This is the day that … St Aidan (or Aidian) died in AD 651.
He is one of the 68 ‘saints’ mentioned in the Anglican Prayer Book.
It was he who left the Isle of Iona, off the north-west tip of Scotland, to take the gospel of Christ to the wild Saxon “savages” (as they were called) of Northumbria (the northern area of Britain). It was AD 635.
The King of Northumbria, Oswald, had already embraced Christianity, having heard the gospel from some Celtic missionaries, and he it was who requested the monks at Iona to send a teacher of the Christian faith to his people. So it was Bishop Aidan preached and the King acted as interpreter for him. Aidan could not speak the English language!
A church and monastery were built and young men trained as missionaries on the island of Lindisfarne. And from that centre the gospel penetrated the greater part of Britain.
Copying the Scriptures became an important part of the monastic duties and the famous “Lindisfarne Gospels” – dating from about AD 700 – may still be seen in the British Museum.
It is the Venerable Bede (d. AD 735), the first historian of Christianity in Britain – who tells us what we know concerning this bishop – how King Oswin of Yorkshire gave him a horse, for example, for Aidan made all his missionary journeys on foot. But on his first ride Aidan met a beggar – and gave him the horse! (Book 3, chapter XIV).
And Bede tells of Aidan foretelling a coming storm and giving holy oil to the sailors that they might calm the troubled sea.
As with the other stores of these early saints, legends mingle with facts, making it difficult to discern what really eventuated. But there seems no doubt that St Aidan was “the true apostle of England” (as Bede calls him).
“He was free from all pride, avarice and anger, and was at once gentle and fearless, consoling the afflicted and sternly reproving sinners, however powerful they might be” (Dictionary of English Church History, page 11).
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.
Tags: iona, king oswald, lindisfarne, northumbria, st aidan, venerable bede
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