St Tuda of Lindisfarne: a good and religious man

St Tuda, Bishop of Lindisfarne, was in his See for only a year before he was carried off by the plague, reposing in the Lord in 664.

Today was at one time his feast day.

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The Northumbrian coast from Longstone lighthouse, among the Farne Islands. © William Stafford, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

The Northumbrian coast from Longstone lighthouse, among the Farne Islands. © William Stafford, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

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Originally from southern Scotland, St Tuda was appointed to the See after St Colman resigned it, unable to accept the decisions of the Synod of Whitby which had elected to follow Roman rather than Irish practice in some areas.

WHEN Colman had gone back into his own country, Tuda, the servant of Christ, was made bishop of the Northumbrians in his place, having been instructed and ordained bishop among the Southern Scots, having also the crown of the ecclesiastical tonsure, according to the custom of that province, and observing the Catholic rule with regard to the time of Easter.

He was a good and religious man, but he governed the church a very short time; he had come from Scotland whilst Colman was yet bishop, and, both by word and deed, diligently taught all men those things that appertain to the faith and truth.

St Bede, “Ecclesiastical History”, III.26. Source.

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As with most things, it is not a case of A is good and B is bad.

Some Celtic traditions, such as their eccentric date for Easter, really did need to be set aside in favour of Byzantine practice. The Rule of St Benedict also brought a welcome order, relative moderation, and stability into the cenobitic religious life.

On the other hand, Abbots and Abbesses lost their pre-eminent place to Bishops, and (as always) the institutionalism and centralisation meant that something of the wild romance and burning love for God which drove St Aidan and St Colman began to fade. In time, monasteries as the ‘lighthouses’ of the Christian life were gradually dimmed.

Like St Cuthbert, Tuda had experience of both cultures, and might be felt to represent a harmony between Irish and Roman practice which brought out the best in each – a harmony which was, unfortunately, broken all too soon.

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LEADING a life like unto that of thy Master, in both word and deed fulfilling thy days in spiritual works, thou, O Father, didst repose and pass over into the heavenly heights.

Theotokion

FREED from the first curse by thy birth-giving, O most blessed God-greeted Maiden, we send up unto thee the greeting of Gabriel: Rejoice thou, the cause of the salvation of all.

From the Slavonic General Menaion. Source.

O let the earth bless the Lord

NOT only did the animals of the air and sea, for the sea itself, as the air and fire, on former occasions which we have mentioned, exemplified their obedience to the venerable man.

For it is no wonder that every creature should obey his wishes, who so faithfully, and with his whole heart, obeyed the great Author of all creatures.

But we for the most part have lost our dominion over the creation that has been subjected to us, because we neglect to obey the Lord and Creator of all things.

St Bede, “Life of St Cuthbert”, Chapter XXI. Read at Mediaeval Sourcebook.

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O LET the earth bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.

Ullswater in the English Lake District. © Chris Heaton, Geograph. Used under licence.

Ullswater in the English Lake District. © Chris Heaton, Geograph. Used under licence. Click to see the original.

O ye mountains and little hills, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye things that grow in the earth, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O ye mountains, bless ye the Lord: Praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye seas and rivers, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.

O all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.

A kittiwake and her chick, on Inner Farne. © Gordon Hatton, Geograph. Used under licence.

A kittiwake and her chick, on Inner Farne (where St Cuthbert's hermitage stood). © Gordon Hatton, Geograph. Used under licence. Click to see the original.

O ye children of men, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O Israel, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.

From “The Song of the Three Children”, in the Book of Daniel (LXX). Translation by Sir Lancelot Brenton.

There is nothing equal to this beautiful trait of pity

WHO is weak and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?

2 Corinthians 9:29

SHOULDEST not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

Matthew 18:33

Patriarch Kirill and Starets Iliya of Optina

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (r) speaking with Starets (spiritual father) Iliya of Optina

HE was gentle in the spirit of mildness to forgive the penitent, so that 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.

St Bede (+735), writing of St Cuthbert.

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LET us have a soul apt to sympathize, let us have a heart that knows how to feel with others in their sorrows: no unmerciful temper, no inhumanity.

LET us show ourselves pitiful, that we may be pitied; there is nothing equal to this beautiful trait: nothing so marks to us the stamp of human nature as the showing pity, as the being kind to our fellow-men.

