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Born in Northumbria, England (?) or Ireland, c. 634; died on Inner Farne in March 20, 687; feast of his translation to Durham, September 4.

Saint Cuthbert is possibly the most venerated saint in England, especially in the northern part of the country, where he was a very active missionary. Yet his real nationality is debated. His biographer, Saint Bede (f.d. May 26), did not specify it. Of course, the English claim him, but so do the Scottish.

There is a good likelihood the he was an Irishman named Mulloche, great-grandson of the High King Muircertagh of Ireland because, according to Moran citing documents in Durham Cathedral, the rood screen bore the inscription: Saint Cuthbert, Patron of Church, City and Liberty of Durham, an Irishman by birth of royal parentage who was led by God's Providence to England. The cathedral's stained glass windows, which had been registered but destroyed during the reign of Henry VI, depicted the saint's life begin with his birth at Kells in Meath. This fact is corroborated by an ancient manuscript viewed by Alban Butler at Cottonian Library. One tradition relates that his mother, the Irish princess Saba, set out on a pilgrimage to Rome, left Cuthbert in the care of Kenswith, and died in Rome.

Thus, Cuthbert, like David, was a shepherd boy on the hills above Leader Water or the valley of the Tweed. Of unknown parentage, he was reared in the Scottish lowlands by a poor widow named Kenswith, and was a cripple because of an abscess on the knee made worse by an attempted cure. But despite this disability he was boisterous and high-spirited, and so physically strong that after he became a monk, on a visit to the monastery at Coldingham, he spent a whole night upon the shore in prayer, and strode into the cold sea praising God.

According to one of Saint Bede's two "vitae" of the saint, when Cuthbert was about 15, he had a vision of angels conducting the soul of Saint Aidan to heaven. Later, while still a youth, he became a monk under Saint Eata (f.d. October 26) at Melrose Abbey on the Tweed River. The prior of Melrose, Saint Boisil (f.d. July 7), taught Cuthbert Scripture and the pattern of a devout life. Cuthbert went with Eata to the newly-founded abbey of Ripon in 661 as guest steward. He returned to Melrose, still just a mission station of log shanties, when King Alcfrid turned Ripon over to Saint Wilfrid (f.d. October 12). It was from Melrose that Cuthbert began his missionary efforts throughout Northumbria.

Cuthbert attended Boisil when the latter contracted the plague. The book of the Scriptures from which he read the Gospel of John to the dying prior was laid on the altar at Durham in the 13th century on Saint Cuthbert's feast. Thus, in 664, Cuthbert became prior of Melrose at the death of Boisil. Soon thereafter Cuthbert fell deathly ill with the same epidemic. Upon hearing that the brethren had prayed throughout the night for his recovery, he called for his staff, dressed, and undertook his duties, but he never fully recovered his health thereafter.

In 664, when Saint Colman (f.d. February 18) refused to accept the decision of the Synod of Whitby in favour of Roman liturgical custom and migrated to Ireland with his monks, Saint Tuda (f.d. October 21) was consecrated bishop in his place, while Eata was named abbot and Cuthbert prior of Lindisfarne, a small island joined to the coast at low tide. From Lindisfarne Cuthbert extended his work southward to the people of Northumberland and Durham.

Afterwards Cuthbert was made abbot of Lindisfarne, where he grew to love the wild rocks and sea, and where the birds and beasts came at his call. Then for eight years beginning in 676, Cuthbert followed his solitary nature by removing himself to the solitude of the isolated, infertile island of Farne, where it was believed that he was fed by the angels. There built an oratory and a cell with only a single small window for communication with the outside world. But he was still sought after, and twice the king of Northumberland implored him to accept election as bishop of Hexham, to which he finally agreed in 684, though unwillingly and with tears.

Almost immediately Cuthbert exchanged his see with Eata for that of Lindisfarne, which Cuthbert preferred. Thus, on Easter Sunday 685, Cuthbert was consecrated bishop of Lindisfarne by Saint Theodore (f.d. September 19), archbishop of Canterbury, with six bishops in attendance at York. For two years Cuthbert was bishop of Lindisfarne, still maintaining his frugal ways and first doing himself what he taught others. He administered his see, cared for the sick of the plague that decimated his see, distributed alms liberally, and worked so many miracles of healing that he was known in his lifetime as the Wonder-Worker of Britain. Then at Christmas in 686, in failing health and knowing that his end was near, he resigned his office and retired again to his island cell hermitage on Farne Island. Three months later he died there having received his communion from the Abbot Herefrith. His body was taken back to Lindisfarne and laid to rest on the right side of the altar on March 20 which is kept as his festival.

