10th January

I Believe

I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the other peoples of the world.
Romans 1: 16

I believe, O God of all gods
That you are the eternal Father of life
I believe, O God of all gods
That you are the eternal Father of love.

I believe, O God of all gods
That you are the eternal Father of the saints
I believe, O God of all gods
That you are the eternal Father of each person.

I believe, O God of all gods
That you are the eternal Father of humanity
I believe, O God of all gods
That you are the eternal Father of the world.

I believe, O God of the peoples
That you are the Creator of the high heavens
That you are the Creator of the skies above
That you are the Creator of the oceans below.

I believe, O God of the peoples
That you are the One who created my soul and set its warp
Who created my body from dust and from ashes
Who gave to my body breath, and to my soul its endowment.

Father eternal and Lord of the peoples
I believe that you have put right my soul in the Spirit of healing
That you gave your loved Son in covenant for me
That you have purchased my soul with the precious blood of your Son.

Father eternal and Lord of life
I believe that you poured on me the Spirit of grace at my baptism.
Carmina Gadelica

Praise to the Father
Praise to the Son
Praise to the Spirit
The Three in One.
Carmina Gadelica

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9th January

The Journey To True Contentment

At any time I am content, whether I am full or hungry.
Philippians 4: 12

Not every one could leave home or job for God’s sake in Celtic times, nor is everyone called to do so now. But many people long to experience what life is like as a pilgrim who goes into exile from life’s comforts. If we share this longing, we, too, can walk to holy places in the simplicity of God’s creation, or undertake an inner journey of vigil, fasting and prayer.

The point of this journey is that life’s excess baggage, which we cannot take with us into eternity, might be discarded, and that the inner compass by which we can be guided might be uncovered.

We often spend our lives running away from this call, in the fear that if we are stripped of worldly securities there would be nothing left, or we would not know contentment. Be assured that, if we are truly open to whatever is God’s best for us, we will find deep contentment.

In this poem the warrior king asks his brother Marvan why he has given up his top job and feather quilt in order to live as a hermit. This is Marvan’s answer:

Beautiful are the pines which make music for me unhindered.
Through Christ I am no worse off at any time than you.
Though you relish that which you enjoy exceeding all wealth
I am content with that which is given me by my gentle Christ.
With no moment of strife, no din of combat such as disturbs you,
thankful to the Prince who gives every good to me in my hut.
Early Irish Poem

All that I have I offer to you
All that you wish, I leave behind for you
Wherever you lead, I will follow you
So help me God.
Lead us on our journey
To places of resurrection
To dwellings of peace
To healings of wounds
To joys of discovery.

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8th January

Be True to Yourself

Your God is faithful and true.
Deuteronomy 32: 4

To your own self be true.
Shakespeare

We are meant to be faithful and true, just as God is. However, since we all want and need to be affirmed, but many of us are not, we instinctively seek illicit affirmation, by tailoring our actions in order to gain the approval of others. In a subtle way, this means that we are no longer being true to ourselves. We perhaps unconsciously say to ourselves ‘If I behave in this or that way I will not get appreciation’.

Once Columba came on a visit to the brothers on Hinba Island, and felt they needed to learn to enjoy life, to loosen up and relax their strict diet for a while; and this relaxation included people who were doing penance for some past sin. One of these, Nemen, declined to relax his diet, appearing to be most pious. Columba, however, realised that he was not really being true to himself. He predicted that, because of this, the time would come when Nemen would be back with a gang of thieves in a forest and would eat a horse that had been stolen. Later Nemen was found out to be doing just that.

How can we cure this disease of the soul? Here is an original prescription from the desert:

Abba Macarios told a monk to go to a cemetery and shout his anger at the dead. This he did. Then Macarios told the monk to go there again and this time to praise the dead. He did this, too.

Neither time, of course, did they react. The point was: Why let those who are dead to God prevent you from being true to yourself?
Help me to be
True to myself
True to you
True to others
True to the call
True to all
True to heaven.

