St Cuthbert – full size

I’m travelling these days, so this will be brief. I just cannot let St Cuthbert’s feast day pass without a mention. There is something about St Cuthbert that connects him in my heart with St Seraphim. There is something common in the way they succeed to let go of everything and focus on the one thing that truly matters for them. There is something common in their gradual evolution from monks living in large influential communities to remote holy hermits. There is definitely something common in their determined rejection of any position of authority – St Seraphim refused to be named the abbot of his monastery, while St Cuthbert abandoned his episcopal see and returned to his beloved island.

Above everything, though, there is definitely something common in their understanding of prayer. St Seraphim prayed for a thousand days and nights in the deep Russian forests. St Cuthbert entered the cold waters of the North Sea down to his shoulders, and prayed like that, night after night. Both approached prayer the way most people approach a deadly disease: something out of which one either returns resurrected as a new man, or sinks deep into death. For both of them prayer was not a search for comfort – physical or emotional. For both of them prayer was the fighting scene between Life and death, something so serious that it could only be done while facing death in the face – Russian winters and the North Sea waters are both life-threatening, but this closeness of death gave life, gave meaning, gave energy to their prayer.

I love St Cuthbert and St Seraphim in the same way, with a combination of awe, fear and longing to experience something – be it only a shadow – of their spiritual strength and determination. May we all be blessed through their prayers, and may we all – through Christ’s endless mercy and love – be allowed to taste something of the sweetness of their prayer. Happy Feast Day, everyone!

This commission goes to Wenatchee, WA, USA

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