Holy Cross Day

“The word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18) is the central affirmation of Christianity, demonstrating the depth both of human sin that made the death of Christ necessary and of the divine love of God that caused him to act to redeem humanity through the death of Christ. The Cross is a shorthand expression for the redeeming passion and death of Jesus Christ.

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This feast day of the Cross is a celebration of the Johannine view of the crucifixion of Christ as the time of his glorification, the moment of death being the moment of his triumph and victory. His degradation on the Cross paradoxically corresponds to his exaltation. Against the darkness is lifted the beacon of hope, against the forces of evil and destruction is erected “the sign of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:30), against death and defeat is raised the sign of life and victory. It is therefore natural that Christian piety and devotion should attach themselves to the instrument on which the world’s sin was taken away. Made holy by its use, stained and washed with Christ’s blood, the Cross on which the Savior of the world died was surrounded with honor and pious legends. It replaced the tree of disobedience in Eden and became the sign of the perfect Man’s obedience. As the first tree brought corruption and death, so the second brought life and health. The sign of death is transformed into the sign of life, that where Satan, who by a tree in the garden once overcame the progenitors of the human race, by a tree is overcome by the Second Adam. Moreover, these is an eschatological dimension to the Cross as “the sign of the Son of Man”, echoed in a versicle and reponse in the old Divine Office and now in the Liturgy of the Hours a Responsory in Evening Prayer I of The Triumph of the Cross: “This sign of the cross shall be in the heavens when the Lord shall come to judge.”

In the year 355 the emperor Constantine built two basilicas in Jerusalem. One of the churches was on the supposed site of the Holy Sepulchre, and in the course of excavating for this church, the story goes, the Cross on which Christ was crucified was discovered. Cyril of Jerusalem, who seems to be reliable, writing in the year 350, says that the Cross of Christ was found at Jerusalem during the time of Constantine. According to a less reliable tradition, Saint Helena, Constantine’s mother, was the one who discovered the True Cross. Not one but three crosses were found, it is said, and Helena was able to determine which one was Christ’s Cross by applying the three crosses to a dead man. One cross brought the dead man to life, and this was declared to be the Cross of Christ.

The relic of the True Cross was preserved in a silver receptacle in the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre after pieces had been taken away by pilgrims and distributed throughout the world. The Spanish pilgrim, Egeria, who made a journey to Jerusalem ca. 385-388 and who describes the ceremonies of the Church there, tells of the practice of the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday and of how the deacons guarded it so the pilgrims who kissed it would not bite out pieces to carry away.

The Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, first clearly mentioned by Pope Sergius (687-701), commemorated the exposition of the True Cross at Jerusalem in 629 by the emperor Heraclius after he had recovered it from the Persians who had captured it when they destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 614. This exposition seems actually to have taken place in the spring, but it was celebrated in the fall at the time of the anniversary of the dedication of the church.

from The New Book of Festivals and Commemorations,
the Revd Dr Philip H. Pfatteicher

The Collect

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Lesson
Isaiah 45:21-25

Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other god besides me,
righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
“Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”

Psalm 98
Cantate Domino

Sing to the LORD a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm *
has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory; *
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, *
and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands; *
lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp, *
with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn *
shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *
the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands, *
and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,
when he comes to judge the earth.

In righteousness shall he judge the world *
and the peoples with equity.

The Epistle
Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Gospel
John 12:31-36a

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

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The Lesson, Epistle, and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Bible. The Collect and Psalm are from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Holy Cross Day is observed on September 15 this year, September 14 having fallen on a Sunday (cf. page 16 in the Book of Common Prayer [1979]).

