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of all these virtues. He fixed his see at Lindisfarne, or Holy Isle, an island which, like the monastery he established on it, resembled Iona, 'which place, as the tide ebbs and flows twice every day, is enclosed by the waves of the sea like an island ; and again, twice in the day, when the shore is left dry, becomes contiguous to the land." There he gathered round him a number of Scottish and Saxon children, and from hence governed his immense diocese, which, extending as it did over the Northumbrian kingdom, included on the north side the present diocese of Edinburgh. Oswald, the great and good king, used to assist him personally in his unwearying labours. It was a beautiful spectacle,' says Bede, 'when the bishop was preaching, and was not quite understood from his imperfect English, and the king, who had learned Scotch in his exile, acted as his interpreter.” During his active episcopate several important religious houses were established. Among these were Melrose on the Tweed; Coldingham, the oldest nunnery in Scotland; and the English nunnery of Hartlepool, of which Hilda, one of Aidan's devoted pupils, became the abbess. Bishop Aidan died in 651, and was buried beside the altar of his church of Lindisfarne. Very lovingly does the Venerable Bede speak of his 'peace and charity, his continence and humility, his zeal and his holiness, and tells how he neither loved nor coveted the things of this world, although,' adds the English monk, 'he held the wrong views on the obseryance of Easter. Many volumes might be written about that beautiful soul, but this one little anecdote will suffice. Oswin, who on Oswald's death succeeded him in the half of his kingdom called Deira, one day made Aidan a present of
a fine horse. Soon after the bishop went out to ride, and meeting a beggar man he presented to him the horse, along with its magnificent furniture. In the evening, as he and the king were going in to dinner, the latter let him know that he was hurt at this disposal of his gift, whereupon the bishop exclaimed, 'What is it you say, O king? Is that foal of a mare more dear to you than the Son of God ?' and forthwith the king fell down at the saint's feet imploring his forgiveness. Then they sat down to dinner, and the king grew merry; but the bishop wept, saying, 'I know that the king will not live long, for I never before saw a humble king, whence I conclude that he will soon be snatched out of this life, because this nation is not worthy of such a ruler." Very soon was this prediction fulfilled, and the king was received to his eternal reward twelve days before the death of his spiritual father.
The Paschal controversy began again about the time of the death of Aidan's successor, Finan, and during the rule of the next bishop, Colman, it raged. In 664, with the view of settling the question, which had begun to produce much bitterness, it was resolved to call a Council. Accordingly the leaders of either party gathered in as expeditiously as in those days of very slow travelling was possible, from various parts of England, and from Iona, to the monastery of Whitby, presided over by Abbess Hilda. The Scottish side was represented by Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne, supported by all the influence and learning of the convent of Iona, and the personal presence of several of its inmates, the English bishop Cedd, 'a most skilful interpreter for both parties,' and the Abbess Hilda, 'a woman devoted to God. On the Roman side were Oswy, 'the most Christian king' of the Mercians, Prince Alfred his son, and the
eminent Wilfrid, the future bishop of York, whose presence at the Synod went far to decide the day. The Scots defended themselves on the alleged authority of St. John the Evangelist, and the practice of their own apostle, Columba; the Romans quoted the example of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and of the Universal Church, 'except only those, the Picts and the Britons, who foolishly in these two remote islands of the world, and only in part even of them, oppose all the rest of the universe,'i besides which they dwelt on the propriety of the servants of one God following the same rule of life. A vast amount of inquiry and talking ensued, and one wonders of the Synod would have resulted in anything else but for a speech of the king's. He acknowledged indeed the sanctity of Columba, yet demanded if he • could be preferred before the most blessed Prince of the
Apostles, to whom our Lord said, “Thou art Peter.' ... 'Is it true, Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord ?' 'It is true, O king! The king went on persuasively, 'He is the doorkeeper whom I will not contradict, lest when I come to the gates of the kingdom of heaven there should be none to open them.' . . . And so well did his arguments take effect, that the majority of the Scots were induced simultaneously to conform to that which Venerable Bede says 'they found to be better.'? But there was one whose heart was sorely wounded, and would not alter his opinions—that was the Bishop of Lindisfarne. He, resigning his diocese to Tuda, returned to his native country of North Britain, and after a visit to the well-loved island of Iona, which had formerly been his home, he passed over to the isle of Innisboffin, on the coast of Connaught, where he founded a monastery, and here ended a life remarkable for personal holiness in the year 676. Colman had, with his
two predecessors Aidan and Finan, brought to the faith four kingdoms of Angles-Northumbria, Mercia, Mid-Anglia, with half of the kingdom of the East Saxons. Of these holy bishops and their clergy the Venerable Bede says, • How frugal and self-denying Colman and his predecessors were, the very place which they governed testified, for few buildings were there when he departed except the church; none, indeed, except those which were necessary for the very purposes of society. They had no wealth but their cattle. If they got any money from rich persons they immediately gave it to the poor. ... For the only anxiety of these teachers was to serve God, not the world ; their only care to satisfy the soul, not the appetite. And so at that time the religious habit was held in great reverence, insomuch that whenever a clergyman or monk appeared he was joyfully welcomed by all as the servant of God. ... For the priests and clergy had no other object in going to the villages than to preach, baptize, visit the sick, and in all respects to exercise the care of souls. And so entirely were they free from all taint of covetousness, that none of them would receive lands or possessions for the erection of monasteries unless compelled to do so by the great and powerful.” The serious concern which such apparently trivial matters as the observance of a festival at an unusual time, and the shaving the hair of the head in a peculiar fashion, were calculated to bring about, is a lasting testimony to the common agreement in faith and practice then existing among Christians, and it shows us how very much at heart must have been the desire for the unity of Christendom. Undoubtedly party spirit ran high, but far higher was the admirable spirit of self-restraint in which the Romans spoke of the usages which they regarded as extremely defective as
the consequences of 'rustic simplicity;' and although the Scots showed prejudice, and perhaps even pertinacity, in defence of their opinions, they claimed the example of the disciple ‘beloved of our Lord,'' who was thought worthy to lean on the Lord's bosom,' and of their own father, Columba. Absolute conformity to the ‘more perfect way' was only a question of time. In 704, Adamnan the Wise, Abbot of Iona, celebrated the Commemoration of the Resurrection on the same day as the rest of the Western Church ; and in 710, at a council of the Pictish clergy and nobility, the canonical cycle of Easter was ordered to be observed throughout the provinces of the Picts, and the ancient calculation was utterly abrogated, whilst at the same time the clergy and monks received the coronal tonsure. These desirable changes were mainly effected by the exertions of Ceolfrid, Abbot of the Northumbrian monastery of Jarrow, and the willing co-operation of Nectan, King of the Picts. We are told that St. Adamnan, 'the high sage of the Western world,' was a good and wise man, and singularly learned in Holy Scripture.' Besides his spirited boldness in setting his countrymen the example of the proper observance of the feast, Adamnan must be remembered as the author of a book on the Holy Places, dictated to hiin by a bishop from Gaul, who, on his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, was wrecked on the Hebrides, and during his sojourn at Iona related the incidents from which the abbot made his book about that far-away land, which was dear to every Christian heart. He also composed a Life of St. Columba, a precious relic of the literature of the ancient Northern
1 Bæda, lib. v. c. 15. It is recorded that Bruide, the son of Nectan, King of the Picts, gave his sanction to the ‘Law of St. Adamnan,' which freed women from the services and severities of war. See Preface to Statuta Ecclesie Scoticane, p. xv.