Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Alfred the Great

"Our supreme and holy Grace, protecting us and ours, deliver us, God, from the savage race of Northmen which lays waste our realms." *

Everything that can be said about King Alfred has already been said, far better than I can say it, but there is one very striking thing I read recently that I really want to point out.

G.K. Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse begins with a vision of the Virgin Mary by the young King Alfred, who asks her if he will be victorious in battle. She replies, in part:
"The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
To no good man is told.

"The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.

King Alfred is not told whether he will win any battles at all, but what he learns is of far greager importance. "The message of this poem is that it is up to us to choose the right side, even if there is a risk that it is not the winning side." *

Let us learn from this hero of the Faith, and pray with him:
We pray to you, O Lord, who are the supreme Truth, and all truth is from you. We beseech you, O Lord, who are the highest Wisdom, and all the wise depend on you for their wisdom. You are the supreme Joy, and all who are happy owe it to you. You are the Light of minds, and all receive their understanding from you. We love, we love you above all. We seek you, we follow you, and we are ready to serve you. We desire to dwell under your power for you are the King of all. Amen. *

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Items of interest:

The Lindisfarne Gospels

O God, Our Maker, Throned on High, hymn attributed to King Alfred

Today's lectionary

The History of the Kings of England, by William of Malmsbury

The Heroic Age, a multitude of Anglo-Saxon links

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