Posted by: anna | May 2, 2010

St Alphege of Canterbury

icon from orthodoxengland – no source information.

Today (19 April) we commemorate the holy Hieromartyr Alphege, 29th archbishop of Canterbury (1012) (Elphege, Aelfheah, also called Godwine). Not to be confused with St Elphege ‘the Elder’ or the Bald, also Archbishop of Canterbury. From Stanton’s Menology:

Elphege, otherwise called AElfheah, from his early years showed a taste for study and the practices of piety, and soon adopted the monastic life in the Monastery of Deerhurst in the diocese of Worcester. After a while, his desire for solitude induced him to retire to a small cell, which he chose for himself at Bath. Nevertheless, his reputation for sanctity soon brought around him a number of religious men, for whom he was obliged to build a monastery and undertake its government.
When St. Ethelwold was called to his heavenly reward, St. Dunstan perceived that Elphege was the fittest man to be his successor, and accordingly consecrated him Bishop of Winchester. Though simple of heart, he was prudent in the government of his flock, and, following the example of his predecessor, was, above all careful in the interests of his own soul. His austerities were very great; flesh meat he never ate, unless compelled by severe sickness: rarely did he taste wine, and his emaciated form gave evidence of the severity of his abstinence. It was also a custom of his to leave his house, silently and unobserved, at night and go to the river, when he would stand up to his waist in the cold stream, until daybreak warned him that he must return, if his penance was to be kept secret from man.
After an episcopate of twenty-two years at Winchester, much against his will he was promoted to the Metropolitan See of Canterbury ; and in that exalted position, notwithstanding the troubles of the time, was able to do much for the cause of religion. Elphege went to Rome to receive the pallium from the successor of St. Peter, and while he was there and on his way home, various miraculous occurrences took place, which showed how greatly he was favoured by God.
When he had happily ruled his church for about seven years, the city of Canterbury was besieged and captured by the Danes, and among the prisoners was the holy Archbishop, who had refused to escape when he might easily have done so, in order not to leave his flock without such protection as be might be able to afford them. He did what was possible to check the slaughter which ensued, but in vain. His zeal marked him out as an object for the fury of the pagans, and he was arrested and kept in prison for several months. During the interval, however, a terrible pestilence broke out among the pagan invaders, which convinced them that they had incurred the anger of God by their act, and accordingly the Saint was released. The charity of Elphege towards his enemies was then shown by the miraculous cure of the sick, who ate the bread which he had blessed for their use. Nevertheless, the avarice of their leaders would not suffer him to go free without an exorbitant ransom, to be collected from the possessions of the Church. The holy man, however, would not consent to purchase his own deliverance at the expense of the patrimony of the poor and of his Sec, and refused the terms proposed, while he freely offered them the true riches of the Gospel of Christ.
Upon this, the incensed pagans rushed upon him, stoned him to death, and so secured for him the glorious crown of martyrdom. After some disputes, the Christians were allowed to carry away his sacred remains, which were piously interred in the Church of St. Paul in London. There they remained for about eleven years, after which they were solemnly translated to Canterbury by the Archbishop Ethelnoth, in the presence of King Canute. Great was the devotion of all beholders when the holy body was found entire, and the blood still fresh which he had shed for his Master’s sake. Many were the miracles which God was pleased to work, in testimony of the heavenly glory of this blessed Martyr.

Holy St Alphege, pray to God for us.

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