"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop and Martyr

Today is the feast of "the holy, blissful martyr." St. Thomas of Canterbury has long been dear to my heart, in part because I came to love the film version of Anouihl's play, Becket, or the Honor of God, even before I became a Christian. After my conversion and profession of faith in 1990 I was certain that God had forgiven me and that He loved me, but I still felt unworthy to return that love in the way I knew Christians should. Then I reflected upon the scene between Becket and King Henry on the beach before the exile returned to England, when the king asked the archbishop "So you've come to love God, then?" Becket's response resonated with me strongly: "I have come to love the honor of God." I think I must have a feudal heart, which will come as no surprise to friends who know of my engrained Anselmian tendencies. The honor of God--I did love the honor God, and the cross of Christ by which the Savior returned the honor owed by the human race to our Creator. In time I have come to love the Lord more personally, but the example of the real St. Thomas remains especially dear to me. Thomas Becket, whose love for God’s honor shines as a light in the darkness of our times, provides an example all Christians should strive to emulate. Blessed Thomas, pray for me, a sinner.

From the early chronicler Gervase of Canterbury's History of the Archbishops of Canterbury:

"But on the fifth day of the nativity, which was the third day of the week, there arrived four courtiers, who desired to speak with the archbishop, thinking by this to discover the weak points [of the monastery]. These were Reginald Fitz-Urse, Hugh de Morville, William de Traci, and Richard Brito. After a long discussion, they began to employ threats; and at length rising up hastily, they went out into the courtyard; and under the spreading branches of a mulberry-tree, they cast off the garments with which they had covered their breastplates, and, accompanied by those persons whom they had summoned from the province, they returned into the archbishop's palace.

Yet he, unmoved by the exhortations, the prayers, and the tears of his followers, remained firm in his place, until the time had arrived for the performance of the evening service in the church; towards which he advanced with a slow and deliberate step, like one who of his own free-will prepares himself for death. Having entered the church, he paused at the threshold; and he asked his attendants of what they were afraid. When the clerks began to fall into disorder, he said, "Depart, ye cowards! Let these blind madmen go on in their career. We command you, in virtue of your obedience, not to shut the door."

While he was thus speaking, behold! the executioners having ransacked the bishop's palace, rushed together through the cloisters; three of whom carried hatchets in their left bands, and one an axe or a two-edged glaive, while all of them brandished drawn swords in their right hands. But after they had rushed through the open door, they separated from each other, Fitz-Urse turning to the left, while the three others took to the right. The archbishop had already ascended a few steps, when Fitz-Urse, as he hurried onwards, asked one whom he met, "Where is the archbishop?" Hearing this, he turned round on the step, and, with a slight motion of the head, he was the first to answer, "Here am I, Reginald. I have conferred many a benefit on you, Reginald; and do you now come to me with arms in your hands?" "You shall soon find that out," was the reply. "Are not you that notorious traitor to the king?" And, laying hold on his pall, he said, "Depart hence;" and he struck the pall with his sword. The archbishop replied, "I am no traitor; nor will I depart, wretched man!" and he plucked the fringe of his pall from out the knight's hand. The other repeated the words, "Flee hence!" The reply was, "I will not flee; here your malice shall be satisfied." At these words the assassin stepped back, as if smitten by a blow.

In the meantime the other three assailants had arrived; and they exclaimed, "Now you shall die!" "If," said the archbishop, "you seek my life, I forbid you, under the threat of an anathema, from touching any one of my followers. As for me, I willingly embrace death, provided only that the church obtain liberty and peace at the price of my blood." When he had said these words, he stretched forth his head to the blows of the murderers.

Fitz-Urse hastened forward, and with his whole strength he planted a blow upon the extended head; and he cried out, as if in triumph over his conquered enemy, "Strike! strike!" Goaded on by the author of confusion, these butchers, adding wound to wound, dashed out his brains; and one of them, following up the martyr, (who at this time was either in the act of falling, or had already fallen) struck the pavement with his sword but the point of the weapon broke off short. They now returned through the cloister, crying out, "Knights of the king, let us go; he is dead!" And then they pillaged whatever they found in the archbishop's residence.

See here a wonder. While he was yet alive, and could speak, and stand on his feet, men called him a traitor to the king; but when he was laid low, with his brains dashed out, he was called the holy Thomas, even before the breath had left his body.This blessed martyr suffered death in the ninth year of his patriarchate, on the fourth of the calends of January [29th Dec.], being the third day of the week, A.D. 1170, while the monks were singing their vespers. His dead body was removed and placed in the shrine before the altar of Christ. On the morrow it was carried by the monks and deposited in a tomb of marble within the crypt.

Now, to speak the truth - that which I saw with my eyes, and handled with my hands - he wore hair-cloth next his skin, then stamin, over that a black cowl, then the white cowl in which he was consecrated; he also wore his tunic and dalmatic, his chasuble, pall, and miter; lower down, he had drawers of sack-cloth, and over these others of linen; his socks were of wool, and he had on sandals."


Blogger Mark said...

Having recently visited Canterbury Cathedral and the Martyrdom, I particularly appreciate you posting this.


7:55 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

I, too, have found the cathedral to be a powerful site, Mark. I was fortunate enough to first partake of sacramental reconciliation of a pentitent in the Jesus and Mary Chapel in the undercroft of Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury (just two weeks after my baptism fifteen years ago). A group of Anglican Benedictines had just celebrated Mass in the chapel and the air was still heavy with incense at the time. I think of that day often. While it is tragic that the holy martyr's tomb was desecrated by Henry VIII's men, I must say that the lone white candle that now sits in the space the shrine once occupied bears eloquent witness to St. Thomas' courage and dignity in the face of persecution. God bless, sir.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Robert Duffield said...

Randy, I had no idea that you were a godless heathen when I knew you at Rice. This puts new spin on the black man's prophecy at the Taco Bell. Was he a false prophet trying to lead you and your friends astray, or a true one sent to sway your path to righteousness?

10:59 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Yes, Robert, I was a rather meanspirited heathen back then. I used to delight in ripping up the well-intended fundamentalists who tried to "witness" to me. (Mea maxima culpa.) As for the so-called prophet Rod, I think he was in fact a false prophet. Not only have none of his prophecies come true in 20 years, but the content doesn't suit the character of the living God. I suppose he is off in Wyoming, still using his private plane for nefarious purposes. Blessed New Year to you and your family, sir.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Robert Duffield said...

With your reminder, I remember "the prophet Rod" being named, and it was possibly the jack in the box (now a florist) rather than the taco bell (now a starbucks). I do not remember hearing about plural prophecies, unless you mean the same prophecy given to different people.

You have handled this question with admirable tact and forthrightness. The fact that you remember much about even a brief encounter with a man from 20 years ago testifies to your awareness and perception.

How long is twenty years on the scale of eternity?

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know for a fact that none of the phophesises came true? Mike says his did not, but he wants to know if you have checked in with Ed lately.

Happy New Year! Becky Jo

11:01 AM  

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