Welcome to a View from the Vicarage, as we walk through these days of darkness and lockdown together yet apart I want to share with you some of the brightest lights of the history of our own region, our Northern Saints and the way they coped with the darkness and looked to the light that is Jesus Christ as an inspiration to us all, today we look to St Aidan.
In order to understand St Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne we need to understand the background of Northumbria at the time.
In 635AD King Oswald after several successful battles was the undisputed King of the land and peoples from the Humber to the Firth of Forth. A charismatic and inspirational King with the Christian Faith at his heart Oswald sent for a person who could bring Christianity to his land, to preach the faith to his pagan subjects.
This did not go so well on the first attempt, it was an unfortunately short visit for Corman who returned stating the English ‘were ungovernable and of an obstinate and barbarous temperament’. The next to follow was Aiden who won over those who would select him by his words suggesting the Corman had been to harsh and “should have followed the practice of the Apostles, and begun by giving them the milk of simpler teaching, and gradually nourished them with the word of God.”
Aidan a native of Ireland and a monk of Hij was received by Oswald who made him Bishop of Lindisfarne. Aidan was a missionary Bishop, he not only preached on his many trips to the mainland but travelled far and wide to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of England.
Aidan shunned the opulence and luxury of the world and while Oswald lived at Bambrough Castle in all is glory and splendour Aidan preferred the simple monastic life of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as we know it now. Any presents offered to him by the king or other rich men would be distributed to the poor and he would rarely go to the kings table.
Venerable Bede remembers him for reproving the proud and the great, for a love of peace, charity and virtue, a humble servant of Jesus Christ.
In St Mary’s Churchyard on Holy Island stands Kathleen Parbury’s iconic statue of the bald headed saint in monk’s garb with a torch in his raised left hand and a bronze crook in the right. The torch in his left hand reminds us of a Bishop in dark times, times of war, times of poverty and disease who brought light to the darkness
William Merrel Voires wrote his hymn Let there be light, Lord God of hosts in 1908 which for me sums up not only that great mission and character of St Aidan but the inspiration we should take from him in our own times of darkness both personally and as a church in this nation and world of ours.
Let there be light, Lord God of hosts,
Let there be wisdom on the earth!
Let broad humanity have birth;
Let there be deeds instead of boasts.
Within our passioned hearts instill
The calm that endeth strain and strife;
Make us Thy ministers of life;
Purge us from lusts that curse and kill.
Give us the peace of vision clear
To see our brothers’ good our own,
To joy and suffer not alone –
The love that casteth out all fear!
Let woe and waste of warfare cease,
That useful labor yet may build
Its homes with love and laughter filled;
God, give Thy wayward children peace
I finish with the Collect (Prayer) for St Aidan:
Everlasting God, you sent the gentle bishop, Aidan to proclaim the gospel to the people of Northumbria: grant us to live as he taught in simplicity, humility and love for the poor; though 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. Amen
Your friend and Vicar