The Venerable Bede — image from East Window
Bede was born on the lands of the monastery in AD 673. In AD 680, he was placed in the care of St Peter’s monastery, Monkwearmouth. In AD 685 he was transferred to the new sister house of St. Paul’s at Jarrow, which, together with St. Peter’s formed ” one monastery in two places”
Bede remained in the community until his death in AD 735 and seldom journeyed elsewhere, devoting himself to the study of the scriptures, translating the Bible and writing books himself. He wrote over 60 books, the most famous being ” The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.” This book is a vital source of the history of Christianity in Anglo – Saxon times.
The title of “Venerable” by which Bede is usually known was a term of respect bestowed in ancient times on highly esteemed members of religious order.
BEDE’S TOMB IN DURHAM CATHEDRAL.
Fixed to the wall near the tomb of Bede is the following inscription :- BEDE, a Servant and Priest of God, not less venerable for his sanctity than for his science, here lies interred.
He was born within the domain of the monastery of Girwy, now Jarrow, and at the age of 7 years, committed to the holy Abbot Benedict, and afterwards to Ceolfrid, to be educated. Thenceforth, passing the whole time of his life in residence at this said monastery, he devoted all his attention to the study of the Scriptures. Amid the observance of regular discipline, and the daily duty of singing in the church, he was ever wont to learn,to teach or to write. In his 19th. year he took Deacon’s, in his 39th. Priest’s orders. Both by the ministry of John of Beverley, Archbishop of York.
PRAYER OF THE VENERABLE BEDE
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.
MUSIC IN THE MONASTERY
Music was always an important part of monastic life and Bede tells us that John the Arch-chanter, who came from Rome to teach the monks the art of chanting, wrote books on music. It was at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth that Gregorian chanting was first practised by monks in Britain. Bede was able to write music in addition to his many other talents and the monks were expected to learn the entire Psalter by heart and practise in the choir everything that they had learnt.
When in our music, God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride.
It is as though the whole creation cried — allaluia
How often making music we have found,
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound : — alleluia
So has the church in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue : — allaluia
And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night,
when utmost evil strove against the Light ?
Then let us sing, for whom he won the fight : — allaluia
Let every instrument be tuned for praise !
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise !
And may God give us faith to sing always : — alleluia
HYMN WRITTEN BY FRED PRATT GREEN 1903-2000
An illustration from an early 12th.century manuscript of the prose “Life of Cuthbert”, believed to have been produced by scibes at Durham. It shows Bede at work on his text and offering his finished book to the abbot and community at Lindisfarne.
Image reproduced by kind permission of ” The Master and Fellows of University College, Oxford”
BEDE’S OWN WRITING
From the ” Ecclesiastical History of the English People ” Book 5 Chapter 24.
“With the Lord’s help, I, Bede, a servant of Christ and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Wiuraemuda and In Gyrwum, (Wearmouth and Jarrow) have composed this Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and of the English people in particular, using whatever information I could acquire from ancient documents, from the tradition of my elders, and from my own knowledge.
I was born on the lands of this monastery, and, at the age of seven was entrusted by the care of my family to the reverend Abbot Benedict, and then to Ceolfrith, to be educated. Since then I have lived my whole life in this monastery, devoting myself entirely to the study of the scriptures; and amid the observance of the discipline of the Rule and the daily task of singing in the church, it has always been my delight to learn, to teach or to write. I was ordained deacon at the age of nineteen and priest at the age of thirty, on both occasions through the ministration of the reverend Bishop John and at the bidding of Abbot Ceolfrith. From the time of my entering the priesthood until my fifty-ninth year, I have made it my business, for my own and for my brothers’ use, to compile brief notes on the holy scriptures extracted from the works of the venerable fathers, and to make additional comments to clarify their meaning and interpretation.”
A fitting tribute to Bede written by Surtees :-
” The lamp of learning, trimmed by the hand of a single monastic who never passed the limits of his Northumbrian province, irradiated from the Cell of Jarrow, the Saxon realm of England, with a clear and steady light : and when Bede died, History reversed her torch, and quenched it in deep night.”
For more information about St.Bede visit Bedesworld website at www.bedesworld.co.uk