St. Etheldrada and Her Church
Jesus said, “You are salt to the world. And if salt becomes tasteless, how is its saltness to be restored? It is now good for nothing but to be thrown away and trodden underfoot. You are light for all the world. A town that stands on a hill cannot be hidden. When a lamp is lit, it is not put under the meal-tub, but on the lamp-stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. And you, like the lamp, must shed light among your fellows, so that, when they see the good you do, they may give praise to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16, New English Bible)
Sara and Tom, I know why you chose this day to be married. Some may think it was convenient with academic schedules and vacations. Others might think it the most convenient day for your family. One might even think it was the best time to get a good deal on flights. But I know why you chose this day, and I want you to know how deeply moved I am. Because I know that you chose this day not for personal or even familial reasons, but out of your deeply formed and carefully nurtured devotion to St. Etheldreda of Ely.
No? You say you’ve never heard of her? Well, even so, her feast day, this day, this June 23, is a fine day for a wedding. It’s a fine day to celebrate the love of two people and to place them high in our esteem and our hopes for long and happy future.
Etheldreda was a 7th century woman of faith (who happened to be a queen of East Anglia) who found herself in a marriage that, we can simply say, was “not the best.” She tried to remain true to herself and her God, and when this husband died, she moved herself and her family to the island of Ely.
If you know that area of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, you’ll know that the area is covered with the fens, swampy wetlands that for centuries had eels in them, thus the name of the town, Ely. Ely is on a hill and juts up majestically out of the fens. Etheldreda founded a double monastery there and restored an old church, all of which is today the foundation of Ely Cathedral.
Other than her unusual name, and this being her feast day, I mention Etheldreda because she did what our Gospel talks about doing. She took her faith up a hill and found the strength and imagination and wherewithal to be a light for others to find comfort, to find refuge, to find the love of Christ.
You are light to all the world. Your love is light to all the world. Even though you may be apart for a while as school and jobs demand attention, let your light shine. Let your love radiate and fill every place you go with a sure and certain sense that the Love of God has come, is here, and leads us into the future.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.