Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent — Laetare Sunday — Year C

Churchmouse Campanologist

March 30, 2019 is Laetare Sunday, which is Mothering Sunday here in the UK.

To all the British mums reading this, I wish you a very happy day with family. (Commiserations on the move to British Summer Time.)

Laetare Sunday was the day that Britons and others in Anglophone countries worshipped at their ‘mother’ church. Afterwards, the congregation gathered round the church and held hands to ‘clip’ it, showing their love for and solidarity with it.

Servants were given time to make a Simnel cake ahead of time to give to their mothers that day. Nowadays, Simnel cake is more often served at Easter. Its 12 marzipan balls symbolise Christ and his faithful 11 Apostles.

Celebrants in the Catholic and Anglican traditions often wore a pink vestment on Laetare Sunday, as it is the one joyful day of worship during Lent.

It is so called for the ancient Introit, which…

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871: The battle for Wessex, or how Alfred the Great came to the throne.

A H Gray

Since Ivarr the Boneless and his brothers landed in East Anglia in 865 the Anglo-saxon kingdoms of Britain knew no peace. By 875 only ten years later, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia and even Wessex all had new rulers. All but one of these kings had been set up at the instigation of the Danish invaders. The exception of course being Alfred the Great, one of the most famous kings in English history.

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Onwards I go: may I meet with friends

For the Wynn

It’s always interesting to see which words other languages have which are missing from one’s own.  Old English, being somewhat similar to modern German, has a tendency to create compound words to a greater extent than modern English does, leading to words such as tidfara – a traveller whose time to journey has come.  So the author of the poem of St Guthlac tells us that, when a soul arrives in heaven, it will be greeted by an angel speaking these words:

Nu þu most feran     þider þu fundadest

longe ond gelome.     Ic þec lædan sceal.

Wegas þe sindon weþe,     ond wuldres leoht

torht ontyned.     Eart nu tidfara

to þam halgan ham.

Guthlac A, text from Old English poetry

Now you must travel to where you were intending, often and for a long time; I must lead you there.  The ways will be gentle for you, and the…

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Have mercy on me, O God: Psalm 50 in the Anglo-Saxon church

For the Wynn

eadwine-88v-psalm-50Cambridge, Trinity College MS R. 17. 1, fol. 88v.

I have a new article out!  ‘Which Psalms Were Important to the Anglo-Saxons? The Psalms in Tenth- and Eleventh-Century Prayer and Medical Remedies’ is part of a special edition of English Studies on the psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo -Norman England, edited by Helen Appleton and Francis Leneghan, and I am grateful to both of them for organising the edition and being so helpful during the publication process.

In my own article, I discuss the use of the psalms in Anglo-Saxon life outside of the formal services of the daily offices in the monastery: both in the how-to-pray guides that are the main focus of my research, and also in medical remedies, because certain psalms were believed to have curative properties.  But which psalms?  Why do some crop up again and again in these texts – such as (using the…

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Ancient and Early Medieval Prayer – 3: Sources

the pocket scroll

King David, Vespasian Psalter fol. 30v (British Library, Cotton Vespasian A I; 8th-century) King David, Vespasian Psalter fol. 30v (British Library, Cotton Vespasian A I; 8th-century)

If one wishes to pray using the old words, the words of the ancient and early mediaeval Christians, where does one go? What are our sources for the prayers and prayer lives of these early Christians and their communities? These are good questions, and I will briefly outline them here. I am currently preparing a list of online prayer resources, so stay tuned!

The period I like to draw upon runs up to the 800s and 900s. Now, I suppose those who wanted the very earliest would want to stop sooner than that, say, at the close of the Patristic period. While that would be an idealised vision of how to seek out early Christian prayers, it is impractical for several reasons. First, the liturgical prayers of early Latin Christianity are sparse before the Carolingians (740s-880s). Second…

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Have mercy, guide me, guard me: an eighth- (and eleventh-) century prayer

For the Wynn

It’s Lent, and time for something a bit more penitential than some of the glorious manuscripts and linguistic fun that I have been writing about in recent posts.  It happens that a lot of my current work (adapting my doctoral thesis for publication) has been on confessional prayers of various kinds, which is pretty convenient.  Since the start of the season, I have been tweeting short excerpts from the prayers of confession and contrition used in the Anglo-Saxon church, which is the theme of my final chapter.  Although it’s difficult to quote and translate easily in 140 characters or fewer (and medieval monks didn’t have hashtags to squeeze in), I have been attempting to convey the sheer variety of this genre.  Some of the prayers were definitely intended for use with a priest, in front of an altar and relics; others may have been used alone and/or at home.  Some…

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The Saga of Unn the Deep-Minded

Shrine of Dreams

Some sources call her Aud the Deep-Minded but that seems to be a name she adopted in old age. Her sisters were Jor-Unn Wisdom-Slope and Thor-Unn Horned and I think it fairly obvious that whoever named these girls had a plan in mind. Jor and Thor have pagan religious connotations and I suspect that Unn dropped a pagan prefix to her name after she became a devout Christian before she moved to Iceland. The father of these three was Ketil Flat-Nose who moved from Norway to the Hebrides sometime in the 9th Century. There he went a-viking from his base, probably at Barra, into Ireland, the British Isles, and back into Norway — something the Norwegians would later punish him for.

Modern reproduction of "tortoise style" brooches found in a grave on Barra Island. These attached over-the-shoulder straps to the front bodice of a woman's outer dress. [] Modern reproduction of “tortoise style” brooches found in a grave on Barra Island. These attached over-the-shoulder straps to the front bodice of a woman’s outer dress. [] South of the Hebrides…

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