Bishop and Martyr.
Alphege, born of noble blood, sought in youth for training in the nobler things of life at the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire; after which he became a hermit at Bath; where disciples came to him, with whom he founded the monastery in that place. But when Bishop Saint Ethelwold of Winchester died, Saint Dunstan of Canterbury, being warned of God by a vision of the blessed Apostle Andrew, obliged Alphege to leave his monastery and accept the bishoprick of Winchester; where he soon distinguished himself as a good shepherd to his flock, and wondrous for kindness to all the poor and lowly. After the death of Aelfric, Archbishop of Canterbury, Alphege was, at the desire of all, set in his place, whereafter he strove with much might to preserve Christian godliness and church-discipline.
In particular he held a national council at Oenham, in which thirty-two canons were passed for the reformation of abuses and the establishment of godly living, one of which was for the enforcement of the ancient Friday fast. At that time the English were in sore straits from the invasions of the Danes; and the holy Archbishop, in the wideness of his love, strove both to assuage the sorrows of his flock, and to convert these enemies themselves to the Faith of Christ. Frequently the Danish army beleaguered Canterbury, threatening death to its citizens. Wherefore Alphege advised all who could to escape from the city, but he himself would not desert his flock in the hour of danger. And when the city was taken and set on fire, the Archbishop stood in the way of the advancing blood-thirsty hordes, and adjured the raging savages to stay the slaughter of the innocent.
Whereupon they seized him and beat him, and made him watch the desecration and burning of his cathedral church, and the murder of many of his monks and other friends. After which they shut him up for seven months in a foul prison, and demanded a huge ransom, which he declared the country was too poor to pay. And even though a plague broke out among the invaders, and Alphege healed many of them, they were so incensed at his refusal to seek for a ransom from his flock, that they took him to Greenwich, and there wounded him with swords, and split open his head with an axe, namely, on April 19th, 1012. Thereafter, when his body had been recovered by the English, he was buried in Saint Paul's, London; but in 1023 the Danish King Canute translated his relicks with great honour to Canterbury. In after times Archbishop Lanfranc raised the question as to whether or not holy Alphege had died for the Faith; to whom Saint Anselm replied that death for the sake of justice is death for Christ.
O GOD, who didst adorn blessed Alphege, devoutly confessing thy most holy Name, with the dignity of priesthood and the palm of martyrdom: mercifully grant that, by his intercession, we may find such succour in thy sight, that we may be found worthy to rejoice with him in everlasting felicity. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 1862-1863
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