18th November

Bringing Out The Best In Others

Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. Ephesians 4: 29

When Columba paid a visit to the the important Clonmacnoise Monastery, in Ireland, he was surrounded by the many brothers who wanted to be near him. A boy whose negative attitudes and looks caused people to look down upon him, crept in behind Columba. He had heard read from the Bible how a miracle occurred in a woman in a crowd who was able to touch just the edge of Jesus’ cloak, so his idea was to touch the edge of Columba’s cloak without being noticed. Columba, like Jesus, sensed in his spirit that someone was there, turned round and taking the boy by the neck, brought him forward. Some of the brothers tried to shoo the boy away. Columba hushed them. ‘Open your mouth and put out your tongue’ he asked the boy. Columba reached forward and blessed the boy’s tongue. He told the brothers: ‘Do not let this boy’s present disposition make you despise him. From now on he will cease to displease you. Indeed, he will please you greatly, and, grow , little by little, day by day, in goodness and greatness of spirit. Wisdom and discernment will increase in him and he will become an outstanding figure in your community. God will give him eloquence to teach the way of salvation’.

This boy was Ernene mac Craseni, who was to become famous throughout the churches of Ireland, and highly regarded.

Once the foster parents of Domnell mac Aedo brought the boy to Columba. Columba looked at him for a while and then gave this prophetic blessing: ‘This boy will outlive all his brothers and be a famous king. He will never be handed over to his enemies but will die at home in his bed, in peaceful old age, in the friendly presence of his household’. All this came true.

May Father, Son and Spirit replenish and renew you
So that an island shall you be in the sea
A hill shall you be on the land
A well shall you be in the desert
Health shall you be to the ailing.
Attributed to Columba

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17th November

Hilda of Whitby

Wisdom calls out at the crossroads: Take my instruction, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot compare with her. I hate pride and arrogance. I have good advice. By me, rulers rule, and all who govern rightly. Proverbs 8: 1, 10, 11, 13 – 16.

Hilda was born in 614 a pagan. In 627 she was baptised by Paulinus, a missionary sent from Rome. She nobly served God for the first half of her life as a laywoman within a large royal household. She was motivated for service by Aidan and his friends, who ‘visited her frequently, instructed her assiduously, and loved her heartily for her innate wisdom and her devotion to the service of God’.
It seems that in 635 she decided to enter a monastery in France. Aidan acted swiftly, and persuaded her to use her gifts in Britain. After a trial period at a small community house by the river Wear, Hilda ruled over the monastery at Hartlepool for some years, where she established the Rule of Life that Aidan had taught her, no doubt based upon the Rule Columba had introduced at Iona. Here she showed such qualities of leadership that she was called upon to establish or reform a community at Whitby.
At Whitby they lived by the same Rule. These Christ-like qualities particularly made an impression upon people: peace, love, respect for every person, purity and devotion.

After the example of the primitive church, no one was rich, no one was in need, for they had all things in common and none had any private property. So great was her prudence that not only ordinary people, but kings and princes sometimes sought and received her counsel when in difficulties.
Bede

Wisdom on High, help me to learn from the likes of Hilda:
to be reliable
to grow in prudence.
to study, work and pray hard, but not too hard;
to treat every person with courtesy and none with contempt;
to maintain resolute faith,
balanced judgement, and outgoing friendships

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16th November

Comrades

Righteousness exalts a nation. Proverbs 14: 34

Fellowship replaced hostility between brothers in many a monastery, and this spirit overflowed into the people among whom they lived, as this story, handed down by word of mouth, illustrates: When Columba visited the monastery on the isle of Eigg he discovered that two monks were preaching in a spirit of rivalry. Columba asked them both to stretch out their right hand toward the sky. ‘One of you is slightly taller than the other, but neither of you are remotely within reach of that cloud up there’ he said. ‘So to your knees. Pray for one another and for the people of your kingdom whom you serve’. Both monks fell to their knees and their prayers, which used to stick in the thatch, now reached to heaven! They were now comrades, helping to forge a comrade people.

