by Dr. Vladimir Moss. From A century of English sanctity
Our holy Mother Pega was the sister of the great hermit St. Guthlac and lived as a hermitess in Peakirk, Northamptonshire, not far from Guthlac’s hermitage at Crowland. On Holy Wednesday, 714, Guthlac fell ill; but he was still well enough to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at Pascha and to preach to his fellow-struggler Beccel; which sermon, we read in Felix’s Life of Guthlac, «moved him so very deeply. that he never before nor after heard the like.
«When the seventh day of his illness came, the aforesaid brother came to visit him about the sixth hour of the day. Then he found him leaning in the corner of his chapel against the altar. However, he could not speak with him for he saw that his illness troubled him very much; nevertheless, afterwards he begged that would leave his words with him before he died. Then the blessed Guthlac raised his tired limbs a little from the wall, and spoke to him thus: ‘It is now very near the time, my son, so take heed of my last instructions. After my soul leaves the body, to then to my sister and say to here that I avoided her presence here on earth and would not see her, in order that afterwards we two might see each other again in heaven before the face of God. And bid her set my body in the coffin, and wrap me in the shroud that Ecgburh sent me. I would not be dressed in linen clothing while I lived, but now for the love of Christ’s virgin I will put the gift she sent me to the use for which I kept it. When body and soul part, let them wrap the body in that garment, and lay it in the coffin.’
«When the aforesaid brother heard these things, then he spoke thus: ‘Now that I see and understand your illness, and I realize that you must leave this world, I entreat you my dear father to tell me about something which I never dared to ask you before. Since the time that I first lived with you in this wilderness, I have heard you speak in the evening and in the morning – with whom I knew not. Where I beg and entreat you never to leave me troubled and anxious about this matter after your death.’ Then the man of God drew the breath from his breast with a long gasp, answered him and said: ‘My son, do not be troubled; the things which I would not tell to any man of the world before as long as I lived, I will now disclose and make known to you. From the second year I lived in this wilderness, in the evening and in the early morning God Himself has sent to me an angel for my consolation, who revealed to me the heavenly mysteries which it is permitted no man to tell, and quite relieved the hardness of my struggle with heavenly angelic conversation; who made known and revealed to me things absent as well as present. And now my son, beloved one, preserve my words and tell them to no other man save Pega my sister and Ecgberht the hermit, if it happen that you should speak with him.’ Then when he had spoken these words he leaned his head against the wall, and drew the breath from his breast with a long gasp. When he recovered and got his breath back again, there came a fragrance from the mouth like the scent of the sweetest flowers. And on the following night, when the aforesaid brother fell to his nightly prayers, he beheld all the house surrounded outside with a great brightness; and the brightness remained there till daylight.
«Then when it was morning, the man of God again stirred a little, and lifted up the tired limbs. Then he spoke to him thus: ‘My son, prepare yourself to go on the journey which I commanded you; because it is now time that the spirit must leave the tired limbs and to unending bliss, to the Kingdom of heaven.’ Then when he had said these things, he stretched his hand towards the altar and strengthened himself with the heavenly food, Christ’s Body and His Blood. And after that he lifted his eyes to heaven, and stretched out his arms, and then with joy and bliss sent his spirit to the eternal bliss of the heavenly Kingdom. In the middle of these things, the aforesaid brother saw all the house suffused with heavenly light; and he saw there a fiery tower from the earth to the height of heaven, the brightness of which was unlike anything else; and because of its beauty, all the brightness of the sun itself as midday was turned to paleness. And he heard angelic songs throughout the regions of the air; and all the island was completely filled with a great fragrance of a wonderful scent.
«Then the aforesaid brother was immediately struck with great fear, and went into a boat and travelled to the place which the man of God had previously instructed, and then came to Pega and told her all those things, in order, as the brother had ordered him. Then, when she heard that her brother had died, she immediately fell on the earth, and was filled with great grief so that she could not say a word. Then, when she recovered herself, she drew a long sigh from within her breast, and gave thanks to the Almighty for His will. Then on the following day, according to the instruction of the blessed man, they came to the island and there they found all that place and the building filled with the fragrance of the herb ambrosia. Then for a period of three days she commended the holy man to God with holy hymns, and on the third day, as the man of God had instructed, they buried the body with honour in the chapel.
«The Divine goodness wished openly to display to men in how great a glory the blessed man was after he was buried; for formerly he shone and was resplendent with so many miracles before the eyes of men. So after his death, when he had been buried twelve months, God put it into the mind of the Lord’s servant that she should remove her brother’s body to another tomb. Then she gathered together there God’s servants and priests and those in ecclesiastical orders, on the same day twelve months after the blessed man had died; and they opened the tomb. Whereupon they found the body as entirely sound as it formerly was, and as though he were still alive; and in the flexibility of the joints and in all things it was much more like a sleeping man than a dead one. Moreover the garments were as pristine as when they were first put round the body. When they who were assembled there saw these things they were very afraid because of what they saw there; and they were so struck with fear that they could say nothing. Then when Christ’s servant Pega saw that, she was immediately filled with spiritual bliss, and then with hymns in honour of Christ wrapped the holy body in another shroud which Ecgberht the hermit had previously sent him, when alive, for the same service…
«There was a certain head of a household of the aforesaid exile Aethelbald in the district of the Wisse, whose eyes had been covered with the white spot and with cloudiness for twelve months. Then when his doctors had for a long time treated him with salves, and this had brought about no cure, he was divinely admonished within that if they brought him to Guthlac’s place, he should then recover his health and sight. His friends brought him to Crowland shortly after, and they spoke to Christ’s servant Pega; and she heard of the man’s firm and fixed faith. Whereupon she led him into the church where Guthlac’s venerable body was, took some of the consecrated salt which Guthlac himself had previously consecrated, and moistened it and dropped it in the eye. And then, before she put another drop in the other eye, he could see with the other; and he easily saw what there was there; and he went home whole and sound.»
Shortly after this, St. Pega went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where she reposed in about 719. Ordericus Vitalis claimed that her relics survived in an unnamed Roman church in his day, and that miracles took place there.
St. Pega is commemorated on января 8.
Holy Mother Pega, pray to God for us!
(Sources: Felix, Life of St. Guthlac; David Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978, p. 319)