Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Singular Importance of King Alfred for the South

Few historians will deny that the culture of the United States in general is of British origin.  About the people of the Southern States we may be more specific:  We are largely the Kingdom of Wessex planted in North American soil.  Professor David Hackett Fischer says it plainly enough.  Speaking of the area from whence came the early settlers of Virginia who were to stamp the South with her particular character, Prof Fischer says, ‘It more nearly resembled the ancient historical Wessex of Alfred and Athelred, which with its Mercian protectorate reached east as far as Canterbury, and north beyond Warwick and Northampton’ (Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, New York, Oxford UP: 1989, p. 241).  And again, ‘Its language and laws were those of the West Saxons [i.e., of Wessex, the short form of West Saxon - W.G.], rather than the Danes who settled East Anglia, or the Norse who colonized the north country, or the Celts who held Cornwall and Wales’ (p. 241).  (For a fuller accounting of the connection between Wessex and the American South, see the chapter entitled ‘The South of England to Virginia’, pgs. 207-418.)

Knowing this, and also remembering that the saints of a particular place pray and act on behalf not only of those who live in that particular place but also of those who have left it for another land, and a spectacular light dawns in the mind, a wonderful and warm and luminous light.  For now we Southrons realise that we have in Heaven a great intercessor before the Lord God, even this:  a patron saint of our Southern nation, the best of English kings, King Alfred the Great - defender of his Christian homeland against pagan invaders; not despairing completely in defeat and humble and generous in victory; enlightener of his people; a lover of beauty in word and craft; begetter of saints; a strong tower for the weak of the realm; great in wisdom; mighty in asceticism.

There is certainly a strong Celtic and African presence in the South, and in some places French and Spanish also.  The saints of these places must be venerated and entreated often as well:  St Michael the Archangel, St Genevieve, St Moses the Black, St Columba, Sts Brigid, Cybi, Ninian, and others besides, together with the saints of North America - those who are physically nearest to us.  Saint John Maximovitch, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, one of these North American saints, taught us to do this by his own holy example: ‘Now that he [St John Maximovitch - W.G.] was an apostle, he called upon each local saint he learned about, each new brother or sister in the Body of Christ, to provide heavenly help in evangelizing new lands’ (Hieromonk Damascene, Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, 3rd ed., Platina, Ca., St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood: 2010, p. 316).

As has been mentioned in an earlier post, the South has produced no saints of her own that we know of, so the saints of Africa, Wales, etc. - who laboured among our ancestors - are our local saints for now.  As we await the first blossoming of Southern saints, then, let us rejoice in the happy revelation of our close kinship with Wessex, and pray continually to our highly exalted patron saint, King Alfred - devoted intercessor and heavenly protector of the Southland - for our deliverance from all oppression and for all that is good and proper for our souls and bodies.

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