In the very act of lifting his hands in prayer his soul sped its way to the joys of the heavenly kingdom. News of his death was flashed by lantern to the watchers at Lindisfarne. Bede reports:

As the tiny gleam flashed over the dark reach of sea, and the watchman hurried with his news into the church, the brethren of the Holy Island were singing the words of the Psalmist: "Thou hast cast us out and scattered us abroad . . . Thou hast shown thy people heavy things.

He was buried at Lindisfarne, where they remained incorrupt for several centuries, but after the Viking raids began his remains wandered with the displaced monks for about 100 years until they were translated to Durham cathedral in 1104. Until its desecration under Henry VIII, his shrine at Durham was one of the most frequented places of pilgrimage for the power of healing that Cuthbert possessed during his lifetime lived on after him. The bones discovered in 1827 beneath the site of the medieval shrine are probably his.

He is said to have had supernatural gifts of healing and insight, and people thronged to consult him, so that he became known as the wonder-worker of Britain. He had great qualities as a preacher, and made many missionary journeys. Bede wrote that Cuthbert was so great a speaker and had such a light in his angelic face. He also had such a love for proclaiming his good news, that none hid their innermost secrets from him. Year after year, on horseback and on foot, he ventured into the remotest territories between Berwick and Galloway. He built the first oratory at Dull, Scotland, with a large stone cross before it and a little cell for himself. Here a monastery arose that became Saint Andrew's University.

His task was not easy, for he lived in an area of vast solitude, of wild moors and sedgy marshes crossed only by boggy tracts, with widely scattered groups of huts and hovels inhabited by a wild and heathen peasantry full of fears and superstitions and haunted by terror of pagan gods. His days were filled with incessant activity in an attempt to keep the spirit of Christianity alive and each night he kept vigil with God.

But unlike the Celtic missionaries, he spoke their language and knew their ways, for he had lived like them in a peasant's home. Once, when a snowstorm drove his boat onto the coast of Fife, he cried to his companions in the storm: The snow closes the road along the shore; the storm bars our way over the sea. But there is still the way of Heaven that lies open.

Cuthbert was the Apostle of the Lowlands, renowned for his vigour and good-humour; he outstripped his fellow monks in visiting the loneliest and most dangerous outposts from cottage to cottage from Berwick to Solway Firth to bring the Good News of Christ. Selflessly he entered the houses of those stricken by the plague. And he was the most lovable of saints. His patience and humility persuaded the reluctant monks of Lindisfarne to adopt the Benedictine Rule.

He is especially appealing to us today because he was a keenly observant man, interested in the ways of birds and beasts. In fact, the Farne Islands, which served as a hermitage to the monks of Durham, are now a bird and wildlife sanctuary appropriately under the protection of Cuthbert. In his own time he was famed as a worker of miracles in God's name. On one occasion he healed a woman's dying baby with a kiss. The tiny seashells found only on his Farne Island are traditionally called Saint Cuthbert's Beads, and are said by sailors to have been made by him. This tradition is incorporated in Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion".

The ample sources for his life and character show a man of extraordinary charm and practical ability, who attracted people deeply by the beauty of holiness.

His cultus is recalled in places names, such as Kirkcudbright (Galloway), Cotherstone (Yorkshire), Cubert (Cornwall), and more than 135 church dedications in England as well as an additional 17 in Scotland. A chapel in the crypt of Fulda was dedicated to him at its consecration (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Colgrave, D'Arcy, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Fitzpatrick, Gill, Montague, Montalembert2, Moran, Skene, Tabor, Webb).

* * *

The following legends about Saint Cuthbert reveal as much about their author, the Venerable Bede (f.d. May 26) as they do about Saint Cuthbert. Though they repeat in detail some of what is outlined above, they show the historian's care to note source and authority and show his quick eye that observes nature in detail.

"One day as he rode his solitary way about the third hour after sunrise, he came by chance upon a hamlet a spear's cast from the track, and turned off the road to it. The woman of the house that he went into was the pious mother of a family, and he was anxious to rest there a little while, and to ask some provision for the horse that carried him rather than for himself, for it was the oncoming of winter.

"The woman brought him kindly in, and was earnest with him that he would let her get ready a meal, for his own comfort, but the man of God denied her. I must not eat yet, said he, because today is a fast. It was indeed Friday when the faithful for the most part prolong their fast until the third hour before sunset, for reverence of the Lord's Passion.

"The woman, full of hospitable zeal, insisted. See now, said she, the road that you are going, you will find never a clachan or a single house upon it, and indeed you have a long way yet before you, and you will not be at the end of it before sundown. So do, I ask you, take some food before you go, or you will have to keep your fast the whole day, and maybe even till the morrow. But though she pressed him hard, devotion to his religion overcame her entreating, and he went through the day fasting, until evening.

"But as twilight fell and he began to see that he could not come to the end of the journey he had planned that day, and that there was no human habitation near where he could stay the night, suddenly as he rode he saw close by a huddle of shepherds' huts, built ramshackle for the summer, and now lying open and deserted.

"Thither he went in search of shelter, tethered his horse to the inside wall, gathered up a bundle of hay that the wind had torn from the thatch, and set it before him for fodder. Himself had begun to say his hours, when suddenly in the midst of his chanting of the Psalms he saw his horse rear up his head and begin cropping the thatch of the hovel and dragging it down, and in the middle of the falling thatch came tumbling a linen cloth lapped up; curious to know what it might be, he finished his prayer, came up and found wrapped in the linen cloth a piece of loaf still hot, and meat, enough for one man's meal.

"And chanting his thanks for heaven's grace, I thank God, said he, Who has stooped to make a feast for me that was fasting for love of His Passion, and for my comrade. So he divided the piece of loaf that he had found and gave half to the horse, and the rest he kept for himself to eat, and from that day he was the readier to fasting because he understood that the meal had been prepared for him in the solitude by His gift Who of old fed Elijah the solitary in like fashion by the birds, when there was no man near to minister to him; Whose eyes are on them that fear Him and that hope in His mercy, that He will snatch their souls from death and cherish them in their hunger.

"And this story I had from a brother of our monastery which is at the mouth of the river Wear, a priest, Ingwald by name, who has the grace of his great age rather to contemplate things eternal with a pure heart than things temporal with the eyes of earth; and he said that he had it from Cuthbert himself, the time that he was bishop."

And a second story recorded by Bede:

"It was his way for the most part to wander in those places and to preach in those remote hamlets, perched on steep rugged mountain sides, where other men would have a dread of going, and whose poverty and rude ignorance gave no welcome to any scholar. . . . Often for a whole week, sometimes for two or three, and even for a full month, he would not return home, but would abide in the mountains, and call these simple folk to heavenly things by his word and his ways. . . ."

[He was, moreover, easily entreated, and came to stay at the abbey of Coldingham on a cliff above the sea.]

"As was his habit, at night while other men took their rest, he would go out to pray; and after long vigils kept far into the night, he would come home when the hour of common prayer drew near. One night, a brother of this same monastery saw him go silently out, and stealthily followed on his track, to see where he was going or what he would do.

"And so he went out from the monastery and, his spy following him went down to the sea, above which the monastery was built; and wading into the depths till the waves swelled up to his neck and arms, kept his vigil through the dark with chanting voiced like the sea. As the twilight of dawn drew near, he waded back up the beach, and kneeling there, again began to pray; and as he prayed, straight from the depths of the sea came two four-footed beasts which are called by the common people otters.

"These, prostrate before him on the sand, began to busy themselves warming his feet with pantings, and trying to dry them with their fur; and when this good office was rendered, and they had his benediction, they slipped back again beneath their native waters. He himself returned home, and sang the hymns of the office with the brethren at the appointed hour. But the brother who had stood watching him from the cliffs was seized with such panic that he could hardly make his way home, tottering on his feet; and early in the morning came to him and fell at his feet, begging forgiveness with his tears for his foolish attempt, never doubting but that his behaviour of the nights was known and discovered.