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Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, Martyr, 258

Thasius Cecilianus Cyprianus was an aristocratic and cultivated orator and teacher of rhetoric in Carthage who was born about the year 200. He was converted to the Christian faith about the year 246, and his conversion was thoroughgoing. He gave up all pagan writings and concentrated his studies thenceforth on the Scriptures and Christian commentaries, including those of Tertullian, a compatriot whom he regarded as his master. Shortly after his conversion he became a presbyter, and in 248 he was chosen bishop of Carthage by the people and clergy of Carthage with the consent of the neighboring bishops. A year later the persecution under the emperor Decius began, forcing Cyprian to flee to safety. He kept in touch with his Church by letters and through this means directed them with wisdom and compassion. During the persecution a number of Christians had apostatized by sacrificing to idols or had lapsed by buying certificates which stated falsely that they had sacrificed. Cyprian reconciled these lapsi after a suitable time of penance. One of his presbyters, Novatus, readmitted them without any penance at all, while the rigorist bishop of Rome, Novatian, taught that the Church could not absolve an apostate at all, leading a group into schism at Rome and Antioch over this vexing question. In time this group came to be called the Novatians, and they would continue as a schismatic church for some time to come. Throughout the controvery, Cyprian insisted on discreet compassion, the unity of the Churh, and the need for obedience and loyalty.

From this controversy there arose another concerning the validity of baptism administred by schimatics, heretics, and apostates. Cyprian’s view conflicted with that of Pope Stephen the Second, bishop of Rome, but Cyprian was supported by other African bishops in rejecting the validity of these baptisms. The controversy became acrimonious and was settled only after the deaths of the two protagonists by the Church’s acceptance of the Roman tradition in favor of their validity. Augustine of Hippo tells us that Cyprian atoned for his passion in the controversy by his glorious martyrdom. Under the persecution of the emperor Valerian, which specifically required bishops, presbyters, and deacons to sacrifice to idols, Cyprian was exiled in 257 and condemned to death and beheaded on the fourteenth of September, 258.

Many of Cyprian’s writings have been preserved. In his treatise, On the Lord’s Prayer, he writes: “We say ‘Hallowed be thy Name’ not that we want God to be made holy by our prayers but because we seek from the Lord that his Name may be made holy in us…so that we who have been made holy in Baptism may persevere in what we have begun to be.”

His book, On the Unity of the Catholic Church strongly affirms the unity of the episcopate and the sinfulness of schism: “The episcopate is a single whole,” he writes, “in which each bishop’s share gives him a right to, and a responsibility for, the whole. So is the Church a single whole, though she spreads far and wide into a multitude of churches…If you leave the Church of Christ you will not come to Christ’s rewards, you will be an alien, an outcast, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother.”

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
and The Oxford Dictionary of Saints

The Collect

Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage and Martyr, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, 1830

John Henry Hobart was one of the churchmen who revived Anglicanism in the United States after the American War for Independence. After its formation in 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church lay in a state that has been described as “suspended animation” for nearly two decades. In part this arose from a general irreligiosity in certain regions of the new nation, and in part from the distrust in the American democratic republican temperament for episcopacy and apostolic succession. Hobart vigorously defended both, declaring that amidst “the agitations of error and enthusiasm” and “the conflicts of heresy and schism”, the Church must maintain at all hazards “her faith, her ministry, her order, her worship, in all her great distinctive principles” (from the sermon preached at the consecration of Bishop Henry Onderdonk of Pennsylvania). Candid in speech and fearless in controversy, a speaker and preacher of impassioned eloquence, Hobart was zealously devoted to the Gospel and to such causes as higher education and missions to the Oneida Indians. He was a man of personal integrity and of warm affections at a time when most men were emotionally reserved, even within their families.

Born in Philadelphia in 1775, Hobart completed his university education at Pennsylvania and Princeton in 1791 and was ordained to the diaconate in 1798 and to the presbyterate in 1801 by his longtime friend and mentor, William White, the bishop of Pennsylvania. After serving parishes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Long Island, Hobart became assistant minister of Trinity Church, New York City, in 1800. He was consecrated Assistant Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New York in 1811. Five years later he succeeded Bishop Benjamin Moore, both as diocesan bishop and as rector of Trinity Church.

