All About Alcuin
May 20, 2014
Collect for Alduin: Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today is the feast day for Alcuin of Tours, that 8th century deacon who was largely responsible for the Christian-based European renaissance during the time of Charlemagne. His influence over Charlemagne brought an end to the emperor’s policy of forcing people to accept baptism or be executed. He was the inventor of the Carolingian minuscule, a form of writing that allowed much faster copying of the thousands of ancient manuscripts that, instead of being lost forever, were preserved and disseminated (many of them were illuminated) during this time. And he himself wrote textbooks for teachers to use and gathered together liturgical resources from all over the empire to both standardize and expand the Church’s prayers and ceremonies. Because of Alcuin, the clergy were educated so that they in turn could educate the people. Charlemagne, his wife, and their sons were themselves pupils of Alcuin.
While much of Alcuin’s own writing was fairly pedestrian (and his poetry was pretty bad, really), he occasionally pulled out an arresting turn of phrase. It was not Bernie Taupin/Elton John who coined the phrase “candle in the wind,” but Alcuin, who used it to describe the situation of a human being in this world. He characterized his career as an effort to give people “some of the honey of the holy scriptures [and] making others drunk on the old wine of ancient learning.”
Today, in honor of Alcuin, collector and writer of books and preserver and disseminator of knowledge, take a few minutes to learn something new, to expand your horizons through reading. Challenge yourself to use your God-given faculties to acquire some knowledge both for its own sake and for yours. Spend a few minutes with Plato or Aristotle; read a few paragraphs about a scientific discovery; savor the challenge and joy of learning as you read.
At your time of prayer today, pray the Collect for Purity, which he wrote:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 355)
Take it to heart, today and every day.