18th February

Jerome And The lion

Cows and bears will eat together, and their calves and cubs will lie down in peace. Lions will eat straw as cattle do. Isaiah 11: 7

Saint Jerome was saying evening prayer with his brothers in the monastery at Bethlehem when a large lion limped in to the cloisters with an injured paw. Jerome took the injured paw in his hand and found that wounds from a cut had festered. The brothers bathed and tended these.

So much so that the lion made himself at home! This caused considerable discussion among the brothers. Jerome’s conclusion was: ‘God has sent us this lion to show that He wants to look after us. So instead of worrying about having a lion here, let us give it something useful to do’. They came up with a good idea: each day their donkey would take the lion with him to pasture, and the lion would guard the donkey from any who might steal or harm it.

This arrangement worked well until one day the lion fell asleep and some travelling merchants stole the donkey. After this the lion took to roaring up and down, and at nights would hang around disconsolately, staying outside the monastery. Some brothers assumed the lion had eaten the donkey, and that he should be banished. Jerome, however, thought that Christians should not judge others, even lions, without evidence. So they continued to give the lion care and food, and they gave him a new job: to go every day with a harness to fetch branches from the wood. The lion did this faithfully, but he still longed for the donkey, and instinctively looked out for him. One day, miles away, he saw the traders returning with the donkey leading the way. With roars and bounds he raced to them; the men fled in terror, and the lion brought the donkey and drove the laden camels back to the monastery.

Soon the shamefaced traders arrived to ask for their goods and camels, begged forgiveness, and offered the brothers expensive gifts. Jerome refused the gifts, and gently explained that the best way they could show their appreciation was to always thank God for His provisions, and never to take what belongs to others. This they promised to do.

Lord, give me gentleness towards all creatures
integrity in my dealings
and wisdom to handle unsettling situations.

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17th February

Kevin And The Blackbird

Not a single one of these sparrows has been forgotten by God…yet you are worth much more than many sparrows. Luke 12: 6,7

And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is so narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a cross beam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to rest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: Now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown…
Seamus Heaney

O, King of the Tree of Life
The blossoms on the branches are your people
The singing birds are your angels
The whispering breeze is your Spirit.
O, King of the Tree of Life
May the blossoms bring forth the sweetest fruit
May the birds sing out the highest praise
May your Spirit cover all with gentle breath.
Traditional Celtic Prayer

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16th February

Jaws

No one helped God spread out the heavens or trample the sea monster’s back. … We cannot understand the great things God does; there is no end to the miracles God can do. Job 9: 8,10.

Berach, who was planning to sail the always risky journey from Iona to Tiree, asked Columba to bless this journey. Columba looked at him long and hard: ‘Take special care not to cross the open sea today in a straight course, otherwise you will meet an enormous monster who will terrify and well nigh overwhelm you. Go in a zig zag around the smaller islands.’

Berach set off, but, since everything looked fine, and it seemed so much easier to go direct, he disregarded Columba’s advice. Some time after this an immense whale rose up like a mountain in front of the crew, opened its jaws, gaping, full of teeth. They let down the sail in terror and rowed back for their lives. In future, they weighed God’s prophetic words more carefully.

Baithene had to make a similar journey, but unlike Berach, his impulses were in harmony with God. On the morning of their departure Columba told Baithene and his crew about the whale, but gave no advice. ‘That beast and I are both under God’s power’ said Baithene. ‘Go in peace’, said Columba, ‘your faith in Christ will defend you from this peril.’ They did see the whale and the crew was terrified, but Baithene himself was without fear. He raised both his hands and blessed the sea and the whale. At that precise moment the whale plunged under the waves and they did not see it again.

