This is the name given to the body of doctrines and practices characteristic of those churches (and their off-shoots) that came into being during the European Reformation in schism from the (Roman) Catholic Church. The word itself (and its related forms) derive from the Latin word protestatio, and in particular from the document of that name issued by the minority Lutherans of the Diet of Speyer in Germany in 1529, containing a ‘protest’ against the suppression of Lutheranism by the Catholic majority in the Diet. Those who subscribed to this document and their supporters came to be termed ‘protestants’. Protestantism in England was less systematic and more indirect in its course. Henry VIII’s ‘reformation’ was political rather than theological, and he remained Catholic in his sympathies and devotional practices, although protestantism made some advances during his reign under Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer. The ‘Elizabethan Settlement’ achieved by Elizabeth 1 (1558-1603) set its stamp upon the ‘Ecclesia Anglicana’ (C of E) as the ‘via media’ between Geneva (Calvin) and Rome.
St Alban is Britain’s first martyr. He was a citizen of the Romano-British city of Verulamium, and a pagan. According to the Venerable Bede, Christians at this time were suffering persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. One day, Alban encountered a Christian priest who was fleeing from his persecutors, and Alban gave him refuge in his house for several days. During that time, Alban observed the priest and was greatly impressed by his devotion to prayer. He received instruction from the priest, and was converted to Christianity and baptised.
When it was clear that the discovery of the priest was imminent, Alban dressed himself in the priest’s cloak and was arrested in his stead. He was interrogated and tortured but refused to renounce his faith. He was beheaded on 22nd June (his ‘day’), probably in the year 250.
The city of Verulamium was later renamed St Albans (in Hertfordshire). The place of his execution became the site of an early church, and a few centuries later the Abbey Church of St Albans was built, in which Alban’s late-mediaeval shrine still stands.
There have been numerous references in these entries to the monastery of Iona. Its founder was St Columba, who was born in Ireland in 521 of Irish royal lineage and from an early age felt the call of the religious life. He founded a number of monasteries in Ireland, including that of Kells, before sailing with twelve companions for the west coast of Scotland. There he founded the monastery of Iona in 563. In his last years, when his health was failing, he transcribed the Gospels for the use of his monks. His name in Latin means ‘dove’, but he was apparently austere and harsh in his manner until his later years when he mellowed.
The monastery of Iona became the chief seminary of Celtic Christianity in the north of Britain, those trained there under St Columba going forth in their turn to found monasteries in other parts of Scotland and in the north-east of England, especially that of Holy Island (Lindisfarne). His life was written by Adamnan, who later became abbot of Iona. St Columba died on 9th June (his ‘day’) 597, the year that Latin Christianity entered Britain with St Augustine.
In today’s Gospel reading, Mark 3:20-35, the scribes accuse Jesus of acting through Beelzebub. The Greek form of this word is ‘Beelzeboul’, and this is how it appears in the Greek Gospel, but it is possibly a corruption of ‘Baal-zebub’, who was the god of the Philistine city of Ekron.
In the Gospel, Beelzebub is ‘the prince of devils’, virtually the same as ‘Satan’. The word is of limited occurrence in the Bible and may have been a local word in the area of Galilee.
In 1954 there appeared a novel by the English novelist, William Golding, describing how a party of school-children stranded on a desert island quickly lose their veneer of civilisation and descend into savagery and blood-lust. The novel directs a counter-blast against conventional notions of the innocence of childhood. The title of the novel is ‘Lord of the Flies’, and this is the usual English translation of the word ‘Beelzebub’.
A Word in Season