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Morning Prayer with St Cuthbert

A series of 15-20 minute times of morning prayer to start the day with readings from the psalms, St Luke’s Gospel, a chapter from Bede’s Life of Cuthbert, and some prayers. They are intended to be listened to, and joined in with, rather than watched, but some may find the holy table and the cross, with the trees in the background (and an occasional dog!), a helpful focus.

There is normally a (somewhat shaky) nature background during the psalm and an image from the 12thC Bede’s ‘Life of St Cuthbert’ (Yates Thompson MS 26) during the reading for the relevant chapter. The pace is deliberately slow, to encourage contemplation, reflection, and supplication. If you are looking for something quick and amusing, you won’t find it here…

St Cuthbert is the Anglo-Saxon saint of northern England who lived in the 7th Century. He is renowned for his love of God, people and creation, especially animals, and wandered across the north of England from Lindisfarne and Jarrow to Carlisle and the Lakes as bishop before returning to his life of solitude on the island of Inner Farne, where he died at the age of 53. There are 46 chapters in Bede’s story of his life and so there are 46 morning prayers in the series.

We don’t know if Bede ever met Cuthbert (he was about 15 when Cuthbert died), but he knew many monks who did, and his stories are drawn from their recollections of him. Both Cuthbert and Bede are buried in Durham Cathedral, one at either end.

There is much we can learn from our Christian ancestors on this island – they had an immense respect for creation (not fear, as some claim). They saw themselves as part of the whole, but with a special responsibility to care for creation. This shines through in Cuthbert’s life. For example, when Cuthbert was hungry, he shared his food with the animals around him; when he was cold they warmed him; and when they were a nuisance he reprimanded them! In fact, the way in which animals and nature responded to the saints was one of the main ways of telling that that this was a true follower of Christ and blessed by God. But the saints also understood that the animals were equal inheritors of Christ’s work on the Cross. We see the same idea on the carved faces (iconography) of the Anglo-Saxon stone crosses of Bewcastle and Ruthwell on what is called ‘inhabited vinescroll’, where the beasts and birds share in the fruit of the vine (which, of course, is both Christ and the Church). Follow Cuthbert’s story here, and allow it’s slow pace to sink into your spirit…

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