"To whom Cuthbert: What ails you, my brother? What have you done? Have you been out and about to try to come at the truth of this night wandering of mine? I forgive you, on this one condition: That you promise to tell no man what you saw, until my death. . . . And the promise given, he blessed the brother and absolved him alike of the fault and the annoyance his foolish boldness had given: The brother kept silence on the piece of valour that he had seen, until after the Saint's death, when he took pains to tell it to many"

Bede relates another story:

After many years at Lindisfarne Abbey, Cuthbert set out to become a hermit on an island called Farne, which unlike Lindisfarne, which twice a day by the upswelling of the ocean tide . . . becomes an island, and twice a day, its shore again bared by the tide outgoing, is restored to its neighbour the land. . . . No man, before God's servant Cuthbert, had been able to make his dwelling here alone, for the phantoms of demons that haunted it; but at the coming of Christ's soldier, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, the fiery darts of the wicked fell quenched, and the foul Enemy himself, with all his satellite mob, was put to flight.

Cuthbert built himself a cell on the island by cutting away the living rock of a cave. He constructed a wall out of rough boulders and turf. Some of the boulders were so large that one would hardly think four men could lift them, and yet he is known to have carried them thither with angelic help and set them into the wall. He had two houses in his enclosure, one an oratory, the other a dwelling place. . . . At the harbour of the island was a larger house in which the brethren when they came to visit him could be received and take their rest. . . .

At first he accepted bread from Lindisfarne, "but after a while he felt it was more fit that he should live by the work of his own hand, after the example of the Fathers. So he asked them to bring him tools to dig the ground with, and wheat to sow; but the grain that he had sown in spring showed no sign of a crop even by the middle of the summer. So when the brethren as usual were visiting him the man of God said, 'It may be the nature of the soil, or it may be it is not the will of God that any wheat should grow for me in this place: So bring me, I pray you, barley, and perhaps I may raise some harvest from it. But if God will give it no increase, it would be better for me to go back to the community than be supported here on other men's labours.'

"They brought him the barley, and he committed it to the ground, far past the time of sowing, and past all hope of springing: and soon there appeared an abundant crop. When it began to ripen, then came the birds, and its was who among them should devour the most. So up comes God's good servant, as he would afterwards tell--for many a time, with his benign and joyous regard, he would tell in company some of the things that he himself had won by faith, and so strengthen the faith of his hearers--'And why,' says he, 'are you touching a crop you did not sow? Or is it, maybe, that you have more need of it than I? If you have God's leave, do what He allows you: but if not, be off, and do no more damage to what is not your own.' He spoke, and at the first word of command, the birds were off in a body and come what might for ever after they contained themselves from any trespass on his harvests. . . .

"And here might be told a miracle done by the blessed Cuthbert in the fashion of the aforesaid Father, Benedict, wherein the obedience and humility of the birds put to shame the obstinacy and arrogance of men. Upon that island for a great while back a pair of ravens had made their dwelling: And one day at their nesting time the man of God spied them tearing with their beaks at the thatch on the brethren's hospice of which I have spoken, and carrying off pieces of it in their bills to build their nest.

"He thrust at them gently with his hand, and bade them give over this damage to the brethren. And when they scoffed at his command, 'In the name of Jesus Christ,' said he, 'be off with you as quick as ye may, and never more presume to abide in the place which ye have spoiled.' And scarcely had he spoken, when they flew dismally away.

"But toward the end of the third day, one of the two came back, and finding Christ's servant busy digging, comes with his wings lamentably trailing and his head bowed to his feet, and his voice low and humble, and begs pardon with such signs as he might: which the good father well understanding, gives him permission to return.

"As for the other, leave once obtained, he straight off goes to fetch his mae, and with no tarrying, back they both come, and carrying along with them a suitable present, no less than a good-sized hunk of hog's lard such as one greases axles with: Many a time thereafter the man of God would show it the brethren who came to see him, and would offer it to grease their shoes, and he would urge on them how obedient and humble men should be, when the proudest of birds made haste with prayers and lamentation and presents to atone for the insult he had given to man. And so, for an example of reformed life to men, these did abide for many years thereafter on that same island, and built their nest, nor ever wrought annoyance upon any" (Bede).

In art, Saint Cuthbert is dressed in episcopal vestments bearing the crowned head of Saint Oswald (f.d. August 5) (Seal of Lindisfarne). At times he may be shown (1) with pillars of light above him; (2) with swans tending him; (3) as a hermit with a tau staff being fed by an eagle; (4) rebuking crows; (5) rebuilding a hut and driving out devils; (6) praying by the sea; (7) with a Benedictine monk kissing his feet; (8) when his incorrupt body was found with a chalice on his breast (Roeder); or (9) tended by sea otters, which signifies either his living in the midst of waters, or alludes to a legend. It is said that one night as he lay on the cold shore, exhausted from his penances, two otters revived his numb limbs by licking them (Tabor). There is a stained-glass icon of Cuthbert in York Minster from the late Middle Ages, as well as paintings on the backs of the stalls at Carlisle cathedral (Farmer).