Hobart was indefatigable as a bishop. Within the first four years of his episcopate, Hobart doubled the number of his clergy and quadrupled the number of missionaries in his diocese. By his death, he had planted a church in almost every major town in New York and had opened missionary work among the Oneida Indians. He knew the clergy in his diocese intimately, remembered their families, forgave their failings and encouraged their strengths. He met weekly with his candidates for ordination and watched over them closely. His diocese covered nearly fifty thousand square miles, with most of the area west and north of Albany a virtual wilderness. He agreed to oversee the parishes of Connecticut when discord between their high church and low church factions prevented the election of a bishop and did so more thoroughly than any bishop had before. The diocese of New Jersey appealed to him when they were also without a bishop, and he provided oversight to them as well. He founded Geneva College, renamed Hobart College in 1852. He was one of the founders of the General Theological Seminary in New York City, becoming Professor of Theology in 1821 and, as bishop, he served as the seminary’s governor. All this he did while also serving as rector of Trinity Church.

A strong and unbending upholder of Church standards, Hobart established the Bible and Common Prayer Book Society of New York and was one of the first American churchmen to produce theological and devotional manuals for the laity. These “tracts”, as they were called, and the personal impression he made on the occasion of a visit to Oxford, were an influence on the development of the Tractarian Movement in England.

Suffering long from an illness that required occasional retirement from his work for rest and recuperation, likely a bleeding ulcer or a chronic enteric infection, Hobart died at Auburn, New York, on September 12, 1830. His funeral was attended by the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City, and the funeral procession numbered some three thousand mourners. He was interred beneath the chancel of Trinity Church, Wall Street.

One of his extant sermons reveals what he believed and preached about the illuminating power of the Gospel:

Blessed light of the Gospel, sent in mercy from the eternal Father of lights; we behold in thy revelations, (divine truth shining forth resplendent and glorious,)–the infinite and eternal Jehovah, arrayed in attributes the most illustrious and attractive, commanding, from the throne of righteous dominion, our enlightened homage and obedience; we behold a divine Saviour making a full propitiation for man’s guilt, restoring the offender to the favour of his God, and preparing for the heir of sin and death the bliss of an immortal existence…

My brethren, the light of the glorious Gospel relieves us from these doubts and fears that would alloy all our virtuous joys. Let us often reflect with gratitude on the inestimable gift; on the exalted privilege of being called to the knowledge of God, of Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom to know is life eternal. Let us not obstruct, by the pride or presumption of human reason, or by impenitence and sin, the illuminating efficacy of the light of the Gospel on our hearts. Humble, submissive, penitent, and obedient, let us seek, by fervent prayer, that divine illumination and grace by which our faith will daily become more strong and triumphant, and our obedience daily more sincere and holy, until our faith shall terminate in the vision of the transcendent brightness of the divine glory, and our obedience in the rewards of perfect and eternal bliss.

( from Sermon 1, “The Illuminating Power of the Gospel“, Parochial Sermons in The Posthumous Works of the Late Right Reverend John Henry Hobart, D.D., Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New-York, 1832.)

 

prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980) and other sources

The Collect

Revive your Church, Lord God of hosts, whenever it falls into complacency and sloth, by raising up devoted leaders like your servant John Henry Hobart whom we remember today; and grant that their faith and vigor of mind may awaken your people to your message and their mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

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Constance, Nun, and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Memphis, 1878

Like much of the American South, the city Memphis in western Tennessee suffered periodic epidemics of yellow fever. The worst of these occurred in the summer of 1878, when over five thousand people died and the fast-growing city on the Mississippi River lost its charter because of the depopulation associated with the epidemic.

