20th July

The Golden Rule

Love your neighbour as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:18

Teilo is celebrated in The Welsh Triads as one of the three blessed ‘Visitors of the Isle of Britain’, the other two being David and Padarn. He was greatly used in the Christian formation of Wales and Britanny in the 6th century, and one gets a sense of warm fellowship being generated throughout the many Christian communities that he helped to establish. He was born opposite Caldey Island and trained under Paulinus, where he met another pupil who was to be greatly used, David. When David started his main establishment at the modern St David’s, Teilo went with him; he was good at teamwork.

Teilo obtained grants of land and established many Christian communities. Notable among these was his own, which was probably at Great Llandeilo. Entries in the margin of the Gospels of St. Chad (written about 700) refer to him as the founder of a monastery known as ‘the Family of Teilo’. This was a prototype of the kind of community that was led by a monk who was also a bishop of his people. Such a monastery was the hearth, or hub, of a large extended family of Christians.

When the plague decimated the population in 547, Teilo led a mass exodus of Christians to Britanny, where he linked up with Samson who had settled at Dol. The two of them were said to have planted a big orchard of fruit trees, three miles long, reaching from Dol to Cai. He stayed there seven years and established further communities.

It is said that the hermit Cadoc once asked Teilo, ‘What is the greatest wisdom in a person?’ He answered ‘To refrain from injuring another person when one has the power to do so.’’. Teilo had the power to do so, but the winning quality of saints such as himself was that that they did not abuse power, they followed the golden rule ‘Do to others what you would like them to do to you’.

Teach me
Gentle Jesus of the cradle and the cross
To forego vengeance at all times
And to reach out my hands in love to all

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19th July

Jesus, Forgive My Sins

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. Mark 10:48

Just as failure to give a car its M.O.T. can be a matter of life or death, so can our failure to check up on faults that may have been developing, unnoticed, in ourselves. Celtic Christians had check lists of common faults; these were incorporated in what were known as ‘Penitentials’.

The following prayer of confession is a useful check-list. It may be worth while taking the time to detect examples of each type of fault in our lives, and to take these to the heavenly Mechanic who can put them right. It is also worth remembering that Celtic Christians believed that God has made us horizontal, and not just vertical; in other words, we are designed to share our secrets with another trusted human being, an ‘anamchara’ or companion along the way. Have you thought of doing that at this stage in your life?

Jesus, forgive my sins.
Forgive the sins that I can remember
and also the sins I have forgotten.
Forgive the wrong actions I have committed
and the right actions I have omitted.
Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation
and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction.
Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements
and those when I have failed to boast of your works.
Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others
and the leniency I have shown myself.
Forgive the lies I have told to others
and the truths I have avoided.
Forgive the pain I have caused others
and the indulgence I have shown myself.
Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole.
From Celtic Fire, Robert Van der Weyer (Unattributed)

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18th July

Vigils

The Spirit led Jesus to go into the desert, where he stayed for forty days, being tested by Satan. Mark 1:12

Even the busiest Celtic Christians made time to get away for prayer vigils, especially during the weeks before Easter. Samson used to keep Lent by taking just three small loaves and withdrawing to a remote spot for the forty days. Sometimes Samson would eat nothing for six days, but refresh himself with food on Sundays, the day that celebrates Jesus’s resurrection. Sometimes he would stand throughout the night in prayer, with his staff which had dropped from his hands.

What do ordinary mortals do on a vigil? Some of us may emulate these aspirations of an unknown Celtic hermit:

A remote, hidden little cabin for forgiveness of my sins
A conscience upright and spotless before Heaven.
Making good the body with good habits
Treading it boldly down
Feeble tearful eyes for forgiveness of my passions.
Eager wailings to cloudy Heaven
Sincere and truly devout confession
Fervent showers of tears …
Dry bread weighed out, well we bow the head
Water of the fair coloured hillside
That is the draught I would drink.
Stepping along the paths of the Gospel
Singing psalms every hour
An end of talking and long stories
Constant bending of the knee.

Sorry Lord –
For the shabbiness of my living
For the shoddiness of my working
For the shallowness of my praying
For the selfishness of my giving
For the fickleness of my feeling
For the faithlessness of my speaking
For the dullness of my hearing
For the grudgingness of my sharing
For the slothfulness of my thinking
For the slowness of my serving
For the coldness of my loving

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17th July

True Wealth

Do not store up for yourselves riches here upon earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. Matthew 6:19,20

Brigid’s monastery brewed ale for the churches round about and, as Christianity spread, Brigid’s faith-sharing teams went out to churches far and wide. Easter was an opportunity to minister to the increased numbers who came, and in one church a blind person, a consumptive, a leper and a mentally ill person were healed through Brigid’s ministry.

Once Brigid visited a place where the Christians feared to preach God’s Word because a madman was about. Brigid challenged the madman to preach the Word of God himself, which he did! She told nuns who saw the Devil ‘Make Christ’s Cross on your face and on your eyes.’