The shrine of Saint Cuthbert is at Durham, but he is also venerated at Ripon and Melrose. His feast is still kept at Meath, Saint Andrews, and the northern dioceses of England (Attwater2). He is the patron of shepherds and seafarers, and invoked against the plague (Roeder). His patronage of sailors was the result of his appearance in the midst of violent storms at sea, wearing his mitre, as late as the 12th century. He is said to have used his crosier sometimes as an oar and at other times as a helm to save the struggling sailors from shipwreck. He is also said to have appeared to King Alfred, the conquering Canute the Dane, William the Conqueror, and others at critical moments. Thus, until the time of Henry VIII, soldiers marched under a sacred standard containing the corporal Cuthbert had used at Mass (D'Arcy).

Life and Miracles of Saint Cuthbert,
by the Venerable Bede

Icons of Saint Cuthbert

Shrine of Saint Cuthbert

Pectoral Cross of Saint Cuthbert

Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert
Shropshire, UK

The Preface from the Ancient Mass of St. Cuthbert:-

It is truly meet and just, right and availing to our salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to Thee, O Holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God, upon this day of the departure to Christ of the most holy priest Cuthbert, who first of all became an example to saints in his daily life, a life of most temperate and most chaste conduct, and afterwards followed the contemplative life in the wilderness for many years, nourished only by the love of the God of deathless life, and then was chosen to the rank of the episcopate, being invited not by his own will but by God's providence, and the counsel of the churches. For he had ever fought manfully and mightily against flesh and blood, and the rulers of this ?rial realm, seizing victory with the helmet of hope for salvation, and the breastplate of righteousness, and with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Word of God, and being protected on the right hand and on the left, the soldier of God overcame the battle-formations of the enemies, and the Lord wrought many miracles by him, and he foretold his death many days before. For he commended the governance of the people to the King and the Bishop, and he set out for the holy desert, and he gave up his spirit to God the Father almighty accompanied by a heavenly, holy multitude from the Gospel. Thee, therefore, O Lord, we entreat, that by the intercession of holy Bishop Cuthbert, we may be counted worthy to reach the harbour of joy, and the heavenly realms of Him before Whom there stand innumerable choirs of Angels and Archangels, and they say: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, etc.

(from the complete Old Sarum Rite Missal, publ. St. Hilarion Press, tr. Fr. Aidan Keller)

St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne:
The English St. Seraphim of Sarov

I know that though they despised me during my life, yet after my death they will see that my teachings are not to be cast aside so lightly.
St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, known as the Wonderworker of Britain, was a seventh-century English hermit and bishop and St. Seraphim of Sarov, preacher of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, a nineteenth century Russian priest and monk. It might seem extraordinary to those outside the Orthodox Church to compare two such people of different nationalities who lived twelve centuries apart - but it should not.

Both St. Cuthbert and St. Seraphim dwelt and laboured in the selfsame monastic spirit, which has its roots in the Gospels and the Apostles and the Desert Fathers led by St. Antony the Great. From the third, fourth and fifth centuries on, the influence of these Fathers was to spread both south and north, east and west. Going south, their way of life spread down the Nile to Ethiopia and the Sudan. Going east and then north, their ascetic teachings and practices spread to Palestine, to what is now Turkey and Greece, to what is now Armenia, Georgia, Iraq and Iran, later into the Balkans and Russia and ultimately across the Volga into Siberia, Japan, China and Alaska. Going west and then north, they spread to North Africa, Italy and Gaul, to Ireland and the rest of the British Isles, then to Iceland and all Western Europe.

Thus the comparison between Russian and English holiness should not seem strange: St. Seraphim and St. Cuthbert, both among the greatest saints of their respective lands, shared the same spirit, that of the Desert Fathers. Indeed had England remained within the Orthodox fold, we would today know St. Cuthbert's life better than that of St. Seraphim. And thus today we would be writing not of St. Cuthbert the English St. Seraphim, but rather of St. Seraphim the Russian St. Cuthbert. Who then was St. Cuthbert?

