The holy island

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

The early foundation on Lindisfarne must have been very simple. Surrounding the site would be a low wall, too low to keep out armies or even wild animals, but symbolic as a barrier against evil. All within was holy, not only the little wooden church and the dwellings and the work places, but each person and each task. Everything was dedicated to God for everything belonged to God. It is likely that each monk had his own simply built wooden cell and he would share this with a student under his guidance and teaching. Unlike the Roman style of tonsure, these monks shaved the front of their heads from ear to ear and let their hair grow long at the back, in the style of Celtic warriors. This was to witness that they were “soldiers for Christ” and dedicated in his service. It was a hard life and called for well-honed young men, not afraid to face considerable danger in fulfilling their mission.

In the early years, Aidan obviously had difficulty with the language of the English. It would have been much easier for Aidan to communicate with the British who shared a similar Celtic dialect. When he preached the gospel to the English, none other than King Oswald acted as his interpreter, in order that his thanes and leaders could hear the good news too. With a king so ready to help it is not surprising that Aidan’s mission flourished, though his own character played a large part: people saw that he practiced what he preached and had an enthusiasm that could only be of God.

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

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