Saint Frideswide is the patron saint of Oxford. Very little is know about her life and while she was a contemporary of the Venerable Bede, he does not mention her in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Her name is Anglo-Saxon for “Peace Strong” and she lived in the middle to later half of the 7th century. She was raised by a nun (?) named Elgitha who raised her to love Christ. As a child she lived a very ascetical life, eating only vegetables, bread and water. It is said she memorized the entire Psalter by age seven. Her life’s motto was ““Whatever is not God is nothing.” With her mother’s cooperation she founded a double monastery for men and women in Oxford, which was a small village at that time in the midst of a dense forest.
Stories about Frideswide on conflicting, but the general gist is that a prince named Aelfgar wanted the Saint’s hand in marriage, even though she was an abbess. She responded that she was already a bride of Christ. Infuriated, he sent a band of men to the monastery to abduct her. The men were all struck blind and ran away. Aelfgar decided to come himself, and warned by an angel, Frideswide and two sisters ran to the Thames, boarded a boat, and landed at a place where they stayed for several years. This refuge *might* have been at Binsey.
Later, she returned to her monastery, which she ruled well and performed miracles. In her latter years she returned to her place of refuge (Binsey?) as an anchorite. A miraculous well gushed forth water in response to her prayers.
This information was distilled from a much longer and better article on Orthodox Christianity web site, where you should go to read more about St. Frideswide.
Here are a few photos. Two of them were taken by my husband on a 2014 trip to Scotland and England. The first one came from the Orthodox Christianity web site because we somehow neglected to get a photo of the exterior of the church (St. Margaret’s) that is on the site near the miraculous well. We did manage to get a photo of the well. 🙂 This church, St. Margaret’s, while old, is not connected to St. Frideswide herself but it is on the site of the miraculous well.
St. Margaret’s Church in Binsey, see article for citation
This is the interior of St. Margaret’s, not really connected to Frideswide but a lovely, semi-abandoned church near the miraculous well.
This is the miraculous well, now named for St. Margaret of Antioch.
Today the Church commemorates Holy Martyr Longinus. I am unfamiliar with this version of his story so I am copying and pasting his biography from the Holy Trinity web site:
“After the Crucifixion and Burial of the Saviour, Longinus with his company stood watch at the Sepulchre of the Lord. Here the soldiers were given to behold the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ. The Jews persuaded them with a bribe to bear false witness that His disciples had stolen away the Body of Christ, but Longinus and two of his comrades refused to be seduced by the Jewish gold. Having believed in the Saviour, the soldiers accepted Baptism from the apostles and decided to forsake military service. Longinus quit Judea and set out preaching about Christ Jesus the Son of God in his native land, in Cappadocia. His two comrades also followed after him. The fiery words of actual participants of the great occurrences in Judea swayed the hearts and minds of the Cappadocians; Christianity began quickly to spread about in the city and the surrounding villages. Having learned of this, the Jewish elders persuaded Pilate to dispatch a company of soldiers to Cappadocia, to kill Longinus and his comrades. The dispatched company of soldiers arrived in the native village of Longinus; the former centurion himself came out to meet the soldiers and took them to his home. After a meal, the soldiers told about the purpose of their arrival, not knowing – that the master of the house – was that very selfsame man, whom they were seeking. Then Longinus and his fellows identified themselves and asked the surprised soldiers, unperturbedly, to do their duty of military service. The soldiers wanted to set free the saints and advised them to flee, but the saints refused to do this, shewing firmness of will to accept suffering for Christ. The holy martyrs were beheaded, and their bodies were buried there where the saints made their final witness, and the cut-off heads were sent on to Pilate. Pilate gave orders to cast the martyrs on the trash-heap outside the city walls. After a certain while a certain blind woman arrived in Jerusalem to pray at the holy places. Saint Longinus appeared to her in a dream and said, that she should find his head and bury it. They led the blind woman to the rubbish heap. Having touched the head of the martyr, the woman was granted sight to her eyes. She reverently conveyed the venerable head to Cappadocia and there gave it burial.”
Again, I have copied this (cut and paste) from the Holy Trinity Calendar. I am more familiar with the version that portrays St. Longinus as the wielder of the spear that pierced Christ’s side as He hung on the Cross.
On another of my blogs I’m starting a series on the fascinating history and pseudo-history of the Spear of Longinus.
This commemorates the 7th, and last ecumenical council of the Church and since seven is the number of perfection, may well be the last as there is no new heresy that may arise that is not addressed by at least one of the seven councils (1).
In the year 787, 350 holy fathers of the Church gathered in Nicaea during the time of Empress Irene and Patriarch Tarasius for the purpose of refuting the iconoclast heresy, which has previously received imperial support (2).