He was born in c. 634 in Northern England, in the area of the present Scottish Border. Of noble Anglian birth, at the age of eight he was taken in by a foster-mother Kenswith, a widow and nun. Aged seventeen he became a novice at the monastery of Melrose (now in southern Scotland). With other monks he followed his Abbot and moved to Ripon in Yorkshire to start a new monastery. Later he moved back to Melrose and then to Lindisfarne, an island off the north-east coast of England. On small islands nearby, called St. Cuthbert's Isle and Inner Farne, he was to live as a hermit. Visitors noised his holiness abroad and in York on Easter Sunday 685, much against his will, he was consecrated bishop by the Greek St. Theodore of Canterbury and six other bishops. He reposed two years later, aged about fifty-three, on 20 March 687. Such is the outer history of St. Cuthbert, but what of his inner history?

From the outset, Cuthbert's life is permeated by his contact with the other reality, the other world. Rebuked as an eight-year old child for his light-hearted games and pranks, 'unseemly for a holy bishop', from this time on he became serious and 'the Spirit spoke to him in the secret places of his heart'. Visions were granted to him. Once he was healed of lameness by an angel. Another time, when still a shepherd-boy on the Lammermuir Hills and not yet a monk, he saw angels taking heavenward the soul of the great St. Aidan. And as a monk, Cuthbert was to have visions and visitors from the other world. As guestmaster at the monastery of Ripon, he entertained an angel. This miracle did not make him proud, but humbled him and increased his zeal. From then on angels often appeared to him and conversed with him. Virtue and grace grew in him and at the age of thirty he became prior or assistant-abbot at Lindisfarne. After many years, accomplished in the obedience of monastic life and the renunciation of his own will, he received the blessing to live as a hermit on Inner Farne. Here too he had contact with another world, not that of the angels, but that of the fallen angels, the demons who haunted that small island. Often they strived to cast him from a rock into the ocean, or hurled stones at him, or sought to tempt him and discourage him, but they failed to harm him or terrify him. Assailing him, they were defeated by Cuthbert's prayer and strict fasting. Once these devils had been cast out of the island, angels came and helped the hermit build a cell and chapel. Another time, towards the end of his life, Cuthbert was to see angels taking the soul of a devout monastic servant to heaven.

These visions of the real world, the world of the spirit which runs parallel to this world of illusion, were granted to Cuthbert on account of his humility and piety, expressed in his asceticism. Without prayer and fasting and humble-mindedness, none of this would have been given him. Thus while others slept, by the monastery of Coldingham he was once seen standing the whole night up to his waist in the cold water of the North Sea, prayerfully chanting the Psalter, returning to the monastery in the early morning in time for the first service of the day. He lived the life of the Fathers of the Early Church, as St. Gregory the Great, the Apostle of the English, had recommended to St. Augustine. The first life of Cuthbert, written a few years after his repose, records:

He was wonderfully forbearing and his courage
in bearing hardship in body and mind was unsurpassed ... .
Such was his zeal for prayer that sometimes he kept vigil
for three or four nights in a row without ever sleeping in
his bed. Whether he was praying alone in some hidden
place or reciting the psalms, he always did manual work
to fight off the heaviness of sleep.

He would spend Great Lent and Advent Lent, both forty days long, in prayer, strict fasting and tears. His lowly spirit is summed up by his attitude to his foreknowledge, given him by St. Boisil (Boswell) the Abbot of Melrose, that one day he would be a bishop. Cuthbert said: 'If I could live in a tiny dwelling on a rock in the ocean, surrounded by the swell, cut off from the sight and knowledge of all men, I would still not be free from the cares of this fleeting world, nor from the fear that the love of money might yet snatch me away . This life is one which Cuthbert led when he moved to Inner Farne, seven miles across the sea from Lindisfarne. Here, having built a cell and chapel, he surrounded them with a high, circular wall of rough stone and turf, so that all he could see was the sky - this was all that was needful for his spirit.

