St. Etheldreda, Queen, Virgin, Abbess; commemoration of the Vigil of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: Missa “Dilexisti”
Etheldreda (Æthelthryth, Ediltrudis, Audrey) (d.679), queen, foundress and abbess of Ely. She was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, and was born, probably, at Exning, near Newmarket in Suffolk. At an early age she was married (c.652) to Tondberht, ealdorman of the South Gyrwas, but she remained a virgin. On his death, c.655, she retired to the Isle of Ely, her dowry. In 660, for political reasons, she was married to Egfrith, the young king of Northumbria who was then only 15 years old, and several years younger than her. He agreed that she should remain a virgin, as in her previous marriage, but 12 years later he wished their marital relationship to be normal. Etheldreda, advised and aided by Wilfred, bishop of Northumbria, refused. Egfrith offered bribes in vain. Etheldreda left him and became a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe (672) and founded a double monastery at Ely in 673. (from FARMER, David: The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 3rd ed. OUP, 1992.)
Etheldreda restored an old church at Ely, reputedly destroyed by Penda, pagan king of the Mercians, and built her monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathedral. After its restoration in 970 by Ethelwold it became the richest abbey in England except for Glastonbury.
Etheldreda’s monastery flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes. It was refounded as a Benedictine community in 970.
Etheldreda died c.680 from a tumour on the neck, reputedly as a divine punishment for her vanity in wearing necklaces in her younger days; in reality it was the result of the plague which also killed several of her nuns, many of whom were her sisters or nieces. At St Audrey’s Fair necklaces of silk and lace were sold, often of very inferior quality, hence the derivation of the word tawdry from St Audrey.
17 years after her death her body was found to be incorrupt: Wilfred and her physician Cynefrid were among the witnesses. The tumour on her neck, cut by her doctor, was found to be healed. The linen cloths in which her body was wrapped were as fresh as the day she had been buried. Her body was placed in a stone sarcophagus of Roman origin, found at Grantchester and reburied.
For centuries, Etheldreda’s shrine was the focus for vast numbers of medieval pilgrims. It was destroyed in 1541, but a slate in the Cathedral marks the spot where it stood.
The Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist
The Archangel Gabriel announced that Elizabeth would have a son. Saint John the Baptist came to prepare the ways of the Lord. In Rome the devotion to St. John centers around the Lateran Basilica where Pope Hilary had erected two oratories, one in honor of St. John the Evangelist and the other in honor of St. John the Baptist. These two oratories became so famous that they gave the name of St. John to the Lateran Basilica itself.
The greatness of St. John the Baptist consists entirely in his mission of preparing the way for Jesus Christ. Therefore he did not live for himself, but for Christ and for His greater glory. This is genuine humility, the foundation of all true greatness before God.
INTROIT Psalm 44: 8
Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Ps. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. Glory be to the Father.
Eternal God, who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer and to the service of your true religion: grant that we, like her, may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom that by your guiding we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. R.Amen.
Commemoration of the Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist
Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that Thy household may walk in the way of salvation and, by following the exhortations of blessed John the Precursor, may safely come unto Him Whom he foretold, even Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R.Amen.
EPISTLE II Corinthians 10: 17-18
Brethren, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he who commandeth himself is approved: but he whom God commandeth. Would to God you could bear with some little of my folly, but do bear with me: for I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 44: 5,15,16
With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out, proceed prosperously, and reign. Because of truth, and meekness, and justice: and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully. Alleluia, alleluia. After her shall virgins be brought to the king: her neighbours shall be brought to thee with gladness. Alleluia.
1. Now, our hymn to God upraising,
Sing we of a queen’s amazing
Lowliness of mind, today;
Who her royal state rejected
And, impelled by love, elected
In Christ’s holy rule to stay.
2. See-as men her way impedeth,
As she follows where God leadeth,
Lo, her staff breaks out in flower.
Far aside all hindrance thrusting,
Loving God, Him only trusting,
She is strengthened in that hour.
3. See, the flood the saint protecteth;
God the plans of men correcteth;
She is safe from strife at last.
Bound to prayer for man’s salvation
And to daily adoration,
To her Lord alone held fast.
4. So, by God to Ely called,
o’er His virgin flock installed
Mother, by Saint Wilfrid’s hand;
Now, through work and word, she teacheth
Of the blessed way that reacheth
Unto life’s eternal land.
5. Ely’s shrine of wondrous beauty,
Kept by men of faith and duty
Through long years of change and strife,
Still is here to tell the story
Of how grace leads on to glory
And to everlasting life.
6. Etheldreda’s holy living
Urgeth us to heartfelt giving
Of ourselves to God today.
May her prayers, for us ascending,
Gain us joys that know no ending
With the saints on high for aye.
GOSPEL Matthew 25: 1-13
At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: The kingdom of Heaven shall be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride. And five of them were foolish, and five wise: but the five foolish having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps. And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answering, said: Amen I say to you, I know you not. Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 44: 10
The daughters of kings are in thine honour, the queen stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.
May the offering of Thy consecrated people be accepted by Thee, O Lord, in honour of Thy Saints, by whose merits it knoweth that it hath received aid in time of trouble. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
Commemoration of the Nativity of St John the Baptist
Make holy the sacrificial gifts we offer, O Lord, and by the new birth of Your only-egotten Son, cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, Our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, and profitable unto salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, through Christ, our Lord. Though whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions adore it, the powers are in awe. Which the heavens and the hosts of heaven together with the blessed seraphim joyfully do magnify. And do thou command that it be permitted to us join with them in confessing thee, while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Matthew 25: 4, 6
The five wise virgins took oil in their vessels with the lamps: and at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the Bridegroom cometh: go ye forth to meet Christ the Lord. .
Thou hast filled Thy household, O Lord, with sacred gifts; ever comfort us, we beseech Thee, through her intercession whose festival we celebrate. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God world without end. R. Amen.
Commemoration of the Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist
May the powerful prayer of blessed John the Baptist go with us, O Lord, and may he plead with our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Whose coming he foretold, to be merciful unto us. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. R. Amen
PROPER LAST GOSPEL of the Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist Luke 1:5-17
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were just before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. But they had no son, for Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it came to pass, while he was officiating in the order of his course as priest before God, according to the custom of the priest’s office, that he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord to burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right of the altar of incense. And Zachary, seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zachary, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son and you shall call his name John. And you shall have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great before the Lord; he shall drink no wine or strong drink, and shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. And he shall bring back to the Lord their God many of the children of Israel, and he shall himself go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just; to prepare for the Lord a perfect people.