St John Chrysostom (+407), “Homilies On Acts” XLIII (on Acts 20:1). Translation from CCEL.

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WHEN we talk to our fellow men and they tell us about their troubles, we will listen to them carefully if we have love for them. We will have compassion for their suffering and pain, for we are God’s creatures; we are a manifestation of the love of God.

ONE should preach not from one’s rational mind but rather from the heart. Only that which is from the heart can touch another heart. One must never attack or oppose anyone. If he who preaches must tell people to keep away from a certain kind of evil, he must do so meekly and humbly, with fear of God.

THOSE who are strict with others can only reach a certain level in spiritual life. They remain at the stage of physical asceticism.

Elder Thaddaeus of Vitovnica (2003).

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AS you, O Merciful, are a divine river of mercy, an abyss of great compassion, show us the divine streams of your mercy, and heal us all; pour out unstintingly the springs of your wonders, and cleanse us all; for ever hastening fervently to you, we implore your grace.

PHYSICIAN and helper of those in pains, deliverer and saviour of those in sickness, Master and Lord, give healing to your sick servants; have pity, have mercy on those who have often stumbled, and deliver them from their falls, O Christ, that they may glorify your divine power.

Service of Holy Oils. Translation from Anastasis.

My soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord

The shrine of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne in Durham Cathedral

The shrine of St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne in Durham Cathedral. © John Hamilton, used under licence.

I WOULD rather be an abject in the house of God, than dwell in the tents of sinners.

Psalm 83(84):10.

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Today, the second Sunday of Lent, is called the Sunday of St Gregory Palamas.

This year, it is also the Feast of St Cuthbert, the Wonderworker of Lindisfarne (+687).

Like the Fathers, the early British saints were willing to give up everything for God – to go up “into the valley of weeping”, to receive his blessings.

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THE Church in The British Isles will only begin to grow when She begins to venerate Her own Saints again.

St Arsenios of Paros (+1877). Source.

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IF, then, you yearn to be enriched with holiness – and without holiness no one will see the Lord (cf. Heb 12:14) – you should abide in your own cell, enduring hardship and praying with humility.

St Gregory Palamas (+1359), “To the Most Reverend Nun Xenia” §43, in the “Philokalia”.

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Inner Farne, Northumbria

Inner Farne, Northumbria, © Paul Buckingham (Geograph). Cuthbert's hermitage stood on the right of the island, where a chapel now stands.

In the year 676, St Cuthbert chose the path so highly praised by St Gregory Palamas.

WHEN he 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” (Ps 83[84]:7).

St Bede, “Life of St Cuthbert” Chapter XVII. Translation at Mediaeval Sourcebook.

See my Page on St Cuthbert for more on his wonderful life and his sympathetic, attractive character.

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Psalm 83

HOW amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, and faints for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh have exulted in the living god. Alleluia.

Yea, the sparrow has found himself a home, and the turtle-dove a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Alleluia.

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will praise thee evermore. Alleluia.

Blessed is the man whose help is of thee, O Lord; in his heart he has purposed to go up the valley of weeping, to the place which he has appointed, for there the law-giver will grant blessings. Alleluia.

They shall go from strength to strength: the God of gods shall be seen in Sion. Alleluia.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: hearken, O God of Jacob. Alleluia.

Behold, O God our defender, and look upon the face of thine anointed. Alleluia.

For one day in thy courts is better than thousands. I would rather be an abject in the house of God, than dwell in the tents of sinners. Alleluia.

For the Lord loves mercy and truth: God will give grace and glory: the Lord will not withhold good things from them that walk in innocence. Alleluia.

O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee. Alleluia.

Witnesses to virtue

Pilgrims' Way to Holy Island (Lindisfarne)

Pilgrims' Way, across the sands at low tide, from the mainland to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the distance. © Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse.

GRANT unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:29-31.

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THE venerable man of God, Cuthbert, adorned the office of bishop [of Lindisfarne, Northumbria], which he had undertaken, by the exercise of many virtues, according to the precepts and examples of the Apostles.

For he protected the people committed to his care with frequent prayers, and invited them to heavenly things by most wholesome admonitions, and followed that system which most facilitates teaching, by first doing himself what he taught to others.

He saved the needy man from the hand of the stronger, and the poor and destitute from those who would oppress them. He comforted the weak and sorrowful; but he took care to recall those who were sinfully rejoicing to that sorrow which is according to godliness.

