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.

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Theodore the Studite: We shall be a Holy Temple to God, Beautified with Gifts upon Gifts Friday, Mar 14 2014 

Theodore_the_StuditeContinued from here….

And since we should become yet more humble and obedient by the study of the inspired Scriptures, let us beware lest we be puffed up in the vanity of our mind, so as to make our knowledge an occasion of evil, and like-wise also our power in speech and argument, our experience, our skill, our correctness in framing and uttering our words; our good reading, or maybe our subtlety, our skill of hand, our psalmody, our learning, our skill in music, our culture, and the like.

But let the gift of these things be to us rather a cause of fear and of self-abasement before God who has given them. For thus we shall find God merciful, — or rather bountiful, and ready to give us yet more, that we may be filled with good things. And we shall be a holy temple to God, beautified with gifts upon gifts.

But if we shall become presumptuous towards God, and seek to lord it over our brethren, stretching up, as it were, the neck of our souls, and raising our eyebrows and hoisting our shoulders and walking boastfully, seeking this or that, judging others in our pride and foolishness: — asking ever “why are not things otherwise?” or “why have not I the charge of this matter?” or “why should this man have the management of that business?” if we act thus, we are indeed vain and foolish, and are like those in the proverb who pour water into leaky vessels.

Not so, my brethren, not so. Let us not make our opportunities a cause of destruction or the day of work a day of loss; nor, when we may mount the walls of virtue, slip down into vice. Our opportunity is great, our days are delightful. For they are spent in following the commandments of God, in attaining everlasting wealth, in purchasing the kingdom of Heaven. Let us run, let us hasten.

I exhort you, I beseech you. I would kneel before you and implore you as my inmost life and all my joy, my boasting and my crown, my glory and praise. Those who have affirmed and those who have denied; those who have followed the way for long and those who are new to it; those from distant folds and those bred among us; all now of one herd and one flock, of one fold and one charge, nurslings of one shepherd ! Let us think no more of evil that might come. May you live thus and strive thus and be perfected thus in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the power with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and for ever. Amen.

Theodore the Studite (759-826): Great Catechesis, Discourse 61 in Alice Gardner, Theodore of Studium: His Life and Times (1905), pp. 90-91.

Theodore the Studite: From Glory to Glory, from Knowledge to Knowledge, from Our Citizenship to a Citizenship Meet for God Thursday, Feb 27 2014 

Theodore_the_StuditeThe abundant cornfield delights the heart of the husbandman on his approach.

Much more is the ruler of souls gladdened by the spiritual fruitfulness of those under his charge.

Thus do you bring joy to me, my children, you who are the field of my labours and a plantation of God, by the increase, and as it were the blossoming forth of your virtues.

And I rejoice to see the zeal of each one about his business, the industry and care of each in working out his salvation:

the gentleness of one; the laborious industry, even beyond measure, of another; the reverence and caution of a third;

the skill of a fourth in replying to the attacks of adversaries, without cessation or weariness;

the peaceable character of a fifth, unmoved by passions — result of peace and calm within, not of outward forcing;

in another, confidence in me, for all my unworthiness, and the disposition to regard me as better than I am;

in yet another, a disposition untouched by earthly longings or any love of the world.

In a word, I delight to see the growth and fruitfulness in the spirit as shown by all of you in all divers ways.

Are we not thus all walking together and knit together by our heavenly impulse, and by the holy prayers of my father.

I wonder not a little, and surely this is worthy of wonder. Yet I tremble above measure every day.

For what if God, seeing how idle and unprofitable is my service, and waxing wroth against my sins, were to withdraw His favourable hand from the midst of us?

For then there might come upon us what to speak were unfitting, or even to think, such a thing as discord, or slackness of soul, or a falling away, whether secret or manifest.

To the end, therefore, that you may confirm me — unworthy as I am — and yourselves, in the lot of the saints and the inheritance of the righteous, and in all good repute,

keep to these same things, my children, or rather press on further still, in discipline and in zeal, from glory to glory,

from knowledge to knowledge, from our citizenship to a citizenship meet for God;

swerving not from what you have resolved and agreed upon in the presence of God and of the angels, and of my humble self.

Let us not become slack, nor lose heart if the time seems long — though in truth it is not long — for our life is but a dream and a shadow.

