A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

Head of John the Baptist (c850). Orthodox Church commemoration of the Third Finding of the Honourable Head of the Holy, Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. After the beheading of John, the wife of King Herod’s steward secretly buried the holy head on the Mount of Olives. Later, a monk building a church and a cell there made the First Finding of the Head, which was again hidden in the place where it was found. The church fell into ruin and was destroyed but the holy Forerunner appeared twice to 2 monks on a pilgrimage, revealing the location of his venerable head, which they carelessly lost until its Second Finding near Homs in 452 and translation to Constantinople. The head was translated to Komana in Turkey during the 822 Saracen raids and hidden there until another vision revealed the hiding place, leading to the Third Finding c850. Afterwards, the head was again translated to Constantinople and on 25 May placed in a church at the court. Part of the head is now on Mount Athos. Image: orthochristian.com.

St Bede (The Venerable Bede, Bæda, Bēda Venerābilis) (673-735). Roman Catholic Feast Day, Church of England Lesser Festival and Lutheran Commemoration recording the death of the Northumbrian Benedictine monk at the Monkwearmouth-Jarrow twin monasteries of St Peter and St Paul, now Jarrow Abbey. Sent as a puer oblatus child in care of Monkwearmouth at 7, Bede was ordained deacon at the young age of 18 and at 29 he became a priest. He had joined Abbot Ceolfrith at Jarrow and both had survived a 686 plague that killed most of the population there. Although Bede spent most of his life in the monastery, he travelled to several abbeys and monasteries across the British Isles, including Lindisfarne, and in 733 visited the Bishop of York and King Ceolwulf of Northumbria. A well-known author, teacher and scholar, Bede’s most famous work, the 731 Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People), gained him the title of The Father of English History. As a linguist and translator, his work made the Latin and Greek writings of the early Church Fathers much more accessible to his fellow Anglo-Saxons. Another important area of study for Bede was the academic discipline of computus, the science of calculating calendar dates, including Easter and the dating forward from the birth of Christ (Anno Domini, the year of our Lord). Bede died on the Feast of the Ascension, on the floor of his Jarrow cell singing: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,” and was buried at Jarrow. St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, a disciple of Bede, wrote a letter describing Bede’s last days and his death and included the 5-line vernacular deathbed poem known as “Bede’s Death Song”, which is the most-widely copied Anglo-Saxon poem. Bede’s remains were translated to Durham Cathedral around 1020 and placed in the same tomb as St Cuthbert, and after the Protestant Reformation looting in 1541 what remained were reinterred in the Cathedral. In 1831, the bones were dug up and reburied in a new tomb, some relics having been claimed by York, Glastonbury and Fulda, Germany. St Bede is the only native of Great Britain to achieve this designation of Doctor of the Church. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion, Lutheranism. Major shrine Durham Cathedral. Feast Day 27 May Eastern Orthodox Church (Βεδέα του Ομολογητού). Patron of Jarrow, English writers and historians. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.

Prayer We implore You, good Jesus, that as in Your mercy You have given us to drink in with delight the words of Your knowledge, so of Your loving kindness You will grant us one day to come to You, the fountain of all wisdom, to stand for ever before Your Face. Amen

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St Aldhelm (Aldhelmus) (639-709). Feast Day commemorating the death of the Wessex noble who was a true evangelist and a renowned writer and scholar of Latin poetry and to whom people from Scotland and France came to study. As a young boy, Aldhelm had been sent to Canterbury to be educated under Adrian, Abbot of St Augustine’s, and excelled in Latin and Greek, later joining the community of monks in Malmesbury and establishing the Benedictine monastic order there, gaining the support of both the Pope and King Ine of Wessex. In 683, Aldhelm was appointed as the 1st Abbot of Malmesbury and under his leadership, the Abbey continued to be a seat of learning and was richly endowed by kings and nobles. Aldhelm enlarged the monastery at Malmesbury and built the Church of St Peter and St Paul. He founded monasteries in Frome and Bradford-on-Avon, where he also built St Laurence’s Church, which still stands today. In 705, King Ine divided the Diocese of Wessex into two dioceses and appointed Aldhelm Bishop of Sherborne. In his time as Bishop, Aldhelme rebuilt the church at Sherborne and helped to establish a nunnery at Wareham. He also built churches at Langton Matravers and the Royal Palace at Corfe. Aldhelm also founded Sherborne School. He died at Doulting in Somerset, where St Aldhelm’s Well is an ancient spring that is the source of the River Sheppey. His funeral procession travelled the 50 miles from Doulting to Malmesbury and stone crosses at 7-mile intervals mark each place where his body rested for the night. Aldhelm’s shrine became an important site of pilgrimage, gaining a reputation for delivering miracles. One such related to his cloak being suspended on a sunbeam. Another was that in one of his buildings a crucial roof beam was too short but he prayed and the beam then fitted exactly. In Malmesbury, there is a field called St Aldhelm’s Mead. Aldhelm is commemorated by a statue on the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral. Alfred the Great described how Aldhelm would sing and preach when entering a town. St Bede praised his Latin scholarship. William of Malmesbury, the 11th-Century historian, refers to Aldhelm’s extensive writings. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. Major shrine: Malmesbury Abbey, now destroyed. Patron of Sherborne, musicians, songwriters. Image: orthochristian.com.