The Celtic people in the west of Britain called themselves Cymru which means ‘the land of comrades’ (this is how we have the name Cumbria today). The invading Anglo-Saxons renamed the southern part Wales, which means ‘land of foreigners’. This is a typical example of the suspicions, caricatures and prejudices that developed with the emergence of the separate nations of Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland and one cannot but help feel that the community God intended for this group of islands was continuously damaged by the darkness of evil and human sin. Interestingly, many are now looking to the Celtic church as a resource for healing the hurts and divisions between our nations.
Michael Mitton

God-control would bring into action those latent powers which we often hide under a cover of false reserve – and call it national character. If those latent powers were released and mobilised under God they would generate enough power to change the thinking and living of the world.
Frank Buchman

Lord, may our lands find their peace and their destiny in your will.
Give us that dynamic which calls out and combines
the moral and spiritual responsibility of individuals
for their immediate sphere of action.
We pray for an uprising of people who give leadership
free from the bondage of fear, sorry for the blindness of the past,
rising above ambition, flexible to the direction of your Holy Spirit, reaching out with generous hearts to neighbouring peoples

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15th November

The Three Crosses of Iona

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow in my steps is not fit to be my disciple. Matthew 10: 38, 39

The restoration of Iona and the founding of the Iona Community this century seem to be a fulfilment of Columba’s prophecy: ‘Iona of my love, instead of monks voices shall be lowing of cattle; but ere the world shall come to an end Iona shall be as it was’. The founder of the modern Iona Community, Lord MacLeod, wrote about the three ancient crosses on Iona:

St. John’s cross is the first to get you back to the Truth. The opening chapter of his Gospel reads ‘The world was made by Christ and without him was not anything made that was made.’ This means that Christ is CREATOR and not just Redeemer. Jesus, here and now, is as much involved in politics as he is in prayer. He is to be obeyed in material problems.

St. Martin’s Cross. Martin was horrified that all the monks in Gaul were interested in was their salvation. He persuaded them to get back to comforting people in the towns, in the matters of their housing, their education and their employment. One of his fellow monks was an uncle of Columba, and he went to Iona and showed Columba the kind of ‘all-in’ Christianity that so rapidly converted the West of Scotland.

St. Matthew’s Cross. Matthew was a tax collector. The love of money was the curse of Gospel times, as it is of ours today.
George MacLeod

Lord God, in the dawn of creation
And in the presence of your Son
Your light shattered the force and lure of darkness.
We ask your help today
For those who, in public and personal life
Are in the grip of that which is wicked
For those who deal in rumours and perpetrate cheap gossip
For those who are slaves to a vice they fear to name
For those who have traded openness for secrecy
morality for money, love for lust.
We ask for a light not to blind them
But to show them the way out of their darkness.
Iona Community The Wee Worship Book

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14th November

Healing Transformation

My dear friends, do not believe all who claim to have the Spirit, but test them to find out if the spirit they have comes from God. 1 John 4: 1

During Columba’s journey back from a meeting of rulers near Limavady, Ireland, the bishop of Coleraine arranged for him to lodge at the local monastery, and prepared a huge collection of offerings from local believers, which were laid out in front of the monastic buildings. As Columba looked at them and blessed them, he pointed to one gift and said: ‘The man who gave this enjoys the mercy of God on account of his generosity and his mercies to the poor’. However, he pointed to another gift of food with these words: ‘This is the gift of a man who is both wise and greedy. I cannot so much as taste it unless he first makes penance for his greed’.

This word soon got around the crowd. When Columb mac Aedo heard it he walked forward and knelt in front of Columba, confessed, and promised to renounce greed, mend his ways, and practice generosity. Columba told him to stand up, and announced that he was a changed man, and was no longer grasping. Columb walked away tall though chastened, generous, free and affirmed.

