decided to remove him and replace him with his younger brother Ethelred.
The great nobles of the kingdom, ealdormen Ælfhere and Æthelwine, quarreled, and civil war almost broke out. In the so-called anti-monastic reaction, the nobles took advantage of Edward's weakness to dispossess the Benedictine reformed monasteries of lands and other properties that King Edgar had granted to them.
Corfe Castle in Dorset, England
Edward's short reign was brought to an end by his murder at Corfe Castle in 978 in circumstances that Shaftesbury Abbey early in 979. In 1001 Edward's remains were moved to a more prominent place in the abbey, probably with the blessing of his half-brother King Æthelred. Edward was already reckoned a saint by this time. 
A number of lives of Edward were written in the centuries following his death in which he was portrayed as a martyr, generally seen as a victim of the Queen Dowager Ælfthryth, mother of Æthelred. 
Immediately following the murder of King Edward during a hunting trip, his body slipped from the saddle of his horse and was dragged with one foot in the stirrup until the body fell into a stream at the base of the hill upon which Corfe Castle stands (the stream was found thereafter to have healing properties—particularly for the blind). The queen then ordered that body be hurriedly hidden in a hut nearby. Within the hut, however, lived a woman who was blind from birth, and whom the queen supported out of charity. During the night, a wonderful light appeared and filled the whole hut. Struck with awe, the woman cried out: "Lord, have mercy!" and suddenly received her sight. At this she discovered the dead body of the king. The church of St. Edward at Corfe Castle now stands on the site of this miracle. 
Shaftesbury Abbey
At dawn the queen learned of the miracle and was troubled. Again she ordered disposal of the body, this time by burying it in a marshy place near Wareham. A year after the murder, however, a pillar of fire was seen over the place where the body was hidden, lighting up the whole area. This was seen by some of the inhabitants of Wareham, who raised the body. Immediately, a clear spring of healing water sprang up in that place. Accompanied by what was now a huge crowd of mourners, the body was taken to the church of the Most Holy Mother of God in Wareham and buried at the east end of the church. This took place on February 13, 980.
Memorial to St. Edward the King
Martyr at Shaftesbury Abbey
On the account of a series of subsequent miracles, the relics were translated to the abbey at Shaftesbury. When the relics were taken up from the grave, they were found to be whole and incorrupt. The translation of the relics February 13, 981, and arrived at Shaftesbury seven days later. There the relics were received by the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey and were buried with full royal honors on the north side of the altar. On the way from Wareham to Shaftesbury, a further miracle had taken place; two crippled men were brought close to the bier, and those carrying it lowered the body to their level, whereupon the cripples were immediately restored to full health. This procession and these events were re-enacted in 1000 years later in 1981. In 1001, the tomb in which the saint lay was observed to regularly rise from the ground. King Ethelred was filled with joy at this and instructed the bishops to raise his brother's tomb from the ground and place it into a more fitting place. As the tomb was opened a wonderful fragrance issued from it, such that all present "thought that they were standing in Paradise". The bishops then bore away the sacred relics from the tomb and placed them in a casket in the holy place of the saints together with other holy relics. This elevation of the relics of St. Edward took place on June 20, 1001.
St. Edward the Martyr Orthodox Church in Surrey, England
St. Edward was officially glorified by the All-English Council of 1008, presided over by St. Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury. King Ethelred ordered that the saint's three feast days (March 18, February 13, and June 20) should be celebrated throughout England. Shaftesbury Abbey was rededicated to the Mother of God and St. Edward. Shaftesbury was apparently renamed "Edwardstowe," only reverting to its original name after the Reformation. Many miracles were recorded at the tomb of St. Edward including the healing of lepers and the blind.
During the 16th century, under King Henry VIII of England, monasteries were dissolved and many holy places were demolished, but St. Edward's remains were hidden so as to avoid desecration. In 1931, the relics were recovered by Mr. Wilson-Claridge during an archaelogical excavation; their identity was confirmed by Dr. T.E.A. Stowell, an osteologist. Around 1982, Mr. Wilson-Claridge donated the relics to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which placed them in a church in Brookwood Cemetery, in Woking, Surrey. The St. Edward Brotherhood of monks was organized there as well.

In 1931, the relics were recovered by Wilson-Claridge during an archaeological excavation; their identity was confirmed by Dr. T.E.A. Stowell, an osteologist. In 1970, examinations performed on the relics suggested that the young man had died in the same manner as Edward.[49] Wilson-Claridge wanted the relics to go to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. His brother, however, wanted them to be returned to Shaftesbury Abbey. For decades, the relics were kept in a bank vault in Woking, Surrey because of the unresolved dispute about which of two churches should have them.
In time, the ROCOR was victorious and placed the relics in a church in Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, with the enshrinement ceremony occurring in September 1984. The St Edward Brotherhood of monks was organized there as well. The church is now named St Edward the Martyr Orthodox Church, and it is under the jurisdiction of a traditionalist Greek Orthodox community.
In the Orthodox Church, St Edward is ranked as a Passion-bearer, a type of saint who accepts death out of love for Christ. 
For children you can read:
Life of Saint Edward, King and Confessor by St.Aelred (Author), J. Bertram (Translator)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiastical New Year!

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew indicates that the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year is not only a day of celebration, but also a day of solemn reflection and repentance. “We are praying for personal repentance for our contribution – smaller or greater – to the disfigurement and destruction of creation, which we collectively experience regionally and occasionally through the immense phenomena of our time.” The message then of September 1st is no different really than what every Divine Liturgy seeks to communicate to us every day and every week. Three things, namely: (1) that the world is permeated by the presence and grace of God, and the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated into history, as we can see all around us when we worship in church; (2) that our lives are not our own but are intricately linked with the lives of others, again by the will of God; and (3) that all of creation, in its splendor and grandeur, is intended for sanctification, which essentially means to reassign to it its intimate connection to God and to give it freedom to benefit the steward who cares for it.
As we celebrate this new ecclesiastical year, may we also become more sensitive to the suffering and pain caused by our collective negligence or exploitation of the created world. And may we bless God by offering εὐλογίες, or “good words”, upon nature, embracing it lovingly and using it responsibly, seeing in it the holy presence of the Lord and His unwaning love for us all.
Prayer for the Beginning of the New Year 
O Master, Lord our God, the Source of life and immortality, the Author of all created things both visible and invisible, Who hast established all seasons and times by Thine own authority and dost direct all things with Thine all-wise and all-gracious providence: We thank Thee for Thy bounties, which Thou hast poured out upon us during our life that is past. And we entreat Thee, O all-bountiful Lord: less the crown of the New Year by Thy goodness. Bestow Thy good things from above upon all Thy people, and also health, salvation and good furtherance in all things. Deliver Thy Holy Church, this city and all cities and countryside from every evil assault, and vouchsafe unto them peace and tranquility; and grant that we may always offer Thanksgiving unto Thee, the unoriginate Father, together with Thine only-begotten Son and Thine all-hole and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen+