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January 19 Saints of the Day – Mark of Ephesus and Wulfstan of Worcester

Mark of EphesusOn this day in 1977, the first and last snow fell in Miami, Florida, causing many vacationers from northern states to park their cars on the street and walk to their hotels. The snow was not officially “measurable,” but the annoyance of the traffic police was.

Mark of Ephesus (1392-1444) is a controversial saint who cast the sole “nay” vote among the bishops at the Council Florence on the question of reunification of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The council was primed to change the word “filioque” (“and the son”), added to the Nicene Creed by the western church over the howls of eastern theologians (except the ones that didn’t mind), to “ex filio” (“our daughter’s former husband”). The council also talked about those other bones of contention that bishops and theologians wrangle over while their flocks are at the local pub drinking beer and playing darts or something. At any rate the council looked for all the world to be a great success, but when the eastern bishops returned to Constantinople to meet their connecting floats to their home dioceses, the people of the capital jeered and booed them. Except Mark, to whom they gave a hero’s welcome. Tom, the hero whose welcome they gave to Mark, said later he didn’t mind too much, but he wished they had asked first.

The union so painfully almost worked out in Florence was repudiated by the patriarchs of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch in 1443, and the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1472, and never went into effect. Mark was fêted and fawned over when he was alive, and made a saint and called a “Pillar of Orthodoxy” after his death. The two churches, in spite of some lovely photo ops between various eastern Patriarchs and the Pope of Rome, remain estranged. I’m taking up a collection to buy the bishops beer. Please give generously.

Wulfstan of WorcesterWulfstan, Bishop of Worcester (ca. 1008-1095), was also called Wulfstan II to distinguish him from somebody else with the same name. Sadly that other Wulfstan is also sometimes called Wulfstan II to distinguish him from a different previous Wulfstan. Finally our Wulfstan II was probably named after that other Wulfstan II, who was his uncle and also a bishop. And you thought your family was confusing.

My sources say he developed a reputation for chastity (we can probably guess which fraternity houses he didn’t belong to), and was in due time ordained into the priesthood, serving as prior of Worcester. When Archbishop Ealdred of York, who had appointed himself Bishop of Worcester as well, was forced to relinquish the latter post, there was Wulfstan, ready to be made his replacement. Strictly speaking Worcester falls within the province of the Archbishop of Canterbury, one Stigand at the time, but Wulfstan was wary of being consecrated by Stigand, whose own consecration was uncanonical. And you thought your diocese was confusing.

While all this was going on, William the Conqueror waded ashore, and in short order cleared out all the bishops on the island and replaced them with his own cronies — except Wulfstan. This was, our source assures us, because when William looked at Worcester, he saw Wulfstan dutifully taking care of his flock and keeping his head low. It may also be because he ran out of eligible cronies; we’ll never know.

At any rate Wulfstan spent the rest of his episcopacy caring for the poor and running interference for the English against their new Norman overlords, while undertaking a vast rebuilding program. He must have made a good name for himself among the Normans, for legend has it that some 60 years after his death, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, during one of their rare getting-along periods, came and placed their crowns on his tomb, vowing never to wear them again. (Admittedly, witnesses report they were heard bickering about the decision as they rode away.)

Oh, and he’s the patron saint of vegetarians.

Miami (Wikipedia)
St Mark the Archbishop of Ephesus (OCA)
Mark of Ephesus (Wikipedia)
St. Mark of Ephesus (Mark Swearingen)
Filioque (Wikipedia)
Council of Florence (Wikipedia)
Mark of Ephesus (OrthodoxWiki)
St. Wulfstan (Catholic Online)
Wulfstan (died 1095) (Wikipedia)

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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