Don’t Lose Your Head, It’s Saint Alban’s Day!

St. Alban

Every now and again there comes along in the rota of Saints’ Feast Days very special saints that I have had the pleasure of writing about here in the Daily Cup.  Wonder of wonders today is THE day for us at St. Alban’s Parish–the feast of St. Alban himself!

There are many stories associated with St. Alban, and as is true with many of the early saints the stories about the saint tend to be a bit exaggerated.  However, here is what is known about our patron saint:  he was beheaded in about 304 A.D. although that date is debated by some scholars.  He was beheaded during a time of Christian persecutions by the then occupying Romans in England.  A priest, fleeing from the Romans, received shelter at Alban’s house and in the process of staying with him was converted and baptized.  When the authorities came looking for the priest, Alban swapped cloaks with the cleric and was arrested, posing as the priest. After the double-cross had been sorted out the judge ordered Alban to renounce his newly received Christian faith.  Alban refused, even after being tortured.  Finally the judge ordered him to be beheaded on the hill above the town.  So strong was the saint’s faith that on the way to his execution he converted his executioner who refused to slay such a holy man.  When the replacement axe-wielder was found, immediately after administering the fatal blow, his eyes literally fell out of his head.

If the date of 304 A.D. is correct that makes Alban the first British Christian martyr.  A movement is gaining steam in Great Britain to replace St. George with St. Alban as England’s patron saint.

The gospel passage for St. Alban is Matthew 10:34-42:

“Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

If we use St. Alban as an example of the reward that is given when “whoever welcomes a righteous person,” the outcome is enough to keep the doors locked and the windows barred.  But for early Christians, especially those alive when Matthew’s gospel was written–and for many, many of the faith-filled for several centuries to come–giving one’s life for Christ was the highest honor one could achieve.  Literally dying for Christ, making a similar, albeit less potent, sacrifice was the closest one could come to uniting oneself with Christ.

The Beheading of St. Alban

That makes me wonder:  For what would we give our lives?  Or, even more to the point, for WHOM would we give our very lives?  In our society where holding fast to all that we have–material goods, wealth, power, control, etc. is the norm, how foreign does it sound to our ears to think about dying for our faith?  Yet in other cultures Christians are still persecuted, they die every day simply for professing their faith, for boldly proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord over all.

When we think about giving up our lives intentionally for a cause, a belief, I wonder how many of us simply dismiss that as “crazy?”  And that makes me wonder if we truly believe what we hear preached during the Great 50 Days of Easter–that Jesus died and rose to new life again so that all of our sins are removed and that we have eternal life with God waiting for us when we die.  Do we believe that?  Do we live our lives like we believe that?   What would it look like if we were willing to give up our lives for Christ’s sake?  What would you do with your life, the precious collection of days given to you as holy and sacred gifts, if you knew that losing your life would reunite you with the very God that gave you life to begin with?

About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Don’t Lose Your Head, It’s Saint Alban’s Day!

  1. Anton Vanterpool II says:

    Good reflection on our Parish patron saint. The concluding question compares well with the life question: What would you try to accomplish in life if you knew you could not fail? God’s Love never fails. Love wins “on Earth as it is in heaven.”

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