21st June

Winter Solstice

I will give you treasures from dark, secret places. Isaiah 45: 3

The darkest and the coldest time
is also the brightest time:
O Christmas Christ
The radiance around the moon
is not as fair
as the radiance
around your head.
O Holy One
the majesty of the winter sea
is not as glorious as your majesty.

At the departing times
the coldest times
of our lives;
at the times of excitement
and the times of expectancy;
at the times of intersection,
when hard choices
have to be made
be with us
Prince of Peace.
Kate Mcllhagga

Lord of the seasons, on this day of briefest light
help us to be at home with the treasures of the dark.
As the days have drawn in
help us to flow with the ebb tides of life.
At the turning of the year
help us to welcome the Dawn from on high.

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20th June

Great Leadership Is Possible

The Lord said to Moses…’ I will make you and your heirs into a great.’ Exodus 32: 10

One frosty night I meditated under the stars on the hill overlooking Edinburgh known as Arthur’s Seat. Our lands seemed to be sinking under a sea of troubles, and those who were meant to give a lead seemed to be blighted by small-mindedness. I sensed that God was wanting to release the potential for great leadership that lies untapped in so many people, and that the spirit that animated that great leader, Arthur, can animate us, too.

Unlike the well-known Celtic saints, the life of the great Celtic war hero Arthur is shrouded in the mists of legend. Yet, wherever he may have lived, and whatever the actual details of his life, we can be grateful that here was a man who dared to give a lead, to stand up to the tyrant, to rally the forces of good, and to live out Christian values.

The legends give a sense of Arthur’s Christ-centred strategy for the nation during the period after the Roman troops left, when brutal Saxon invaders were taking over. Arthur built a chain of defended towns to protect the Britons from the invaders, and so secured, for a period, what is known as ‘Arthur’s Peace’. Arthur was thwarted by quarrelling Celtic kings, yet ‘he was beginning to display that rarest of qualities: a joy inspired by hardship, deepened by adversity, and exalted by tragedy’. He was given a vision for Britain: ‘A land shining with goodness, where each man protects his brother’s dignity, where war and want has ceased, and all races live under the same law of love and honour … a land bright with truth, where a man’s word is his pledge … where the True God is worshipped and his ways acclaimed by all’.
Stephen Lawhead Arthur, an historical novel

Some nation must produce a new leadership, free from the bondage of fear, rising above ambition, flexible to the direction of God’s Holy Spirit… Some nation must give a lead. Some nation must find God’s will as her destiny, and God-guided people as her representatives at home and abroad. Will it be your nation?
Frank Buchman

Lord, give to us that inner dynamic
Which calls out and combines
The moral and spiritual responsibility of individuals
For their immediate sphere of action

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19th June

Another Way

Being warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, the visitors who studied the stars returned home another way. Matthew 2:12

After the star, the dim day.
After the gifts, the empty hands.
And now we take our secret way
Back to far lands.

After the cave, the bleak plain.
After the joy, the weary ride.
But journey we, three new-made men
Side by side.

Came we by old paths by the sands.
Go we by new ones this new day,
Homewards to rule our lives and lands
By another way.
Author unknown

I beg assistance, God of my journey
to accept that all of life is only on loan to me
to believe beyond this moment
to accept your courage when mine fails
to recognise the pilgrim of my heart
to hold all of life in open hands.
Joyce Rupp OSM A Pilgrim at Glendalough

Be a smooth way before me,
Be a guiding star above me,
Be a keen eye behind me,
This day, this year, for ever

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18th June

The Aidan Way Ahead

I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:1

The famous sculpture of St. Aidan on Holy Island has four features which have much to say to us. The four features are: his face, his torch, his staff and his Celtic cross.

Aidan’s face looks out to the future, and south, to the un-evangelised regions, with faith-filled vision.

Which places does Christ want us to give our attention to?

Aidan takes with him from the past the torch of the Faith to hand on to others as a living flame.

To whom does God want us to hand on the flame of faith?

Aidan carries everywhere with him his pastoral staff, a sign of gentle love and compassion for all.

Where do we need to grow in gentleness and compassion?

