Τρίτη, 13 Οκτωβρίου 2009

ST. EDBURGA OF WINCHESTER (+ 932)
By Vladimir Moss

Our holy Mother Edburga was born late in the ninth or early in the tenth century, being the daughter of King Edward the Elder of England and his third wife Eadgifu, and the grand-daughter of King Alfred the Great and his wife Ealswythe.

When she was still a girl, her father showed her a couch on which were laid a chalice and Gospels on one side, and bracelets and necklaces on the other. When asked which she preferred, she turned her back on the worldly baubles and chose the holy things. Her father rejoiced, and blessed her to become a nun at the convent of the Mother of God in Winchester known as Nunnaminster, which her grandmother had founded and which her father had completed. So the saint was handed over to Abbess Aethelthryth to be educated in the monastic life and the Holy Scriptures.

Once the prioress found one of her nuns reading alone, which was against the monastic rule. She began beating the offender, but was then shocked to see that it was the king’s daugher, Edburga. She prostrated herself at the saint’s feet, asking her forgiveness. But then the saint, not wishing to be made an exception to the monastic rule because of her birth, herself prostrated herself at the other’s feet.

Edburga had the custom of secretly cleaning the other nuns’ shoes at night. The nuns wondered who it was, and eventually one discovered that it was the saint’s work. She was brought before the monastic community, who said to her: “It is unseemly for a royal child to bow her neck to such humble service and to set about the work of a common slave; it is harmful to the dignity of her illustrious birth.”

A little later, King Edward came to Winchester and discreetly asked about his daughter’s progress. The nuns praised her, but were afraid to mention this incident: “Still they wavered and trembled, fearing to relate that deed which was detestable to all, lest they be struck down by the king’s anger.” But the king ordered them to say what was on their minds. They were relieved to learn that he was not at all upset by his daughter’s humility, but rather encouraged it.

Once the community was in considerable hardship and had very little to eat. The nuns asked Edburga to intercede with her father. Now it happened that two soldiers, Alla and Muluca, had disgraced themselves brawling over an estate called Canaga – probably All Cannings in Wiltshire. A council decreed that the soldiers should be punished by the forfeiture of this property to the king. The nuns told Edburga that this estate perfectly suited their needs, so Edburga agreed to bring the subject up with her father. An opportunity arose when the king made another visit to Nunnaminster and asked his daughter to sing an Alleluia. She at first refused out of shyness, but when the king offered her a reward if she sang, she did not refuse his request. And afterwards she asked her father to give the monastery the estate of All Cannings. Her father willingly agreed to give the estate to the monastery in perpetuity.

St. Edburga was an exemplary nun in all ways. She was also very given to almsgiving to the poor. And the Lord granted her the gift of healing.

Thus there was a blind woman in the province who was told during a nocturnal vision that if she put water that Edburga had used in washing her hands on her eyes, she would be healed. So she went to the monastery and told the nuns about her vision. They gave her water from the hands of the saint, and she immediately recovered her sight.

According to one ancient source, thirty one years elapsed between the death of King Alfred and the death of St. Edburga. If King Alfred died in 901, as this source suggests, then St. Edburga would have died in 932.

St. Edburga is commemorated on June 15 and July 18.

(Sources: Bodleian Library MS 451; Osbert of Clare, Vita Edburge; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, II, 78; Susan J. Ridyard, The Royal Saints of Anglo-Saxon England, Cambridge University Press; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 118)

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