Happy St. Æthelwold’s Day!

While I will be posting about other things very soon, given my recent preoccupation with all things Æthelwoldian I thought I’d share the news that, yes!, it is St. Æthelwold’s Day today.

For anyone reading this who may be unfamiliar with St. Æthelwold, he was an Anglo-Saxon bishop and abbot who was a primary architect of the religious and political movement we call the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Reform in the tenth century, which had huge implications for English religious life, the English state, and (most importantly to me) Old English literature. (More here.)

St. Æthelwold passed away (was “born into eternal life,” as his contemporaries would have thought of it) on August 1st, 984. His communities at Winchester and abroad “culted” him shortly after his death. This means they made him a saint by celebrating the anniversary of his death in the liturgy; this was long before “official canonization.” The technical word for this anniversary of a saint’s death is “deposition” (really referring to the body’s interment in a grave, but close enough…).

Though St. Æthelwold’s cult never spread very far, he is still recognized in the Roman Martyrology as a saint. There, it says:

“Vintoniæ in Anglia, depositio sancti Ethelwoldi, episcopi, qui, Regularem Concordiam illam exaravit ad monasticam disciplinam redintegrandam, quam a sancto Dunstano didicerat.”

Which means, more or less:

“At Winchester, in England, the deposition of St. Æthelwold, bishop, who composed the Regularis Concordia in order to renew monastic discipline, which he had learned from St. Dunstan.”

(The Regularis Concordia was the document intended to standardize daily observance of the monastic life throughout England, agreed upon at the Council of Winchester ca. 973 and thought to have been largely drafted by St. Æthelwold himself.)

In addition to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church still venerating him, the Ordo (liturgical outline of the Church year) for the Personal Ordinariates of Our Lady of Walsingham and of the Chair of St. Peter also commemorate him, though the Ordinariates’ calendars place Æthelwold together with Sts. Dunstan and Oswald on St. Dunstan’s traditional feast day of May 19th.

Despite Æthelwold’s leaving a less-than-spectacular mark on the liturgical front, I’ve decided to make a good showing for this year’s deposition. Below, you can find a hymn and a collect prayer for St. Æthelwold’s feast day that were likely composed by his student, Wulfstan of Winchester. Wulfstan was the precentor, or liturgical director/composer, at Winchester’s Old Minster, where Æthelwold was buried (note that the hymn says “here before your holy limbs”/”Hic coram tuis artubus”). Both are from a manuscript known by the shelf-mark Alençon, Bibliothèque Municipale 14.

The hymn is octosyllabic Latin verse, and I’ve done a rough-and-ready English translation into octosyllabic verse too; the text for both is found below the audio. The audio immediately following this paragraph is a recording of the hymn being chanted in Latin and English to a traditional setting for octosyllabic hymns from the Divine Office, which was taught to me by a former Premonstratensian. (Disclaimers: 1) I have no idea whether or not this setting or something like it would have been used in the tenth century–likely not, but it’s in the same stream of tradition so I use it here; 2) I have no training in singing generally, nor in Gregorian chant specifically–this is just to give a taste or hint of what such things would sound like.)

The Latin text goes like this (edited by Michael Lapidge and Michael Winterbottom in their The Life of St. Æthelwold):

Celi senator inclite

Sancte pastor ecclesie:

O Adeluuolde supplices

Tuos exaudi seruulos!

 

Iam sidus inter sidera

Resplendens super ethera,

Nobis benignus impetra

Paracliti karismata.

 

Pronis rogamus mentibus

Hic coram tuis artubus:

Nostris adesto precibus

Serenus ac propitius.

 

Vt tuis necessariis

Protecti patrociniis,

Ad celorum perpetua

Perueniamus gaudia.

 

Prestet nobis Ingenitus

Hoc atque Vnigenitus

Sanctus amborum Spiritus

Trinus et unus Dominus!

 

 

The translation:

O heav’nly representative

and good shepherd of holy Church,

O father Æthelwold, hear us,

grant good end to your servants’ search.

 

Now brightest star among the stars,

shining resplendent in the sky,

obtain for us you blesséd man,

the Holy Spirit’s gifts most high.

 

We beg you with our souls prostrate

before your body’s holy limbs,

attend to all our earthly prayers:

calm, gentle healing of our sins,

 

that in our weakness protected

by patronage that you employ

we might be led to the heavens

rejoicing in perpetual joy.

 

May the Inborn and Holy Source

and Unbegotten Only Son

and Holy Spirit of them both,

the Three-in-One, grant this to us. Amen.

 

And here’s the collect (Latin again from Lapidge and Winterbottom):

Deus, qui hodiernam diem beati confessoris tui Adeluuoldi episcopi transitu nobis honorabilem dedicasti, concede propicius ut cuius eruditione ueritatis tue luce perfundimur, eius intercessione celestis uite gaudia consequamur. Per.

And a translation:

God, who have dedicated this glorious day for us thru the passing away of your blessed confessor Æthelwold, kindly grant that we may obtain the joys of heavenly life through the intercession of the one through whose erudition we have been imbued with the light of your truth. Though [our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.]

 

A happy Æthelwold’s Day to all! 🙂

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