Bede the Venerable: The death of St Aidan Monday, Aug 31 2015 

icon_bede-The feast of St Aidan, Enlightener of Northumbria, August 31st.

Aidan was in the king’s township…at the time when death caused him to quit the body, after he had been bishop sixteen years;

for having a church and a chamber in that place, he was wont often to go and stay there, and to make excursions from it to preach in the country round about, which he likewise did at other of the king’s townships, having nothing of his own besides his church and a few fields about it.

When he was sick they set up a tent for him against the wall at the west end of the church, and so it happened that he breathed his last, leaning against a buttress that was on the outside of the church to strengthen the wall.

[…] His body was. thence presently translated to the isle of Lindisfarne, and buried in the cemetery of the brethren.

Some time after, when a larger church was built there and dedicated in honour of the blessed prince of the Apostles, his bones were translated thither, and laid on the right side of the altar, with the respect due to so great a prelate. […]

It happened some years after, that Penda, king of the Mercians, coming into these parts with a hostile army, destroyed all he could with fire and sword, and the village where the bishop died, along with the church above mentioned, was burnt down;

but it fell out in a wonderful manner that the buttress against which he had been leaning when he died, could not be consumed by the fire which devoured all about it.

This miracle being noised abroad, the church was soon rebuilt in the same place, and that same buttress was set up on the outside, as it had been before, to strengthen the wall.

It happened again, some time after, that the village and likewise the church were carelessly burned down the second time. Then again, the fire could not touch the buttress; and, miraculously, though the fire broke through the very holes of the nails wherewith it was fixed to the building, yet it could do no hurt to the buttress itself.

When therefore the church was built there the third time, they did not, as before, place that buttress on the outside as a support of the building, but within the church, as a memorial of the miracle; where the people coming in might kneel, and implore the Divine mercy.

And it is well known that since then many have found grace and been healed in that same place, as also that by means of splinters cut off from the buttress, and put into water, many more have obtained a remedy for their own infirmities and those of their friends.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 17.

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Bede the Venerable: St Cuthbert and the Hermitage of Farne Thursday, Mar 20 2014 

icon_bede-March 20th is the feast of St Cuthbert….

When Cuthbert had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.

He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: “The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion.”

At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.

There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide…, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.

No one, before God’s servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.

Christ’s soldier, therefore, having thus, by the expulsion of the tyrants, become the lawful monarch of the land, built a city fit for his empire, and houses therein suitable to his city.

The building is almost of a round form, from wall to wall about four or five poles in extent: the wall on the outside is higher than a man, but within, by excavating the rock, he made it much deeper, to prevent the eyes and the thoughts from wandering, that the mind might be wholly bent on heavenly things, and the pious inhabitant might behold nothing from his residence but the heavens above him.

The wall was constructed, not of hewn stones or of brick and mortar, but of rough stones and turf, which had been taken out from the ground within. Some of them were so large that four men could hardly have lifted them, but Cuthbert himself, with angels helping him, had raised them up and placed them on the wall.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Life of St Cuthbert, 17 @ Mediaeval Sourcebook.

Bede the Venerable: St Hilda Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

November17th is the feast of St Hilda

icon_bede-When Hilda had governed this monastery [Whitby] many years, it pleased Him Who has made such merciful provision for our salvation, to give her holy soul the trial of a long infirmity of the flesh, to the end that, according to the Apostle’s example, her virtue might be made perfect in weakness.

Struck down with a fever, she suffered from a burning heat, and was afflicted with the same trouble for six years continually.

During all this time she never failed either to return thanks to her Maker, or publicly and privately to instruct the flock committed to her charge.

Taught by her own experience, she admonished all men to serve the Lord dutifully, when health of body is granted to them, and always to return thanks faithfully to Him in adversity, or bodily infirmity.

In the seventh year of her sickness, when the disease turned inwards, her last day came, and about cockcrow, having received the voyage provision of Holy Housel, she called together the handmaids of Christ that were within the same monastery.

