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April 21 Saints of the Day – Theodore of Perge and Anselm of Canterbury

On this date in 753 BC, according to tradition, Romulus and Remus founded Rome. People at the ceremony were shocked at how the brothers wolfed their food.

Theodore of Perge and CompanionsOur eastern saints today are Theodore of Perge and his companions (d. 220). Invited by the authorities to serve the emperor but refusing to perform the requisite pagan ritual, Theodore was placed on a red-hot plate (obviously not at Appleby’s) and anointed with boiling tar. A miraculous earthquake caused a gusher of water to put out the fire, cool the plate, and wash the tar off — Theodore remained unharmed. The commander accused Theodore of sorcery, and Theodore suggested the attending pagan priest, Discorius, be given the same treatment, saving himself by praying to Zeus. Discorius weighed his options and decided to become a Christian on the spot. He got on the plate, prayed to Christ, and expired before things got really ouchy.

Next they dragged Theodore behind two horses, but the horses collapsed at the city walls (an odd detail, I thought — something in their contract?). A heavenly chariot came down and took Theodore away, but the soldiers nabbed him, which is confusing. Anyway he and his companions were thrown into a fiery furnace, which worked as well as it did for Shadrach, Abednego, and the other guy, which is to say not at all. The commander then suggested to Theodore’s mother, who was encouraging the guys to be steadfast, that she talk some sense into him. She said he was prophesied at birth to die for Christ by crucifixion, so the commander crucified him, beheading everybody else (including mum). Theodore hung on the cross for three days, praying the whole time, which on the whole is an admirable way to go if crucifixion is the best you can manage.

Anselm of CanterburyOur western saint today is Anselm of Canterbury (ca. 1033 – 1109). Denied his monastic desires at fifteen by his noble father, he slummed around his hometown for a bit, then ran away to Normandy. There he entered a Benedictine monastery, working his way up from mailboy to abbot (of nearby Bec). He gathered scholars thither from all over Europe, and wrote works of theology and philosophy. After the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury (his friend Lanfranc), he visited England, but William II would neither allow him to return to Bec, nor fill the vacant archbishopric. Encroaching death, however, has a wonderful way of clearing the mind, and when Will felt it, he repented munificently and attempted to solve both problems by offering Anselm the see. The wily abbot, however, sent by return mail a list of demands — the king must return seized lands, accede to Anselm’s authority, and reject antipope Clement III in favor of propope Urban II. Willy said both yay and nay, and as the two were haggling, the other English bishops forced the crozier into Anselm’s hand and dragged him to the cathedral to be archbishopified.

The wrangling over the role of the state in the affairs of the church continued, culminating in 1097 with Anselm’s exile. When Will died, Henry I invited Anselm back, largely because he needed support in his claim for the throne. Anselm had hardly got his land legs back when Henry demanded he pay him homage, which the Pope had but lately banned. Things led to other things, and by 1103 Anselm was again in exile. In further negotiations, the king made some concessions, but Anselm held out until he agreed to give back all the lands, churches, and other wealth that the brothers had seized. Anselm returned to England and spent his final years (all two of them) setting things to rights, restoring order, praying, and further freeing the Church from the tyranny of the crown.

Theologically-wise speaking, Anselm is perhaps most famous for introducing the satisfaction theory of atonement, in which only Christ’s death could make restitution to God for man’s original sin. This was laid forth in his treatise Cur Deus Homo (“Dog, God, Homogenized Milk”), which became a great favorite of Martin Luther, who however replaced the milk with ale.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

April 21 (Wikipedia)
Hieromartyr Theodore of Perge in Pamphylia, with his Mother – Main source
The Prologue of Ohrid (book on paper)
Anselm of Canterbury (Wikipedia) – Main source
William II of England (Wikipedia)
Henry I of England (Wikipedia)
Satisfaction theory of atonement (Wikipedia)


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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