February 4: Anskar, Archbishop of Hamburg, Missionary to Denmark and Sweden, 865
February 4, 2011 6 Comments
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About this commemoration
Anskar (Latinized as Ansgarius) was one of those valiant Christians of whom it might be said, “These shall plant the seed, but others shall reap the harvest.” As Archbishop of Hamburg, he was papal legate for missionary work among the Scandinavians. The immediate result of his devoted and perilous labors was slight: two churches established on the border of Denmark and one priest settled in Sweden. He also participated in the consecration of Gotbert, first bishop in Sweden.
Anskar was born in Corbie, France, in 801, and educated in the outstanding monastic school there. His teaching skill led him to be chosen master of a new monastery school, sent out by Corbie, in Saxon Germany. His strongest call, however, was to be a missionary.
He was stirred, his biographer Rimbert says, by a prolonged vision, in which a voice said, “Go and return to me crowned with martyrdom.” When King Harald of Denmark sought missionaries for that country in 826, Anskar was one of those selected. Rimbert notes that Anskar’s missionary purpose caused astonishment. Why should he wish to leave his brothers to deal with “unknown and barbarous folk?” Some of the brethren tried to deter him; others considered him a freak.
Steadfast in his resolve, Anskar established a school and mission in Denmark, working conscientiously but unsuccessfully to convert and evangelize. He was not totally discouraged. Another vision appeared, with a voice saying, “Go and declare the work of God to the nations.” Shortly afterward (about 829), he was called to Sweden and eagerly accepted. Meager aid both from the monastery and the emperor frustrated his efforts.
While still a young man, Anskar was consecrated Archbishop of Hamburg in 831, and continued his work among the Scandinavians until 848, when he retired to the See of Bremen. The seeds of his efforts were not to bear fruit until over one hundred years later, when Viking devastation, weakness in the Frankish Church, and the lowest ebb of missionary enthusiasm, came to an end. The rich harvest of conversion was three generations away. Nevertheless, Anskar is looked upon by Scandinavians as their apostle.
I Almighty and everlasting God, who didst send thy servant Anskar as an apostle to the people of Scandinavia, and didst enable him to lay a firm foundation for their conversion, though he did not see the results of his labors: Keep thy Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when thou hast begun a good work thou wilt bring it to a fruitful conclusion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II Almighty and everlasting God, you sent your servant Anskar as an apostle to the people of Scandinavia, and enabled him to lay a firm foundation for their conversion, though he did not see the results of his labors: Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a fruitful conclusion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of Apostles
Text 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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