She admonished them to preserve the peace of the Gospel among themselves, and with all others; and even as she spoke her words of exhortation, she joyfully saw death come, or, in the words of our Lord, passed from death unto life.

That same night it pleased Almighty God, by a manifest vision, to make known her death in another monastery, at a distance from hers.

[…]  A certain nun called Begu…was resting in the dormitory of the sisters, when on a sudden she heard in the air the well-known sound of the bell, which used to awake and call them to prayers, when any one of them was taken out of this world, and opening her eyes, as she thought, she saw the roof of the house open, and a light shed from above filling all the place.

Looking earnestly upon that light, she saw the soul of the aforesaid handmaid of God in that same light, being carried to heaven attended and guided by angels.

Then awaking, and seeing the other sisters lying round about her, she perceived that what she had seen had been revealed to her either in a dream or a vision.

And rising immediately in great fear, she ran to the virgin who then presided in the monastery in the place of the abbess, whose name was Frigyth.

With many tears and lamentations, and heaving deep sighs, she told her that the Abbess Hilda, mother of them all, had departed this life, and had in her sight ascended to the gates of eternal light, and to the company of the citizens of heaven, with a great light, and with angels for her guides.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 23.

Bede the Venerable: St Chad Sunday, Oct 27 2013 

icon_bede-October 26th was the feast of St Chad and St Cedd 

It is no wonder that St Chad joyfully beheld the day of his death, or rather the day of the Lord, the coming whereof he had always been mindful to await with earnest expectation.

For with all his merits of continence, humility, teaching, prayer, voluntary poverty, and other virtues, he was so filled with the fear of the Lord, so mindful of his latter end in all his actions, that, as I was wont to hear from one of the brothers who instructed me in the Scriptures, and who had been bred in his monastery, and under his direction, whose name was Trumbert, if it happened that there blew a sudden strong gust of wind, when he was reading or doing any other thing, he forthwith called upon the Lord for mercy, and begged that it might be granted to all mankind.

If the wind grew stronger, he closed his book, and fell on his face, praying still more earnestly. But, if a violent storm of wind or rain came on, or if the earth and air were filled with the terror of thunder and lightning, he would go to the church, and anxiously devote himself with all his heart to prayers and psalms till the weather became calm.

Being asked by his brethren why he did so, he answered, “Have not you read—The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice. Yea, he sent out his arrows and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.’

For the Lord moves the air, raises the winds, hurls lightning, and thunders from heaven, to rouse the inhabitants of the earth to fear him; to put them in mind of judgement to come; to dispel their pride, and confound their boldness, by recalling to their thoughts that dread time, when the heavens and the earth being on fire, He will come in the clouds, with great power and majesty, to judge the quick and the dead.

Wherefore,” said he, “it behoves us to respond to His heavenly admonition with due fear and love; that, as often as the air is moved and He puts forth His hand threatening to strike, but does not yet let it fall, we may immediately implore His mercy; and searching the recesses of our hearts, and casting out the dregs of our sins, we may carefully so act that we may never deserve to be struck down.”

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 3.

Bede the Venerable: St Cedd Sunday, Oct 27 2013 

icon_bede-October 26th was the feast of St Chad and St Cedd 

Cedd, whilst he was bishop among the East Saxons, was also wont oftentimes to visit his own province, Northumbria, for the purpose of exhortation.

Oidilwald, the son of King Oswald, who reigned among the Deiri, finding him a holy, wise, and good man, desired him to accept some land whereon to build a monastery, to which the king himself might frequently resort, to pray to the Lord and hear the Word, and where he might be buried when he died.

For he believed faithfully that he should receive much benefit from the daily prayers of those who were to serve the Lord in that place.

The king had before with him a brother of the same bishop, called Caelin, a man no less devoted to God, who, being a priest, was wont to administer to him and his house the Word and the Sacraments of the faith; by whose means he chiefly came to know and love the Bishop [Cedd].

