Mid Week Reflection – Cuthbert

Cuthbert (633-687)

We are fortunate to have the writings of the Venerable Bede who wrote about the life of Cuthbert. It is probable that Cuthbert was born in Melrose (Scotland) in 633. As a young man, living close to Melrose Abbey, he may have been influenced by the lives and teaching of the monks. Tradition has it that in his late teens he was caring for a neighbour’s sheep and when gazing at the night sky he had a vision. The vision was that of a soul being carried to heaven. The following day he heard of the death of St Aiden, the first Bishop of Lindisfarne.

Cuthbert became a novice at the Abbey at Melrose, also founded by Aiden. Cuthbert was well known for his devotion to the church and acts of healing. He became prior at Melrose Abbey, he spent time in Ripon before moving to Lindisfarne.
In 663-664 there was the Synod of Whitby which led to a major change in Christianity in the north of England. See separate foot note.
After a time on Lindisfarne, he sought a period out of the spotlight as a hermit on an adjoining islet, now known as St Cuthbert’s Isle. This was not a successful move – such was his popularity he came out of retirement and became Bishop of Lindisfarne. He was to make another break and returned to the life of a hermit on the island of Inner Farne where he died in 687.
*Stained Glass Window St Michael Church, Workington Andy V Byers – Wikimedia Commons

Cuthbert: The Saint Whose Journey Continued After Death (digventures.com)

While Cuthbert’s contribution to northern Christianity is noted, and he had a wider importance, however he will be remembered almost as much for his travels after his death.
His travels started when his body was exhumed in 698 when the threat of Viking invasion was a reality. The monks exhumed Cuthbert’s body to find that it had it had not decayed.

The sequences of Cuthbert’s post death travels are broadly these:
875 the monks evacuated the abbey at Lindisfarne with the Cuthbert’s remains due to the threat of Viking invasion
For seven years the monks carried it with them to a number of locations in modern day Scotland and Northumbria.
The monks settled in Chester-le-Street
995 the monks under a threat of another invasion move Cuthbert’s remains again to a final resting place in Durham

There are many myths and legends around the life of Cuthbert which are worth reading.

Photo Lynne and Brian Williamson
The photo is that of is a wooden sculpture, carved from seven elm trees, by Fenwick Lawson (1999) and marked the ‘Journey’ that the Monks and Cuthbert took before settling in Durham.
See co-curate.ncl.ac.uk or stcuthbertsfinaljourney.com for more information.


Synod of Whitby 663/664
This Synod held at Whitby Abbey which was one of the most important religious centres. It was led by Hilda and was open to men and women. The Synod was important inasmuch that it set the future course of Christianity within England. It focussed on a few differences in practice between the Celtic and Roman forms of Christianity, they were essentially the same, there were some variations in practice.
Celtic practices were largely located in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and parts of the North of England and Cornwall. It was established by the early Celtic Christians
Roman practices had their roots in the south east of England and had spread out from Canterbury and the mission of Augustine.
The outcome of the Synod was that the date of Easter would be fixed following the Roman formula in England.

English Heritage has a web page, type ‘English Heritage Synod of Whitby’ and it should take you the page which has an informative piece. Well worth a read

+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire or deserve:
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
(Common Worship Collect for the 12th Sunday of Trinity)

The Word of the Lord
(Verses from the readings from those set for the 12th Sunday of Trinity)

Psalm 84 (1-3,9-10,12)
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! • My soul has a desire and longing to enter the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young: • at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
Blessed are they who dwell in your house: • they will always be praising you.
For one day in your courts • is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God • than dwell in the tents of ungodliness.
O Lord God of hosts, • blessed are those who put their trust in you.


Ecclesiasticus (3.17-29)

My child, perform your tasks with humility; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.
The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord.
For great is the might of the Lord; but by the humble he is glorified.
Neither seek what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power.
Reflect upon what you have been commanded, for what is hidden is not your concern.
Do not meddle in matters that are beyond you, for more than you can understand has been shown to you.
For their conceit has led many astray, and wrong opinion has impaired their judgement.

Without eyes there is no light; without knowledge there is no wisdom.
A stubborn mind will fare badly at the end, and whoever loves danger will perish in it.
A stubborn mind will be burdened by troubles, and the sinner adds sin to sins.
When calamity befalls the proud, there is no healing, for an evil plant has taken root in him.
The mind of the intelligent appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the desire of the wise.


The Celtic saints who we have come across over the last weeks were strong and resilient people. They had to be, but they often had the gift of humility. Through their strong and humble lives shared with others they pointed beyond themselves to the One that was the core of their life, Jesus Christ.

My child, perform your tasks with humility;
then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.
The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself;
so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord.

May joy be found in the little things –
a smile, a word, a pleasant stroll,
birdsong, laughter, flowers, sunshine,
in giving and receiving gifts,
and for ourselves a little treat,
time with the family and a space to rest.
In little things may joy be found. (John Birch)

Today, shall we make a fashion statement,
be bolder in choosing the clothes we wear.
Let’s choose Humility, Kindness, Gentleness,
Compassion, Patience.
Brands such as these don’t go out of fashion
and make a statement about their Creator
that words alone can’t do (John Birch)

God of constant mercy,
who sent your Son to save us:
remind us of your goodness,
increase your grace within us,
that our thankfulness may grow,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Alternative Collect for the 12th Sunday of Trinity)

Let us draw into our circle of prayer our:
Local church and its leaders
wider community

widening our circle to include:
those in government and positions of authority
those who are oppressed
those who are hungry and homeless
those who are ill
those facing death

Merciful Father, accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

The Lords Prayer

+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Blessed are those who, through action and not loud words, do the business of the Kingdom of God day by day, selflessly giving of time and talents, sharing God’s love in practical ways. Bless them, these your faithful servants, and all whose lives they touch today. (John Birch)

You may wish the finish this time of reflective prayer sitting silently and enjoying a peaceful moment or two. You may also think about listening to some music that has touched you or a favourite hymn or song. Enjoy these moments! God bless!

Derek Akker

* (Prayers from John Birch ‘Walking with God’ pages 90,97, Sunshine & Storm page 111)