The hare and St. Anselm

The hare and St. Anselm

Ephesians 3:14-19, Matthew 7:21-29

And so, my friends, we take Saint Anselm example today of all days of being the person who turns to those who threaten those who are vulnerable and say, no, stop. We take Saint Anselm example, when we are the hare and we are being attacked and we run to this place, we come toto daily prayer, we come to mass, we fall on our knees before God and ask for his loving protection

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In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Please sit.

Well, here we are, my friends, on our first patrol together, our first patrol festival, our name day, our celebration day of Saint Anselm. And it’s no it’s no accident that this church is called Saint Anselm. Does anybody know why this church is called Saint Anselm? Does anyone know why a hare appears at the feet of the statue of Saint Anselm here in this church and why I’ve started putting a hare in our liturgy and in our notices.

I didn’t either. And then I read the biography of Saint Anselm written by his dear, dear friend Eadmer, who travelled with him, who studied with him, and remarkably was here in Hayes when Saint Anselm was in Hayes. Now, for those of you who don’t know, there was a big manor house here that belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Hayes and King William was in Windsor and Saint Anselm was having a bit of an argument with the Crown about the lands of the church, a foreshadowing of the reformation to come.

The Crown was attempting to take all the lands of the church and Saint Anselm was having none of it. Absolutely none of it. And so he came to Hayes and he stayed here for quite a period while he was travelling to Windsor to negotiate with King William. And we know all of this because he wrote about it in his biography. And I’m going to read you about an incident that happened in Hayes.

“Anselm left the court and while he was hastening to his manor at Hayes, the boys of his household with their dogs chased a hare, which they came upon in the road as they were pursuing it it fled between the feet of the horse on which Anselm sat the horse stood still and Anselm knowing that the wretched animal looked to find a place of refuge beneath him and not wishing to deny it the help it needed drew his horse by the reins and kept it still.

The dogs came round snuffling about on all sides and restrained against their will. But they could neither make it move from under the horse nor harm it in any way. We were astonished at the sight, but Anselm when he saw some of the horsemen laugh and make merry at the expense of the cornered animal burst into tears and said, You laugh do you, but there is no laughing, no merrymaking for this unhappy beast.

His enemies stand around him, and in fear of his life he flees to us, asking for help. So it is with the soul of man when it leaves the body, its enemies, the evil spirits which have haunted it along the crooked ways of vice while it was still in the body, stand round without mercy, ready to seise it and hurry it off to everlasting death. Then indeed, it looks around everywhere in great alarm and with inexpressible desire, longs for some helping and protecting hand to be held out to it which might defend it.

But the demons, on the other hand, laugh and rejoice exceedingly if they find and if they find its soul is bereft of every support. When he had said this, he slackened his reign and set off again along the road, raising his voice and forbidding the dogs to chase the animal any more than the hare lept up unhurt and swiftly returned to its fields and woods while we no longer laughing and not a little uplifted by so affecting a deliverance for the frightened animal following the father along our appointed way.”

Eadmer, the life of st. anselm, 1962, p89

What a beautiful, beautiful story. And this is written by a man that was in Saint Anselm retinue, his students. So we know that this this really is true. We know Anselm was here for a significant period of time. And we also know that Anselm had a very close affinity with animals and couldn’t abide any harm against them. And he talked frequently about how animals were much like us.

They were like us in that they are so often surrounded by evil. They are surrounded by temptation. They are surrounded by sin. That’s us. We are the hare in this story. Saint Anselm is teaching that we are that hare and that out in the world we are surrounded by evil. We are surrounded by sin. We are surrounded by temptation. And we will be devoured by those animals. We will be devoured by those temptations.

And so the church and God offers us a place of refuge. That is why this church is called Saint Anselm. It was placed here in Hayes as a refuge for those who sought a defence against temptation, against evil and against sin. It was placed here as a shining beacon of God’s love, stood over us in protection, stood over us to ensure that those things outside can’t attack us and hurt us. Because when we are attacked, when we are chased, when sin presents itself, when temptation presents itself and evil presents itself, we know that we can come here under the protection of God.

We are that hare underneath the horse of Saint Anselm, and we know that in this place we will be protected. We know that in this place will be made strong. But more than that, more than that, this place will turn to those people who are driving those dogs forward, who are driving those evil spirits towards us, who are driving that temptation towards us. And this place will say, no, stop. What do you think you are doing?

This is not good. This is not of God. And just like the people in Saint Anselm’s party, we pray that the people that drive evil to our doors will be turned to God. We pray that they will see that example and they will go, hang on.

There’s something really, really special going on here, what’s going on? And that seed will be planted in their heart that we pray will grow into a faith in Jesus Christ so that they know when they are attacked, when they know they’re in trouble, when they know when they face temptation and sin, they, too, may run into this place and seek its protection. I think that’s incredibly powerful and I think that’s what we are about at St. Anselm, and it goes all the way back to ten ninety nine when Saint Anselm was in Hayes.

This is nothing new. This is nothing that we are inventing for ourselves or we are doing is being true to God’s word in our life. But this is no esoteric thing. This is not something that we just do in our head. We don’t just do this and say it’s OK, I’m protected and just leave it is that we have to physically react to it. We have to do those physical things. We have to do those real world things that live this out.

So at times in our lives, we are the hare, threatened and attacked. But in other times of our lives, we are Saint Anselm standing there and offering protection to others. And that has to happen. It has to be something that you do, not something that you just think about, because faith without action is dead. Now, we do that here as well. We continue to live that example in the food bank, in the larder, in those who seek our support and help once again are living that out in reality.

And it goes to the heart of today’s gospel reading, the wise man who built his house upon the rock. And I don’t know about you, but every time I read that, all I can think about is that children’s song, The Wise Man who built his house upon the rock. And all I want to do is sing that song. And I’ll be honest with you, we nearly had that as the gospel processions today, I love it – the joy in that song.

But the message in it is clear we have two men of faith building their house, one who has heard the lesson that God has put before him and has built his house on the rocks, and another man who has heard the lesson of God but doesn’t carry that action out in the real world and builds his house on the sand. And so ultimately his faith crumbles when it is attacked by evil, when it is attacked by sin, when it is attacked by temptation, it crumbles.

And so, my friends, we take Saint Anselm example today of all days of being the person who turns to those who threaten those who are vulnerable and say, no, stop. We take Saint Anselm example, when we are the hare and we are being attacked and we run to this place, we come toto daily prayer, we come to mass, we fall on our knees before God and ask for his loving protection. And we take the word of God, we take the strength that he gives us in the sacraments and in scripture.

And we go out and we build our faith on those rocks so that others may know that they can come to us for that protection. So be built up my friends because as I read the example of Saint Anselm and I read our scripture as I read of the love in Ephesians, I am excited and I am elated that this church is those things, that this family is all of those things that each and every one of you are living out your faith in Jesus Christ in the real world every day.

So, my brothers and sisters, here’s to the next 12 months.

Here’s to the next year where we hope more people discover that they can run to the protection of this place. Amen.