Her unknown biographer writes ‘Her heart and mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Spirit. She was simple towards God; compassionate towards the wretched; she was splendid in miracles and marvels.‘

Someone in the ninth century composed a famous poem entitled ‘Hail Brigid’. Its theme is the disappearance of the pagan world of Ireland and the triumph of Christianity. This was symbolised by the abandonment of the ancient hill-fort of Allen as the seat of the once powerful kings of Leinster, and its replacement by Brigid and her Kildare monastic network. This had become the main source of blessing and protection for the people.

In later times Brigid was imagined to be the mid-wife, or the wet-nurse, present at Christ’s birth, and she was made a symbol of the Bride of Christ. She became the guardian of the poor who work the land, and the patron of those who study. Beautiful prayers have come down to us which reflect these traditions.

May the fruits God gave Brigid lie on me .
May the delights God gave Brigid lie on me .
May the healings God gave Brigid lie on me .
May the virtues God gave Brigid lie on me
And on my loved ones

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16th July

Barrels Full

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands – all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you. Luke 6:38

Dubtach, despairing of Brigid’s generosity with his goods, arranged a marriage of his beautiful daughter to a member of a noble family. Brigid refused; Dubtach allowed her to become a nun and gave her a dowry. When Brigid took the veil an old bishop was so awe-struck by the holy fire he saw above her, that he unintentionally read the words of the consecration of a bishop over her. He told a colleague who objected: ‘I have no power in this matter; this dignity has been given by God to Brigid.’

Brigid resolved to establish a community where women could work and pray together. The king in Kildare refused her request for a grant of land, but relented when she said she would accept a plot of land as small as the size of her cloak. Once Brigid had a foothold, however, the area of land never seemed to stop growing. The church was built in a place that had been set aside for pagan worship, where a sacred flame was always kept alight. So the nuns, too, kept a fire of resurrection burning outside the church, night and day, and this was not extinguished for a thousand years.

Brigid needed priests to perform the sacraments, so she chose Bishop Conleath to govern with her, but there was no doubt who was in charge! Through Conleath there came monks and many skilled craftsmen, and a double monastery of men and women was established under Brigid’s leadership. Sick people came to the monastery and were healed, lepers were given barrels full of apples, bishops, kings, and saints, such as Finnian, came for advice.

God wants to prosper our work, too; but our attitude is all important. It must be done God’s way. In the following prayer, let the lumps stand for something that you contribute to the world through your work.

Come, you rich lumps, come!
Come, you rich lumps, come!
Come, you rich lumps, masses large,
Come, you rich lumps, come!
Carmina Gadelica

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15th July

May We Have Fullness

Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out upon you in abundance all kinds of good things. Malachi 3:10

Brigid was born about 455AD, the daughter of Leinster’s pagan King Dubtach and his slave woman, Broicsech, who was a Christian. After Brigid was conceived two Bishops from Scotland prophesied great things for her over her mother. Dubtach’s infertile, jealous wife forced him to sell Broicsech as a slave to a druid priest.

Brigid used to throw up the food provided by the priest, so a good local woman was allowed to feed her from her own stock. Brigid wanted to be holy and from her earliest days she rejected anything that was not wholesome. She grew strong and bold, and liberally fed the sheep, the birds and the poor. She then returned to her father’s house, where she exasperated Dubtach by her habit of giving away his food and goods. She constantly took the initiative. Once when she was travelling with her father her attendant was taken ill. Brigid fetched water from a well, prayed over it, and gave it him to drink; it tasted like ale and he recovered.

Brigid’s mother continued as a hard-working slave, and Brigid often returned to help her. A song she sang as she churned the butter for her mother and their many visitors is recorded in Lives of the Saints from the Book of Lismore: ‘Mary’s Son, my friend, come to bless this kitchen. May we have fullness through you.’ Through Brigid the Lord multiplied the butter as he once multiplied loaves and fishes. Eventually this faith-filled way of life won the heart of the druid, who became a Christian, and he gave Brigid’s mother her freedom.

Mary’s Son, my friend, come and bless the kitchen.
May we have fullness through you.
Mary’s Son, my friend, come and bless the school.
May we have fullness through you.
Mary’s Son, my friend, come and bless the soil.
May we have fullness through you.
Mary’s Son, my friend, come and bless the work.
May we have fullness through you

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14th July

The Ever Fruitful Woman

The kingdom of God is like a woman who takes some yeast and mixes it with flour until the whole batch of dough rises. Luke 13:20,21

Brigid was the spiritual midwife who helped bring to birth Christian Ireland, and she is a potent symbol of womanhood. Through her flowed compassion, energy, and healing powers, and everything she set her hand to increased. Her large monastery at Kildare, in the central plain of Ireland, came to replace the influence of pagan kings.