So then, complying with the king’s desires, the Bishop chose himself a place whereon to build a monastery among steep and distant mountains, which looked more like lurking-places for robbers and dens of wild beasts, than dwellings of men;

to the end that, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, “In the habitation of dragons, where each lay, might be grass with reeds and rushes;” that is, that the fruits of good works should spring up, where before beasts were wont to dwell, or men to live after the manner of beasts.

But the man of God, desiring first to cleanse the place which he had received for the monastery from stain of former crimes, by prayer and fasting, and so to lay the foundations there, requested of the king that he would give him opportunity and leave to abide there for prayer all the time of Lent, which was at hand.

All which days, except Sundays, he prolonged his fast till the evening, according to custom, and then took no other sustenance than a small piece of bread, one hen’s egg, and a little milk and water.

This, he said, was the custom of those of whom he had learned the rule of regular discipline, first to consecrate to the Lord, by prayer and fasting, the places which they had newly received for building a monastery or a church.

When there were ten days of Lent still remaining, there came a messenger to call him to the king; and he, that the holy work might not be intermitted, on account of the king’s affairs, entreated his priest, Cynibill, who was also his own brother, to complete his pious undertaking.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 23.

Bede the Venerable: Jesus and the Healing of Ten Lepers (3) Wednesday, Oct 16 2013 

icon_bede-On Luke 17:11-19

Continued from here…

And Jesus, answering said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? … There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger.

As to the body, it is easy to see that a man may have no leprosy; and yet he may not be sound of soul. But in the light of this miracle, it troubles the mind to know how one who is thankless can be said to be made clean?

But it is now easy to see, that this also can happen that someone within the society of the Church may know her true and pure doctrine, and may interpret it all in accord with the Catholic rule of faith;

he may distinguish the creature from the Creator, and by this show that he is free as it were from leprosy, from the spots of lies, and nevertheless be ungrateful to God and Lord Who made him clean, because uplifted in pride, he has not thrown himself down in loving humility to give thanks, and so has become like those of whom the Apostle said: When they knew God, they have not glorified Him as God or given thanks (Rom. 1:21).

Saying, they knew God, Paul shows that they had been made clean of leprosy; yet he goes on to call them ungrateful. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole. He who had fallen in humble devotion at the Lord’s feet, is told to rise, and go on his way.

For whoever is acutely aware of his own unworthiness, and humbles himself before God, is told by the comforting divine word, to rise, and to put his hand to strong things (Prov. 31:19); and growing daily in merit, go on his way to the more perfect things (Heb. 6:1).

For if faith made him whole who had hurried back to give thanks to his Saviour and to the One Who had made him clean, unfaith has brought spiritual ruin to those who, receiving favours from God, fail to return and give Him glory.

And so this lesson is joined to the one preceding it in the gospel (that of the unprofitable servants) for this reason; that there we learn, through the parable, that faith must grow through humility, while here more clearly we are shown by actual happenings, that it is not only confession of faith, but also the doing of the works that follow faith, which makes whole those who believe, and give glory to the Father Who is in heaven.  Amen.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (PL 92, Lib. III, Cap. X, col. 467); Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Bede the Venerable: Jesus and the Healing of Ten Lepers (2) Wednesday, Oct 16 2013 

icon_bede-On Luke 17:11-19

Continued from here…

And one of them when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.

This one who went back giving glory to God is a figure of the one Church, in devout humility before Christ. He falling down before the feet of the Lord, gives fitting thanks.

For he truly gives thanks to God who repressing the thoughts of his own presumption, is humbly aware of how weak he is in himself; he who attributes no virtue to himself; who confesses that the good he does, is due to the mercy of his Creator.

