Words of Encouragement
from Fr. Peter Speropulos
October 26, 2020
It took four obsessing months for me to complete The Lord of the Rings for the first time. As soon as I finished them, I picked up Tom Shippey’s biography of its author, JRR Tolkien. I learned of Tolkien’s interest in the Anglo-Saxons and down the rabbit-hole I tumbled. Over the years I have purchased more books than I should have on the subject (Sorry, Jess.) Of all that we know of this people from burial sites, mounds, monuments such as The White Horse of Uffington, texts such as the famous Beowulf, the poem The Battle of Maldon or the prose Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, what I find most interesting is the Anglo-Saxon relationship with Christ and the shape of Christianity in what would become England. 
Today the church commemorates Alfred, the king of the West Saxons. Here is his story from Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

Alfred, alone of all English rulers, has been called “the Great,” because of his courage and Christian virtues. Born in 849 at Wantage, Berkshire, the youngest of five sons of King Aethelwulf, Alfred spent his life in a time of “battle, murder, and sudden death” during the Viking invasions and settlement in Britain. He was deeply impressed when, on a visit to Rome at the age of four, he was blessed by Pope Leo the Fourth, and two years later when he witnessed the marriage of Aethelwulf to a young princess of the Frankish court. Following his father’s death and the short reigns of his brothers, Alfred became King in 871.

In heroic battles and by stratagems against the Danes, Alfred halted the tide of their invasion, and secured control of the southern, and part of the midland regions, of England for the English. After a decisive victory in 878 at Edington over the Danish leader Guthrum, he persuaded his foe to accept baptism. Alfred died on October 26, 899, and was buried in the old Minster at Winchester.

In his later years, Alfred sought to repair the damage that the Viking invasions had inflicted on culture and learning, especially among the parish clergy. With the help of scholars from Wales and the Continent, he supervised translations into English of important classics of theology and history, including works of Pope Gregory the Great, Augustine of Hippo, and the Venerable Bede. In one of them he commented: “He seemed to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.” 

Alfred trusted in Christ when his kingdom was in crisis. He kept a steady hand and prioritized the welfare and protection of his people before his own ambitions. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says, “As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Hearing and doing Jesus’s words makes us unshakable in the time of trouble, and a beacon of hope for others in the torrent. The still-standing house is a testimony to the foundation upon which it is built. In the midst of confusion and trouble, may we, like Alfred, dig deep daily into God’s word that our foundations may be built of the rock of Jesus Christ so that his purposes might be accomplished, that His kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

.....O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might .....establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: .....Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this .....world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; .....through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one .....God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Peter+
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