Theodore the Studite (759-826): Great Catechesis, Discourse 61 in Alice Gardner, Theodore of Studium: His Life and Times (1905), pp. 89-90.

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: Such a Light Shone in Cuthbert’s Angelic Face that None Dared to Conceal from Him the Secrets of His Heart Wednesday, Sep 4 2013 

icon_bede-September 4th is the feast of St Cuthbert in England and Wales and the feast of the translation of St Cuthbert’s relics in the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle

Cuthbert adopted the name and habit of a monk when he was quite a young man. He first entered the monastery of Mailros, which is on the bank of the river Tweed.

[…] Cuthbert became provost of that monastery, where he instructed many in the rule of monastic life, both by the authority of a master, and the example of his own behaviour.

Nor did he bestow his teaching and his example in the monastic life on his monastery alone, but laboured far and wide to convert the people dwelling round about from the life of foolish custom, to the love of heavenly joy.

For many profaned the faith which they held by their wicked actions. And some also, in the time of a pestilence, neglecting the mysteries of the faith which they had received, had recourse to the false remedies of idolatry, as if they could have put a stop to the plague sent from God, by incantations, amulets, or any other secrets of the devil’s art.

In order to correct the error of both sorts, he often went forth from the monastery, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, and went to the neighbouring townships, where he preached the way of truth to such as had gone astray.

[…] It was then the custom of the English people, that when a clerk or priest came to a township, they all, at his summons, flocked together to hear the Word, willingly heard what was said, and still more willingly practised those things that they could hear and understand.

And such was Cuthbert’s skill in speaking, so keen his desire to persuade men of what he taught, such a light shone in his angelic face, that no man present dared to conceal from him the secrets of his heart, but all openly revealed in confession what they had done, thinking doubtless that their guilt could in nowise be hidden from him. And having confessed their sins, they wiped them out by fruits worthy of repentance, as he bade them.

He was wont chiefly to resort to those places and preach in those villages which were situated afar off amid steep and wild mountains, so that others dreaded to go thither, and whereof the poverty and barbarity rendered them inaccessible to other teachers.

But he, devoting himself entirely to that pious labour, so industriously ministered to them with his wise teaching, that when he went forth from the monastery, he would often stay a whole week, sometimes two or three, or even sometimes a full month, before he returned home, continuing among the hill folk to call that simple people by his preaching and good works to the things of Heaven.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 4, 27.

Peter Damian: St Romuald – Summit of Perfection Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 

PeterDamianRomuald lived in the vicinity of the city of Parenzo for three years.

In the first year he built a monastery and appointed an abbot with monks. For the next two years he remained there in seclusion.

In that setting, divine holiness transported him to such a summit of perfection that, breathed upon by the Holy Spirit, he foresaw many future events and comprehended with the rays of his intelligence hidden mysteries of the Old and New Testament.

Frequently he was seized by so great a contemplation of divinity that he would be reduced to tears with the boiling, indescribable heat of divine love.

In this condition he would cry out: Beloved Jesus, beloved, sweet honey, indescribable longing, delight of the saints, sweetness of the angels, and other things of this kind.

We are unable to express the ecstasy of these utterances, dictated by the Holy Spirit. Wherever the holy man might arrange to live, he would follow the same pattern.

First he would build an oratory with an altar in a cell; then he would shut himself in and forbid access.

Finally, after he had lived in many places, perceiving that his end was near, he returned to the monastery he had built in the valley of Castro.

While he awaited with certainty his approaching death, he ordered a cell to be constructed there with an oratory in which he might isolate himself and preserve silence until death.

Accordingly the hermitage was built, since he had made up his mind that he would die there. His body began to grow more and more oppressed by afflictions and was already failing, not so much from weakness as from the exhaustion of great age.

One day he began to feel the loss of his physical strength under all the harassment of increasingly violent afflictions. As the sun was beginning to set, he instructed two monks who were standing by to go out and close the door of the cell behind them; they were to come back to him at daybreak to celebrate matins.

They were so concerned about his end that they went out reluctantly and did not rest immediately. On the contrary, since they were worried that their master might die, they lay hidden near the cell and watched this precious treasure. For some time they continued to listen attentively until they heard neither movement nor sound.

Rightly guessing what had happened, they pushed open the door, rushed in quickly, lit a candle and found the holy man lying on his back, his blessed soul snatched up into heaven. As he lay there, he seemed like a neglected heavenly pearl that was soon to be given a place of honour in the treasury of the King of kings.

Peter Damian (c.1007-1072): Life of St Romuald, chapters 39 and 61 @ Universalis.

Bede the Venerable: The Zeal and Tears of St Cuthbert Tuesday, Sep 4 2012 

icon_bede-(September 4th is the Memorial of St Cuthbert in England and Wales, except for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle)

Cuthbert was so zealous in watching and praying, that he is believed to have sometimes passed three or four nights together therein.

During this time he neither went to his own bed, nor had any accommodation from the brethren for reposing himself.

For he either passed the time alone, praying in some retired spot, or singing and making something with his hands, thus beguiling his sleepiness by labour.

Or, perhaps, he walked round the island, diligently examining everything therein, and by this exercise relieved the tediousness of psalmody and watching.

Lastly, he would reprove the faintheartedness of the brethren, who took it amiss if any one came and unseasonably importuned them to awake at night or during their afternoon naps.

“No one,” said he, “can displease me by waking me out of my sleep, but, on the contrary, give me pleasure; for, by rousing me from inactivity, he enables me to do or think of something useful.”

So devout and zealous was he in his desire after heavenly things, that, whilst officiating in the solemnity of the Mass, he never could come to the conclusion thereof without a plentiful shedding of tears.

But whilst he duly discharged the mysteries of our Lord’s passion, he would, in himself, illustrate that in which he was officiating; in contrition of heart he would sacrifice himself to the Lord.

And whilst he exhorted the standers-by to lift up their hearts and to give thanks unto the Lord, his own heart was lifted up rather than his voice, and it was the spirit which groaned within him rather than the note of singing.

In his zeal for righteousness he was fervid to correct sinners, he was gentle in the spirit of mildness to forgive the penitent.

Thus he would often shed tears over those who confessed their sins, pitying their weaknesses, and would himself point out by his own righteous example what course the sinner should pursue.

He used vestments of the ordinary description, neither noticeable for their too great neatness, nor yet too slovenly.

Wherefore, even to this day, it is not customary in that monastery for anyone to wear vestments of a rich or valuable colour, but they are content with that appearance which the natural wool of the sheep presents.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735):Life of St Cuthbert, 16 @ Mediaeval Sourcebook.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Christ Demands Solitude of the Spirit Monday, Aug 20 2012 

“Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove’s, thy neck as jewels” (Song of Songs 1:9).

To seek God for his own sake alone, this is to possess two cheeks made most beautiful by the two elements of intention.

This is the bride’s own special gift, the source of that unique prerogative by which she may be told with all propriety: “Your cheeks are beautiful as the turtle dove’s.”

But why as the turtle dove’s? This is a chaste little bird that leads a retired life, content to live with one mate; if it loses this mate it does not seek another but lives alone thenceforward.

[…] You who are moved by the urgings of the Holy Spirit and long to perform all that is required of one who would be the bride of God should strive to ensure that both elements of your intention are like two beautiful cheeks.

Then, in imitation of that most chaste of birds, and following the advice of the Prophet, abide in solitude because you have raised yourself above yourself.

You are well above yourself when espoused to the Lord of angels; surely you are above yourself when joined to the Lord and become one spirit with him?

Live alone therefore like the turtle dove. Avoid the crowds, avoid the places where men assemble; forget even your people and your father’s house and the king will desire your beauty.

Holy soul, remain alone, so that you might keep yourself for him alone whom you have chosen for yourself out of all that exist.

Avoid going abroad, avoid even the members of your household; withdraw from friends and those you love, not excepting the man who provides for your needs.

Can you not see how shy your Love is, that he will never come to you when others are present?

Therefore you must withdraw, mentally rather than physically, in your intention, in your devotion, in your spirit.

For Christ the Lord is a spirit before your face, and he demands solitude of the spirit more than of the body, although physical withdrawal can be of benefit when the opportunity offers, especially in time of prayer.

To do this is to follow the advice and example of the Bridegroom, that when you want to pray you should go into your room, shut the door and then pray.

And what he said he did. He spent nights alone in prayer, not merely hiding from the crowds but even from his disciples and familiar friends.

He did indeed take three of his friends with him when the hour of his death was approaching; but the urge to pray drew him apart even from them.

You too must act like this when you wish to pray.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermons on the Song of Songs, 40, 4.

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