Pilgrimage at Home – 3

Michael HutchinsonPilgrimage

The Rule of Columba

Cuthbert knew that who you are mattered. Who you are speaks louder than any words one might voice. 

It is with this thought in mind that Cuthbert set out for Melrose to meet Boisil, a man famous for leading a holy life. He set off along the familiar paths towards Wrangham. The route led past a group of standing stones, a former place of pagan worship. Cuthbert paused to rest, sitting on a stone and prayed: 

Circle me, O God,
Keep hope within,
Keep despair without.

Circle me, O God,
Keep peace within,
Keep turmoil out.

Circle me, O God,
Keep calm within,
Keep storms without.

Circle me, O God,
Keep strength within,
Keep weakness out.

He crossed himself, and finished his prayer by saying those ancient words, “Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of your eye. Hide me under the shadow of your wings.”

As he approached Melrose, Boisil was awaiting his arrival. Something deep within him told him that here approached a unique man. Nothing external could have showed him this, yet to those around him he said, “Behold the servant of the Lord.” The monks of the monastery were perplexed, wondering who this traveler could be.

Cuthbert and Boisil struck up an instant relationship, despite a significant difference in age. In the coming days, under Boisil’s tutelage Cuthbert learned the routine that was to become his for the rest of his years – the Rule of Columba – a rhythm of prayer, study, and manual labour. “Three labours in the day, viz., prayers, work, and reading. Constant prayers for those who trouble thee.”

The invitation to join the community was formally extended to Cuthbert. His hair was ceremonially washed, combed and shaved into the traditional Celtic tonsure that was the practice at the time. All the hair in an segment from ear to ear was removed, while the hair towards the back of the head was allowed to grow long. As his hair fell away, so too did his old rhythm of life; through joining the community, Cuthbert set out on a new track – a life of disciplined commitment to the Lord.

Roman Tonsure on the left. Celtic Tonsure on the right.

Cuthbert was stricter upon himself than the Rule of Columba asked. He was more diligent in prayer, work and study than any of his peers. Such was his dedication that he would often go without sleep at night, preferring instead to spend time alone with God in prayer. Alongside the other monks, Cuthbert was also required to study the Scriptures and learn the Psalms by heart. Before long, Cuthbert knew ‘the entire David’, a reference to the common practice of the early church to memorise the Psalms.

Opening Prayer

In You we live and move
And have our being:
God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping
God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

In You we live and move
And have our being:
God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

In You we live and move
And have our being.

Be my everything.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, you were born in a little town. You grew up under the authority of local leaders and officials who managed the majority of your daily life. We lift up our local leaders today. We pray for our mayors, city councils, county commissioners, police chiefs, judges, and all who serve our local communities. Strengthen them with wisdom and grace for the heavy burdens they carry. May they manage their teams and projects with love. Keep their hearts pure and their eyes turned toward your face as they work in the best interests of the people they are called to serve. In Jesus’ name, Amen.