TODAY THE VENERABLE BEDE IS REMEMBERED IN OUR CALENDAR. Bede is one of the few saints honoured as such even during his lifetime. His writings were filled with such faith and learning that even while he was still alive, a Church council ordered them to be read publicly in the churches.
At an early age Bede was entrusted to the care of the abbot of the Monastery of St. Paul, Jarrow. The happy combination of genius and the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar, perhaps the most outstanding one of his day. He was deeply versed in all the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history, the lives of the saints and, especially, Holy Scripture.
From the time of his ordination to the priesthood at 30 (he had been ordained deacon at 19) till his death, he was ever occupied with learning, writing and teaching. Besides the many books that he copied, he composed 45 of his own, including 30 commentaries on books of the Bible.
Although eagerly sought by kings and other notables, even Pope Sergius, Bede managed to remain in his own monastery till his death. Only once did he leave for a few months in order to teach in the school of the archbishop of York. Bede died in 735 praying his favourite prayer: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As in the beginning, so now, and forever.”
His Ecclesiastical History of the English People is commonly regarded as of decisive importance in the art and science of writing history. A unique era was coming to an end at the time of Bede’s death: It had fulfilled its purpose of preparing Western Christianity to assimilate the non-Roman barbarian North. Bede recognized the opening to a new day in the life of the Church even as it was happening.
Though his History is the greatest legacy Bede has left us, his work in all the sciences (especially in Scripture) should not be overlooked. During his last Lent, he worked on a translation of the Gospel of St. John into English, completing it the day he died. But of this work “to break the word to the poor and unlearned” nothing remains today.
“We have not, it seems to me, amid all our discoveries, invented as yet anything better than the Christian life which Bede lived, and the Christian death which he died” (C. Plummer, editor of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History).
Christ our Morning Star
O Christ, our Morning Star,
Splendour of Light Eternal,
shining with the glory of the rainbow,
come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy,
and renew in us your gift of hope. Amen.
Morning Prayer – Bede.
All-wise God, as you have granted us to drink with delight from the Word that leads us to know you, in your goodness grant us also to come at length to you, source of all wisdom, and stand for ever before your face.
based on a prayer of the Venerable Bede
Highest Father of lights,
by whom every excellent thing is given
and from whom every perfect gift descends,
you have given me, the humblest of your servants,
both the love and the aid to consider the wonders of your law,
and have manifested to me, unworthy though I am,
the grace to not only grasp
the ancient offerings in the treasury of this prophetic book
but also to discover new ones
beneath the veil of the old
and to bring them forth for the use of my fellow servants –
Remember me with favour, oh my God.
Prayer from Bede’s commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah
I pray thee, loving Jesus,
that as Thou hast graciously given me
to drink in with delight
the words of Thy knowledge,
so Thou wouldst mercifully grant me
to attain one day to Thee,
the fountain of all wisdom,
and to appear forever before Thy face.