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7th January

A School for Christ

The teachings of the wise are a fountain of life; they will help you escape when your life is in danger.
Proverbs 13: 14

Illtyd had been living the life of a hermit for some three months when a stag burst in, quickly followed by pack of hounds, the King and his hunt. When the King realised it was Illtyd he erupted in fury and accused Illtyd of betraying him. Illtyd, like Cadoc, simply smiled and invited them into the hut for a meal. Astonishingly, the stag which the hounds had been pursuing lay down outside, together with the hounds! At the end of the meal it was the King’s turn to have his heart changed, and he asked Illtyd’s forgiveness. Then the King asked if he could send his son to Illtyd to be educated. That marked the beginning of a miracle in Christian education. Soon Illtyd’s place in the valley by the sea became the largest school in the whole of Britain, a school for Christ, and Illtyd became known as the wisest teacher in Britain.

destroy Illtyd’s work. The King’s henchmen, who secretly honoured Illtyd, warned him that he was to be murdered. Illtyd took this as God guiding him to go back to being an anonymous hermit. So he secretly trekked to a cave further along the coast, and grew a beard and long hair so no one would recognise him. However, a year later a monk was travelling from the old monastery to a new monastery David had founded, with a brass bell which was a gift for David. He took a wrong turning and passed near Illtyd’s cave. Illtyd heard the bell, came out, and struck it three times. The monk did not recognise his former leader, but strangely, the bell stopped ringing. The monk told David about this on his arrival. ‘God has told us where our dear Illtyd is hiding’, said David, and sent the monk to invite him to join him. Illtud declined the invitation to go back into a large community, but three of David’s monks went to support him and care for him until he died.

Lord, unlock the treasures of wisdom to me
but first give me a heart for humble learning

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6th January

Soldier of Christ (EPIPHANY)

Take your part in suffering as a loyal soldier of Jesus Christ. A soldier on active service wants to please his commanding officer and so does not get mixed up in the affairs of civilian life.
2 Timothy 2: 3, 4

Two great saints, Samson and David (the patron saint of Wales), were pupils in the famous monastery of Illtyd, who may be regarded as the founder of the Welsh church, though holy hermits prepared the way. Illtyd was a very well educated soldier who came to Wales from Britanny, and, according to one medieval record, fought in the army of ‘King’ Arthur. But it was while serving the King of Glamorgan that he became a Christian.

One day Illtyd took a party of knights hunting, and became separated from them. They stumbled upon the hut of the hermit Cadoc, and treated him disgracefully, shouting obscenities at him. When Illtyd arrived he was shocked by his men’s behaviour, and riveted by Cadoc’s, for he refused to retaliate and smiled on them. Illtyd dismissed his men, and fell on his knees asking Cadoc to forgive their behaviour. Cadoc lifted Illtyd up and warmly embraced him.

That night, as Illtyd lay awake, his heart was filled with love for the old hermit. The life of such a man, who was victorious in the battle with Satan, seemed so much finer than that of a soldier, whose only battles were with other soldiers. When he had fallen asleep he dreamed that an angel spoke to him these words: ‘Until now you have been a knight serving mortal kings. From now on you are to be in the service of the King of kings’.

At dawn Illtyd crept out of the royal palace, leaving behind his sword and his armour, and set out, clothed only in a rough woollen cloak, to be a soldier of Christ. In his mind, he would spend the rest of his life as a hermit.
Teach me my God and King
to fight with all of my being
for the things that are good and true and peaceable
as a faithful servant and soldier of our Lord Jesus Christ

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5th January

Gardeners

Jesus spoke to them about the Kingdom of God in parables: ‘Once there was a man who planted a vineyard which he let out to tenants…’
Mark 12: 1

When Cuthbert first went to live on the desolate Farne Island the ground was hard, there was no water, and the birds ate the first seeds that he planted. So he set to to dig and trench the hard land. When some guests came there was not sufficient water for them to drink, so Cuthbert invited them to help dig down into the ground where he had built his cell, and he prayed over them as they dug. Soon, water flowed out: they had dug down to a well.

