Aelfflaed, daughter of King Oswiu, sister of King Ecgfrith, half-sister of King Aldfrith, was some 20 years younger than Cuthbert. She had been given to Abbess Hilda of Hartlepool at the age of one by her father in thanksgiving for a victory in battle. She was known for her skill in surgery and care for her patients. She had a special affection for Cuthbert, as he appears to have had for her – like spiritual father and daughter. In this story, Cuthbert has her in mind while praying on his solitary Farne, and senses her severe pain and need in response to her unspoken prayers. He sends his cincture, the rope girdle from around his waist, and through this gracious communication and listening to the Spirit, God’s healing is wrought. This is the Body of Christ at work.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” Jesus’ words ring out down the centuries, posing an ever greater challenge that rinses the ear. Monasticism was, of course, the Christian community’s response to this call from the earliest days in the opening chapters of the Book of Acts. Perhaps it still is.