Hence, fittingly, He adds: And this was a Samaritan. For Samaritan means guardian. And by this name that people is very aptly signified who, giving thanks, attribute all it has received to Him from whom it received it; as the singer in the psalm declares: I will keep my strength for thee; for thou art my protector: my God, his mercy shall go before me (Ps. 58:10).

He falls on his face, ashamed because of the sins he remembers he has committed. For when a man is ashamed it is then he humbles himself. And for the same reason Paul said to certain persons who as it were lay face to the ground: What fruit therefore had you then in those things of which you are now ashamed (Rom. 6:21)?

On the other hand, of the rider of the horse (Amos 2:15) that is, of the man lifted above himself by the glory of this world, is it said: That his rider may fall backwards (Gen. 49:17). And again, it was written of the persecutors of the Lord that, They went backward and fell to the ground (Jn. 18:6).

What does this mean, that the elect fall on their faces, and the reprobate falls backwards, if not that he who falls backwards does not, beyond doubt, see where he falls; while he who falls forward, sees where he is falling?

The wicked therefore, since they do not see into what they are falling, are said to fall backwards; for they rush headlong where they cannot now see what will then happen to them.

But the just fall as it were upon their faces; for moved by fear, they humble themselves: of their own will they throw themselves down amid things visible, that they may be raised up amid things invisible.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (PL 92, Lib. III, Cap. X, col. 467); Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Bede the Venerable: Jesus and the Healing of Ten Lepers (1) Wednesday, Oct 16 2013 

icon_bede-On Luke 17:11-19

And it came to pass that there met him ten men that were lepers (Lk. 17:12). They may well be described as lepers who, while having no true knowledge of the faith, profess a variety of heretical teachings.

For such people do not hide their ignorance, but proclaim it as the height of learning; priding themselves on what they have to say.

There is no false doctrine in which some truth is not mingled. True doctrine therefore mixed without order with what is false, in a man’s discussion or conversation, and showing like the colours in a body, resemble the leprosy that spots and blemishes the human body with patches of true and false colour.

Such persons are to be excluded from the Church so that, if it is possible, placed afar off they may with a loud voice cry out to Jesus. And so aptly there follows: Who stood afar off and lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

And rightly if they are to be saved do they call Jesus their Master. For when those that are to be healed humbly call Him Master (Praeceptor), they signify that they have gone astray from His teaching; and when they come back to the teaching of their Master, they soon return to the outward appearance of health.

For there follows: Whom when he saw, he said: Go, shew yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. We find that none of those to whom the Lord gave bodily favours were sent to the priests save lepers.

For the priesthood of the Jews was a figure of the Royal Priesthood to come, which is in the Church, and in which all arc consecrated who belong to the Body of Christ: the True and Supreme High Priest.

And whosoever by the grace of God is without any trace of heretical falsity, or pagan superstition…let him come to the Church, and let him show the true colour of the faith he has received.

Other faults, such as those relating to the good health as it were of the members of the soul and of the senses, the Lord heals and corrects Himself, interiorly in the conscience and in the understanding.

And even Paul, after the Lord had said to him: Why persecutest thou me, and I am Jesus whom thou persecutest, was nevertheless sent to Ananias, to receive the sacrament of the doctrine of the faith from the priesthood which had been established in the Church, and so that his true colour might be approved.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel (PL 92, Lib. III, Cap. X, col. 467); Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D. @ Lectionary Central.

Bede the Venerable: How Saint Wilfrid Converted the Province of the South Saxons to Christ (681 A.D.) Saturday, Oct 12 2013 

icon_bede-October 12th is the feast of St Wilfrid (c. 633-c. 709).

Wilfrid was expelled from his bishopric, and having long travelled in many lands, went to Rome, and afterwards returned to Britain.

Though he could not, by reason of the enmity of the aforesaid king, be received into his own country or diocese, yet he could not be restrained from the ministry of the Gospel;

for, taking his way into the province of the South Saxons, which …  was at that time still in bondage to pagan rites, he administered to them the Word of faith, and the Baptism of salvation.

