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Born in 954, Alphege (or Aelfheah) gave his witness in the troubled time of the second wave of Scandinavian invasion and settlement in England. After serving as a monk at Deerhurst, and then as Abbot of Bath, he became in 984, through Archbishop Dunstan’s inﬂuence, Bishop of Winchester. He was instrumental in bringing the Norse King Olaf Tryggvason, only recently baptized, to King Aethelred in 994 to make his peace and to be conﬁrmed at Andover.
Transferred to Canterbury in 1005, Alphege was captured by the Danes in 1011. He refused to allow a personal ransom to be collected from his already over-burdened people. Seven months later he was brutally murdered, despite the Viking commander Thorkell’s effort to save him by offering all his possessions except his ship for the Archbishop’s life.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates that the Danes were “much stirred against the Bishop, because he would not promise them any fee, and forbade that any man should give anything for him. They were also much drunken … and took the Bishop, and led him to their hustings, on the eve of the Saturday after Easter … and then they shamefully killed him. They overwhelmed him with bones and horns of oxen; and one of them smote him with an axe-iron on the head; so that he sunk downwards with the blow. And his holy blood fell on the earth, whilst his sacred soul was sent to the realm of God.”
I O loving God, whose martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death because he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people: Grant, we pray thee, that all pastors of thy ﬂock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep; through him who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II O loving God, your martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death when he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people: Grant that all pastors of your ﬂock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep; and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Samuel 24:7b–19
Preface of a Saint (3)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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