who alone knows whence we come and whither we go:
As once you stirred the spirit of an ealdormann of Northumbria,
so also inspire us to desire a more certain knowledge of your truth,
that amidst all the storms and doubts of this life
we may be led at last to join the company of saints who dwell with you in heaven;
through Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the World and the Life of Men. Amen.
For those who don't know the story, it is told in Bede's History of the English Church and People. At the council (witan) called by the King, Edwin explained his interest in following Christ, but asked for the advice of his wise men. Should Paulinus be given freedom to preach and gather converts in the kingdom? An unnamed official (ealdormonn) gave this advice (my translation from the Old English):
"It seems to me, O king, that this present life of man on earth in comparison to that time that is unknown to us is like when you sit at your ease with your officials and thanes at winter time, and the fire crackles and your hall is warmed, and it rains and snows and storms outside; a sparrow comes and swiftly flies through the house, coming in one window and out the other. Lo, during the time that he is within, he is no longer smitten by the winter storms; but that is but an eyeblink and the least interval, but he soon from winter back to winter comes. So then this life of man appears as such a limited interval; what went before, or what follows after, we do not know. Therefore if this teaching (of the bishop) brings anything more certainly known and suitable, it is worthy that we follow it."