Saints and Seasons was compiled in 2011 from notes written by the Revd Sue to introduce some of the heroes and occasions that mark the church year. Saints days are fixed and occur on the same date each year; festivals that relate to Easter, however, move with Easter: the months may or may not therefore correspond to the current year...
3rd September: Gregory the Great
Gregory was born in 540, the son of a Roman senator. As a young man he pursued a career in government and in 573 he was made Prefect of the city of Rome. Following the death of his father, he resigned his office, sold his inheritance, and became a monk. In 579 he was sent by the Pope to be his ambassador in Constantinople. He returned to Rome several years later as abbot of the monastery and was elected Pope in 590.
Gregory was an astute administrator and diplomat, securing peace at a time of political turmoil. He initiated a mission to England, sending Augustine with 40 monks from his own monastery to refound the English church. He produced many pastoral writings and was sometimes called 'Doctor of desire' because of his dynamic of love and desire for God. As Pope he styled himself as 'Servant of the servants of God' a title which typified both his personality and ministry. He died in 604.
14th September: Holy Cross Day
The cross on which Christ was crucified has become the universal symbol of Christianity, replacing the fish symbol of the early church. After the end of the era of persecution, early in the fourth century, pilgrims began to travel to Jerusalem to visit and pray at the places associated with the life of Jesus. Helena, mother of the emperor, was a Christian and, whilst overseeing excavations in the city, is said to have uncovered a cross, which many believed to be the Cross of Christ. A basilica was built on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and dedicated on this day in the year 335.
17th September: Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard was born in 1098 at Böckelheim in Germany. She became a nun in her teens and abbess of Diessenberg in 1136. From an early age she had a powerful, visionary life. She described her visions as, 'the reflection of the living light'. They deepened her understanding of God and creation, sin and redemption. But they were accompanied by repeated illness and physical weakness.
Hildegard wrote down her visions as well as other works, including commentaries, a medical compendium, and natural history. She composed poetry and music too. Her down-to-earth holiness brought many people to her convent, which became so large that it had to move to Bingen. Hildegard travelled much in the Rhineland founding a daughter house and influencing many people, including the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. She died on this day in 1179.
A Prayer of St Hildegard
O eternal God,
Turn us into the arms and hands,
The legs and feet
Of your beloved Son, Jesus.
You gave birth to him in heaven
Before the creation of the earth.
You gave birth to us on earth,
To become his living body.
Make us worthy to be his limbs,
And so worthy to share
In his eternal bliss.
Jesus Christ, the love that gives love,
You are higher than the highest star;
You are deeper than the deepest sea;
You cherish us as your own family;
You embrace us as your own spouse;
You rule over us as your own subjects;
You welcome us as your dearest friend.
Let all the world worship you.
Holy Spirit, the life that gives life.
You are the cause of all movement;
You are the breath of all creatures;
You are the salve that purifies our souls;
You are the ointment that heals our wounds;
You are the fire that warms our hearts;
You are the light that guides our feet.
Let all the world praise you.
21st September: Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Matthew appears in the list of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to the gospel written in his name, was a tax collector. Mark and Luke called the tax collector Levi and it has been assumed that they are the same person. This occupation was despised by his fellow Jews, he was seen as a collaborator with the occupying Roman force.
But Jesus ate with Matthew and with his friends, scandalising those around him. He showed that he was not interested in judging by outward appearances.
Matthew asserted that his life would now change because he followed Jesus and he would make amends for any previous wrongdoing. That was good enough for Jesus. Matthew was forgiven, accepted and received into the kingdom.
25th September: Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester
Andrewes was bishop of Chichester, Ely then Winchester in the sixteenth century. He translated much of the Old Testament for what is known as the ‘Authorized Version’. His preaching and writings have been highly influential. This is one of his prayers:
I thank thee, O Lord, my Lord,
for my being, my life, my gift of reason;
for my nurture, my preservation, my guidance;
for my education, my civil rights, my religious privileges;
for thy gifts of grace, of nature, of this world;
for my redemption, my regeneration, my instruction in the Christian faith;
for my calling, my recalling, my manifold renewed recalling;
for thy forbearance and long-suffering,
thy prolonged forbearance, many a time, and many a year;
for all the benefits I have received,
and all the undertakings wherein I have prospered;
for any good I may have done;
for the use of the blessings of this life;
for thy promise,
and my hope of the enjoyment of the good things to come;
... for all these and also for all other mercies,
known and unknown, open and secret,
remembered by me, or now forgotten,
kindnesses received by me willingly, or even against my will,
I praise thee, I bless thee, I thank thee,
all the days of my life.
Forgive me my sins, O Lord;
forgive me the sins of my youth and the sins of my age,
the sins of my soul and the sins of my body,
my secret and my whispering sins,
my presumptuous and my crying sins,
the sins that I have done to please myself,
and the sins I have done to please others.
Forgive me the sins which I know,
and those sins which I know not;
forgive them, O Lord,
forgive them all of thy great goodness.
Unless otherwise indicated, notes based on material in Exciting Holiness: Collects and Readings, Brother Tristram SSF; Following in their Steps, Eleanor and Rachel Sayers; and All the Company of Heaven, Kenneth Stevenson. Illustrations from Signs, Symbols & Saints: Images from Turvey Abbey, CD Rom, © McCrimmons Publishing, used under license.