Lenten Prayer with St Cuthbert – Day 39

Preparing for the Pass-Over. The Passover lamb is to be sacrificed. This, the feast that defines the People of God. Lamb’s blood on the door lintels and pillars so the angel of death passes over. Tunics tucked into belts. Eat standing up. No time for the yeast to rise – bread unleavened. Bags packed. Flight. Be prepared. Go into the city. Look for a man carrying water. What? A man? An angel? Follow him. Find the master. Prepare. The past in the present. The present in the past. Time transcended. Each event a participation in the first. And Judas’ frustration boils over. But this time its different. A new lamb. A different lamb. A human lamb. But no-one sees it.

Not least Judas. Only God knows Judas’ heart. What went through his mind? When did the thrill of following Jesus turn sour? When did the soaring delight of seeing the lame leap, the blind ecstatic, the bereaved overjoyed, become ordinary for him? How had his ideas and dreams become so fixed and hardened that the Spirit couldn’t penetrate? Or was he just trying to force Jesus’ hand? He never intended the betrayal to end in execution. But after years of following Jesus, how had he not seen that reality lies in the realm of the spirit, that the political is a usurping echo of the real? But then again, neither had any of the other disciples Perhaps their vision just wasn’t as radical. A tortured soul. Only God, the lover, knows.

We have reached Cuthbert’s last night. This is the end. Or the beginning? Weak and frail, wracked with pain, struggling to breathe, to speak. Disintegrating and screaming muscles still under the command of an iron spirit, tempered by years of discipline. He spends his final, disease-ridden moments lying in the corner of his tiny oratory, opposite the altar. Herefrith is with him, and through the course of the day, coaxes some halting words as a final legacy. “Strive to ensure all your decisions are achieved with unanimity.” He receives the sacraments in the evening, and then, arms outstretched, releases his spirit. This is a holy death, in peace, pain, and virtual solitude, but with the unseen company of heaven present – Cuthbert is going home.

Medical examination of his remains in 1899 suggest his body was riddled with tuberculosis.

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