cuthbertToday marks a lesser feast day for St. Cuthbert.  His primary day is honored on March 20 each year, but his life is also celebrated on Sept. 4.  Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England, and is referred to as “The Wonder-Worker of England” due to the many miracles performed by him during his life, and through intercessory prayers after his death.  Cuthbert was a soldier, monk, and a unifier of the Celtic and Roman branches of the Church.

Born in Scotland, Cuthbert lived a good portion of his life in seclusion, in a cave on what is now known as Farne Island.   If you read the lives of the Saints, you’ll find that many chose to live separate from the world; however, you’ll also find that the world was greatly touched by their faith and wisdom.  Cuthbert was no exception.  He performed so many miracles in the Name of Christ, The Venerable Bede was compelled to devote a book entirely to him, entitled The Miracles and Life of St. Cuthbert.  It’s interesting to note that Cuthbert also provided us with the first written environmental law, prohibiting the ducks on the shore of Farne Island from being disturbed.

Cuthbert passed from this world in 687 AD.  It is said that his last words were encouragement and hope that the Church would be unified, and that those who followed Christ should also remember the traditions of the Church Fathers, which had been handed down to him and others in his generation.  From all I’ve read of Cuthbert, I gather that he was a man near to God, and filled with great humility and love for Christ and his fellow man.  His remains are interred at the Chapel of the Nine Altars in Durham, England.

Here’s some excerpts from Bede to describe this great saint…

“‘He was affable and pleasant in his character; and when he was relating to the fathers the acts of their predecessors, as an incentive to piety, he would introduce also, in the meekest way, the spiritual benefits which the love of God had conferred upon himself. And this he took care to do in a covert manner, as if it had happened to another person. His hearers, however, perceived that he was speaking of himself, after the pattern of that master who at one time unfolds his own merits without disguise, and at another time says, under the guise of another, “I knew a man in Christ fourteen years ago, who was carried up into the third heaven.”‘

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

“THE venerable man of God, Cuthbert, adorned the office of bishop, 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.”

From St Bede’s “The Life and Miracles of St Cuthbert”

To read “The Life and Miracles of St. Cuthbert” in full, please visit Fordham University’s Medieval Sourcebook here...

For a more complete biographical sketch of St. Cuthbert, and many other saints, please take some time to explore the Orthodox Church in America’s web page here…

Finally, take time to visit the Durham Cathedral page here.  Durham Cathedral is definitely on my list of must-sees for this life!  I’m hoping to pop in and have tea with NT Wright while I’m there…

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