Five years earlier, a group of nuns from the recently formed Episcopalian order of the Sisters of St Mary (now the Community of St Mary) had been invited by Bishop Charles Todd Quintard to take over the operation of St Mary’s School for Girls in Memphis. When the epidemic struck in 1878, almost everyone who had the means to do so fled the city. A number of priests and nuns, both Anglican and Roman Catholic, and physicians remained behind to tend the sick and dying, despite the high risk of contracting the disease. Most of those who remained behind, thirty-eight in all, succumbed to the disease and died. The superior of the Sisters of St Mary, Sister Constance, three other members of the community (Sisters Thecla, Ruth, and Frances), and two Episcopal priests, Charles Carroll Parsons and Louis Sandford Schuyler, were among those who died. They are commemorated together on this day as the Martyrs of Memphis for the selfless sacrifice of their lives in service to others.

In a sermon “preached upon the Occasion of a Eucharistic Commemoration of the Clergy and Sisters Who Fell Victims to the Fever in the South” by the Revd Mr J. Jay Joyce on All Saints Day, 1878, we read these words, which summarize well the doctrine of the communion of the saints to which this sanctoral weblog hopes to bear witness:

How was it that She thus extended the boundaries of Her household? It followed from that intense conviction of the truth of the Communion of Saints, which was one of the glories of the Primitive Church, as the loss of it is one of the sad shortcomings of Protestantism. The Catholic Church loses not her members who depart hence in the Lord. This truth we confess in the Creed, and All Saints’ Day confirms and preserves it. And if this is so, then surely from the Altar, which is the centre of the Church’s worship, and from the Offering, Thence proceeds the centripetal force that holds together the whole body of the faithful, we should not cut off those members that have been rendered the more comely by their devotion and present nearness to the Head. So thought and acted the Early Church, when in Her liturgy She always found room for the extended commemoration of which we spoke of the faithful departed. So think and act we to-day, as we commemorate these martyr Priests and Sisters, believing that our liturgy in its church militant prayer still retains a remnant of the same memorial. This, then, is the meaning of our service; as the high Priest of old entered into the holiest of holies, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraven upon his breast, so to-day the celebrant Priest and we participants enter into a yet holier place, where, instead of a symbolical shekinah, there will rest the Real mysterious Presence of our Lord, and in our hearts we are to bear the thought of all the saints from righteous Abel unto this day, but especially, and in a more vivid manner, these latest additions to their number, who from their posts of duty in the plague stricken cities have gone to the rest of Paradise. Our service means, also, that we prepare upon this high day a Sacrifice and a feast, to which we invite these martyred saints; and we invite them, not in our individual capacity, but in the name of Christ’s Church, in which they died, and in which they live forever. And we believe that in some way, though incomprehensible to us, yet in some way, they can and will accept, and will share it with us.

There is need to say but few words upon the use of our service as distinct from its meaning. Every Eucharistic Offering binds together the faithful, from the beginning to the end of time; it is retrospective and prospective; it proclaims the solidarity of the saints, and of the Household of God. And one of its uses is to show that in the Church of God one may find that immortality after which men have so vainly sought—”the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.” “Men may come, and men may go,” but the Church with Her constant commemorations of all that are Hers passes not away with the generations, and will not be blotted out with the stars; and the persuasion of this helps men to suffer and be strong, “to count not their lives dear unto themselves, that they may finish their course with joy.” And again, while the world is yet admiring the humanity and courage of these our brethren who have died for their fellow men, we have a special commemoration of them, so that, if possible, we may draw the attention of men from the world that so soon forgets to the Church that will keep Her own forever. And there may be a greater use than any other. Who can tell how far those “other benefits of His passion” may reach which we pray that we, and all His whole Church may obtain, or say that that Christ who went and preached to the spirits in prison, may not, by virtue of the pleading of His Great Sacrifice, affect His saints in Paradise to the increase of their bliss and glory?

The Collect

We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death: Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The icon of Constance and Her Companions was written by Tobias Stanislas Haller, BSG, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

The propers for the commemoration of Constance, Nun, and her Companions are published on the website of the Lectionary Page.

