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Bede from Ecclesiastical History



Type of Spiritual Experience


Bede (Old English: Bǣda or Bēda; 672/673 – 26 May 735), also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede (Latin: Bēda Venerābilis), was an English monk at the monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth and its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, both of which were then in the Kingdom of Northumbria. He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People).

T C Lethbridge – A Step in the Dark

Now our step in the dark reminds me very much of something recorded by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History. This is often quoted and many people must know it. In A.D. 627, when Bishop Paulinus had brought the Christian princess, Ethelberga, from Kent to be married to the pagan king, Edwin of Northumbria, he reminded Edwin of a vow the king had made when an exile at the court of Redwald, King of East Anglia. In effect Edwin had promised to become a Christian when a certain sign was given to him. This was that a hand would be laid on his head.

Paulinus laid his hand on the king's head and recalled the vow.

Edwin recognized his obligation, but, before taking any irrevocable step, called his council together and discussed the matter. Was the court and country to become Christian or not?

During this debate, a speech was made by one of the council, which was so completely reasonable and so typical of the English way of thinking, that the gist of it has survived in the writings of Bede to this day:

A description of the experience

Bede - Ecclesiastical History

The present life of man, O King, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in the winter with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but what went before, and what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.

If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.

The source of the experience

Other religious person

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps