Thursday, June 05, 2008

How are you on St Boniface?

mmn....me too, I have to say!

I remembered that he existed, that he came from Crediton in Devon and that was pretty much it.
But when I opened the Lectionary before the Eucharist at Church on the Hill this morning, I discovered that today is his feast, the anniversary of his martyrdom (while waiting for a group of confirmation candidates to arrive. Now that's a salutory warning for people with timekeeping like mine...I'll bet they felt miserably guilty when they discovered that their Bishop had been struck down as they got stuck in traffic). Exciting Holiness wasn't overflowing with information, though it asserted that, thanks both to his missionary work and to his reformation of the monastic orders of France, he probably had more influence on European history than any other Englishman.

That's all good stuff, but what really struck me was a wonderful story of Boniface setting out to chop down a sacred oak, dedicated to Thor, in Geismar...As the tree fell, its branches landed in the shape of a cross - and amid the wreckage caused by its fall, just one other tree survived, a small fir. Looking at this, Boniface apparently said
"This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide".

St boniface sculpture
THE OAK OF GEISMAR

The tree became a sign of Christ in the world for the German peoples, and nowadays it is a universal reminder of Christmas.

Good story, eh?

But I wondered what the sacred oaks might be for us, what essential values and assumptions in contemporary life are ripe for felling in the cause of the Kingdom.
I found one answer in a post of my friend Michael's, over at feig city. He cites an article in the Guardian, about high finance of all things, which ended by denouncing the ruling gods of our age, listed thus

Globalisation
Communication
Liberalisation
Privatisation
Competition
Financialisation
Speculation
Recklessness
Greed
Arrogance
Oligarchy
Excess

- and with the powerful obituary

"These gods have failed. It is time to live without them"

It's a striking list, - some pretty well-rooted oaks, I'd say...and not all of them obvious candidates for demolition. What's the problem with communication, for example? Isn't it always "Good to talk"?
So, as I tried to unpack the readings in Church on the Hill, I bore that list mind, together with an image of Boniface, standing small but undaunted at the foot of the oak tree...
I invited suggestions as to those spirits of the age that we might need to take on, but the silence was deafening. What do you think?

2 comments:

ROBERTA said...

well first i had to look up "oligarchy" for i had never even heard of that word before...but it definitely applies to life here in the states...and that is an intriguing list to ponder....

thanks for the info and story on Boniface....you rarely hear much about him...not too many people naming their children Boniface these days are there?

marcella said...

At last one area where having a degree in History (specialising in the medieval and early modern period) from the University of Exeter is of use. Our professor was keen on St Boniface (although even keener on St Benedict) Happy St Boniface's day