God aid me
God succour me
when near the reefs
The Son of God shield me from harm
The Son of God shield me from ill
The Son of God shield me from mishap
The Son of God shield me with power
The Son of God shield me with might.
Carmina Gadelica

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15th February

Soaring Like Eagles

They who wait on the Lord shall soar like eagles. Isaiah 40: 31

Understand, if you want to know the Creator, created things.
Columbanus

The beauty of the trees
The softness of the air
The fragrance of the grass
Speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain
The thunder of the sky
The rhythm of the sea
Speaks to me

The faintness of the stars
The freshness of the morning
The dewdrops on the flower
Speaks to me

The strength of fire
The taste of salmon
The trail of the sun
And the life that never goes away
They speak to me
And my heart soars.
Chief Dan George

My dear King, my own King, without pride, without sin
You created the whole world, eternal, victorious King.
King above the elements, King above the sun, King beneath the ocean
King of the north and south, the east and west
against you no enemy can prevail.
And you created us to be your stewards of the earth
and we praise you for your boundless love.
The Celtic Psalter

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14th February

The Earth Is The Lord’s

Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live. Genesis 2: 7

Teach your children what we have taught our children
That the earth is our mother
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth
If men spit upon the ground they spit upon themselves
This we know.
The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth
This we know.
All things are connected like the blood which unites one family
All things are connected
We did not weave the web of life
We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.
Chief Seattle

Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly.
Hildegard of Bingen

May all I say and all I think
be in harmony with you
God within me, God beyond me
maker of the trees
Chinook Psalter

The food which we are to eat
Is earth, water and sun
Coming to us through pleasing plants.
The food which we are to eat
Is the fruit of the labour of many creatures.
We are thankful for it.
May it give us health, strength, joy
And may it increase our love.
A Unitarian prayer before a meal

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13th February

God Took The Earth

God commanded ‘Let the earth produce all kinds of plants…. Let the earth produce all kinds of animals…’ God took of the earth and created a man… Genesis 1: 11,12; 2.7

The earth where King Oswald died seems to have soaked in his sanctity and to have become a seedbed. A sick horse and a sick girl were cured by touching the soil upon which Oswald met his death; the soil from that spot seemed to have power to make the grass grow greener, to resist fire and to heal all sorts of people who were touched by it.

The earth is at the same time mother
She is the mother of all that is natural
mother of all that is human
she is the mother of all
for contained in her are the seeds of all.

In me be the truth of stream-lover willow, soil-giving alder
hazel of sweet nuts, wisdom-branching oak.
In me be the joy of crab apple, great maple, vine maple,
cleansing cascara and lovely dogwood.
And the gracious truth of the copper branched arbutus
bright with colour and fragrance
be with me on the Earth.
Chinook Psalter

The earth of humankind contains all moistness
all verdancy, all germinating power,
It is in so many ways fruitful.
All creation comes from it
Yet it forms not only the basic raw materials for humankind
but also the substance of the incarnation of God’s son.
Hildegaard of Bingen

God of the earth
forgive us for becoming proud and disconnected
from your seed-bed of wisdom, nurture and life.
Help us always to know and feel that we are of the earth
May we live this day as your humus.

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12th February

Transfiguration

Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. Matthew 17: 2

The Feast of the Transfiguration is 6 August. That is the day we happened to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. We took His Body and we took His Blood and we enacted a Cosmic Golgotha. We took the key to love and we used it for bloody hell…

Suppose the material order is indeed the garment of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit? Suppose the bread and wine, symbols of all creation, is indeed capable of redemption awaiting its Christification? Then what is the atom but the emergent body of Christ?
George MacCleod

On the Feast of the Transfiguration may we be able to pray together for the redemption of the whole creation and a speedy end to the suffering of animals through human exploitation.
Marjorie Milne of Glastonbury

The poet Waldo Williams treasured the moment which like a shooting star makes us wonderfully conscious of the mystery and vastness and glory of the universe, the moment which suddenly reveals a presence and suddenly enchants the heart, the second which makes true acquaintance shine.
Pennar Davies

When the Saviour of this globe was stretched out on the Tree of death,
the elements erupted and the earth gave up its dead.
His blood, spilled on the soil, transfigured earth and heaven.
May his body and blood change us and transfigure this earth
Transfigure this earth: may your kingdom come on it
Transfigure this earth: may flowers bloom on it
Transfigure this earth: may people and animals be friends on it.
Transfigure this earth: may the scarred places be healed on it
Transfigure this earth: may peace reign on it
Transfigure this earth: may our bodies be changed into bodies of resurrection.
From a Celtic Eucharist Community of Aidan and Hilda