The grace which Cuthbert acquired through his asceticism was revealed in his pastoral activity. In theological terms, his love of God was followed by the love of his neighbour. As prior at Melrose, Cuthbert gave advice not only to the monks inside the monastery but also to the lay-people who lived around. Often he would visit these surrounding villages, usually on foot, preaching. The people would gather round him to listen to this angel-like monk, confessing every sin to him, not daring to keep anything back, he would know what was in their hearts anyway. He was full of sorrow at sin and could not serve without tears. As penitents spoke of their sins, he would burst into tears of compassion at their suffering and weakness. As a true spiritual father he would himself do penance for them. In his labour of love he would search out even the most rugged places in the hills and would live with the rough folk for up to a month, setting an example of piety and preaching among them. At Lindisfarne he did the same, taking on the role of Elder. By his attitude he inspired all to live as the Christian should. Already a hermit, people came to him, not only from Lindisfarne, but from all over Britain, having heard of his miracles. They confessed to him, spoke of their temptations, seeking consolation. It is written that no-one left unconsoled. He warmed the hearts of the weak, he gave hope to the anxious, spoke of heavenly joy to the disconsolate. He explained the wiles and workings of the devil to those tempted, explained that this world is transitory, all passes and that a soul lacking in love for God or man is always easy prey for the Evil One.

And when he was made bishop, he followed the teachings and practices of the apostles, praying for his spiritual flock, giving them first his own example. He gave comfort to all and brought sinners to repentance. He maintained the strictness of the monastery amid the temptations of worldly glory: 'He fed the hungry, clothed the needy, and had all the marks of the perfect bishop'.As a result of his humble asceticism, Cuthbert acquired many gifts from the Creator. Firstly seeing his obedience to the Creator, the Creator made Creation obedient to Cuthbert: in the Saint was restored the obedience of Creation to Adam, whom Creation had formerly obeyed on account of Adam's sinless humility: 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth'. This gift was shown in Cuthbert's power over the four elements, earth, air, fire, water, and over the animal world. Once he stopped a fire through praying for a change in the direction of the wind, on two occasions he calmed storms at sea and another time the sea obeyed him, yielding him up wood as he needed it. Many times birds and animals obeyed him. Once, fasting on a Friday till the late afternoon, as he was wont, a horse found him half a loaf of bread in the thatch of a house. He gave half of the bread to the horse and took the rest for himself. Another time, after he had prayed all night long in the sea, two sea-otters came to warm his feet and dry him with their fur; they received his blessing. Again, after fasting, a large fish was brought to him by an eagle. The fish was cut in two, half for the eagle, half for a family and himself. 'Learn to have constant faith and hope in the Lord. He who serves God shall never die of hunger', said Cuthbert. Another time, when he ordered birds who had come to eat barley he had sown to depart, they obeyed him. Ravens were reproved by him and then later brought him lard as a sign of their repentance. 'What care should men not take to learn obedience and humility', he said, 'when even birds hasten to wash away their faults'.

A second gift for Cuthbert's gentle humility was the gift of prophecy, and his second sight, knowledge of what was happening at the same time but in another place. So close was he to the Eternal, that he overcame time and space. Once, journeying by boat to Scotland, he and other monks were beleaguered by a storm and had nothing to eat. Cuthbert remained trustful, foreknowing that God would provide. Indeed they found portions of a dolphin to eat, as though they had been prepared for them. Another time he cast demons out of a sheriff's wife from a distance. Strong in the spirit of prophecy, he foretold Abbess Elfleda that her brother King Ecgfrith would die, that the next king would be Aldfrith and that he himself would become a bishop, but only for two years. Later he was to see in spirit the death of King Ecgfrith. To his soul-friend, the hermit Herbert of Derwentwater, he foretold his own death, saying that their souls would leave their bodies at the same time, 'that they would go forth together and behold the glory of God's Mercy in Heaven'.

Another proof of the grace won by Cuthbert was in his miracles which healed many from disease and affliction, including those infected with demons. As a hermit he found water on barren rock, he healed Abbess Elfleda with his belt, he healed with holy water, with holy oil, with blessed bread. By prayer he healed a young man who had been brought to him dying and a boy dying of the plague. His power over the demons was no less significant. Once he stopped a phantom fire which the demons used to frighten the faint-hearted, he banished demons from Inner Farne and again fought them away before his death when they tempted him when for five days he lay ill. Once he changed water into wine. And even on his death-bed he healed a monastic servant. This was only the beginning for his healings and miracles have continued after his death, even to the present day. Thus just as St. Seraphim, born in Kursk, saved Russia through his intercessions at the famous tank-battle of Kursk in 1943, so in 1942 St. Cuthbert, his relics resting in Durham Cathedral, saved that city from the bombs of the Luftwaffe by shrouding the city in thick fog on the night of their raid.

