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The Historical Works Of Venerable Bede

§ 45. Now, when King Ecgfrid had rashly led his army against the Picts, and devastated their territories with most atrocious cruelty, the man of God, Cuthbert, knowing that the time was now come, concerning which he had prophesied the year before to his sister, that the king would live only one year more, came to Lugubalia (which is corruptly called by the English Luel) to speak to the queen, who was there awaiting the result of the war in her sister’s monastery. But the next day, when the citizens were leading him to see the walls of the town, and the remarkable fountain, formerly built by the Romans, suddenly, as he was resting on his staff, he was disturbed in spirit, and, turning his countenance sorrowfully to the earth, he raised himself, and, lifting his eyes to heaven, groaned loudly, and said in a low voice, “Now, then, the contest is decided!” The presbyter, who was standing near, in incautious haste answered and said, “How do you know it?” But he, unwilling to declare more concerning those things which were revealed to him, said, “Do you not see how wonderfully the air is changed and disturbed? Who is able to investigate the judgments of the Almighty?” But he immediately entered in and spoke to the queen in private, for it was the Sabbath-day. “Take care,” said he, “that you get into your chariot very early on the second day of the week, for it is not lawful to ride in a chariot on the Lord’s day, and go quickly to the royal city, lest, perchance, the king may have been slain. But I have been asked to go to-morrow to a neighbouring monastery, to consecrate a church, and will follow you as soon as that duty is finished.”

§ 46. But when the Lord’s day was come, whilst he was preaching the word of God to the brethren of the same monastery, the sermon being finished, he began again to teach his listening congregation, as follows:—“I beseech you, my beloved, according to the admonitions of the Apostle, to watch, remain steadfast in the faith, act manfully, and be comforted, that no temptation may find you unprepared, but rather that you may be always mindful of the precept of the Lord himself, ‘Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation.’ ” But some thought he said this because a pestilence had not long before afflicted them and many others with a great mortality, and that he spoke of this scourge being about to return. But he, resuming his discourse, said, “When I formerly lived alone in my island, some of the brethren came to me on the day of the Holy Nativity, and asked me to go out of my cabin and solemnize with them this joyful and hallowed day. Yielding to their prayers, I went out and we sat down to feast. But, in the middle of the banquet, I suddenly said to them, I beseech you, brethren, let us act cautiously and watchfully, lest, perchance, through carelessness and a sense of security, we be led into temptation. But they answered, ‘We entreat you, let us spend a joyful day now, for it is the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ To which I agreed. Some time after this, when we were indulging ourselves in eating, merriment, and conversation, I again began to admonish them that we should be solicitous in prayer and watchfulness, and ever prepared to meet all temptations. But they replied, ‘You teach well; nevertheless, as the days of fasting, watching, and prayer are numerous, let us to-day rejoice in the Lord.’ For the Angel manifested great joy to the shepherds when the Lord was born, and told them that it was a day to be celebrated by all people! ‘Well,’ said I, ‘let us do so.’ But when I repeated the words of the same admonition the third time, they perceived that I would not have suggested this so earnestly for no purpose, and said to me in fear; ‘Let us do as you teach, for it is incumbent on us to watch in spirit, armed against the snares and temptations of the Devil.’ When I said these things, I did not know any more than they that any new temptation would happen to us; but I was only admonished, as it were instinctively, that the state of the heart is to be always fortified against the storms of temptations. But when they returned from me to their own home, that is, to the monastery of Lindisfarne, they found that one of their brethren was dead of a pestilence; and the same disease increased, and raged so furiously from day to day, for months, and almost for a whole year, that the greater part of that noble assembly of spiritual fathers and brethren were sent into the presence of the Lord. Now, therefore, my brethren, watch and pray, that if any tribulation assail you, it may find you prepared.”

§ 47. When the venerable man of God, Cuthbert, had said these things, the brethren thought, as I have before stated, that he spoke of a return of the pestilence. But the day after, a man who had escaped from the war explained, by the lamentable news which he brought, the hidden prophecies of the man of God. It appeared that the guards had been slain, and the king cut off by the sword of the enemy, on the very day and hour in which it was revealed to the man of God as he was standing near the well.








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