St. Hilda of Whitby icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Hilda of Whitby. Contemporary icon
Commemorated November 17.
Saint Hilda is the spiritual Mother of the Orthodox Church of England. She was the daughter of Heretic, who was nephew of King Edwin of Northumbria,one of the Kings of the seven Kingdoms that England had at that time, time that the country was coming out of idolatry. Hilda, like her great-uncle, King Edwin, became Christian and was baptized through the preaching of St. Paulinus of York, who was a missionary from Rome, about the year 627, when she was thirteen years old.
For thirty years she cultivated the virtues of the Holy Gospel, by staying among the people until the time she accepted her calling from God and decided to leave everything worldly behind, her family and her country.
She went to the kingdom of East England, where the King was her Brother in Law, having the will to go to France and become a nun to the Monastery of Chelles in Gaul near Paris, which was one of the Monasteries that were under the spiritual guidance of the Monastery of Luxeuil that was established by Saint Columbine. Saint Alban, Bishop of the island Lindisfarne, the center of the ecclesiastical life of British Islands at that time, asked Saint Hilda to go back to own country and gave her a small piece of land, in which she spend 1 year guiding a small group of virgins. After leading a monastic life for a year on the north bank of the Wear and her talents was tested, was assigned to her the spiritual guidance of the bigger sisterhood of the Monastery of Hartlepool where she ruled a double monastery of monks and nuns with great success, Hilda eventually undertook to set in order a monastery at Streaneshalch, a place to which the Danes a century or two later gave the name Monastery of Whitby.
Under the rule and the spiritual guidance of Saint Hilda, the Monastery at Whitby became very famous. Bishop Alban, Kings, Princess and many people from the surrounding area, visited very often the Monastery to receive spiritual advices and guidance form her. The Holy Scriptures were specially studied there, and no less than five of her monastics became bishops, among them St. John, Bishop of Hexham, and St. Wilfrid, Bishop of York.
In Whitby, in 664, was held the famous synod which confirmed, among other issues, the manner of calculating the date of Pascha. The fame of St. Hilda's wisdom was so great that from far and near monks and even royal personages came to consult her.
Seven years before her death Saint was stricken down with a grievous fever which never left her till she breathed her last, but, in spite of this, she neglected none of her duties to God or to her spiritual children. She passed away at November 17 of 680, at the age of 66, most peacefully after receiving the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and the tolling of the monastery bell was heard miraculously at Hackness thirteen miles away, where also a devout nun named Begu saw the soul of Saint Hilda taken to heaven by angels.
Saint Hilda, together with Saint Ebba of Coldingham, is one of the great figures of the Anglo-Saxon Christianity and offers a very rare example of the spiritual Mother- Abbess, who received the gift from God to lead and offer spiritual guidance not only to nuns, but monks and even Bishops “there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians: 3-28)
From: “The new Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church" of Simonopetra.
3rd Volume-November, pages 197-199