More documents, including commemorative sermons, on the Martyrs of Memphis may be found online at the Project Canterbury website, including the sermon quoted above.

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The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In the second century, apocryphal “gospels” known as the Protoevangelium of James and The Nativity of Mary appeared, compiled by devout Christians seeking to supply a fuller account of the Virgin Mary’s birth and family. The books include legendary stories of Mary’s parents Joachim and Anna that are built out of the Old Testament narratives of the births of Isaac and of Samuel (whose mother’s name, Hannah, is the original form of Anna), and from the traditions of the birth of John the Baptist. Joachim and Anna are presented as a childless, elderly couple whose faith and prayers were rewarded with the miraculous conception of a girl whom they dedicated in infancy to the service of God under the tutelage of the Temple priests.

As early as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Mary was regarded as the “new Eve”. In the East, where Andrew of Crete and John of Damascus asserted the sinlessness of Mary as implicit in the title Theotokos, the commemoration of her conception was known from the seventh century. The observance of the feast spread to the West and is attested in England by the first half of the eleventh century.

The earliest evidence for the commemoration of a feast of the nativity of the blessed Virgin Mary is from the sixth century, in a hymn for the feast composed by Romanus, a deacon and native of Emesa in Syria, and later associated with the Blachernae church in Constantinople, who composed his hymns between 536 and 556. The feast may have originated in Syria or Palestine at the beginning of the sixth century, when after the Council of Ephesus the veneration of the Theotokos intensified. The reason for the choosing of September 8 is uncertain, and given that we have earlier documentary evidence for the Nativity than for the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems that the latter was backdated from the former. The Church of Rome adopted the feast in the seventh century, and it is found in both the Gelasian and the Gregorian Sacramentaries. Given the pseudoepigraphal origins of the commemoration, the rest of the Western Church (in general more strictly biblical than the East) was slow to adopt it. It was likely not generally celebrated in Gaul (France) until the eighth and ninth centuries, and Fulbert, the bishop of Chartres (+1028) writes of its being of recent institution.

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the Conception of the Virgin Mary were restored to the sanctoral calendar of the 1662 Prayer Book.

The Collect

O God Most High, you endued with wonderful virtue and grace the blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord: Grant that we, who now call her blessed, may be made true members of the heavenly family of him who was pleased to be called the first-born among many brethren; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Collect is adapted from the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer.

The mosaic of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is taken from the mosaics in Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome (1296-1300), by Pietro Cavallini.

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Allen Gardiner, Missionary, Founder of the South American Missionary Society, 1851

Born in 1794 in Berkshire, Allen Francis Gardiner embarked on a naval career that in time saw him return to faith in Jesus Christ. After retirement from the Royal Navy, he served as a missionary among the Zulus of southern Africa and afterward turned his attention to the Southern Cone of South America, among the native peoples of Chile and Patagonia, thus providing the foundation for the South American Missionary Society, out of whose work grew the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone (Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America). Gardiner died in September 1851, when he and six missionary companions succumbed to starvation on a desolate beach in Patagonia.

A biographical sketch of Gardiner’s life and ministry may be found at the Faith2Share website.

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant Allen Gardiner, whom you called to be your instrument in beginning a great work among the Yaghan people, after whom you raised up other laborers for the harvest. Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom, that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The South American Missionary Society (SAMS) is still a thriving missionary organization, with subsidiary societies in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and the United States.

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Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 687

The most popular saint of the pre-Conquest English Church, Cuthbert was born of a fairly well-to-do Anglo-Saxon family about the year 625. Bede the Venerable, whose Life of Cuthbert provides most of what we know about the saint, writes that when Cuthbert was away in the hills looking after a flock of sheep, one night after his companions had gone to sleep he was keep watching and praying, he suddenly saw “light streaming from the skies, breaking the long night’s darkness, and the choirs of the heavenly host coming down to earth. They quickly took into their ranks a human soul, marvelously bright, and returned to their home above.” Cuthbert was instantly moved by this vision to give himself to spiritual discipline, and began thanking God and exhorting his companions to praise God as well. The next day, on hearing that Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne had died, Cuthbert committed himself to the monastic life.

