19th October

Wells Of Life

Jesus, tired out, sat down by Jacob’s well. A Samaritan woman came to draw up some water… Jesus said to her, the water I give to a person will be a well of everlasting life. John 4: 6, 7, 14.

This is the traditional English day for dressing wells. Wells were a focal point for a community’s water supplies, meetings and worship both before and after Christianity came. The Christian church met at the sites of wells, and used water as a powerful expression of God’s power to sustain, cleanse, and renew. This parallels in Celtic lands what the Bible records about wells.

Church Councils in Gaul and Irish church rules forbade the worship of wells, yet we learn of Celtic Christians being divinely guided to discover a well when a water supply was needed, using well water to bless pilgrims, bathing in wells and being healed, using wells as waymarks of God’s deeds, and establishing churches beside wells. Adamnan’s Life of Columba describes a poisonous well which Picts ‘worshipped as a god’ and which ‘was converted by the saint into a blessed well’. David is reputed to have done something similar at Glastonbury where he came to a well full of poison, blessed it, and caused it to become warm; it was called the Hot Baths.

The well at Ffynnon Enddwyn in Wales became famous when St. Enddwyn was cured after bathing in it. Ffynnon Ddyfnog well in Wales is said to owe its healing properties to the action of St. Ddyfnog who did penance there by standing under the cold water. John of Tynemouth wrote in 1350 that the waters from the well on Ramsey Island, ‘when drunk by sick folk, convey health of body to all’ A man suffering from a swelling in his stomach drank from it, vomited out a frog, and was cured immediately! It was said that God caused wells to come to light for the needs of David and Teilo, and that this well water tasted as pleasant as wine. Celtic Christian leaders often held baptisms at wells.

Today the advertisements of water companies emphasise truths such as ‘every drop is precious, we should never take water for granted’. Today baptisms are held in swimming pools as well as in church fonts. Today also prophet voices call us to ‘dig up the ancient wells’ -that is, God-given sources of renewal in our heritage.

Help me to drink deeply,
And rediscover the ancient sources of renewal

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18th October

Pentecost On An Island

The Lord is king! Earth, be glad! Rejoice, you islands of the seas! Psalm 97: 1

Brendan and his crew at last sailed in to an island. Streams of water gushed down from the hills and there was an abundance of fish and sheep. It was Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ death, so they sacrificed the finest sheep in celebration of Jesus, whom Christians know as the Lamb of God. However, the hermit who lived on the island, and who had welcomed them lovingly, felt God wanted them to go to a second island nearby to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day.

So off they sailed. One of the birds welcomed them, landing on Brendan’s shoulders and flapping its wings with joy. Then at dusk, as they sang God’s praises, the birds joined in, chirping in perfect harmony. The hermit brought over food from his island which was to last the monks forty days, for they were told to stay for the Pentecost celebration and then sail on. The day after Pentecost the hermit brought them another forty days’ supplies and they again embarked on the wide sea.
From the Life of Brendan the Navigator

I am bending my knee
In the eye of my Father who made me
In the eye of the Saviour who bought me
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me
In friendship and affection
I am bending my knee.
O Mighty One
O Holy Three
I am bending the knee
Bestow on us fullness
In our need
The smile of God
The trust of God
In our need
That we may do on the world you made
As angels and saints do in heaven
Each day and night
In bloom and in blight
We’ll be bending the knee
Carmina Gadelica (Adapted)

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17th October

Let God Blow Us

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. Psalm 107: 23

Brendan chose fourteen monks from his community, took them to the chapel, and made this proposal to them: ‘My dear fellow soldiers in the spiritual war, I beg your help because my heart is set upon a single desire. If it be God’s will, I want to seek out the Island of Promise of which our forefathers spoke. Will you come with me? What are your feelings?’ As soon as he had finished speaking, the monks replied with one voice: ‘Father, your desire is ours also…’ When all was ready Brendan ordered his monks aboard, the sail was hoisted, and the coracle was swept out to sea. For the next two weeks the wind was fair, so that they did no more than steady the sail. But then the wind fell, and they had to row, day after day. When their strength eventually failed, Brendan comforted them: ‘Have no fear, brothers, for God is our captain and our pilot; so take in the oars, and set the sail, letting him blow us where he wills.’
From the Life of Brendan the Navigator

Brothers and sisters, God is calling you to leave behind everything that stops you setting sail in the ocean of God’s love. You have heard the call of the Wild Goose, the untamable Spirit of God: be ready for him to lead you into wild, windy or well-worn places in the knowledge that he will make them places of wonder and welcome. He is giving you the vision of a spoiled creation being restored to harmony with its Creator, of a fragmented world becoming whole, of a weakened church being restored to its mission, of healed lands being lit up by the radiance of the glorious Trinity. In stillness or storm, be always vigilant, waiting, sharing, praising, blessing, telling. Sail forth across the ocean of God’s world knowing both the frailty of your craft and the infinite riches of your God.
From the First Voyage of the Coracle, Community of Aidan and Hilda

Dear God, be good to us;
Your sea is so wide,
And our boats are so small.
Prayer of the Breton fishermen

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16th October

God’s Plan

I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. John 15: 16

Cuthbert was a natural leader of people, yet he also had a strong inner motivation to the solitary life. How could he know which of these motivations was God’s plan for him? One day he was conversing on Coquet Island with Abbess Aelfledd, as to what God’s plan might be for the Northumbrian kingdom and its ruler, as well as for its church . We learn that because Cuthbert heeded Boisil’s prophetic words for him, he had become willing to accept a call to be a bishop for a period, yet that had not prevented his plans to have a period as a contemplative.

As we reflect upon the wisdom of friends and of our own hearts, we need to go with the flow of whatever God wills.

I cannot invent new things like the airship
Which sails on silver wings
But today a wonderful thought in the dawn was given
And the stripes on my robe,
Shining from wear, were suddenly fair
Bright with light falling from heaven –
Gold and silver and bronze light from the windows of heaven.
And the thought was this:
That a sacred plan is hid in my hand;
That my hand is big
Big, because of this plan
That God, who dwells in my hand knows this sacred plan
Of the things God will do for the world
using my hand.
Toyohiko Kagawa

There’s a divinity that shapes our ends .rough-hew them how we will
William Shakespeare

As tools come to be sharpened by the blacksmith,
so may we come, Lord.
As sharpened tools go back to their owner,
so may we go back to our everyday life
to be used by you.
A prayer from Africa

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15th October

Being Fully Present

If your gift is practical service, give yourself to it … Romans 12: 7,

How often do we think, ‘How boring’ about someone we are with, or something that we do, or even about our life as a whole? We can respond to this problem in two ways. The first way is to rush into the pursuit of trifles – into anything so long as it is new and catches our fancy. Some people spend their lives doing this. It is not, of course, an answer at all; it is merely a temporary distraction. The second way to respond to the problem of boredom is to develop an attitude of ‘being fully present’, so that the meaning, energy, colour and adventure with which, all unseen, the present moment is crammed become available to us..

This is sometimes called ‘the sacrament of the present moment’.We can ‘be fully present’ in all sorts of ways. Perhaps the words of someone speaking to us are like water off a duck’s back. Then we decide to become fully present to that person, and we become aware of their unique history, future and present, of the wonder of a life. Or perhaps we are mindlessly reciting a familiar psalm, or Mary’s Song (‘The Magnificat”); then, we imagine that we are the psalmist, or Mary, and we feel as they do. Boredom flees; emotions flow; encounters, tears, healings come.

It is this ability to fuse together the unique time and place of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem with our own specific present…. which is part of the genius of Celtic spirituality; a realisation that the eternal moments of the Incarnation or the Crucifixion or the Resurrection can transcend time and space, enabling us to relocate Bethlehem or Calvary or the Garden of the Third Day in our own back yard.
Patrick Thomas

Fill this moment, Lord.
Open my eyes to your presence.
Open my ears to your call.
Open my heart to your glory
Now, in me, in all

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14th October

The Importance Of Little Things

Jesus said: Whoever is faithful in little things will be faithful in large ones. Luke 16: 10

Do the little things that you have seen and heard through me.
The last words of David of Wales

Faithfulness in little things is a big thing.
St. John Chrysostom

I come in the little things says the Lord.
Anon.

We can do little things for God. I turn the cake that is frying on the pan, for love of God. That done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before the One who has given me grace to work. Afterwards I rise happier than a king.
Brother Lawrence

When we read the lives of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure, which went hand in hand with a remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark; every bit of their life told; their simplest actions had a distinction, an exquisiteness that suggested the artist. The reason is not far to seek. Their sainthood lay in their referring the smallest actions to God.
E. Hermon

God in my rising and lying down
God in my dressing and undressing
God in my cleaning and cooking
God in my locking and unlocking
God in my greeting and speaking
God in my counting and viewing
God in the little things
God in this thing
God in that thing
God in all things

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13th October

Art

God has filled him with his spirit and given him skill, ability, and understanding of every kind of artistic work. Exodus 35: 31

The missionary company that accompanied Patrick included artists, according to the Book of Armagh. Patrick himself used to teach young people who were training for the ministry to write the alphabet in a graceful style. Before Patrick’s arrival, the people of Ireland were all but destitute of a literature. In the centuries following Patrick there was a great flowering of art and calligraphy. The flower of that flowering was The Book of Kells.

It is thought that this book was designed at Iona in the eighth century, and taken to the monastery at Kells for safe keeping during a Viking invasion. Many brightly coloured natural pigments were used. It abounds in spirals, knotwork and key-patterns. The ornament is profuse and varied, sometimes drawing on both Pictish and Byzantine art. Geraldus Cambrensis concluded that the Book of Kells was ‘the work of an angel, not of a man’. Even today, Nicolete Gray in A History of Lettering can say that the three Greek letters that form the monogram of Christ on the Chi Rho page are ‘more presences than letters’. For shining through the brilliance of the artistic skills is the splendour of spiritual understanding.