From our Father among the Saints John of Damascus:
I honor all matter, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was the three-times happy and blessed wood of the Cross not matter? Was the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary not matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Tomb, the source of our resurrection — was it not matter? Is the holy book of the Gospels not matter? Is the blessed table which gives us the Bread of Life not matter? Are the gold and silver, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made not matter? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter? Either stop venerating all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the venerating of images, honoring God and his friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit. Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing that God has made is. Only that which does not come from God is despicable — our own invention, the spontaneous decision to disregard the law of human nature, i.e., sin (3).
The word “Zlata” must mean “gold” because I see it on icons of St. John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth). St. Zlata is new to me so I am going to post her biography from the Holy Trinity web site:
The Holy Great Martyress Zlata (Chrysa or Golda) of Moglensk was born and lived in the Bulgarian village of Slatino, Moglensk diocese (+ 1795). Bulgaria at this time was under the Turkish Yoke. From her youth Zlata displayed an unusually strong character, a firm faith in Christ, and was both chaste and beautiful. The local Turks attempted repeatedly to seduce the maiden and force her to accept Islam. But neither by persuasion, nor by threats, nor by monstrous torturing continued in prison for many months, did they break the spirit of the glorious confessor of Christ.
We see icons or little statuettes of St. Martin in many Hispanic restaurants and grocery stores here in Seaside. When I see these sweet shrines, I am always reminded of this story:
St. Martin (4th century) was a military commander under emperor Julian the Apostate. While on his way to battle some barbarians, he encountered a beggar on the side of the road. The Saint tore his cloak in half and gave half to the beggar. That night, Jesus appeared to him in a dream, wearing the half-cloak.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).
Holy Father Martin, pray to God for us!
Troparion — Tone 4
In signs and in miracles you were renowned throughout Gaul. / By grace and adoption you are a light for the world, O Martin, blessed of God. / Almsgiving and compassion filled your life with their splendors, / teaching and wise counsel were your riches and treasures, / which you dispense freely to those who honor you.
Kontakion — Tone 8
As a devoted man of God, you proclaimed His mysteries, / and as a seer of the Trinity, you shed your blessings on the Occident. / By your prayers and entreaties, O adornment of Tours and glory of all the Church, / preserve us, O Saint Martin, and save all who praise your memory.
Saint Titus was one of the Seventy who were sent out by the Lord to tell the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He was a witness of Christ’s Crucifixion. He was baptized and later ordained Bishop of his native Crete by St. Paul the Apostle and was the recipient of pastoral epistle from Paul which is the New Testament book of Titus. He died peacefully at the age of 97.
Saint Anastasia was born in Rome of prosperous parents. Her father was a pagan but her mother was a Christian and instructed her daughter in the faith. Anastasia was a beautiful. virtuous young woman and after her mother’s death, her father forced her to marry a pagan man named Publius Patricius. He was an abusive husband but died by drowning early in the marriage. She then spent her time and wealth giving solace to the poor, especially those in prison. Through her prayerful intercessions many were healed from the effects of poisons and this is why she is called “The Deliverer of Potions.” She lived during the persecution of Emperor Diocletion and was imprisoned, tortured and eventually martyred by fire in the year 290 for her faith in Christ. Saint Anastasia is remembered by the Church today, December 22.
James 2: 14- 26 (But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”)
Mark 9: 42- 10:1 (“Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves and have peace with one another.”)
On the Sunday before Nativity, which is this Thursday (January 7), we remember the Ancestors of our Lord. This morning the deacon will read the genealogy from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
It is said that St. Ignatius was the young child Christ used as an example when He said that we must convert and become like children if we want to see the Kingdom of Heaven. His letters are some of the earliest Christian writings.
St. Ignatius was an Apostolic father who lived in the first century. He was a student of the Apostle John and was the third bishop of Antioch. As he was being carried off to Rome to face martyrdom, he wrote a series of seven letters, six to local churches and one to his friend, St. Polycarp. These letters provide invaluable insight into the early church and demonstrate that the bishop – priest – deacon ecclesiology has existed from the very early days of the Church.
His icons typically depict the Saint with two lions, showing his manner of death. He is remembered on December 20.
“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” — Letter to the Smyrnaeans
Martyr Boniface at Tarsus in Cilicia and Righteous Aglaida of Rome
This is St. Boniface of Tarsus, not St. Boniface of Rome. He was a slave of Aglaida, and they lived lives of debauchery until they grew weary of their sins and became interested in Christianity. They believed some holy relics would help with their repentance so Boniface was sent to Tarsus to acquire some. Upon arrival, he discovered that Christians were being tortured for their faith in Christ and declared that he, too, was a Christian and was martyred. It turned out that it was his own relics that Aglaida received. She in turn built a church in his memory, distributed her wealth to the poor and took up the monastic life. St. Boniface is remembered on December 19.
James 2:1-13 (For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown not mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.) Mark 9:33-41 (…and He said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”)