As you exit the shrine, it is possible to see the Cathedral's Millennium window, commissioned in 1993 for the 1,000th anniversary of its consecration. On this window, scenes of the life and miracles of St. Cuthbert are shown alongside images of coal mining, shipbuilding, and other industries that have underpinned everyday life in the North East in recent centuries. In the very bottom, Cuthbert in a bishop's mitre extends a hand to a miner in his helmet. There are many beautiful pieces of art in glass and textile throughout the Cathedral, but what is particularly profound about this spot between the shrine and the Millennium window for me is the way it signals a holistic approach to faith that I think is woven almost uniquely into the culture of Northumberland.
The earliest Christian shrine known in the region was found at the Roman frontier fort of Vindolanda (one of the best-preserved and most studied forts on Hadrian's Wall), but it wasn't until the 7th century that a Northumbrian king (Edwin), under the influence of his wife who had studied with St. Augustine, converted to Christianity. Famous preachers, including Oswald, Adrian, and Cuthbert followed and began dedicated holy sites including Whitby and Holy Island at Lindisfarne. Their preaching eventually led to the spread of Christianity characterised by contemplative monasticism (especially following the Rule of St. Benedict, which had been Augustine's monastic order). When we gather in church to pray, we are holding some of their tradition in our hearts, and we owe our own faith in Christ to some extent to these early preachers.
The Rule of St. Benedict gave rise to a strong reflective tradition that emphasises regular prayer, and the use of silence in worship. As a church, we honour this tradition in a number of different ways, one of which is to gather together at St. Antony's Priory in Durham in the lead up to Advent each year to spend a quiet day in contemplation, study, and prayer. This year's quiet day is scheduled for the 29th October, and I hope that many of you will join us to risk opening to God in the quiet amongst our church family.