The Northern Way

Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation

BOOK V

CHAPTER I

HOW ETHELWALD, SUCCESSOR TO CUTHBERT, LEADING AN EREMITICAL LIFE, CALMED A TEMPEST WHEN THE BRETHREN WERE IN DANGER AT SEA. [A.D. 687.]

THE venerable Ethelwald, who had received the priesthood in the monastery of Inhrypum, and had, by actions worthy of the same, sanctified his holy office, succeeded the man of God, Cuthbert, in the exercise of a solitary life, having practiced the same before he Was bishop, in the isle of Fame. For the more certain demonstration of the life which he led, and his merit, I will relate one miracle of his, which was told me by one of these brothern for and on whom the same was wrought: viz. Guthfrid, the venerable servant and priest of Christ, who, afterwards, as abbot, presided over the brethren of the same church of Lindisfarne, in which he had been educated.

"I came," says he, "to the island of Farne, with two others of the brethren, to speak with the most reverend father, Ethelwald. Having been refreshed with his discourse, and taken his blessing, as we were returning home, on a sudden, when we were in the midst of the sea, the fair weather which was wafting us over was checked, and there ensued so great and dismal a tempest, that neither the sails nor oars were of any use to us, nor had we anything to expect but death. After long struggling with the wind and waves to no effect, we looked behind us to see whether it was practicable at least to recover the island from whence we came, but we found ourselves on all sides so enveloped in the storm, that there was no hope of escaping. But looking out as far as we could see, we observed, on the island of Farne, Father Ethelwald, beloved of God, come out of his cavern to watch our course; for, hearing the noise of the storm and raging sea, he was come out to see what would become of us. When he beheld us in distress and despair, he bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in prayer for our life and safety; upon which, the swelling sea was calmed, so that the storm eased on all sides, and a fair wind attended us to the very shore. When we had landed, and had dragged upon the shore the small vessel that brought us, the storm, which had ceased a short time for our sake, immediately returned, and raged continually during the whole day; so that it plainly appeared that the brief cessation of the storm had been granted from Heaven at the request of the man of God, in order that we might escape."

The man of God remained in the isle of Farne twelve years, and died there; but was buried in the church of St. Peter and Paul, in the isle of Lindisfarne, beside the bodies of the aforesaid bishops. These things happened in the days of King Alfred, who ruled the nation of the Northumbrians eighteen years after his brother Egfrid.

CHAPTER II

HOW BISHOP JOHN CURED A DUMB MAN BY BLESSING HIM. [A.D. 685.]

IN the beginning of the aforesaid reign, Bishop Eata died, and was succeeded in the prelacy of the church of Hagulstad by John, a holy man, of whom those that familiarly knew him are wont to tell many miracles; and more particularly, the reverend Berthun, a man of undoubted veracity, and once his deacon, now abbot of the monastery called Inderawood, that is, in the wood of the Deiri: some of which miracles we have thought fit to transmit to posterity. There is a certain building in a retired situation, and enclosed by a narrow wood and a trench, about a mile and a half from the church of Hagulstad, and separated from it by the river Tyne, having a burying-place dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, where the man of God used frequently, as occasion offered, and particularly in Lent, to reside with a few companions. Being come thither once at the beginning of Lent, to stay, he commanded his followers to find out some poor person laboring under any grievous infirmity, or want, whom he might keep with him during those days, by way of alms, for so he was always used to do.

There was in a village not far off, a certain dumb youth, known to the bishop, for he often used to come into his presence to receive alms, and had never been able to speak one word. Besides, he had so much scurf and scabs on his head, that no hair ever grew on the top of it, but only some scattered hairs in a circle round about. The bishop caused this young man to be brought, and a little cottage to be made for him within the enclosure of the dwelling, in which he might reside, and receive a daily allowance from him. When one week of Lent was over, the next Sunday he caused the poor man to come in to him, and ordered him to put his tongue out of his mouth and show it him; then laying hold of his chin, he made the sign of the cross on his tongue, directing him to draw it back into his mouth and to speak. "Pronounce some word," said he; "say yea," which, in the language of the Angle's is the word of affirming and consenting, that is, yes. The youth's tongue was immediately loosed, and he said what he was ordered. The bishop, then pronouncing the names of the letters, directed him to say A; he did so, and afterwards B, which he also did. When he had named all the letters after the bishop, the latter proceeded to put syllables and words to him, which being also repeated by him, he commanded him to utter whole sentences, and he did it. Nor did he cease all that day and the next night, as long as he could keep awake, as those who were present relate, to talk something, and to express his private thoughts and will to others, which he could never do before; after the manner of the cripple, who, being healed by the Apostles Peter and John, stood up leaping, and that walked, and went with them into the temple, walking, and skipping, and praising the Lord, rejoicing to have the use of his feet, which he had so long wanted. The bishop, rejoicing at his recovery of speech, ordered the physician to take in hand the cure of his scurfed head. He did so, and with the help of the bishop's blessing and prayers, a good head of hair grew as the flesh was healed. Thus the youth obtained a good aspect, a ready utterance, and a beautiful head of hair, whereas before he had been deformed, poor, and dumb. Thus rejoicing at his recovery,' the bishop offered to keep him in his family, but he rather chose to return home.

CHAPTER III

THE SAME BISHOP, JOHN, BY HIS PRAYERS, HEALED A SICK MAIDEN. [A.D. 686.]

THE same Berthun told another miracle of the bishop's. When the reverend Wilfrid, after a long banishment, was admitted to the bishopric of the church of Hagulstad, and the aforesaid John, upon the death of Bosa, a man of great sanctity and humility, was, in his place, appointed bishop of York, he came, once upon a time, to the monastery of Virgins, at the place called Wetadun, where the Abbess Hereberga then presided. "When we were come thither," said he, "and had been received with great and universal joy, the abbess told us, that one of the virgins, who was her daughter in the flesh, labored under a grievous distemper, having been lately bled in the arm, and whilst she was engaged in study, was seized with a sudden violent pain, which increased so that the wounded arm became worse, and so much swelled, that it could not be grasped with both hands; and thus being confined to her bed, through excess of pain, she was expected to die very soon. The abbess entreated the bishop that he would vouchsafe to go in and give her his blessing; for that she believed she would be the better for his blessing or touching her. He asked when the maiden had been bled? and being told it was on the fourth day of the moon, said, 'You did very indiscreetly and unskillfully to bleed her on the fourth day of the moon; for I remember that Archbishop Theodore, of blessed memory, said, that bleeding at that time was very dangerous, when the light of the moon and the tide of the ocean is increasing; and what can I do to the girl if she is like to die?

"The abbess still earnestly entreated for her daughter, whom she dearly loved, and designed to make abbess in her stead, and at last prevailed with him to go in to her. He accordingly went in, taking me with him to the virgin, who lay, as I said, in great anguish, and her arm swelled so fast that there was no bending of the elbow; the bishop stood and said a prayer over her, and having given his blessing, went out. Afterwards, as we were sitting at table, some one came in and called me out, saying, 'Coenberg' (that was the virgin's name) 'desires you will immediately go back to her.' I did so, and entering the house, perceived her countenance more cheerful, and like one in perfect health. Having seated myself down by her, she said, 'Would you like me to call for something to drink?' - 'Yes,' said I, 'and am very glad if you can.' When the cup was brought, and we had both drunk, she said, 'As soon as the bishop had said the prayer, given me his blessing, and gone out, I immediately began to mend; and though I have not yet recovered my former strength, yet all the pain is quite gone from my arm, where it was most intense, and from all my body, as if the bishop had carried it away with him; though the swelling of the arm still seems to remain.' When we departed from thence, the cure of the pain in her limbs was followed by the assuaging of the swelling; and the virgin being thus delivered from torture and death, returned praise to our Lord and Savior, with his other servants who were there."

CHAPTER IV

THE SAME BISHOP HEALED AN EARL'S WIFE THAT WAS SICK, WITH HOLY WATER. [A.D. 686.]

THE same abbot related another miracle, similar to the former, of the aforesaid bishop. "Not very far from our monastery, that is, about two miles off, was the country. house of one Puch, an earl, whose wife had languished near forty days under a very acute disease, insomuch that for three weeks she could not be carried out of the room where she lay. It happened that the man of God was, at that time, invited thither by the earl to consecrate a church; and When that was done, the earl desired him to dine at his house. The bishop declined, saying, 'He must return to the monastery, which was very near.' The earl, pressing him more earnestly, vowed he would also give alms to the poor, if the bishop would break his fast that day in his house. I joined my entreaties to his, promising in like manner to give alms for the relief of the poor, if he would go and dine at the earl's house, and give his blessing. Having at length, with much difficulty, prevailed, we went in to dine. The bishop had sent to the woman that lay sick some of the holy water, which he had blessed for the consecration of the church, by one of the brothers that went along with me, ordering him to give her some to drink, and wash the place where her greatest pain was, with some of the same. This being done, the woman immediately got up in health, and perceiving that she had not only been delivered from her tedious distemper, but at the same time recovered the strength which she had lost, she presented the cup to the bishop and to us, and continued serving us with drink as she had begun till dinner was over; following the example of Peter's mother-in-law, who, having been sick of a fever, arose at the touch of our Lord, and having at once received health and strength, ministered to them."

CHAPTER V

THE SAME BISHOP RECOVERED ONE OF THE EARL'S SERVANTS FROM DEATH. [A.D. 686.]

AT another time also, being called to consecrate Earl Addi's church, when he had performed that duty, he was entreated by the earl to go in to one of his servants, who lay dangerously ill, and having lost the use of all his limbs, seemed to be just at death's door; and indeed the coffin had been provided to bury him in. The earl urged his entreaties with tears, earnestly praying that he would go in and pray for him, because his life was of great consequence to him; and he believed that if the bishop would lay his hand upon him and give him his blessing, he would soon mend. The bishop went in, and saw him in a dying condition, and the coffin by his side, whilst all that were present were in tears. He said a prayer, blessed him, and on going out, as is the usual expression of comforters, said, "May you soon recover." Afterwards, when they were sitting at table, the lad sent to his lord, to desire he would let him have a cup of wine, because he was thirsty. The earl, rejoicing that he could drink, sent him a cup of wine, blessed by the bishop; which, as soon as he had drunk, he immediately got up, and, shaking off his late infirmity, dressed himself, and going in to the bishop, saluted him and the other guests, saying, "He would also eat and be merry with them." They ordered him to sit down with them at the entertainment, rejoicing at his recovery. He sat down, ate and drank merrily, and behaved himself like the rest of the company; and living many years after, continued in the same state of health. The aforesaid abbot says this miracle was not wrought in his presence, but that he had it from those who were there.

CHAPTER VI

THE SAME BISHOP, BY HIS PRAYERS AND BLESSING, DELIVERED FROM DEATH ONE OF HIS CLERKS, WHO HAD BRUISED HIMSELF BY A FALL. [A.D. 686.]

NOR do I think that this further miracle, which Herebald, the servant of Christ, says was wrought upon himself, is to be passed over in silence. He was then one of that bishop's clergy, but now presides as abbot in the monastery at the mouth of the river Tyne. "Being present," said he, "and very well acquainted with his course of life, I found it to be most worthy of a bishop, as far as it is lawful for men to judge; but I have known by the experience of others, and more particularly by my own, how great his merit was before Him who is the judge of the heart; having been by his prayer and blessing brought back from the gates of death to the way of life. For, when in the prime of my youth, I lived among his clergy, applying myself to reading and singing, but not having yet altogether withdrawn my heart from youthful pleasures, it happened one day that as we were traveling with him, we came into a plain and open road, well adapted for galloping our horses. The young men that were with him, and particularly those of the laity, began to entreat the bishop to give them leave to gallop, and make trial of the goodness of their horses. He at first refused, saying, it was an idle request'; but at last, being prevailed on by the unanimous desire of so many, 'Do so,' said he, 'if you will, but let Herebald have no part in the trial.' I earnestly prayed that I might have leave to ride with the rest, for I relied on an excellent horse, which he had given me, but I could not obtain my request.

"When they had several times galloped backwards and forwards, the bishop and I looking on, my wanton humor prevailed, and I could no longer refrain, but though he forbade me, I struck in among them, and began to ride at full speed; at which I heard him call after me, 'Alas how much you grieve me by riding after that manner.' Though I heard him, I went on against his command; but immediately the fiery horse taking a great leap over a hollow place, I fell, and lost both sense and motion, as if I had been dead; for there was in that place a stone, level with the ground, covered with only a small turf, and no other stone to be found in all that plain; and it happened, as a punishment for my disobedience, either by chance, or by Divine Providence so ordering it, that my head and hand, which in falling I had clapped to my head, hit upon that stone, so that my thumb was broken and my skull cracked, and I lay, as I said, like one dead.

"And because I could not move, they stretched a canopy for me to lie in. It was about the seventh hour of the day, and having lain still, and as it were dead from that time till the evening, I then revived a little, and was carried home by my companions, but lay speechless all the night, vomiting blood, because something was broken within me by the fall. The bishop was very much grieved at my misfortune, and expected my death, for he bore me extraordinary affection. Nor would he stay that night, as he was wont, among his clergy; but spent it all in watching and prayer alone, imploring the Divine goodness, as I imagine, for my health. Coming to me in the morning early, and having said a prayer over me, he called me by my name, and as it were waking me out of a heavy sleep, asked, 'Whether I knew who it was that spoke to me? I opened my eyes and said, 'I do; you are my beloved bishop.' - 'Can you live?' said he. I answered, 'I may, Through your prayers, if it shall please our Lord.'

"He then laid his hand on my head, with the words of blessing, and returned to prayer; when he came again to see me, in a short time, he found me sitting and able to talk; and, being induced by Divine instinct, as it soon appeared, began to ask me, 'Whether I knew for certain that I had been baptized?' I answered, 'I knew beyond all doubt that I had been washed in the laver of salvation, to the remission of my sins, and I named the priest by whom I knew myself to have been baptized.' He replied, 'If you were baptized by that priest, your baptism is not perfect; for I know him, and that having been ordained priest, he could not, by reason of the dulness of his understanding, learn the ministry of catechizing and baptizing; for which reason I commanded him altogether to desist from his presumptuous exercising of the ministry, which he could not duly perform.' This said, he took care to catechize me at that very time; and it happened that he blew upon my face, on which I presently found myself better. He called the surgeon, and ordered him to close and bind up my skull where it was cracked; and having then received his blessing, I was so much better that I mounted on horseback the next day, and traveled with him to another place; and being soon after perfectly recovered, I received the baptism of life."

He continued in his see thirty-three years, and then ascending to the heavenly kingdom, was buried in St. Peter's Porch, in his own monastery, called Inderawood, in the year of our Lord's incarnation 721. For having, by his great age, become unable to govern his bishopric, he ordained Wilfrid, his priest, bishop of the church of York, and retired to the aforesaid monastery, and there ended his days in holy conversation.

 

Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page