From the Associate Vicar
Today is Saint Dunstan’s day. Dunstan was a silversmith, musician, abbot, artist, liturgist, leader, and Archbishop of Canterbury, and died on 19 May 988. For some time he was England’s most popular saint, but I mostly remember Dunstan from a book of poems, A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me, in an illustration by Wallace Tripp.
St. Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pulled the devil by the nose
With red hot tongs, which made him roar,
That could be heard ten miles or more.
It wasn’t a great poem but the image of fierce, tonsured Dunstan wielding his red-hot tongs stuck with me. While the rest of the world might conceive of saints as somewhat ethereal and vague drifting figures of self-righteousness, Dunstan was at the forge and unafraid to tweak the nose of the devil (not to mention tweaking the noses of several kings in his lifetime). His was a robust faith indeed.
But Dunstan’s life was also marked by deep generosity to the poor (in returning from Rome, Dunstan gave all he had for his travels away to the poor) and an appreciation of how the arts could bring faith to life in beautiful ways. At least one artwork of Dunstan’s survives, from the Glastonbury Classbook; it’s a portrait of Christ whose flowing lines and animated features are wonderfully personal and vivid even eleven centuries later.
Dunstan’s liturgy for the coronation of King Edgar in 973 was the basis for the present coronation ceremony in Britain. We’ll be celebrating the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen’s coronation very soon, and I hope you’ll join us for the festivities throughout the bank holiday weekend. You can read about our plans at greatstmarys.org/jubilee.