Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

By the year 600, Christianity had spread from
Palestine to parts of northern Europe. The zeal for Christ was very much present in the
people of the British Isles, despite their distance from the Holy Land. Many holy people
dwelled in what is now modern day England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. One such person
was Saint Cuthbert. Cuthbert was born in 634 in the kingdom of
Northumbria to an Anglo-Saxon family. He tended sheep in the southern uplands but also reveled
in youthful pranks and games with his fellows. Such games were in play when one day a three-year
old child foresaw the young Cuthbert’s saintly destiny. Upon witnessing the eight year old
Cuthbert’s foolish behavior the lad proclaimed, “O holy bishop and priest Cuthbert, these
unseemly stunts in order to show off your athletic ability do not become you or the
dignity of your office.” Cuthbert did not fully understand the prophetic words but accepted
them and amended his life in earnest, spending more time in prayer and solitude. This and other moments seemed to point the
way forward. Such as the day Cuthbert, still in his teens, walked along the River Tyne
and observed several monks on a raft being dangerously swept out to sea. Cuthbert knelt
in prayer until a strong gust of wind pushed the raft safely ashore, the rabble of onlookers
wrapped in astonishment. A few years later, Cuthbert kept watch over
his flock at night amid the Lammermuir Hills when suddenly he beheld the vision of a stream
of light in the sky, with angels rising to heaven and carrying aloft a globe of fire.
No doubt, he thought, the soul of a holy man or bishop is now departing. True, for at that
same moment, as he later learned, the holy Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne had fallen asleep
in the Lord. This revelation stirred Cuthbert and sealed
his decision to become a monk. He visited the monastery of Mailros, which lay on a bend
in the River Tweed and, like the monastery at Lindisfarne, was based on the Celtic model. At Mailros, there dwelled two who eventually
became saints, the abbot Eata and the prior Boisil. Boisil possessed great foresight and,
upon seeing Cuthbert for the first time, remarked, “Behold, a servant of the Lord.” Cuthbert
excelled at Mailros, being zealous in learning and prayer, remaining ever vigilant and obedient
for seven years. In 659, Eata, now bishop, asked Cuthbert to
assist him in establishing a monastery at Ripon. He appointed Cuthbert as guest master,
where it is said that Cuthbert once even entertained in the guesthouse an angel of the Lord who
was sent to test his devotion. Cuthbert also accompanied Bishop Eata on missionary
journeys meant to encourage the faithful and to preach the Gospel to those still in darkness.
Upon entering a town they drew many unto the Lord, speaking against the arcane and profane
ways of the past, against amulets, incantations, and assorted superstitions and instead preached
faith in Christ. Despite the growth of Celtic monasticism,
there were also monks in the kingdom who followed the practices of Rome. One such monk was St.
Wilfrid, who arrived at Ripon in 660 and imposed the Rule of St. Benedict. Eata, Cuthbert,
and several other monks preferred to remain under the Celtic rule and thus returned to
Mailros. Soon after Cuthbert’s return to Mailros,
Boisil foresaw his own death due to the plague. He asked Cuthbert to spend seven days with
him in the study of the Gospel of John. Here, they spoke simply about the scriptures even
while Boisil revealed to Cuthbert things to come, including Cuthbert’s appointment as
bishop which occurred over twenty years later. After Boisil’s passing, Cuthbert replaced
him as the abbot of Mailros. Now in his thirties, Cuthbert doubled his
ascetic efforts in an effort to draw closer to God. He continued his missionary
journeys as well. One such trip saw him travel to the double monastery of Coldingham upon
the request of the Abbess. He visited and opened up to them the path of righteousness,
as much by his deeds as by his words. In the evening, Cuthbert descended the cliffs and
headed toward the ocean, although not alone. A curious monk followed and observed Cuthbert
wading into the sea until the waves rose up to his neck. He spent the night in vigil,
singing praises to the sound of the waves. At dawn, he walked ashore and knelt in prayer,
while two otters came from the sea and fell prostrate at his feet, warming and drying
them before once again slipping into the sea. When the monk later confessed to Cuthbert what he witnessed, Cuthbert remarked, “I forgive you for watching on the sole condition
that you please tell no one what you witnessed until after my death.” Cuthbert also displayed remarkable foresight,
like the time he journeyed with his attendant who worried aloud that they were without food
at such a late hour. “Learn, my dear son,” Cuthbert remarked, “always to have faith
and trust in the Lord; for he who serves God faithfully never perishes of hunger.” He
then pointed to an eagle and said that it was even possible for such a bird to refresh
them if God wills it. Later, as they walked along the river they were met by an eagle
who, having caught a large fish from the river, left it at their feet. In 664, the debate over whether the kingdom
would follow Celtic or Roman practices was settled at the Synod of Whitby. The Bishops
decided that the church would calculate the date of Easter and perform monastic tonsure
in the manner of the Roman practice. Cuthbert, seeking peace and uniformity, encouraged the
Celtic monks to accept the decision and won many through his modesty and patience. Despite Cuthbert’s modesty, the people recognized
him as a wonder worker and genuine holy man. Saint Bede recorded many of these wonders
in his biography of Cuthbert. Yet after such a blameless active life, Cuthbert
yearned for the solitary life of divine contemplation. In 676, he retired to the remote island of
Inner Farne and built a small cell and guest house. He remained on these stony rocks in
near solitude for nine years, often spending whole nights in prayer. When he did receive
visitors, he cured them of their afflictions. His very countenance also excited them to
a love of virtue. Yet he always remembered the prophetic words of Boisil and knew that
he couldn’t remain in solitude forever. And so it was that in 684, Cuthbert was elected
bishop. Letters and messengers were sent to inform him of the synod’s decision, but
he refused to leave the island. Only after a visit from the king and bishop begging him
in the name of Christ to accept did he submit to the will of the synod. As bishop, Cuthbert
remained humble and avoided any excesses in his office. He devoted himself to his diocese,
preaching and working wonders among the people. After two years as bishop, Cuthbert sensed
the time of his death approaching. He laid aside his arch pastoral duties and retired
to the solitude of his cell on Inner Farne shortly after Christmas in 686. He prepared
his flock for their time without him, encouraging them to welcome visitors and offer hospitality,
and warning them to avoid heretics. After passing the evening of March 20th, 687
in prayer, Cuthbert sat up and received Holy Communion for the last time and then surrendered
his soul to God. The monks buried his body at Lindisfarne Monastery. Ten years later, they opened Cuthbert’s
tomb and discovered his relics to be incorrupt, a sign of his sanctity. Yet while they knew
him to be a fervent intercessor in heaven, his earthly remains were yet to find a final
place of rest. Viking invaders destroyed the Lindisfarne monastery a century later save
for the tomb of St. Cuthbert. The monks moved his body to sites throughout Northumbria over
the next hundred years in order to shield it from invaders, eventually settling in Durham
in the late 900s where it rested with many other saints of his time. The tomb was opened
again on August 24, 1104, and the incorrupt and fragrant relics were placed in a newly-completed
cathedral. By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, reports
spread about Saint Cuthbert curing nobles and paupers, lay and religious, from across
England and Scotland. A collection of treasures is displayed in the museum of Durham Cathedral,
including his iconic pectoral cross. Cuthbert’s image and symbols are displayed in the British
Isles even today. Many schools are named after him, and several Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant
churches have taken him as their patron saint. Because of his love for God’s creation,
there is even a species of duck known as the Cuddy Duck named after him. Saint Cuthbert is not well known outside of
the United Kingdom, but those who have heard his story cannot help but be inspired by his
love for and dedication to God. Saint Cuthbert provides us the perfect example of a man who
took seriously God’s calling and who devoted himself toward the service of God, his flock,
and his fellow man.

