May the 25th is a significant marker for me on two counts: it is the third anniversary of my arrival in Canada to serve at St. James’; it is also the day on which the church commemorates the Venerable Bede, Priest, Scholar and Monk, who died in 735 AD at Jarrow in the northeast of England, and in whose footsteps, literally, I was also privileged to serve, celebrating Mass in the same 7th-century sanctuary where Bede himself would have stood.
The longer I was in Jarrow, the more remarkable I discovered Bede to be. The monastery at Jarrow then had a great library, and during what is known as the Dark Ages of early Saxon times in England, Bede and the community kept the light of the Christian faith brightly burning. Bede himself never travelled far from Jarrow, but through correspondence and the travels of others he was in communication with scholars and religious communities across Europe. Indeed, the Codex Amiatinus, one of the earliest extant texts of the Latin Vulgate Bible was transcribed in Jarrow under Abbot Ceolfrid. One of the greatest moments of my life is to have held this in my hands to read in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy: the script is beautifully written, and the intensity still of the colour of the illuminated pages astonishing.
Bede wrote extensively on a broad spectrum of subjects: theology and biblical commentaries, of course, but also on science, nature and history, his History of the English Church and People being the major source for that period. He was always eager to explore and discover new things about God and God’s creation. I was in Jarrow at the turn of the millennium, when it was highlighted that Bede was largely responsible for our numbering the years from that of Christ’s birth.
It was a privilege and a challenge to minister in Jarrow, to seek to proclaim the good news of the Gospel in a way which was faithful to the rich history and tradition personified in Bede, but which spoke to the contemporary generation. We here at St. James’ also have a rich history and tradition, albeit some 150 rather than 1350 years. Our challenge and calling is to remain faithful to, to draw from, this Gospel heritage, as we seek to proclaim the good news afresh in post-millennial Vancouver today.