There is something of the artist in all of us and we can learn much from these Irish artists. For example, that an artist does not have to be conventional; an artist may follow angles that seem ‘way out’ to others but this could be a form of humility or folly for Christ. An artist must, however, attain to an inner purity, honesty, and integrity of spirit. The artist needs to understand the inner, God-given nature of each element of creation that (s)he wishes to portray, and how it reflects an aspect of the ultimate nature of the Creator.

The Irish sense of balance in imbalance, of riotous complexity moving swiftly within a basic unity, would now find its most extravagant expression in Irish Christian art – in the monumental high crosses, in miraculous liturgical vessels such as the Ardagh Chalice, and, most delicately of all, in the art of the Irish codex.
Thomas Cahill How the Irish Saved Civilisation

God, fill your people with your Spirit
and give us skill, ability, and understanding
of every kind of artistic work

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12th October

Presence

So the one who came down is the same one who went up, above and beyond the heavens, to fill the whole universe with his presence. Ephesians 4: 10

Everything spoke of a Presence, vibrated with God’s love. They saw a universe ablaze with his glory, suffused with a presence that calls, nods and beckons – a creation personally united with its Creator in every atom and fibre.
David Adam

The material is shot through with the spiritual; there is a ‘within-ness’ of God in all life. The whole earth is sacramental: everything is truly every blessed thing.
Ron Ferguson Chasing the Wild Goose

Earth’s crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

There’s no plant in the ground
But is full of his blessing
There’s no thing in the sea
But is full of his life
There is nought in the sky
But proclaims his goodness
Jesu! O Jesu! it’s good to praise thee!
There’s no bird on the wing
But is full of his blessing
There’s no star in the sky
But is full of his life
There is nought neath the sun
But proclaims his goodness
Jesu! O Jesu! it’s good to praise thee!
Carmina Gadelica

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11th October

The Five Stringed Harp

You know that your bodies are parts of the body of Christ … so use your bodies for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 6: 15, 20

Celtic Christians use all their their bodily senses, which they call ‘the five stringed harp’, to express the presence of God.

Bless my hands Lord
May they be put to good use and not wasted idly.
May they work hard and honestly
Yet still grasp every opportunity to stroke and caress.
May they never be raised in violence.
Bless my feet Lord
May they always walk on hallowed ground
May they not run away in fear but plod courageously on.
May they never wander off your courageous path.
Bless my eyes `Lord
May they see beyond the masks so often worn
and look deeply into the soul.
Help them to drink in the beauty of the sunrise and sunset
the shimmering sun dancing through the waves.
May they marvel at the brilliance of tiny jewel-like snow crystals glistening in the moonlight.
May they see into the hunger, suffering and injustices of the world.
Help me to know when to open them and when to look away.
Bless my ears Lord
That I may always hear the real message of what is being said.
Grant my ears the wisdom of knowing what to cherish and what to reject.
Thank you for the gift of hearing – the communication it enables –
the music which inspires my soul and the pain which moves me to compassion.
Thank you for the gift of silence, a calm to my soul.
Bless my mind Lord, may it always feed and grow on your holy word
and consider all things from your godly perspective ….
Sue Bloomfield Community of Aidan and Hilda

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10th October

Immersion

As they travelled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water, and the official said, ‘Here is some water. What is to keep me from being baptized?’ The official ordered the carriage to stop, and both Philip and the official went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. Acts 8: 36,38

At baptisms, Celtic Christians often did not collect water and pour it into a font. They went to the source of water, a spring, well or river, and were baptised there. And they frequently sprinkled or stood in water to remind them that baptism is a way of life, a way of being immersed in God. The Orthodox Christians of the east have a similar understanding:

The voice of the Lord cries out across the waters saying: Come, all of you, and receive the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of reverence of God who is shown to us in Jesus Christ. as he wades into the waters of the river Jordan, the river which rolls back its currents as it looks upon the Lord coming to be immersed. You came as a man, O Christ our King, to receive the immersion of a servant from the hands of the Forerunner; this was because of our sins, O you Lover of humankind. The Forerunner, John the Baptiser, became all trembling as he looked upon you coming towards him. ‘How can the candlestick illumine the light?’, he cried out, ‘how can a slave lay hands upon his Lord? Make me and these waters holy, O Saviour who takes away the sins of the world’. Make this a fountain of immortality
A gift of cleansing
A remission of sins
A healing of compulsive habits
A destroying of demons
A renewing of our God-given nature
Adapted from an Orthodox Rite of the Blessing of the Waters

Immerse us in your pure water
and your gift of your tender heart.
Immerse us in your healing water
and your gift of wisdom.
Immerse us in your renewing waters
and your gift of reverence

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