Singing to the sound of the waves

Daily Reading for August 31 • Aidan, 651, and Cuthbert, 687, Bishops of Lindisfarne

On another occasion, Cuthbert was invited to worship with the community of men and women at the abbey of Coldingham, where Ebba was abbess. This monastery stood high on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea from which Lindisfarne could be seen far away in the south. One night, seeking time for quiet prayer, Cuthbert climbed down the cliffs, secretly followed by one of the brothers who was curious to see what he was up to. He saw Cuthbert wade into the sea until the water was up to his neck: there, with arms outstretched, he spent the night giving praise to God and singing to the sound of the waves. At daybreak, he returned to shore and began to pray again, kneeling on the beach. While he was doing this, two otters ran out of the sea and rubbed themselves against his legs and feet as if to dry them. Cuthbert blessed the creatures, before making his way to the monastic church for the singing of the canonical hymns at their appointed hour.

The watching monk was now filled with fear. He had been privileged to see something special but he was sure Cuthbert was aware of his spying. He approached Cuthbert, stretched himself on the ground and asked for forgiveness. “What is the matter, brother? What have you done? Have you been spying on me in my nightly vigil?” The poor man was too fearful to respond. Cuthbert then said, “Brother, you are forgiven but on one condition: that you promise to tell no one of this until after my death.” The promise was given and Cuthbert blessed the brother. After Cuthbert died, he told as many people as he could.

From The Holy Island of Lindisfarne by David Adam. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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