Blood. Plasma, platelets, red and white blood cells, haemoglobin, antibodies, clotting factors, hormones, cholesterol. Blood of the vine. The juice of life. Only life begets life. All humans and other animals must eat other life to live, be that plant or animal. We only live because we consume the life of another. So all food is holy and every meal a sacrament. Therefore blood is consumed to give new life, a new covenant. And the broken body shared. Death to give life. The Passover Lamb, whose blood is painted on the lintels and posts, whose body is eaten while standing. The narrow escape from death in the night, from the screams of the slayer. The new beginning. This is our Christ.
Cuthbert has died. News of his death is relayed from Farne to Lindisfarne by torches, as the monks on both islands are singing Psalm 59 at Lauds. (This is psalm 59 in the Vulgate version of the Bible, the version translated into Latin by Jerome in the fourth century, and used throughout the Western Church at that time. In our modern version of the Bible it is psalm 60.) But Cuthbert’s death results in the fragmentation of the community, dissension and division. It seems the peace and concord between the Iona and Roman groups embodied in Cuthbert, and for which he longed and prayed, was too fragile to last without his wise hand at the tiller, until another godly leader was found in Eadberht, a year later.
Although Bede doesn’t say it, perhaps out of deference, it was Wilfred who took over the episcopal mantle for the year after Cuthbert’s death, and as he demonstrated at the Synod of Whitby, he was vehemently opposed to any hint of the Irish practices that still lingered in the old Irish monasteries, of which Lindisfarne was the principle. Neither was he noted for his grace towards others.
Cuthbert was buried in the church on Lindisfarne.