In Iona Columba once saw a threatening rain cloud moving towards Ireland, and he knew that it would bring a life-threatening sickness to a particular district there. So he sent one of his monks to sail over to Ireland saying: “Take this bread I have blessed in the name of God, dip it in water and then sprinkle that water over both the people and their livestock in that place , and they will soon recover their health’. The monk, Silnan, landed and found six men in one house who were already near to death. When he sprinkled them as Columba had said they were all restored to health. News of this spread and many people came to Silnan with their livestock. These were all sprinkled and were saved from disease.

Give me a desire to see others reach their greatness
Give me a word to help another grow.
May petty ways drop from us like scales.
Step by step you lead us.
Feed and renovate us
Till we are glad to be givers
Till we joy in being brothers
Till we delight in being sisters
Till heaven laughs in delight
At our pleasure in each other

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13th November

Three Gifts Of God

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is sound your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6: 22

Since boyhood Columba had devoted himself to training in the Christian life, and to the study of wisdom; with God’s help, he had kept his body chaste and his mind pure and shown himself, though placed on earth, fit for the life of heaven… He was brilliant in intellect and great in counsel. He spent thirty four years as an island soldier, and could not let even an hour pass without giving himself to praying or reading or writing or some other task. Fasts and vigils he performed day and night with tireless labour and no rest. At the same time he was loving to all people, and his face showed a holy gladness because his heart was full of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Adamnan

Purity, wisdom and prophecy,
These are the gifts I would ask of Thee,
O High King of Heaven, grant them to me.
The lamp of the body is purity,
And those that have it their God shall see,
For the pure in heart know how to love,
And I have longed my love to prove.
This is the gift I would ask of Thee,
O Lord of my manhood, bestow it on me,
Your wisdom I pray for, a light for the mind,
And those that seek it shall surely find
The way in which to serve and lead;
My people are lost and a shepherd need.
The gift of the soul is prophecy;
Enlarge my vision that I may see
The past and the present and future as one
That here on this earth Thy will be done.
Purity, wisdom and prophecy,
These are the gifts I would ask of Thee;
O High King of Heaven, grant them to me
Columba’s Prayer from the play with music Columba

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12th November

Words From Columba

Let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest. So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith. Galations 6: 9, 10

These my children are my last words to you. That you have heartfelt love amongst yourselves. If you thus follow the example of the holy fathers, God, the comforter of the good, will be your helper. And I, abiding with Him, will intercede for you, and He will not only give you sufficient to supply the needs of this present life, but will also give you the good and eternal rewards which are laid up for those who keep his commandments.
Columba

It is possible to detect a restless, insensitive spirit from a person’s voice. This is likely to result in clumsy actions. One day Columba was working in his study at Iona when he heard a man shouting the other side of the the ferry crossing at Mull. Columba spoke these words aloud, which his servant Diarmait overheard: ‘The man who is shouting is too careless to watch what he is doing. Today he will tip over my ink’ . Sure enough, the ink was spilt later that day!

One night one of Columba’s monks came to the door of the church when everyone was asleep and stood there in prayer for a time. Suddenly he saw the entire church filled with light. He was unaware that Columba was praying inside. The sudden flash of light. frightened him and he returned to his cell. Next day Columba rebuked him for ‘trying to see surreptitiously a light from heaven that is not given to you’. We must each learn to accept grace from God in the measure he wishes to give it to us, and not to grasp after what is given to others.

Inspire us with your love, O Lord,.
that our loving quest for you may occupy our thoughts;
that your love may take
complete possession of our being.
Columba

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11th November

Remembrance

Your pride and joy … lies dead on the hills! Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen! 2 Samuel 1:19

Today, we remember those untold millions who have lost their lives in war. We mourn for the goodness and the wisdom, the life and laughter, the potential and the passion that perished with them.

This is also a day when we rededicate ourselves to build a world of peace. How can we do this? How can remembering our veterans be more than a wistful evaporation of hopes? Perhaps the life of Saint Martin of tours can encourage us.

In the early church, only those who had shed their blood for the faith were formally pronounced saints – until Martin of Tours. He, who gave up being a soldier in order to create the peace of the kingdom of heaven on earth, was the first non-martyr to be recognised as a saint. His feast day is in three days’ time.