Cuthbert entered Melrose Abbey in 651 and was trained in the austere ways of Celtic monasticism. With the abbot Eata he moved to Ripon to start a monastery on estates given by King Oswiu’s son Alcfrith, but Alcfrith insisted on the adoption of Roman customs, and the Melrose monks retired. Cuthbert became prior of Melrose around 661, and during the next few years he undertook missionary journeys of the neighboring lands, preaching the Gospel to those who had gone astray. Bede writes that “such was his skill in teaching, such his power of driving his lessons home, and so gloriously did his angelic countenance shine forth, that none dared keep back from him even the closest secrets of their heart.” Cuthbert “made a point of searching out those steep rugged places in the hills which other preachers dreaded to visit because of their poverty and squalor. This, to him, was a labor of love. He was so keen to preach that sometimes he would be away for a whole week or a fortnight, or even a month, living with the rough hill folk, preaching and calling them heavenwards by his example.”

After the Synod of Whitby in 663 and 664, he submitted to the synod’s decision and adopted Roman customs. At Eata’s direction, he became prior at Lindisfarne, where by his patient persistence he won the monks from Celtic customs to those decided upon at Whitby, becoming a focus of unity for the Church in northern England at a time when its customs were being brought into conformity with those of Rome and the rest of the Western Church. His zeal for prayer was such that sometimes he would keep vigil for three or four nights at a stretch, driving away the heaviness of sleep by doing manual work or by walking about the island, inquiring how everything was getting on. A diligent pastor, Bede writes that “his thirst for righteousness made him quick to reprove wrong-doers, but his gentleness made him speedy to forgive penitents. Often as they were pouring out their sins he would be the first to burst into tears, tears of sympathy with their weakness, and, though he had no need, would show them how to make up for their sins by doing the penance himself.”

Cuthbert lived as a hermit on a little island adjacent to Lindisfarne, cut off from the main island at high tide, and in 676 he relinquished the office of prior, withdrawing to Inner Farne, in order to live in almost complete solitude. By 685, his holiness and other qualities had become so widely known that King Egfrith of Northumbria and Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury chose him as bishop of Hexham. Almost immediately, he exchanged this see with (now Bishop) Eata for that of Lindisfarne. Once again, his pastoral and missionary zeal was expressed in preaching, teaching, and visiting his diocese, and he was also reputed to have the charisms of prophecy and of healing.

He died on Inner Farne on March 20, 687 and was buried at Lindisfarne. Eleven years later, when his body was elevated to a new shrine, its incorruption was discovered, and from that time onwards it was the object of special veneration. After the Danes destroyed Lindisfarne in 875, several members of its monastic community traveled around northern England and southwestern Scotland with the shrine and relics, seeking a safe home for them. Resting for some years in Norham-on-Tweed, Ripon, and Chester-le-Street, their eventual home was Durham, which they reached in 995. A Saxon church was built over the shrine, and the saint’s relics were translated into it in 999. His shrine remains a prominent part of Durham Cathedral to this day.

prepared from The Oxford Dictionary of Saints,
Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980),
and The Life of Cuthbert (Bede the Venerable, trans. J.F. Webb, Penguin Books)

The Collect

Almighty God, you called Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of your people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from your ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The propers for the commemoration of Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne, are published on the Lectionary Page website.

The icon of Saint Cuthbert was written by and is © Aidan Hart, and is reproduced here with his generous permission.

Because in this sanctoral calendar, the commemoration of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, falls on March 20, Cuthbert is commemorated on the date of the translation of his relics, September 4. This date is provided as an alternative for his commemoration in the sanctoral calendar of the Church of England as well.

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