Venerable Hilda, Abbess of Whitby
The Venerable Hilda of Whitby was the grandniece of Saint Edwin, King of Northumbria. Turned from the pagan faith by Saint Paulinus, she was baptised as one of the first Christians of the British Isles. At 33 years old, she was tonsured a nun and under the guidance of Saint Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, Hilda founded many monastic communities, the most famous one being Whitby, of which she became abbess. From the beginning of her monastic life, the Bishop Aidan saw her already-apparent spiritual gifts which flourished as time passed. Within 30 years, she had become a beacon of Christian life throughout the British Isles. In her monastery at Whitby, Hilda was not only the spiritual head of the female monastics, but also the male ones. It is said that this monastery was a “training ground” for both priests and bishops who went on to spread the Gospel throughout the Isles. Christianity, however, had already been spread to the Celtic peoples well over 100 years prior to entering Britain. Because of this, the Celtic and Roman traditions differed (although not in doctrine), especially when calculating the date of Pascha. Saint Hilda convened the Synod of Whitby to address this issue, and it was resolved that the Roman calculation would be used. (It must be noted that at this time, Rome was under the unified Orthodox and Apostolic Church.) Peasants, noblemen, kings, and even bishops would come to Abbess Hilda to seek her spiritual counsel, as she was considered the mother of Christianity in Britain. After many years of intense spiritual labour, she fell asleep in the Lord in 680 AD, and at the time of her repose, the Holy Begu was granted to see a vision of the Holy Abbess Hilda’s soul being carried up to heaven by angels.
Though thou wast of royal birth and lineage, O Hilda, thou didst spurn earthly riches and the allurements of the flesh. And cleaving with all thy heart unto Christ, thou didst take up the struggle of the monastic life. Wherefore, God endowed thee with such wisdom and prudence that all the people hastened unto thee for counsel and succour. O venerable one, entreat Him unceasingly, that He grant us great mercy.
As the waves of the North Sea wash the strands of Whitby, O venerable Hilda, so let thy supplications wash over our sins, which are more than the sands of the sea, to sink them in the unfathomable depths of the mercy of God. As one who standeth with great boldness before the throne of Christ the King of kings, intercede for us now, that by thine entreaties we may find a place at His right hand.