There is something else in this sculpture which we must never forget. Behind and above Aidan, as a shield wherever he goes, is a cross with a circle. For Aidan had a sacrificial mission – to plant a cross in the soil of a new land, and in the soul of its people. The circle meant that the message of the cross was to encompass all. It was not just to be a message but an experience of the cross to be lived and applied in every area of life, every moment of every day.

No gain without pain. No false triumphalism. No words divorced from humble service. Only so will our dreams and resolutions survive the rocks of cruel human nature. Only so will setbacks be surmounted and the serene strength of Christ still be ours as we journey on in faith.

God be with you at every leap;
Christ be with you on every steep;
Spirit be with you in every deep;
Each step of the journey you go.

All that I do
All whom I’ll meet,
All that I’ll ever be I offer now to you

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17th June

On The Move For God

Some wandered in trackless wastes, finding no way to a city to stay in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and the Lord delivered them from their distress, and led them by a straight way. Psalm 106:4-7

Therefore let us live by this principle, that we live as travellers on the road, as pilgrims, as guests of the world … singing with grace and power ‘When shall I come and appear before the face of my God?’
Columbanus

Many prayers for journeys were collected in the nineteenth century by Alexander Carmichael, some of which went back to the times when Celtic Christians such as Brendan travelled the seas in coracles. When he wrote there were still many small prayer places where men went to pray before and after their voyages. This spirituality continues in the different circumstances of modern life. It is reflected, for example, in this prayer, written and displayed in an airport chapel:

Home!
Relaxed, warm-welcomed,
Full of ease, embraced and nourished.
Newly arrived from far away, yet home.
The words that sped me on my way
Still echo in this foreign place.
The hands that held me there
Now greet me here
And I am home
With that same God who knew and loved me then.
This end of journey too is but a staging post
On another journey
From this on to another home.
Anonymous

May Father aid me
May Son aid me
May Spirit aid me
On sea and land
In the shielding of the City everlasting
Carmina Gadelica

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16th June

Stars Of Wonder

God hung the stars in the sky – the Great Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the stars of the south. Job 9: 9

The greatest contribution any of us can make to the coming of the King is to allow a sense of wonder to grow. ‘To foster a sense of wonder’ – this should be written into the aims of every school and of every home.

My eyes like to see
The lovely stars in the sky
Shining like diamonds and crystals
And the sun above my head
And the moon shining and shining.
Eyes are shiny, too,
And the golden water shines.
My eyes like to see candles
And the light in the sky.
God will give me a new heart
That shines with happiness inside me.
Angus Aged 6

O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright
westward leading, still proceeding
guide us to the perfect light.
J. H. Hopkins

Let the flowers close and the stars appear
Let hearts be glad and minds be calm
And let God’s people say Amen, Amen
Creation Liturgy of the Iona Community

Open my eyes to your scenery
Open my ears to your call
Open my heart to your coming
Great king, born in a stall

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15th June

Stars And Dark Nights

I could ask the darkness to hide me, or the light round me to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you. Psalm 139: 11, 12

Stars are distinct, fixed points. Navigators steer by them. Yet they twinkle. God’s standards are like stars. They are distinct, fixed sky marks by which all people can steer their lives. God’s standards are absolutes – truth, fairness, love, purity, unselfishness. Yet these are also qualities that bring a sparkle to life. The person with these qualities is transparent and glows.

Risen Christ we welcome you.
You are the flowering bough of creation.
From you cascades music like a million stars
Truth to cleanse a myriad souls.
A Celtic Eucharist The Community of Aidan and Hilda

We know that night is not dark with you, O Lord.
But a great deal of me is not yet one with you.
In the night the things I fear come to the surface.
The unacknowledged parts of my personality
poke through the shadows to haunt me.
It helps me to know that the blackness will lift
as surely as the dawn follows night.
But before that there is work to do.
Night has a purpose of its own.
My task is to acknowledge the shadows
and bring them to you who are the Morning Star.
You are author of light and dark.
The morning star would be nothing to us
without its prelude, the night.
So thank you, Lord, for the night.

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14th June

Mist

God will complete his mysterious work. Isaiah 28: 21

Mist makes my spirit aware that everyday things are only one dimension of life. Another, less static Presence can envelop my world. This is a living presence. It is beautiful, yet not frolicsome like Spring. There is something mysterious, sombre, about it. December mist is God’s outer aura, a prelude to something sharper and nearer God’s heart. In it I can be lost in wonder, love and praise. Behind the mist are treasures waiting to be discovered – a bright month of advent and nativity; the hope that a new year will kindle the heart flame ever anew.

Now I command you, my loved man,
to describe your vision to all people:
tell them with words this is the tree of glory
on which the Son of God suffered once
for the many sins committed by humankind,
and for Adam’s wickedness long ago.
He sipped the drink of death. yet the Lord rose
with his great strength to deliver humanity.
Then he ascended into heaven. The Lord himself,
Almighty God, with his host of angels
will come to the middle world again
on Domesday to reckon with each mortal.
Then He who has the power of judgement
will judge each one just as they deserve
for the way in which they lived this fleeting life…
Then folk will be fearful and give
scant thought to what they say to Christ.
But no one need be numbed by fear
who has carried the best of all things in their breast;
each soul that has longings to live with the Lord
must search for a kingdom far beyond the frontiers of this world.
From The Dream of the Rood Trans. Kevin Crossley-Holland

O Jesus, Son of David
you have given us to see the light of day.
May you carry us home with you
to the city of grace
Anon. Mount Melleray Monastery, Ireland

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13th June

Intent On Heaven

Jesus was indicating the way Peter would die and bring glory to God. John 21: 19

Here is an example of the hermit poetry which the Culdee renewal inspired. It takes as its theme Death, one of the ‘four last things’ which Christians reflect upon during Advent:

Alone in my little oratory
without a single human being in my company
dear to me would such a pilgrimage be
before going to meet death.
A hidden secret little hut
for the forgiveness of every fault
a conscience upright
and untroubled intent on holy heaven.
Let the place which shelters me
amid the monastic enclosures
be a beautiful spot hallowed by holy stones
and I all alone therein.

Few of us have the opportunity to reach our end in such an untrammeled, untroubled fashion. Peter the apostle had no such opportunity; tradition says that he was crucified upside down. Yet he teaches us that, whatever the circumstances of our death, we may die intent on heaven alone. Here is a prayer that we may say over our friends, or pray, in advance, for ourselves:

In the name of the all-powerful Father
In the name of the all-loving Son
In the name of the pervading Spirit
I command all spirit of fear to leave you
I break the power of unforgiven sin in you
I set you free from dependence upon human ties
That you may be free as the wind
As soft as sheep’s wool
As straight as an arrow
And that you may journey into the heart of God.

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12th June

The Thunderer

Then the Lord thundered from the heavens, and the voice of the Most High was heard. Psalm 18: 13

There was a time when a famous British newspaper was known as ‘The Thunderer’. In those days it was the mouthpiece, not of Money or Power so much as of Moral Truth. When that newspaper thundered, people in high places, or wrong places, shook. That experience gives us a clue to an aspect of God’s nature.

Chad was greatly filled with the fear of the Lord and was mindful of his last end in all he did. If a high wind arose, he would immediately stop whatever he was doing and pray God to have mercy on the human race. If the wind became a gale he would lie prostrate in earnest prayer. If there was a violent storm, lightning or thunder he would go to the church and devote himself to prayers and psalms until it passed.

When people asked him why he did this he replied: ‘Have you not read “The Lord also thundered in the heavens and the Most High gave voice. Yes, the Most High sent arrows and scattered the people, shot out lightnings and discomforted them”? For the Lord moves the air, raises the winds, hurls the lightnings, and thunders forth from heaven in order to rouse earth’s inhabitants to revere him, to remind them of future judgement in order to scatter their pride and confound their presumption. The Lord does this by calling to their minds the time when he will come in clouds in great power and majesty to judge the living and the dead, while the heavens and the earth are aflame.’

Chad concluded: ‘And so we ought to respond to God’s heavenly warning with due fear and love, so that as often as he disturbs the sky and raises his hand as if about to strike, yet spares us still, we should implore his mercy, examining our consciences, turning from our sins, and thereafter behaving with such care so that we do not deserve to be struck down’.
Told to Bede by one of Chad’s fellow monks, Trumberht

God of the storm, God of the stillness
of squalls of power and of shimmering calm
into life’s troughs and into life’s billows
come with the reach of your long right arm.

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