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July 4 Saints of the Day – Andrew of Crete and Elizabeth of Portugal

On this date in 1862, Lewis Carroll told Alice Liddell the story that would grow into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On this same date in 1865, the book was published. On this date in 2013, I told you about both events.

Andrew of CreteAndrew of Crete (ca. 650 – 712 or 726 or maybe even 740) was mute until he was seven years old, when he was miraculously healed upon receiving the Eucharist. At fourteen he moved to the Lavra of St. Sabbas, whence he was plucked and archdeaconified by the Patricarch of Jerusalem (well, the locum tenens, meaning “crazy resident”). He was sent as representative of same to the Sixth Ecumenical Council (or Third Council of Constantinople, as it is known its more intimate friends). This is the council, you will recall, that condemned Monothelitism, the heresy that claimed Jesus had only one will (I think I’ve about exhausted all the puns I can safely make on that one). After that he became archdeacon at Hagia Sophia, then bishop of Gortyna on Crete (no, not “Gotye” although he did compose the hit hymn “Some Martyr That I Used to Know”). (Okay, he didn’t.)

But it is for his hymns, rather than his ecclesial offices, that he is best known. Andrew is credited with the invention of the Canon, which blew away (pun intended) shorter hymnodic (not to be confused with hypnotic) forms. The Canon comprises nine (or eight) short canticles, followed by a series of troparia (strophes (sort of)) on the day’s saint(s) or feast(s). His “Great Penitential Canon,” at 250 troparia the longest yet composed, is sung during the Compline services in the first week of Great Lent in the Orthodox Church (and, I believe, the Byzantine Catholic rites). It mines the Old and New Testaments for verses and tropes urging the soul to repentance, which seems Lenten enough. Shorter (much shorter) canons are sung during Matins services year ’round. Andrew was also known as a forceful preacher, — some of his sermons for specific church feasts survive, and indeed in some quarters positively thrive.

He was present at the conciliabulum (“since-discredited synod”) of 712, which overturned the aforementioned Sixth Ecumenical Council, but when the conciliabulum itself was overturned, it was determined that he was there under duress, and all was forgiven. He died of unspecified “natural causes” on the island of Mytilene while on a layover en route to Crete from Constantinople. His relics found their way back to the capital, as relics do.

Elizabeth of PortugalElizabeth of Portugal (1325 – 1357) is also called Isabella of Portugal (as are at least five other women) and Isabella of Aragon (as are at least four other women). (It occurs to me there might be some overlap there, but I’ve already put more into the name thing than seems worth it.) She was a pious girl, but still got betrothed off at the tender age of ten to the dissolute and adulterous King Denis of Portugal, although they weren’t wed until she was seventeen. She was sincerely pious, which angered some around her who might not have been so pious, or so sincere, or both. She was falsely accused of plotting against the king on behalf of her son, but she was exonerated when there was a miraculous last-second switcheroo, and her accuser nearly got headed at the (intended) execution of her supposed accomplice.

Her son Afonso naturally resented his father’s natural son (also called Afonso) (which is weird if not downright creepy), whom he thought Dad favored too favorably. This nearly led to civil war, but Elizabeth prevented the fighting by riding between the opposing armies on a mule. The bastard was exiled, and the Infante was reconciled.

After Denis’ death she removed to the Poor Claires at Coimbra, but for reasons undisclosed they didn’t take her on board, so she remained in their building but as a Franciscan Tertiary. From there she distributed food to the poor, paid poor girls’ dowries, and prevented another war, although this latter proved too much exertion, and she died of a fever contracted in the trenches. Hers is the patronage “against jealousy.”

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

July 4 (Wikipedia)
Andrew of Crete (Wikipedia) – Main source
St Andrew the Archbishop of Crete (OCA)
Saint Andrew of Crete (SQPN)
Elizabeth of Aragon (Wikipedia) – Main source
Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal, OFM Tert. Queen (St. Patrick DC)
Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (SQPN)
Both images from Wikimedia.


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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