[…]  The bishop, therefore, with the consent of King Ethelwalch, or rather to his great joy, cleansed in the sacred font the foremost ealdormen and thegns of that country; and the priests…baptized the rest of the people.

The queen, whose name was Eabae, had been baptized in her own country, … but all the province of the South Saxons was ignorant of the Name of God and the faith.

[…] Bishop Wilfrid, while preaching the Gospel to the people, not only delivered them from the misery of eternal damnation, but also from a terrible calamity of temporal death.

For no rain had fallen in that district for three years before his arrival in the province, whereupon a grievous famine fell upon the people and pitilessly destroyed them.

[…] . But on the very day on which the nation received the Baptism of the faith, there fell a soft but plentiful rain; the earth revived, the fields grew green again, and the season was pleasant and fruitful.

Thus the old superstition was cast away, and idolatry renounced, the heart and flesh of all rejoiced in the living God, for they perceived that He Who is the true God had enriched them by His heavenly grace with both inward and outward blessings.

For the bishop, when he came into the province, and found so great misery from famine there, taught them to get their food by fishing; for their sea and rivers abounded in fish, but the people had no skill to take any of them, except eels alone.

The bishop’s men having gathered eel-nets everywhere, cast them into the sea, and by the blessing of God took three hundred fishes of divers sorts, which being divided into three parts, they gave a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those of whom they had the nets, and kept a hundred for their own use.

By this benefit the bishop gained the affections of them all, and they began more readily at his preaching to hope for heavenly blessings, seeing that by his help they had received those which are temporal.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 13.

Bede the Venerable: Theodore of Canterbury – Never were there Happier Times since the English Came into Britain Thursday, Sep 19 2013 

icon_bede-September 19th is the feast of St Theodore of Canterbury, also known as Theodore of Tarsus (602-690).

There was…in the monastery of Niridanum, which is not far from Naples in Campania, an abbot called Hadrian, by nation an African, well versed in Holy Scripture, trained in monastic and ecclesiastical teaching, and excellently skilled both in the Greek and Latin tongues.

[…] There was at that time in Rome, a monk, called Theodore, known to Hadrian, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, a man instructed in secular and Divine writings, as also in Greek and Latin; of high character and venerable age, being sixty-six years old.

[…] Theodore, being ordained subdeacon, waited four months for his hair to grow, that it might be shorn into the shape of a crown; for he had before the tonsure of St. Paul, the Apostle, after the manner of the eastern people.

He was ordained by Pope Vitalian, in the year of our Lord 668, on Sunday, the 26th of March, and on the 27th of May was sent with Hadrian to Britain.

[…] Theodore came to his Church in the second year after his consecration, on Sunday, the 27th of May, and spent in it twenty-one years, three months, and twenty-six days.

Soon after, he visited all the island, wherever the tribes of the English dwelt, for he was gladly received and heard by all persons; and everywhere attended and assisted by Hadrian, he taught the right rule of life, and the canonical custom of celebrating Easter.

This was the first archbishop whom all the English Church consented to obey. And forasmuch as both of them were, as has been said before, fully instructed both in sacred and in secular letters, they gathered a crowd of disciples, and rivers of wholesome knowledge daily flowed from them to water the hearts of their hearers; and, together with the books of Holy Scripture, they also taught them the metrical art, astronomy, and ecclesiastical arithmetic.

A testimony whereof is, that there are still living at this day some of their scholars, who are as well versed in the Greek and Latin tongues as in their own, in which they were born.

Nor were there ever happier times since the English came into Britain; for having brave Christian kings, they were a terror to all barbarous nations, and the minds of all men were bent upon the joys of the heavenly kingdom of which they had but lately heard; and all who desired to be instructed in sacred studies had masters at hand to teach them.

From that time also they began in all the churches of the English to learn Church music, which till then had been only known in Kent.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 1-2.

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