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11th February

Song Maker

Let them tell of God’s works with songs of joy. Psalm 107:22

The first of English poets he
Who nurtured by the Whitby sea
A poor and simple cowherd seemed.
Yet here the gold of poetry gleamed
Though hidden deep within his soul
For from the company he stole
Fearful to be found afraid
When they their entertainment made
The very least among the throng
With little speech nor any song.
Then in the stillness of one night
His soul was filled with heavenly light
A vision of the world being made
Of God’s creation all displayed
As in the stable stall he lay
Dreaming he heard an angel pray
And speak to him of God’s great world
And how its majesty unfurled.
Then day by day to his inspired mind
That had seemed deaf and dumb and blind
There came sweet words so bright and clear.
Then Mother Hilda came to hear
And stayed with all her Abbey folk
While Caedmon, poet of Whitby, spoke.
No longer now to steal away
When came his turn the harp to play
For in his Saxon mother tongue
Were all his splendid verses sung
And improvised with great delight
In many a stormy winter’s night
When firelight filled the raftered hall
In far off ancient Streonshalh.
Then folk would learn the poems by heart
Or memorise a favourite part
Making them one with Christian praise
In those remote, unlettered days.
Tom Stamp

Praise you, wisdom and Founder of all.

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10th February

Kingly Qualities

The Lord has sought out a man after the Lord’s own heart to be the leader of God’s people. 1 Samuel 13: 14

The ambitious king Cadwallon slew the two kings of Northumbria. Oswald, the brother of one of them, and a man beloved of God, arrived with a small army to oppose the invader. He placed a large cross in the ground, and as he held the cross he addressed the whole army: ‘let us all kneel, and together pray the true and ever living God to defend us from a proud and cruel enemy. For God knows that this is a just war which we fight in order to liberate our people’. They won the victory against huge odds. The place of battle is called Heavenfield to this day, to indicate that Heaven’s standard was set up there, Heaven’s victory won, and Heaven’s miracles continued. Many people were healed when splinters from this cross mingled with water were brought to them.

Oswald initiated a mission to his kingdom from Iona, and cared for the poor. He was deeply devout and rose early each day to pray. Under his rule the previously warring kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira became one people, although ethnic cleansing was normal in those days. Oswald died, still young, on the battlefield; his dying prayer was for the souls of his soldiers, not for himself.

In succeeding centuries peoples throughout Europe longed for examples of Christian kingship, and Oswald became a model far and wide. Many churches in the European Union are dedicated to St. Oswald.
King Baudouin of the Belgians once told a friend that his purpose in beingking was: to love his country; to pray for his country; to suffer for his country. At his funeral in 1993 Cardinal Suenens said: ‘We were in the presence of one who was more than a king; one who was a shepherd of his people’.

High King of heaven and earth
from whom all authority flows
may the diverse authorities of our times
acknowledge you as the Source of life
emulate you as the Servant King
and fear you as the Judge of truth.

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9th February

Gentle Persuasion

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15: 1.

St. Molua who died in Ireland on 4 August in the 7th. century, was noted for using gentle persuasion rather than strictly imposed rules, as this story illustrates.

A bard named Conan, who was quite unused to manual labour, joined Molua’s monastery in the Slieve mountains. On the first day Molua personally accompanied him to a thicket of thistles that had to be cut down. On that day they cut down just one. On the second day they cut down two, and so it went on.

Molua was not afraid to reprove a person when necessary, but he always tried to do it with gentleness, and in God’s way, knowing that God always has the last word. `Once the king of Leinster arrived with four hundred of his men and demanded that they be instantly fed. Molua patiently explained why that would be difficult. The king, however, insisted, and food was brought as quickly as was possible, no doubt causing considerable disruption to the life of the community. The very first morsel the king tasted stuck in his gullet for twenty four hours, preventing him from either eating or sleeping. The king learned his lesson without anything more having to be said. From that time on he became thoughtful and generous towards the community.

Lord, help me
to take the time to sit in the shoes of the other person
to start from where they are
to listen to what they feel
to refrain from the too hasty judgement or the too ready answer
to smile and be gentle
and yet not to collude with the slipshod
but to prayerfully see a thing through.

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