Christus est stella matutina

Today, May 25, the Church celebrates one of our greatest English saints: the Venerable Bede.

Grave of the Venerable Bede

Bede was a true 8th century polymath: monk, scholar, historian (‘the father of English history’) scientist, biblical commentator… As a historian, he was one of the first adopters of the newly-invented use of Anno Domini in recording dates of events. As a scientist, one of the first to note and describe the influence of the moon on the tides, and to compute the date of Easter. His work on this is one of the treasures on view in the library of Melk Abbey. As a biblical commentator, he was quoted as an authority by no less a figure than St Thomas Aquinas.

His tomb in Durham Cathedral is one of England’s Special Places for me. Above it are the words in Latin and English from his commentary on Revelation 2.28, in which Christ in glory promises to give the morning star to the one who overcomes in the Christian life, and keeps his works to the end.

Christus est Stella Matutina,

qui nocte saecum transacta

lucem vitae sanctis promitit,

et pandit aeternam.

(Christ is the Morning Star, who when the night of this world is past, gives to his saints the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day.)

Scholar-poet Malcolm Guite has written a sonnet in honour of Bede, using the words of this inscription.

The Morning Star, or Day Star, is a beautiful title for Jesus drawn from 2 Peter 1.19: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”

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