Sunday, February 10, 2013

Egerton 809: Witnesses to the Gospel

St Agnes flanked by St Blaise and St Anthony
Egerton 809, upper cover
Late 15th century possibly Bruges
The British Library, London

The detailed record for Egerton 809 in The British Library in London states that it is a Gospel lectionary from South Germany, manufactured in the first quarter of the 12th century

But the front cover of Egerton 809 includes a painted panel of the late 15th century made in Bruges with an image of St Agnes, flanked by St Blaise and St Anthony the Great.

All three were very well known and popular saints

Their commemorations in the Liturgy all fall within a short window in January and February

St Anthony, the founder of Western monasticism was probably a given for a holy book lodged in a monastery

From early days St Anthony`s fame and renown was widespread and it was longlasting

Saint Athanasius in his bestseller of early Christian literature: The Life of Anthony wrote:
 "The fact that his fame has been blazoned everywhere, that all regard him with wonder, and that those who have never seen him long for him, is clear proof of his virtue and God's love of his soul. 
For not from writings, nor from worldly wisdom, nor through any art, was Anthony renowned, but solely from his piety towards God. That this was the gift of God no one will deny. 
"For from whence into Spain and into Gaul, how into Rome and Africa, was the man heard of who dwelt hidden in a mountain, unless it was God who makes his own known everywhere, who also promised this to Anthony at the beginning? 
For even if they work secretly, even if they wish to remain in obscurity, yet the Lord shows them as lamps to lighten all, that those who hear may thus know that the precepts of God are able to make men prosper and thus be zealous in the path of virtue" (Life of Anthony, 93, 5-6).

The other two saints depicted were martyrs. St Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304) is a virgin–martyr
and St. Blasius was a bishop who suffered martyrdom at the beginning of the fourth century

All three were heroic witnesses to the Gospel. They  resisted flattery, inducements and threats, and lived quiet lives of heroic holiness. They chose the Kingdom of Christ over this world and loved Christ to the point of great suffering and martyrdom.