The Feast of Alfred the Great, King of the West Saxons, 899.
“O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
– The collect for the Feast of Alfred the Great, King of the West Saxons, 899, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
We are living in a time when the evening news is filled with reports of terrorism bombings, beheadings and other acts of unthinkable brutality. These are not, however, new realities in the history of the world. Throughout history many have had to live with the very real possibility of terror invading their day to day lives. In King Alfred’s day the terror came from the sea. From the Danes. The barbarians from the east burned Villages, and plundered and destroyed churches. The British Isles were oppressed by a brutal campaign of terror.
King Alfred the Great saved his people and, it can even be said without exaggeration, the very foundations of civilization in England. He was able to do this because, for him, everything rested first on faith, and it was only through faith that he would be able to save his people. Alfred recognized clearly that the place to begin to change the world was by dealing first with what is within oneself. It is only when one “cleaves only to God”, that miracles can occur, chaos ended, order restored. In the English speaking world, Alfred is the only king ever to be honored as “The Great”.
“Listen therefore, O kings, and understand;
learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.
Give ear, you that rule over multitudes,
and boast of many nations.
For your dominion was given you from the Lord,
and your sovereignty from the Most High;
he will search out your works and inquire into your plans.
To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed,
so that you may learn wisdom and not transgress.
For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness,
and those who have been taught them will find a defense.
Therefore set your desire on my words;
long for them, and you will be instructed.
Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
The multitude of the wise is the salvation of the world,
and a sensible king is the stability of any people.
Therefore be instructed by my words, and you will profit.”
– The Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 6, verses1-3, 9-12, and 24-25.