The View from the Vicarage: Light in the Darkness – St Hilda

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 Hilda.

Hilda was born in 614 and was of the Royal House of Northumbria being baptised in York by St Paulinus. She received significant encouragement by St Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne and at the age of 33 turned to the religious life.  Hilda was responsible for establishing two monasteries, the first at Hartlepool and the second in Whitby.  Of that monastery five men later became bishops including John of Beverley and Wilfrid of York.

Whitby Abbey became a great seat of learning as well as the meeting place of the Synod of Whitby in in 664 where our very own St Wilfrid fought for church unity. Hilda was a celt in her own religious beginnings but one of her significant accomplishments was to reconcile others of her tradition to the decision of the Synod to follow Roman not Celtic customs as a symbol of unity.

Hilda is noted as a great educator and teacher and that shone in her nurturing of St Caedmon a herder at her monastery in his gift of song. She was described by The venerable Bede as a woman of great energy, as well as teaching she was a skilled administrator and manager, Hilda gained a reputation for wisdom that was sought by Kings and Princes, St Bede wrote “All who knew her called her mother because of her outstanding devotion and grace”

It is said in Whitby that as the sea birds fly over the abbey they dip their wings in honour of St Hilda. Hilda shone brightly as a light in the darkness, a light that inspired men and women to join and perfect the religious life of prayer and solitude, a light that still inspires educators and culture to this day.

As we look to the example set by Hilda we must be inspired by her wisdom and, care and skills. As we minister to others in these days we can take hope from the great Abbess of Whitby and pray for a portion of her devotion and her Grace. Hilda was given gifts by God which she used in his name for the building of his kingdom, we too must follow her in using the gifys we have to bring light and inspiration to others.

In 1874 the Hymnwriter Frances Havergal wrote these words which I have chosen today in response to the inspirational life of Hilda of Whitby.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I finish with the collect (prayer) for St Hilda:

Eternal God, who made the Abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land and through her holiness and leadership blessed your church with new life and unity: help us, like her. To year for the gospel of Christ and to reconcile those who are divided; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Your friend and Vicar


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