‘Listen, listen, o my child’

Published May 2, 2013

This column first appeared in the May 2013 issue of Anglican Journal.

What a privilege and blessing it was to represent our belovedchurch at the inauguration of the ministry of Justin Welby, the 105thArchbishop of Canterbury. There were three aspects I shall never forget.

The first was the humility with which the Archbishop entered the cathedral. After the traditional threefold knock on the door, a warm word of welcome by the dean of Canterbury and a brief fanfare, the Archbishop was questioned: “Who are you and why do you request entry?”

“I am Justin,” he responded, “a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”

“How do you come among us and with what confidence?”

“I come knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and in weakness and fear and in much trembling.”

The second was the solemnity with which Justin was seated in the Chair of Augustine. As he sat down, his countenance revealed both an awareness of the weight of responsibility coming upon him and a yearning for the assurance of the prayers of the whole church.

The third was the grace of an anthem. It began as a gentle whisper.

“Listen, listen, o my child,
Listen carefully to your teacher’s guidance.
Incline the ear of your heart,
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving Father’s advice.”

That gentle whisper swelled into a chorus that reverberated in every alcove in that vast cathedral.

And then, as powerfully as it had spoken to everyone in that great congregation, it quieted to a whisper again.

Throughout the anthem, the Archbishop sat with his head bowed and his hands folded. He knew the words were from the Rule of St. Benedict. He also knew the musical setting was commissioned by his dear mother and stepfather. It was a sacred moment in which the gift of holy counsel, once given by a monk to his community, was now being given by a mother and father to their son as he sat in the Chair of Augustine.

“Listen, listen, o my child…” Holy and wise counsel for the new Archbishop; good and wise counsel for us all.

ARCHBISHOP FRED HILTZ is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.





  • Fred Hiltz

    Archbishop Fred Hiltz was primate of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2007 to 2019.

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