St Æthelburh: wise virgin in the Lord, a house filled with a great light

REJOICE and delight, my beloved child, together with the entire holy synodia, or should I say the entire spiritual fragrance.

Rejoice, wise virgins in the Lord, for you have been blessed to live such an angelic way of life upon the earth.

Blessed is God Who maketh His angels spirits: blessed is God Who raises mortals still in the body to the way of life of the bodiless angels.

From a letter to a nun written by Elder Joseph the Hesychast. In “Monastic Wisdom”, Letter 29 (p. 150).

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A Serbian Orthodox nun

“Rejoice, wise virgins in the Lord, for you have been blessed to live such an angelic way of life upon the earth.” A Serbian Orthodox nun.

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Today was at one time the feast day of St Æthelburh (Ethelburg), Abbess of Berecingum (now Barking). She reposed in the Lord sometime after 686.

Sister of St Earconwald, Bishop of London, “she showed herself in all respects worthy of her brother the bishop” St Bede tells us, “by her own holy life and by her regular and pious care of those under her rule, as was also manifested by heavenly miracles”.

St Bede devotes several chapters to the miracles of this Abbey, chiefly during a long and catastrophic plague.

Interestingly, these were not miracles of St Æthelburh as an individual, so much as experiences of the whole monastery – a testimony, as St Bede clearly felt, to the care and example of the mother Abbess.

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ONE of the same handmaids of God, being smitten with the same disease, and reduced to the last extremity, began on a sudden, about midnight, to cry out to them that ministered to her, desiring they would put out the lamp that was lighted there.

And, when she had done this many times, and yet no one did her will, at last she said,

“I know that you think I am raving when I say this, but be assured that it is not so; for I tell you truly, that I see this house filled with so great a light, that that lamp of yours seems to me to be altogether dark.”

An Orthodox nun holding a candle, for a light by which to read prayers

“My light will come to me at the dawn of day.” An Orthodox nun holds a candle, for a light by which to read prayers

And when still no one replied to what she said, or did her bidding, she added,

“Burn your lamp, then, as long as you will; but know, that it is not my light, for my light will come to me at the dawn of day.”

Then she began to tell, that a certain man of God, who had died that same year, had appeared to her, telling her that at the break of day she should depart to the eternal light.

The truth of which vision was speedily proved by the maiden’s death as soon as the day appeared.

St Bede, “Ecclesiastical History” IV.8. Source.

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CRUCIFYING thy body, with its passions, O [Æthelburh], and concentrating all thy love upon Christ thine eternal Bridegroom, thou hast obtained an everlasting crown of glory and art now numbered with the choirs of the Angels, fervently entreating Christ on behalf of those who honor Thee, O holy one.

Theotokion

TROUBLED by the storm of my many sins, and the turmoil of my estranged thoughts, do thou have compassion on me; and lend me, thy servant, thy sovereign right hand, and save me, O all-immaculate one, that I may magnify thee.

From the General Menaion, Office for a Nun. Source.

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