Friends brought wheat seeds for him to sow in Spring, but by Midsummer nothing had grown. So Cuthbert concluded it was not God’s will for wheat to grow on the island, and he asked his friends to bring over some barley seed instead. This was brought long after the proper time for sowing it, but Cuthbert gave it a go. It in fact sprang up quickly and produced an excellent crop. But then there was another set-back. The birds began to devour the barley. So Cuthbert talked to the birds, which was also his way of sorting out things with God, along these lines: ‘Why do you touch my crops? If it is because you have greater need of them than I and it is God’s will for you, then go ahead. But if not, be off, and no longer damage what belongs to someone else’. The birds desisted and Cuthbert was able to live off his barley.

Be a gardener.
Dig a ditch
toil and sweat
and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness
and water the plants in time.
Continue this labour
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God
as your true worship.
Julian of Norwich

Lord, I give to you the ‘seeds’ that you have given me
at the present time.
Help me to to do my very best with them
that a good crop may ensue.

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4th January

Storms of Life

“The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.” Jonah 1:4

Many have heard of the story of Jonah being swallowed by a giant fish. This passage mentions the great storm and the ship was about to break up. A wise counsellor once said, “A skilled mariner never learns his trade in calm waters.” And yet many fear drowning at sea.

Life in Christ is one of total trust, and having things happen to you in life that do not seem fair or proper. Jonah would have felt this at the time. And yet, a skilled seaman knows that it is in the storms that he sharpens his skills, not tied up alongside back in port. It is in the storm that he is forced to face any uncertainty. Most skilled mariners know that in a storm, to remain safe, you need to point the bow into the wind and sail through the storm. Turning in a storm and trying to run away will mean the ship will be swamped by waves and sink.

Father, as the clouds and winds of the next storm approach,
May I be found with heart prepared for whatever lies ahead,
And my eyes firmly fixed on you

What is God wanting you to learn in your next storm?

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3rd January

Treasure and Heart

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:21

Amma Syncletica said, “We should always be discreet, remaining a part of the community rather than following our own desires. We are exiles from the world. We devote ourselves to faith in God. We have no need of the things we have abandoned. In the world, we had status and a wide variety of food. Here we have a little to eat and not much of anything else.”

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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2nd January

God’s Way For A New Year

Turn back to him whom you have utterly betrayed … Everyone will throw away their self-made idols.  Isaiah 31:6-7

A Church of Scotland minister has suggested that the Reformers of the fifteenth century made a mistake when they abolished the Christmas festival in Scotland. This created a vacuum, he suggests, which the pagan New Year’s celebration of Hogmanay – now dominant in Scotland – could fill.

Whatever the truth of that, we can all glean something from the wisdom of Samson, the Celtic saint who did not see Christians and pagans as enemies. In doing so, we can celebrate the pagan festivals with a wider appreciation.

Samson arrived in Guernsey in the fifth century at the time of the New Year, which, his anonymous sixth-century biographer tells us, the islanders celebrated “according to a vile custom of their forbears.” Samson made friends with the pagans. He included everyone, and he exuded a spirit of love, not judgement.

“Prudent in spirit,” his biographer tells us, “to soften their hardness, he called them all together in one place and, God showing the way, a discussion took place for the removal of so great evils. Then all these folk, truly loving him, forswore these evils for his sake and truly promised to unreservedly follow his guidance.” The children tended to run wild in this season, so Samson called them together also, gave each a little present, and told them in Jesus’ name to change their ways.

His method was one of meeting, not denunciation. Confronted by his dedicated love, the people’s hardness melted away. They threw away all that was empty, and the customs of generations were enriched.

May our celebration of the turning year’s ancient festivals have the same richness!

Lord of the years, may we celebrate the good life past and not forget the Giver of that life. God of the call, may we contemplate the good road ahead and walk along it, with love in our hearts, hand in hand with you.

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1st January

Attitude in Prayer

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all the days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. – Romans 14:5-6

Abba Arsenius, a desert father, began to prepare for the glory of Sunday on Saturday evenings. He turned his back to the sun and stretched his hands towards heaven in prayer. He continued this posture all night, until the light of the rising sun struck his face. Then he sat down.

What can we do each day this year, to observe the day in honour of the Lord?

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