Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy feast day, St Alban

When I arrived for the 7.30 Eucharist this morning, I'll admit I'd forgotten St Alban.
So, apparently, had most other people.
The frontal was still green, and when I looked in the service book, Alban only featured as a lesser festival. Rather a shame, that, as he is the first British saint and martyr, and it's been suggested that he might make a better national patron that the semi-legendary St George.
Alban won his martyrs crown by putting himself in the place of a Christian priest whom he had been sheltering from the Romans. His martyrdom was accompanied by the usual crop of miracles, which in themselves tend to diminish the impact on 21st century rationalists (though reading his story as chronicled by Bede is a splendid experience).

What strikes me about his story, though, is the fact that in itself his gesture was futile. Amphibalus, the priest he tried to shelter was still executed. His first convert, the executioner who was so impressed by Alban's witness that he declined to do his work, was put to death immediately afterwards. The whole brief story of Alban's life of faith began in fear and ended in bloodshed - and yet, he is remembered and venerated 1800 years after his death, simply because he had fully understood the nature of worship,and refused to put anyone or anything else in the place properly belonging to God.
He told the local magistrate
"I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things" - a piece of daring that condemned him to be sacrificed before the Roman gods...but by his death he shouted into their darkness that there was a better, truer way of being, in relationship to a God who desired mercy and not sacrifice.
I suspect (and hope) there's not much chance of my ever needing his physical courage. Probably not much chance of my ever attaining his shining faith. But perhaps I might aspire to his clarity of vision, so that I could come to recognise that there is actually nothing that matters more than putting God in the place where God belongs.

Eternal Father,
when the gospel of Christ first came to our land
you gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban
by making him the first to win a martyr's crown:
grant that, following his example,
in the fellowship of the saints
we may worship you, the living God,
and give true witness to Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Lorna said...

Rather shamefully I hadn't heard of St Alban until yesterday and just posted about him too.

sally said...

I live in St Albans, our Cathedral is built on the site of his execution....most of the residents here probably take it all for granted...but as you say...what a role model!!!!