‘Oswald not only learned to hope for the kingdom of heaven, which has been unknown to his ancestors, but was also granted by Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, an earthly kingdom greater than they enjoyed. For at length he brought under his sceptre all the peoples and provinces of Britain speaking the four languages, British, Pictish, Scottish, and English.
Although he reached such a height of powers, Oswald was always wonderfully humble, kindly, and generous to the poor and strangers. The story is told how on the Feast of Easter one year, Oswald sat down to dine with Bishop Aidan. A silver dish of food was set before him, and they were on the point of raising their hands to bless the food, when the servant who was appointed to relieve the needs of the poor came in and informed the king that a great crowd of needy folk were sitting in the road outside begging alms of the king. Oswald at once ordered his own food to be taken out to the poor, and the silver dish to be broken up and distributed among them. The bishop, who was sitting beside him, was deeply moved to see such generosity, and taking hold of the king’s right hand, exclaimed, “May this hand never wither with age”. Later events proved that his prayer was heard; for when Oswald was killed in battle, his hand and arm were severed from his body, and they remain uncorrupted to this day. They are preserved as venerated relics in a silver casket at the church of Saint Peter in the royal city, which is called after a former queen named Bebba (Bebbanburh, now Bamburgh).
Through King Oswald’s diplomacy the provinces of Deira and Bernicia, formerly hostile to each other, were peacefully united and became one people. Oswald was nephew to King Edwin by his sister Acha; and it is fitting that so great a predecessor should have so worthy a man of his own blood to maintain his religion and his throne’.
from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, c.731, by St Bede the Venerable, 672-735
Almighty, everlasting God, who by the martyrdom of blessed King Oswald hast hallowed this day with holy joy and gladness: grant unto our hearts the increase of thy charity; that we, who honour his glorious battle for the faith, may imitate his constancy even unto death; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon