19th September

Fire

Jesus said: I came to bring fire to the earth. Luke 12: 49

From the age of eight until he entered a monastery Cuthbert was brought up by a Christian nanny named Kenswith, a widow who had become a nun. Cuthbert always called her ‘mother’ and often visited her in her old age. Once when he was lodging in his ‘mother’s’ village a house on the eastern edge caught fire and a fierce wind blew the flames towards the houses, looking set to cause a conflagration.

A panic-stricken Kenswith ran to the house where Cuthbert was staying and begged him to ask God to save their homes. Cuthbert calmly turned to her with the words ‘Don’t worry, the flames will do no harm’. Then he lay prostrate on the earth outside the house and prayed silently. As he was praying a strong, fresh wind arose from the west and drove the flames away from the houses, so that no harm was caused. The people were not ungrateful; they took the trouble to give thanks to the Lord.

Fire is a powerful force and, as this story illustrates, can destroy; but it is also a positive force, and is a biblical symbol of God’s Spirit. The term ‘Celtic fire’ is used to describe the living faith at the heart of the Celtic peoples. This was symbolised by the fire that, in monasteries, as in homes, was kept alight night and day. It was said that the fire at Brigid’s monastery at Kildare was kept alight for a thousand years.

Thank you, Father, for your free gift of fire
because it is through fire that you draw near to us every day;
It is with fire that you constantly bless us.
Our Father, bless this fire today.
With your power enter into it.
Make this fire a worthy thing.
A thing that carries your blessing.
Let it become a reminder of your love.
A reminder of life without end.
Make the life of this people be baptised like this fire.
A thing that shines for the sake of people.
A thing that shines for your sake.
Father, heed this sweet smelling smoke.
Make their life also sweet smelling.
A holy thing.
A thing fitting for you.
A Masai prayer

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18th September

Water

‘Whoever believes in me, life-giving streams of water will pour out from their heart’. Jesus said this about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were going to receive. John 7: 38, 39

The author of life is the fountain of life… Let us seek the fountain of life, the fountain of living water, like intelligent and most wise fish, that there we may drink the living water that springs up to eternal life.
Columbanus

Slake your thirst from the streams of the divine fountain. The fountain of life calls to us: ‘Let whoever is thirsty come to me and drink’.

Take note what you are to drink; remember what God spoke through Jeremiah: ‘They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and drunk from leaking cisterns.’. The person who thus drinks is the person who loves, who draws satisfaction from the Word of God, who adores, who yearns, who burns with the love of wisdom…
Adapted from the Gaelic

Fechin had a God-given ability to cause water to flow in dry places. St. Fechin’s well, in County Sligo, Ireland, marks the place where he prayed for a source of water for a parched region. At Fore, life was so hard for the monks that Fechin hewed out rock with his own hands until water burst through. At Omly, he immersed the entire pagan population in the waters of baptism. At his death in 665 a friend saw a light so bright that all Ireland’s demons fled for a time.

What would the world be
Once bereft of wet and of wildness?
Let them be left, O let them be left
Wetness and wildness.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Bathe us in your cleansing rivers.
Soak us in your healing waters.
Drench us in your powerful down-falls.
Cool us in your bracing baths.
Refresh us in your sparkling streams.
Master us in your mighty seas.
Calm us by your quiet pools

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17th September

Wind

The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 2: 8

Breathe in Christ with every breath.
Antony of Egypt

Long years ago across the western water
Winds brought to this our shore
One glorious within, a king’s own daughter
To teach our land Christ’s law.
Cornish hymn for St. Buryan (who landed near St. Ives with Piran)

Blessed be the wind
Without wind most of the earth would be uninhabitable
The tropics would grow so unbearably hot.
Lyall Watson

Once when Columba was at sea a great storm, with gusts of wind blowing from all sides, arose and his boat was buffeted by great waves. Columba tried to help the sailors bail out the water that came into the boat, but they said to him: ‘Your doing this does little to help us in this danger. You would do better to pray for us as we perish’. Columba stopped bailing water, and began to pour out prayers aloud to God. Marvellous to relate, as soon as he stood up in the prow and raised his hands to God the wind ceased and the sea stilled. The crew were amazed and gave glory to God.
Adamnan

Wind, wind blow on me
Blow away the cobwebs that clog the spirit
Blow up the suffocating airs of unbelief
Blow near the things that are pure and good
Blow through me the breath of God’s presence
Blow me along the path of your choice

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16th September

Persevere

I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, I have kept the Faith. And now the prize of victory is waiting for me. 2 Timothy 4: 7, 8.

