St Aidan’s missionary wisdom

Today is the Feast of St Aidan (d. 651), Apostle to the Northumbrians.

IT is reported, that when King Oswald had asked a bishop of the Scots to administer the word of faith to him and his nation, there was first sent to him another man of more austere disposition, who, meeting with no success, and being unregarded by the English people, returned home, and in an assembly of the elders reported, that he had not been able to do any good to the nation he had been sent to preach to, because they were uncivilized men, and of a stubborn and barbarous disposition.

Port Ban and Eilean Didil on Iona, Scotland. © Simon Leatherdale, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

Port Ban and Eilean Didil on Iona, Scotland. St Aidan was a monk on this holy island, before being sent to Northumbria on the other side of the country. © Simon Leatherdale, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

They, as is testified, in a great council seriously debated what was to be done, being desirous that the nation should receive the salvation it demanded, and grieving that they had not received the preacher sent to them.

Then said Aidan, who was also present in the council, to the priest then spoken of, “I am of opinion, brother, that you were more severe to your unlearned hearers than you ought to have been, and did not at first, conformably to the apostolic rule, give them the milk of more easy doctrine, till being by degrees nourished with the word of God, they should be capable of greater perfection, and be able to practise God’s sublimer precepts.”

Having heard these words, all present began diligently to weigh what he had said, and presently concluded, that he deserved to be made a bishop, and ought to be sent to instruct the incredulous and unlearned; since he was found to be endued with singular discretion, which is the mother of other virtues, and accordingly being ordained, they sent him to their friend, King Oswald, to preach; and he, as time proved, afterwards appeared to possess all other virtues, as well as the discretion for which he was before remarkable.

St Bede (?673-735). Ecclesiastical History Of The English People. Book III. Chapter V (concerning the year 635).

You can find additional liturgical material at Orthodox England. More on St Aidan at OrthodoxWiki.


There is a new-composed liturgy for St Aidan on the Orthodox England website, by Reader Isaac Lambertson.

ARISE, ye Christian peoples, and let us praise the wondrous Aidan, a hierarch blessed by God, a tireless husbandman of the vineyard of the Holy Church; and with cries of jubilation let us declare before all nations that he is our fervent intercessor before the throne of the Lord of lords.

O Lindisfarne, thou Holy Isle, washed everlastingly by the waves of the sea, as thou didst behold the spiritual struggles and feats of the holy hierarch Aidan, thy very stones bear witness to the glory he hath won with Christ. Wherefore, as thou art exalted above the tides, raise us up to praise him.

Kings and nobles honoured thee, but thou gavest their gifts unto the poor in Christ, thereby showing thyself to be a model of Christian virtue and charity; wherefore, thou hast been crowned in the heavens by the right hand of the Almighty, O glorious Aidan.

(Set for Vespers)


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