25 Replies to “Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne”

  1. God bless you for posting this! It was so fascinating! Can you make more videos on the holy saints of the British Isles?

  2. Dud Protestant churches don't believe in saints every Protestant denomination does not believe in saints or cuthbert

  3. So this was the pious guy all the amllets wanna be like, on his knees day and night, scor'n points for the afterlife. So don't be vain, and don't be whiney, or my brotha he might have to get midevil on your hynney. lol

  4. This is truly an inspirational video. Very informative, especially not knowing much of the saints of the British Isles

  5. I work as a tour guide and would be willing to do a tour based on his life, journeying from Edinburgh down through the Lammermuirs to Melrose then Lindisfarne finishing at his tomb in Durham cathedral, as is Bede's. It may not sound a lot but it would be a very long day. Trust me I know, as I was down that way only today!
    Oh and I've heard the eagle and fish story attributed to St Mungo of Glasgow

  6. Thank you for posting this lovely, moving video. St Cuthbert is inspirational and it is a fitting tribute to him. God bless you 🌻

  7. The script was co-written by 'Micahel Gavalas'… could this be my former beloved physics student from Manhasset from many years ago???

  8. One Greek blog dedicated to the Orthodox Celtic and Anglosaxon saints

  9. Thank you so much for putting this together. Pray for my wife and I as we visit St. Cuthbert in Durham this summer. 

    Also, I have some similar recordings on my channel. Listen if you are interested. Christ is Risen!

  10. Despite the ravages of the so called reformation, we still have many relics of British Orthodox saints. Sadly, most remain ignored in the possession of the Anglican church. By the grace of God, one, Saint Edward the martyr has been restored the Orthodox Church and is housed in the monastic community of Saint Edward the Martyr in Surrey.

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