On the Feast of St Felix

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Just over sixty years ago, ten miles from here at Sutton Hoo, archaeologists made an amazing discovery. Digging in a low mound of earth, they realized that they had uncovered the burial of King Redwald, one of the first Kings of East Anglia, who had been buried in his ship in the year 625. He had been buried together with several personal possessions, among them, a helmet, a shield, bowls from Egypt, a dish from Constantinople, and also a pair of spoons. One of the spoons was inscribed in Greek letters, Saul, the other was inscribed, again in Greek, Paul.

Historians realized that they had uncovered the still surviving baptismal gift of Redwald from when he had been baptized by the first English Christians in Kent in the early seventh century. This event was spoken of in the history of St Bede the Venerable. Even today it is a custom to make a gift of a spoon at a child’s baptism. The names on the spoons given to Redwald referred of course to St Paul. As a Jew and hater of Christians we know that he had been called Saul. However, on being enlightened and baptized, Saul had changed his name to Paul and then gone on in great zeal and is known to us as the holy Apostle Paul. Thus the pair of spoons that had been buried over thirteen hundred years before and was then discovered, had been intended to symbolize Redwald’s rejection of paganism and his acceptance of Christianity.

From St Bede, we know that in reality, under his wife’s influence, Redwald was to return to East Anglia and then fall back into paganism, never making up his mind whether he was following Saul or Paul. Hence he had been buried as a pagan together with the goods that the pagans had imagined he would need in the afterworld.

Soon after Redwald, another King came to power in East Anglia. His name was Sigebert and he had been instructed in the Christian Faith and baptized by a priest called Felix. After Sigebert arrived, he invited this Felix, now a Bishop, to come and make Christian his Kingdom. This is what happened and today we honour Bishop Felix as the Apostle and Enlightener of all East Anglia.

He it was who brought here not only the Word and Light of Christ, but also built stone churches, monasteries, schools, and introduced books and writing. If he had not come here, there would not be here today a single church of any sort, there would not be a single school, and we would still be living in the barbarism of the past. And all this is because Felix had made a choice in his life, the choice not of Saul, but of Paul. Through this one choice of this one man Felix, a whole Kingdom changed its ways, a whole civilization and new culture was born, one which has shaped our way of life today, especially here, in the very town of St Felix.

Especially in our daily lives, we should think of those two spoons, Saul and Paul, reproductions of which you can go and see at the centre in Sutton Hoo today. They are evidence of the choice that Redwald failed to make, but which Sigebert and Felix did make. They represent the choices that we as individuals, and even whole nations have to make. Do I do this one thing in my job, or do another? Do I tell a lie, or do I tell the truth? Am I honest or am I dishonest? Does a nation go to war or does it remain at peace? In everything that we do, whether we are in lowly positions or in seats of authority, in every dilemma, in every moment of decision, we always have to be guided by the same criterion: ‘Is this the way of Saul, or is this the way of Paul? For the way of Saul is the way against Christ, the way of Paul is the way towards Christ. Whom do we follow?

May we be guided in all things by taking the path of Christ and his servant Saint Felix.