Friday, February 27, 2009

Today is the day we Episcopalians remember George Herbert. In a way that may well be overly Romantic (and hence out of character for me) he is my role model of a parish priest. Below is what the Episcopal Church has to say about him via Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

If you are unfamiliar with Lesser Feasts and Fasts, let me commend it you. I read the bios on the appropriate day at Morning Prayer at St. Mark's and use the collect attached to each bio as the "Collect of the Day" for our Morning Prayer service.

George Herbert is famous for his poems and his prose work, A
Priest in the Temple: or The Country Parson. He is portrayed by
his biographer Izaak Walton as a model of the saintly parish priest.
Herbert described his poems as “a picture of the many spiritual
conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul, before I could
submit mine to the will of Jesus my Master; in whose service I have
found perfect freedom.”
Herbert was born in 1593, a member of an ancient family, a cousin
of the Earl of Pembroke, and acquainted with King James the First
and Prince (later King) Charles. Through his official position as Public
Orator of Cambridge, he was brought into contact with the Court.
Whatever hopes he may have had as a courtier were dimmed, however,
because of his associations with persons who were out of favor with
King Charles the First—principally John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln.
Herbert had begun studying divinity in his early twenties, and in 1626
he took Holy Orders. King Charles provided him with a living as
rector of the parishes of Fugglestone and Bemerton in 1630.
His collection of poems, The Temple, was given to his friend, Nicholas
Ferrar, and published posthumously. Two of his poems are well known
hymns: “Teach me, my God and King,” and “Let all the world in every
corner sing.” Their grace, strength, and metaphysical imagery influenced
later poets, including Henry Vaughan and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Lines from his poem on prayer have moved many readers:
Prayer, the Church’s banquet, Angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, the heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth.
Herbert was unselfish in his devotion and service to others. Izaak
Walton writes that many of the parishioners “let their plow rest when
Mr. Herbert’s saints-bell rung to prayers, that they might also offer
their devotion to God with him.” His words, “Nothing is little in God’s
service,” have reminded Christians again and again that everything in
daily life, small or great, may be a means of serving and worshiping God.

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