Desiring still to exercise his usual frugality, he did not cease to observe the severity of a monastic life, amid the turmoil by which he was surrounded.

He gave food to the hungry, raiment to the shivering, and his course was marked by all the other particulars which adorn the life of a pontiff.

The miracles with which he shone forth to the world bore witness to the virtues of his own mind, some of which we have taken care briefly to hand down to memory.

St Bede, “Life of St Cuthbert”, Chapter 26. Translation from Mediaeval Sourcebook.

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I WILL exalt thee, my God, my king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

Every day will I bless thee, and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. The Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; and there is no end to his greatness.

Generation after generation shall praise thy works, and tell of thy power. And they shall speak of the glorious majesty of thy holiness, and recount thy wonders.

And they shall speak of the power of thy terrible acts; and recount thy greatness. They shall utter the memory of the abundance of thy goodness, and shall exult in thy righteousness. […]

The Lord is near to all that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will perform the desire of them that fear him: and he will hear their supplication, and save them.

Psalm 144(145).

I know how powerful tears are

St Bede is writing about his near-contemporary, St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne.

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, so that 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.

Life of Cuthbert. Translation from the Medieval Sourcebook.

The music video above is of the Cherubic Hymn (see also my Page), chanted by Daniel Karabasis. Byzantine chant is particularly expressive, while being neither noisy nor sentimental – just as St Cuthbert would have wanted it.

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ALMIGHTY Lord, I know how powerful tears are.
They brought Ezekias up from the gates of death. (4 Rgns [2 Kgs] 20:1-6)
They delivered the sinful woman from the transgressions of many years. (Lk 7:36-50)
They justified the Tax Collector above the Pharisee. (Lk 18:10-14)
And so I pray, ‘Numbering me with them with them, have mercy on me’.

Sunday of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee (Vespers, sung on Saturday evening). Translation from Anastasis.

St Cuthbert and the bread of angels

AS he went very early in the morning, from the interior of the monastery into the strangers’ cell, he found there seated a young person, whom he considered to be a man, and entertained as such.

He gave him water to wash his hands; he washed his feet himself, wiped them, and humbly dried them in his bosom; after which he entreated him to remain till the third hour of the day and take some breakfast, lest, if he should go on his journey fasting, he might suffer from hunger and the cold of winter. For he took him to be a man, and thought that a long journey by night and a severe fall of snow had caused him to turn in thither in the morning to rest himself. The other replied, that he could not tarry, for the home to which he was hastening lay at some distance.

After much entreaty, Cuthbert adjured him in God’s name to stop; and as the third hour was now come, prayer over, and it was time to breakfast, he placed before him a table with some food, and said, “I beseech thee, brother, eat and refresh thyself, whilst I go and fetch some hot bread, which must now, I think, be just baked. “

When he returned, the young man, whom he had left eating, was gone, and he could see no traces of his footsteps, though there had been a fresh fall of snow, which would have exhibited marks of a person walking upon it, and shown which way he went. The man of God was astonished, and revolving the circumstances in his mind, put back the table in the dining-room.

Whilst doing so, he perceived a most surprising odour and sweetness; and looking round to see from what it might proceed, he saw three white loaves placed there, of unusual whiteness and excellence. Trembling at the sight, he said within himself, “I perceive that it was an angel of the Lord whom I entertained, and that he came to feed us, not to be fed himself. Behold, he hath brought such loaves as this earth never produced; they surpass the lily in whiteness, the rose in odour, and honey in taste. They are, therefore, not produced from this earth, but are sent from paradise. No wonder that he rejected my offer of earthly food, when he enjoys such bread as this in heaven.”

The man of God was stimulated by this powerful miracle to be more zealous still in performing works of piety; and with his deeds did increase upon him also the grace of God. From that time he often saw and conversed with angels, and when hungry was fed with unwonted food furnished direct from God.

St Bede, “Life of St Cuthbert” Ch. VII; see Mediaeval Sourcebook. (Before reading and watching YouTube videos of the lives of the 20th century Elders, I might have dismissed this as a Dark Ages’ romance. See the “Miracles” section to the right…)

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LET US who eat the bread of the flesh of Christ, and who receive the blood from the side of the Master, dwell as freemen in the newness of the Spirit, living in grace.

Mattins, Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. Greek text at Analogion.