Boy Bishop chosen for Advent season at Cathedral of Christ the King

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Aidan Northrop serves as 2019 Boy Bishop. Photo/Submitted.
Aidan Northrop serves as 2019 Boy Bishop. Photo/Submitted.

Aidan Northrop, Senoia, was selected to serve as the 2019 Boy Bishop, also known as the Nicholas Bishop, at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg.

Selecting Nicholas Bishops, or Boy Bishops, was once a popular tradition throughout Europe, from the tip of Italy to the Hebrides in Scotland and from Ireland to Hungary. The ceremony is a lesson in humility and recognition of the wisdom of youthful innocence.

It is a way of symbolically representing the teaching of Christ, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4, NKJV) The custom fits perfectly with the Advent themes of turning the tables and oversetting expectations. In the words of Mary:

[The Lord] has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, (This would be the Bishop)

And exalted the lowly. (This would be the “Boy Bishop”)

He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

The appointment of Boy Bishops honors the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, patron of children, who is traditionally remembered as having a special, personal concern for the safety and well-being of children. From St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, until Holy Innocents, December 28th, topsy-turvey was the order of the day.

The Boy Bishop took the bishop’s throne and wore his regalia, presiding at all services in the cathedral. The altar servers sat in the places of dignity usually occupied by the clergy and the reverend canons of the cathedral filled the roles of altar servers. The Boy Bishop was empowered to declare extra holidays, and to decree the distribution of sweets to the children of the diocese, paid for from the diocesan treasury.

Though Queen Elizabeth I ended the custom in England, it survived on the Continent until 1799. In modern times, churches have begun to revive the custom, especially in English cathedrals and parishes. As far as can be determined, Christ the King was the first Charismatic Episcopal cathedral to observe this ancient tradition.

At the Cathedral of Christ the King in Sharpsburg, the tradition has been, for several years, to select a Boy Bishop, or Nicholas Bishop, from among the children or teens of the church. The one selected will then serve on the Sunday closest to December 6.

The selected person is vested in Episcopal regalia, carries the crozier (bishop’s staff), take the bishop’s place in the processional and recessional, sits in the bishop’s seat, helps to bless the Gospel reader, helps to bless the children as they depart for their lessons, serves at Holy Eucharist (communion), and assists in blessing and dismissing the congregation. On several occasions, the boy bishop has also preached the sermon.

The St. Nicholas Bishop this year is Adan Northrop. Aidan, 13, is a home school student in the 8th grade. He is a certified diver and loves snorkeling and learning about sea life. He likes to skateboard, do origami, and is currently learning to play the drums. He has played the guitar and like to play video games. An acolyte at the Cathedral for several years now, likes to draw, read, and loves birds and animals. He is the son of Christopher and Angela Northrop. — Submitted by David Epps