His father, a senior Roman army officer, named him Martin, which means warrior, and trained him to become a soldier. While Martin was playing as a boy, in Italy, a thunderstorm struck. He ran for shelter and found himself in a church service. He listened to the stories of Jesus and was captivated. He accepted a new kind of training, to become a soldier of Christ. Before Martin had completed his instruction in the Christian faith and been baptized, however, his father presented him to the Emperor. Although he was only fifteen years old, he was tall and strong, and he was sent to begin military service in France.

On his arrival at Amiens, he meet a beggar. Moved with compassion, Martin took off his own fine cloak, cut it in half, and gave one half to the beggar. That night he had a dream, Jesus stood by his bed and said, “Martin, you have done a great act of love for me. I was cold and you gave me half your cloak.” Martin dressed, went to the nearest church, woke the priest, and asked to be baptized. After two more years in the army, Martin went to the Emperor, and braving the Emperor’s anger, persuaded him to release him from the army, so that he could serve God without any pay and begin a Christian community of peace.

Peace between victor and vanquished.
Peace between young and old.
Peace between rich and poor.
The peace of Christ above all peace

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10th November

A Visit Of The Holy Spirit

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message. The Jewish believers who had come from Joppa with Peter were amazed that God had poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit on foreigners also. Acts 10: 44, 45

Once some founders of Christian communities came to visit Columba when he was on the island of Hinba. As they shared Holy Communion one of them saw a tongue of fire, flaming and very bright, all ablaze from Columba’s head as he stood before the altar. It rose up all the time like a pillar until the end of worship.

On another occasion when Columba was staying on the island of Hinba the Holy Spirit was poured upon him in matchless abundance for a period of three days and nights. He remained alone inside a bolted house throughout this time, neither eating nor drinking. Yet rays of light of immeasurable brilliance could be seen flooding out by night through the chinks of the doors and the key holes. Columba was heard to sing spiritual songs that had never been heard before. Afterwards he confided in a few people that many mysteries which had been hidden from the beginning of the world had been revealed to him, and obscure, difficult passages in the Bible had been made more plain to him than the light of day.

Your son Christ, it is clear, is one of the three persons of the deity
and all things have indeed been created by him.
He is in union with the Father, with the Holy Spirit,
He is their peer, it is from Them, with the permission of all,
that the Holy Spirit proceeds.
Blathmac 6th. century

O Christ, our dearest Saviour,
kindle our lamps
that they may evermore shine in your temple
and receive unquenchable light from you
that will lighten our darkness
and lessen the darkness of the world.
Attributed to St. Columba

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9th November

All This God Gives Us

The blind can see, the lame can walk, and the Good News is preached. Matthew 11: 5, 6

He who so calmly rode
The little ass fair of form
Who healed each hurt and bloody wound
That clave to the people of every age:
He made glad the sad and the outcast
He gave the rest to the restless and the tired
He made free the bond and the unruly
Each old and young in the land.
He stemmed the fierce-rushing blood
He took the keen prickle from the eyes
He drank the draught that was bitter
Trusting to the High Father of heaven.
He gave strength to Peter and Paul
He gave strength to the Mother of tears
He gave strength to Brigid of the flocks
Each joint and bone and sinew.
Carmina Gadelica

O Lord, charity without limit and mercy without measure
of your love you have today come to me
and on my part it was hope which enabled me to receive you.
I give you my body as a temple
my heart as your altar, and my soul as your chalice.
O Lord, holy sinless lamb, O merciful redeemer
O gentle infant Jesus, cover me with your cloak
Grant me sanctuary with your heart
Draw me into your kingdom
Heal me by your sweetness and charity
Revive me by your death
Hide me within your wounds
Wash me with your blood
Fill me with your love
And make me in every way agreeable to your heart, O Lord
An Timire 1911 collected by Sean P Floin.
Mount Melleray Monastery, Ireland

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