Friday, 31 August 2012

Lindisfarne Days - the Fifth Day

Boisil - Healer and Teacher

                                              Genesis 1:22
God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.
Saint Boisil, Confessor, was a Northumbrian trained  at Lindisfarne Priory by Saint Aidan.  He became a monk and quickly rose to be Prior of Melrose Abbey. Bede tells us that the saint was a man of  virtues as well as an eminent scholar. 

He was widely known and sought after for his herbal remedies, and for his blessing of the healing properties of the two local springs containing iron salts. Interestingly, these wells are clearly marked on the OS maps of today - the Wellbury Well in the bank just below his chapel, and the Hare (corruption of ‘Heir’ meaning ‘Holy’)Well which lies near St Boswells Burn. 

When the young Saint Cuthbert came to Melrose Abbey rather than the more famous Lindisfarne, Boisil welcomed him at the gate and said  to the monks with whom he was standing: "Behold the servant of the Lord". The Abbot soon gave permission for Cuthbert to enter the community, and Boisil ensured that he "watched, prayed, worked and read harder than anyone else". They became great friends. Both were given to travelling amongst the villages neighbouring Melrose and preaching to the local people.

In AD 659,  Boisil became Abbot of Melrose. Two years later, Boisil showed a gift of foresight, or health knowledge,  when a great plague swept through the monastery. Cuthbert was affected by the disease and came close to death, but Boisil confidently announced that he would recover. He also predicted his own death from the same epidemic, to which he, indeed, fell victim. Shortly before the end, Boisil made his most famous prophecy, foretelling that Cuthbert would be a great influence in the Church and would, one day, rise to Bishop.

The growth of the faith may have been led by the lights of saints such as Aidan and Cuthbert - but on their own they could well have fell into legend and folklore. 

The monasteries and abbeys provided places of academic and spiritual learning, a place for a community of faith to develop and support each other; a place for a lineage of faith to grow. 

Whilst having every faith in the gift of prophecy I feel Boisil expressed it through his talents as a teacher; awareness and compassion as a healer. When you take the time to get to know people then you can 'know' a great deal. 

George Bernard Shaw wrote ' he who can - does, he who cannot - teaches'; which becomes a paradox if the 'can' is 'teach'. Christianity became fruitful and filled the villages, farms and lanes with those who could and did - but with thanks to those who could and taught. 

Cuthbert was guarding sheep when Aidan's light called to him - this poem seems appropriate for a Abbot who probably treated his students like so many lambs. 

The images are of the more northerly scottish isles - a reminder of the web of faith that had spread across the land to Lindisfarne and then back out into the world.



The Northumbria Community's Compline for Friday is here

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