Why were the saints saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.
Anon

Wales’ saint David is a fine example of somebody who persevered in and out of season. The wife of the local chief tried to get rid of his monastery, then to corrupt his monks, who pressed David to move it elsewhere even though God had clearly led them to that site. As we have seen, David stood firm, and in the end, due to this promiscuous woman over-reaching herself, she herself had to flee. David’s biographer observed that his purpose ‘was neither dissolved nor softened by prosperity, nor terrified when weakened by adversity’.

The four securities of the children of Life: the wearing away of the passions, fear of the pains, love of the sufferings, belief in the rewards. If the passions were not worn away, they would not be left behind. If the pains were not feared, they would not be guarded against. If the sufferings were not loved, they would not be endured. If the rewards were not believed in, they would not be attained.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

Never give up. Never never give up. Never, never, never give up.
The entire speech Winston Churchill gave at a school prize-giving..

O God
when we your servants are called upon
to undertake any task
whether it be small or great
help us to know that
it is not the beginning of the task
but the continuing of it to the end
which yields the true glory.
Inspired by words of Sir Francis Drake

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15th September

Divine Guidance

I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go. Psalm 32: 8

Towards the end of the ninth century the monks of Lindisfarne set sail for Ireland to escape a renewed Viking invasion. They took with them their priceless book, now known as The Lindisfarne Gospels. Tragically, they hit bad weather, the boat heeled over to one side, and the copy of the Gospels, adorned with gold figures, fell overboard and sank to the bottom of the sea.

The monks postponed their voyage and returned to dry land. There they were given a vision, in which God directed them to go to the shore at Whithorn, the Christian community on the western coast of Scotland, founded by Ninian. When they arrived there they found that, due to an unusually low tide, the sea had receded much further out than usual. They went a mile or two out from the shore. There, to their amazement and joy, they found their precious volume, still with the covers clasped together. The gold was unspoilt, and the colours had not run. Nobody could have guessed that it had ever had contact with water.
Recorded in Symeon’s History of the Church of Durham 12th. century

Men and women guided by God are the greatest forces in shaping history
Dutch atomic scientist

The Holy Spirit is the most intelligent source of information in the world.
Frank Buchman

Lord, you have a plan
for every person
and for every situation in the world.
But we are so dim.
We are so deaf.
Help us to be become wholly God-guided instruments
and to always be in just the place you wish us to be

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14th September

Silence

Let a person dwell alone in silence, for the Lord has laid this upon them. Lamentations of Jeremiah 3: 28

God calls most, if not all, of us to sometimes draw apart and be silent. And God calls some people to make this the main call upon their lives. Solitaries who are following such a call (as distinct from people who are running away from something) should be encouraged. In The Catalogue of the Saints of Ireland there was an entire order of such people – anchorites.

An old Celtic word for prayer meant literally ‘the quiet of Christ’. The Celtic Christians learned the value of silence from the desert fathers and mothers.

It was said that Abba Agatha carried a pebble in his mouth for three years until he learned to be silent.
Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Allow me with your peace and charity to remain in silence in these woods.
Columbanus in a Letter to the French Bishops

Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together.
Thomas Carlysle

Souls of prayer are souls of deep silence. That is why we must accustom ourselves to deep stillness of the soul. God is the friend of silence. See how nature, the trees, the flowers, the grass grow in deep silence. See how the stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. The more we receive in our silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. Silence gives us a new way of looking at everything. We need this silence in order to touch souls. Jesus is waiting for us in the silence. It is there that he speaks to our souls. Interior silence is very difficult but we must make the effort to pray. A soul of prayer can make progress without recourse to words by learning to be present to Christ. In silence we find a new energy and a real unity.
Mother Teresa

In silence I become aware of you, O Lord
In the silence I adore you, O Lord
In the silence my sins stand out and are washed away
In the silence my problems fall into their rightful place.
In the silence I become a grateful person
And in the silence, O Lord, we become one

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13th September

Listening

If you have ears to hear with, then listen! Matthew 11: 15

Go to your cell; it will teach you all things.
Saying of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

Be slow to anger, quick to learn, also slow to speak, as St. James’ says, and equally quick to listen.
Columbanus

By quietly listening to the description of the stages, transitions, and miraculous deeds of a saint’s life, we can begin to discern and appreciate our life patterns as well as our own kinship with Jesus.
Edward C. Sellner Wisdom of the Celtic Saints

God gave us two ears and one mouth. Why don’t we listen twice as much as we talk?
Chinese proverb

Listen …
to the fragile feelings, not to the clashing fury
to the quiet sounds, not to the loud clamour
to the steady heartbeat, not to the noisy confusion
to the hidden voices, not to the obvious chatter
to the deep harmonies, not to the surface discord
Anonymous

You be my wisdom, you my true Word,
I ever with you, and you with me Lord
You my great Father and I your true son
You in me dwelling and I with you one.
Irish 8th. century

Lord, a thousand voices shout at me this day,
sound-bites and slogans, images and screens,
conversations and traffic, newspapers and internet…
Help me to filter out and turn away
all that is not of you,
and to spot and hold to
all that is of you

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12th September

Waiting

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46: 10

In the ground of your being I have my home
so do not seek me in the world apart.
Within your spirit true communion lies.
You are no homeless stranger in a land afar
no alien in a foreign shore
for I am with you.
Do but be still and know that I am God.
I look upon the world with your dark eyes
I feel the flowing air on your cool cheek
I hear the twittering in the moving trees
for with your senses I perceive.
I am with you, I am within you.
So do not turn away but come to rest in me.
Within you is our meeting place.
But be still, and I will speak in silence
to your loving, wayward heart.
Dame Paula Fairlie

God with me lying down
God with me rising up
God with me in each ray of light
Nor I a ray of joy without him.
Christ with me sleeping
Christ with me waking
Christ with me watching
Every day and night.
God with me protecting
God with me directing
The Spirit with me strengthening
For ever and for evermore.
Chief of Chiefs. Amen.
Carmina Gadelica

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11th September

Tuning In

The Son only does what he sees his Father doing …. I only say what the Father has told me to say. John 5: 19; 8.28

The importance of tuning in to the deeper, unseen currents that shape our lives and civilisation is understood by increasing numbers of people who are in touch with the intuitive or feminine side of human nature. They sometimes meet Christians who fear or denounce this, and this puts them off Christianity. These Christians may have a point – for it may be better to be deaf than to listen in to falsehood – but why should the devil have all the best ears? The pre-Christian Celtic people, notably the shamans, had finely developed powers of seeing into people and the future, but this power was divorced from a relationship with Father God as revealed by Jesus. The Celtic saints reassure us that it is possible for Christians to develop intuitive powers, as did Jesus, in a way that attunes them only to the Father’s wavelength.

Cuthbert was having a working lunch with a member of the Northumbrian royal family, the Abbess Aelfflaed, when he seemed to have a seizure, and his dinner knife fell from his hands. At first he made light of it, but then they drew out of him what he had ‘seen’ – the soul of a man from Aelfflaed’s estate being suddenly snatched from this earth. Aelfflaed only thought to enquire about the well-being of her monks, she did not enquire about all her lay estate workers. But the next day they discovered that, though the monks were all well, a shepherd named Hadwald had fallen from a tree and died at that very hour. The point of this is not obvious, but I wonder if it was God’s way of ensuring that the least should be treated as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Cuthbert had many other ‘seeings’ which affected the future of political powers, the course of the church’s mission, and his own future after his death, but I like to think that that these ‘tunings’ come for the same purpose that Christ came – to seek and to save those who are most needy and lost.

Make me attentive to the lap of the waves
Make me attentive to the movements of the sky
Make me attentive to the grasses that grow
Make me attentive to the soul’s every sigh.
Make me aware of the landscape that must pass
Make me aware of the new scape coming in
Make me aware of the universe within.
Make me aware of the beatings of your heart

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10th September

When You Feel A Failure

I trust you will know that we are not failures. We pray to God that you will do no wrong – not in order to show that we are a success, but so that you may do what is right, even though we may seem to be failures. For we cannot do a thing against the truth, only for it. 2 Corinthians 13: 7, 8

The man who wrote a biography of David of Wales five hundred years after David’s death was so keen to promote his own diocese that he would record any bit of folk lore, however far -fetched, that served to make his diocese seem more important.

So although we cannot take all that is written at face value, it would be foolish not to reflect upon those episodes which, when the embroidery is removed, were clearly believed to have taken place.

One such is the belief that Patrick, when he returned to his parents on the north west coast of Britain, came on a mission to Dyfed, and intended to settle at an attractive place there named Rosina Vallis. However, an angel spoke to him in a vision: ‘God has not planned this place for you, but for a son of his (David) who will not be born until the next generation’. Patrick probably felt rejected and rather a failure, until God gave him the call to be the leader of a mission to Ireland, affirming him with these words: ‘You will be radiant with signs and virtues, bringing the whole nation under my rule. I will be with you’. The place where this vision was given came to be known as Patrick’s Seat.

Patrick made his preparations, and before he boarded the boat for Ireland, God used him to raise someone from the dead!

How often do we feel a failure? Remember Patrick’s Seat. He felt a failure, but went on to raise someone from the dead and to win a nation to Christ! Find a seat where you can contemplate, not what is not to be, but what, under God, is yet to be. There is always a ‘yet to be’ with God. The darkest moment of night comes just before the dawn.

You pour your grace on those in distress
Without stop or stint
Son of Mary , Son of the disappointments,
Who was, who shall be
With ebb and flow
Be with me wherever I go

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