‘Dunstan… at an early age co-ordinated his many gifts and activities into a single channel, that of the direct service of God in England. There are even now many ways in which we, a thousand years later, are influenced by his creative mind and his practical genius. You may like to hear the church bells across the fields on a summer day or from the cathedral tower on a winter’s night: Dunstan ruled that all monasteries were to use the English custom of ringing bells, especially prolonging them on festivals, and it appears that all the great national functions graced by the King, his Court and the prelates were marked by much bell-ringing; and he himself, with his great collaborator, Bishop Ethelwold, cast two bells for Abingdon monastery. You may like to hear a lunch-hour organ recital: organs were probably known earlier, but they had ceased to be made in the ninth century; Dunstan and Ethelwold re-introduced and popularised them, taking a personal hand in their actual construction. One of the parts of a Gregorian setting of the Mass which is still sung, the Kyrie ‘Rex Splendens’, is the composition of Dunstan; the daily prayers for the royal family in the Prayer-book services go back to the ruling of Archbishop Dunstan; and if you ever slip into vulgar slang and refer to a person as having ‘been taken down a peg or two’, you may (says one tradition) all unconsciously be paying tribute to Dunstan, who, finding that dangerous quarrels in taverns often arose because customers drank more than their share or less than their boast, ordered that ale-pots should be fitted with metal pegs, which would show the level of the liquor and the fair share of each drinker. He has been called a dreamer of dreams and a visionary; if so, that condition made no difference to his practical commonsense and his vigorous power of furthering reforms. He is a man of such diversity of gifts and richness of character, possessing that super-abundance of vitality and energy which is not infrequently married to great abilities’.
Sibyl Harton, 1898-1993
We beseech thee, O Lord, graciously to hear the prayers which we offer unto thee on this festival of thy Bishops Dunstan, Ethelwold, and Oswald: that like as they were found worthy to do thee faithful service in reforming and governing thy Church; so, by their example, we too may have a singular zeal for upholding thy household; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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