Her heart contained no poison, no snake lurked within her breast
She nursed no grudges, harboured no resentments.
In the spiritual field where she sowed, the weather was always right.
When she sowed the seeds of the Gospel in people’s hearts,
the soft rain would fall so the seeds would sprout.
When she taught Christians how to grow in the image of Christ,
the sun shone in the day, and the rain fell at night,
so the fruits of good works would swell.
When she welcomed the sick and the dying
the weather was warm and dry
to prepare their souls for God’s harvest.
Now in heaven she intercedes for us
sending upon us the gentle dew of God’s grace.
A medieval Irish hymn to Brigid

You who put beam in moon and sun
You who put fish in stream and sea,
You who put food in ear and herd,
Send your blessing up to me.
Bring forth the warmth, the tears, the laughter
From our repressed and frozen ground;
Bring forth loving, healing, forgiving,
To our fretting, festering wound.
Bring in light and truth and singing
After dark and frigid years

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13th July

Lights

God is light and in God there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

Forty days after his birth Jesus was presented to God in the temple, according to Jewish law. In the 6th century eastern churches began to celebrate this occasion as a thanksgiving for the ending of the plague. This was known as ‘The Meeting’, to mark the meeting in the temple between the infant Jesus and Simeon, who recognised that Jesus was the true light of the world. Later this became popular in the Western Church as Candlemas. The blessing of the candles to symbolise Christ, the true light of the world, has become the distinctive feature, and is a fitting thing to do near the start of Imbolc, the Celtic season of light.

The strongest attraction of Candlemas is the ‘bitter-sweet’ nature of what it celebrates. It is a feast day, and the revelation of the child Jesus in the temple, greeted by Simeon and Anna, calls for rejoicing. Nevertheless, the prophetic words of Simeon, which speak of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce, lead on to the passion and Easter … It is as if we say, on 2 February, ‘One last look back at Christmas, and now, turn towards the Cross.’
Adapted from the Church of England’s – The Promise of His Glory

Christ as a light illumine and guide me
Christ as a shield overshadow me
Christ under me
Christ over me
Christ beside me on my left and my right
This day be within and without me
Lonely and meek yet all powerful
Be in the mouth of each to whom I speak
In the mouth of each who speaks to me
Christ as a light illumine and guide me.
John Michael Talbot, after St Patrick’s Breastplate.

Your Holy Spirit rested on Simeon and he recognised your coming.
May we recognise you in our lives.
Simeon recognised in you the true light that brings light to the world.
Help us to receive and radiate that light.
Simeon foresaw that your mother would be pierced to the heart.
Give us the faithful love she showed at the cross

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12th July

Calls for Unity

Though we are many … we are joined to each other like different parts of one body. Romans 12:5

The founders of the churches were all bishops, three hundred and fifty in number, famed and holy and full of the Holy Spirit. They had one head, Christ. They had one leader, Patrick. They maintained one Eucharist, one liturgy … one Easter … what was excommunicated by one church was excommunicated by all.
Catalogue of the Saints of Ireland 6th to 9th century

Always be of one mind.
David’s final message to his followers in Wales

Always keep God’s peace and love among you, and when you have to seek guidance about your affairs, take great care to be of one mind. Live in mutual goodwill also with Christ’s other servants, and do not despise Christians who come to you for hospitality, but see that you welcome them, give them accommodation, and send them on their way with friendship and kindness. Never think you are superior to other people who share your faith and way of life.
Cuthbert’s last words as noted by Bede

Keep the peace of the Gospel with one another, and indeed with all the world.
The last words of Hilda to her sisters at the Whitby monastery

There is only one true flight from the world … the flight from disunity and separation, to unity and peace in the love of other people.
Thomas Merton

The walls of separation do not reach heaven.
Cornerstone Community, Belfast

Peace between believers
Peace between neighbours
Peace between lovers
In love of the King of Life.
Peace between person and person
Peace between wife and husband
Peace between parents and children
The peace of Christ above all peace

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11th July

Eastern Light

In the beginning was the Life Force … The Life Force was the source of life, and this life brought light to humanity. John 1:2,4

The Greek word Logos was used in the Bible, and in Greek writings of the time, to describe the life force that people believed lay behind the material things of the universe. Science fiction films often reflect a similar belief. ‘The Force be with you’ was a saying in an early science fiction film, Star Wars. This idea of the Life Force, which was strong in the eastern part of the world, was taken up by the apostle John, who brought many people in eastern parts to faith. John, who had such ‘flow’ with Jesus, helped people understand that this Life Force was channeled, in an almost unbelievable way, in one man, Jesus Christ. Once you grasp this amazing truth, your hopes and your horizons are transformed.

I muse on the eternal Logos of God, and all creation is lit up:
I muse on the eternal Light, and every person is lit up:
I muse on the eternal Life, and God’s heaven is lit up:
I muse on the beloved disciple at the Last Supper and God’s sacrament is lit up:
I muse on the loved mother and apostle at the cross and Christ’s church is lit up:
I muse on the risen Christ at Lake Galilee and all our Easters are lit up:
I muse on the eternal Lamb of God and eternity’s tenderness is lit up:
I muse on the radiance of the eastern light and pray that it becomes the transforming glory of the west.

Grant to me, O Lord,
That tender love, that deathless vision, that flowing life
Of John the loved disciple
Until the Logos, the Lamb, and I
Your little loved one
Flow together as one

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