Feast of St. Bede

Blessed Feast of St. Bede to all! At haligweorc, it’s an important feast as he’s the patron here. There’s a note on him up at the Cafe as well, but–like most things written for popular consumption on Bede–it regards him primarily as an historian. History was just a small part of what he did. Here’s his reckoning of his accomplishments:

Thus much of the Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and more especially of the English
nation, as far as I could learn either from the writings of the ancients, or the tradition
of our ancestors, or of my own knowledge, has, with the help of God, been digested by me,
Bede, the servant of God, and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles, Peter and
Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow; who being born in the territory of that same
monastery, was given, at seven years of age, to be educated by the most reverend Abbot
Benedict, and afterwards by Ceolfrid; and spending all the remaining time of my life in
that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the
observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always
took delight in learning, teaching, and writing
. In the nineteenth year of my age, I
received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood, both of them by the
ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and by the order of the Abbot Ceolfrid. From
which time, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use
of me and mine, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, and to interpret and
explain according to their meaning these following pieces –

On the Beginning of Genesis, to the Nativity of Isaac and the Reprobation of Ismaal,
three books.

Of the Tabernacle and its Vessels, and of the Priestly Vestments, three books.

On the first Part of Samuel, to the Death of Saul, four books.

Of the Building of the Temple, of Allegorical Exposition, like the rest, two books.

Item, on the Book of Kings, thirty Questions.

On Solomon’s Proverbs, three books.

On the Canticles, seven books.

On Isaiah, Daniel, the twelve Prophets, and part of Jeremiah, Distinctions of Chapters,
collected out of St. Jerome’s Treatise.

On Esdras and Nehemiah, three books.

On the Song of Habacuc, one book.

On the Book of the blessed Father Tobias, one Book of Allegorical Exposition concerning
Christ and the Church.

Also, Chapters of Readings on Moses’s Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges.

On the Books of Kings and Chronicles.

On the Book of the blessed Father Job.

On the Parables, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles.

On the Prophets Isaiah, Esdras, and Nehemiah.

On the Gospel of Mark, four books.

On the Gospel of Luke, six books.

Of Homilies on the Gospel, two books.

On the Apostle, I have carefully transcribed in order all that I have found in St.
Augustine’s Works.

On the Acts of the Apostles, two books.

On the seven Catholic Epistles, a book on each.

On the Revelation of St. John, three books.

Also, Chapters of Readings on all the New Testament, except the Gospel.

Also a book of Epistles to different Persons, of which one is of the Six ages of the
world; one of the Mansions of the Children of Israel; one on the Words of Isaiah,
“And they shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited;
” one of the Reason of the Bissextile, or Leap-Year, and of the Equinox, according to

Also, of the Histories of Saints. I translated the Book of the Life and Passion of St.
Felix, Confessor, from Paulinus’s Work in metre, into prose.

The Book of the Life and Passion of St. Anastasius, which was ill translated from the
Greek, and worse amended by some unskillful person, I have corrected as to the sense.

I have written the Life of the Holy Father Cuthbert, who was both monk and prelate,
first in heroic verse, and then in prose.

The History of the Abbots of this Monastery, in which I rejoice to serve the Divine
Goodness, viz. Benedict, Ceolfrid, and Huetbert, in two books.

The Ecclesiastical History of our Island and Nation in five books.

The Martyrology of the Birthdays of the Holy Martyrs, in. which I have carefully
endeavored to set down all that could find, and not only on what day, but also by what
sort of combat, or under what judge they overcame the world.

A Book of Hymns in several sorts of metre, or rhyme.

A Book of Epigrams in heroic or elegiac verse.

Of the Nature of Things, and of the Times, one book of each.

Also, of the Times, one larger book.

A book of Orthography digested in Alphabetical Order.

Also a Book of the Art of Poetry, and to it I have added another little Book of Tropes
and Figures; that is, of the Figures and Manners of Speaking in which the Holy Scriptures
are written.

Emphasis added to highlight what he considered to be his most important work; history is literally the smallest part…

As specifically his works on the gospels show, Bede saw his role to complement and complete. That is, his cycle of 40 homilies was specifically designed to fill out Gregory the Great’s own book of 40–the almost complete lack of overlap signals this. Too, Bede’s commentary efforts were not on the two gospels most often used in the liturgy for which good commentary already existed but, rather, Luke and Mark–the two used the least and for which good commentary was hard to find. He sought to plug the gaps, fill in the holes. That is, he saw himself as part of a team effort for edifying and building up the Church.

And that’s why he’s the patron here.

8 thoughts on “Feast of St. Bede

  1. Breen


    I know where you are – I’m at the St. Bede’s in the dio of California. (I thought I recognized a kindred spirit :)

  2. bls

    Derek, ENS had a link to (I think) a new Bede book in a recent email notice – probably because of his feast day. Did you see it? I tried to find it online but haven’t had any luck yet. Will, if I do.

  3. Michelle

    There were three important books on Bede in 2006, one translation and two secondary works. I’ve listed them in my my post on Heavenfield (see Derek’s blogroll). I hope to have reviews of all three of them on Heavenfield some time this summer.

    Derek, I didn’t realize that Bede’s homilies fill out the gaps in Gregories. He seems to be plugging the holes in his own library. I wonder if his imitation (or partnership) with Gregory explains why the homily on the feast of Benedict Biscop is included, since Gregory is the source of most of what we know on the first Benedict? If Bede always intended that his book of homilies would circulate beyond Wearmouth-Jarrow, the inclusion of such a local relatively minor figure is odd. Although Bede does have a pattern of trying to show that the English church had its own saints that complement universal saints.

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    No, Michelle, I don’t think that would be the parallel he’d draw. Rather, The History of the Abbots of this Monastery would be his parallel with Gregory’s Dialogues. The question has more to do with local vs. universal. At the end of the day while he is hoping and planning for broader circulation, he still has to fulfill the liturgical needs of his home foundation first. And if the cult of biscop spreads from there’s he’s certainly not going to complain…

  5. Derek the Ænglican

    Hi Breen,
    I’m actually at the cathedral… ;-)
    I did attend the St. Bede’s in this diocese for a while but that was many years ago.

  6. Mercy E.N Onyeneke

    Happy Feast Day, Through the intercession of saint Bede may we recieve the grace to practice all other virtues and may we all be saves through Christ our Lord Amen

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