Canon Roy Arnold
Today as we visit the Church’s Gallery of Saints we come to St Anselm. He was born in Northern Italy in 1033. At an early age set out to travel extensively in Europe, visiting many monasteries and places of learning, eventually settling at the Abbey of Bec near Rouen in Normandy where he made his reputation as a Christian Writer and Scholar. He eventually became the Abbot of the monastery, but he found opposition to his rule, surprisingly from a man by the name of Osborne. After sorting out Osborne (good idea), Anselm was called to cross the English Channel to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1089, some 23 years after the Normans Conquered England in 1066 – the year Britain became more inextricably joined to Europe…
Anselm didn’t have an easy time as Archbishop – having fallen out with the King he was twice sent into exile – but in so many ways I would put Anselm down as being ahead of his times, not least in his attitude towards the role of women in Society and in the Church. He believed that although we refer to God as our Father we must not forget that God (and therefore Jesus) is like a Mother to us as well. Let me quote a prayer that Anselm wrote about the year 1109.
Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you, you are gentle with us as a mother with her children and despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness, and through your gentleness we find comfort in fear. Your warmth gives live to the dead and your touch makes sinners righteous. Jesus in your mercy, heal us and in your love and tenderness remake us. In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness and for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.
In a world mainly dominated by men there were, even at that time, many powerful women but I would like to think that it was Anselm’s deep studies about the life of Jesus where he learnt about the need for the Church, and all of us as members of the Church, to truly value the role of both men and women. For one reason or another, women make up a good proportion of churchgoers, so I am proud of the fact that the Church of England recognises this fact in the Ordination of Women, not only as Priests but also now as Bishops. Something which perhaps Anselm never even dreamt about.
And on this, the 90th birthday of Elizabeth II we thank God for this living proof of a Christian woman who has fulfilled, I believe, every aspect of her role as a family woman and as monarch of this nation and Commonwealth. As we can all say: “God Save the Queen!”