Nearer to Christ

Daily Reading for March 2 • Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, 672

Another side of this understanding of the burial of the saints is the respect of the Anglo-Saxons for the bones of the ‘new’ saints and the accounts of miracles at their tombs. The converts buried their dead to await the resurrection rather than burning them, and beside these bones the poor and sick were healed. The healing power of prayer continued even more strongly in the place where the earthly remains lay, already impregnated with the resurrection life. The gate was not entirely closed when the saints had passed through. Healing and blessing are bestowed, messages come back, and saints come at death for each other. For instance, Cedd was seen to come and lead back to heaven his brother Chad at his death. It was their conviction that those who died were nearer to Christ and therefore more able to help others; the means were hidden and such things were called miracles and signs.

The great cloud of witnesses was still close at hand and could be asked to intervene in earthly affairs. . . . The point of accounts of posthumous miracles of the saints was to show that in patria they did not abandon those still in via. Those closer to Christ shared more in his power of love, not less, and miracles of love and grace and healing continued through death. This sense of the household of God on earth and in heaven was especially attractive to the Anglo-Saxons in their entry into this new religion; here their existing sense of the value of the kin-group was given a new and lasting dimension.

From High King of Heaven: Aspects of Early English Spirituality by Benedicta Ward SLG (Mowbray, 1999).

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