This grace that St. Cuthbert won did not leave his body with his soul. After his repose everything that belonged to him was touched by grace, be it his shoes which healed a paralytic, a calf-skin which healed the hermit St. Felgild, or even soil from where the relics of the saint of God had lain. Eleven years after his repose in 698, when the monks of Lindisfarne were prompted to open St. Cuthbert's coffin, they found the relics intact, the body looked alive, even the saint's vestments looked new. The monks were instructed by Bishop Edbert to put new vestments on the relics in place of those that they had taken off, saying: 'See how is honoured the form of an earthly body, foretokening the much greater glories to come! Thou Lord hast brought forth might from these dear bones of Cuthbert, filling the Church with the very air of Paradise'.

Having then related something of the life of St. Cuthbert, the reader might well wonder how all this was possible. Why were such extraordinary gifts granted to Cuthbert? The answer we find in the Life of the Saint written shortly after his repose. Speaking of the healing at a distance of the sheriff's wife from a demon, it is written that Cuthbert was 'filled with the Holy Spirit' and that this was why, sensing Cuthbert's prayer, the demon was forced to leave the woman, being unable to bear the Saint's approach. Again, in all the difficulties Cuthbert faced in the coenobitic life with other monks, it is written that, 'it was clear to all that it was the Holy Spirit within that gave him strength to smile at attacks from without'. Like St. Seraphim, St. Cuthbert too had 'acquired the Holy Spirit', the same Holy Spirit, borne by the Church of God, Who indwells in all the faithful, uniting all ages, cultures and lands.

'Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved', said St. Seraphim of Sarov. It is not difficult to hear St. Cuthbert saying the same. In England and Scotland some eighty-three churches were to be dedicated to St. Cuthbert, making him the most popular native Saint. And after St. Cuthbert, Lindisfarne was to be called 'Holy Island', becoming the Athos of England. Its holy Abbots succeeded one another: St. Aidan, St. Finan, St. Colman, St. Eata, St. Cuthbert, St. Edbert, St. Edfrith, St. Ethilwald. Here in honour of St. Cuthbert St. Edfrith wrote, and St. Billfrith the hermit adorned, the Lindisfarne Gospels, magnificent treasure of Christendom, with their portraits of the four Evangelists, their names written in Greek in Latin letters (1). And when in 1104 St. Cuthbert's relics were translated, a still surviving seventh-century copy of the Gospel of St. John was found lying on an inner lid of the coffin - it may well have been St. Cuthbert's own. When in 1827 St. Cuthbert's relics were examined again, the coffin lid was found to depict Christ with the symbols of the four Evangelists. The sides of the coffin were adorned with the Twelve Apostles, five Archangels and the Holy Mother of God. Inside were the holy relics, together with a wooden altar-top, a bone-comb, silks from Constantinople and Persia, a stole embroidered in the Eastern Roman style by devout English ladies in the tenth century, and St. Cuthbert's own pectoral cross, with at its centre a shell from the Indian Ocean.

Monastic life has never been restored at Lindisfarne since the Viking onslaught of 794. And today Holy Island with St. Cuthbert's Isle and Inner Farne, now a bird sanctuary, with their cormorants and cliffs, seals and gannets, stormy seas and eider duck, still today called St. Cuthbert's duck, are the only visible remains of that place where once St. Cuthbert prayed and fasted, healed and preached, advised and consoled, drove out the demon-hordes, doing penance for mankind, until, 'strengthened by the Body and Blood of the Lord and made ready for the death that he knew was now at hand, he raised his eyes heavenwards, stretched his arms aloft and with his mind rapt in the praise of the Lord, sent forth his spirit to the bliss of Paradise'.

Holy Father Cuthbert, pray to God for us!


(1) Bishop Edfrith toiled for over two years on these Gospels, icons of the Word of God. Although the holy man used such simple materials as soot, glue and water for ink, and egg white for adhesion, he did use forty five different colours to illuminate the manuscript. These colours came from egg yolk, animals, insects, berries, fruit, flowers, red and white lead, verdigris, indigo (made from an oriental plant) and blue lapis lazuli -obtainable only from the Himalayas. How in the early eighth century this Himalayan precious stone came to the shores of Northumbria is one of the unwritten but still fabulous stories of Orthodox Christianity in these islands.

More details of the book The Lighted Way and where to buy it, can be found on The English Orthodox Trust page of the site.

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