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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10th July

Endless Adventure

God makes me strong … sure-footed as a deer … keeps me safe on the mountains … trains me for battle. Psalm 18:32-34

The endless adventure of the Desert Christians was described like this:

Not that they beggared be in mind, or brutes,
That they have chosen a dwelling place afar
In lonely places: but their eyes are turned
To the high stars, the very deep of Truth.
Freedom they seek, an emptiness apart
From worthless hopes: din of the market place
And all the noisy crowding up of things,
And whatever wars on the Divine,
At Christ’s command, and for his love, they hate.
By faith and hope they follow after God,
And know their quest shall not be desperate,
If but the Present conquer not their souls
With hollow things: that which they see they spurn,
That they may come at what they don’t see,
Their senses kindled like a torch that may
Blaze through the secrets of eternity.
Paulinus of Nola

Life is meant to be an adventure; change is a gift that we have to learn to use aright. In Celtic folk tales a curse that could happen to a person was to enter a field and not to be able to get back out of it. To be stuck in that place for ever. It was seen as a definite curse to be unable to venture or change … The open gate is the opposite to this. It is the invitation to venture and to grow, the call to be among the living and vital elements in the world. The open gate is the call to explore new areas of yourself and the world around you.
David Adam The Open Gate

True religion is betting your life that there is a God
Donald Hankey

You who are heroic Love
Have built adventure
Into each day and into every life.
Help me to explore, to overcome, and to step out
Towards this day’s horizons
In the spirit of Christ the Endless Adventurer

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9th July

Be Vulnerable

Foxes have holes; birds have nests, but the Child of Humanity has nowhere to lay his head. Luke 9:58

A young housewife cried. She felt so weak, needy, small. But then she thought of her baby. He was all those things, too. He was so dependent upon others, so vulnerable – yet that was precisely why she loved him so much!

When people are hard, prickly, proud, defensive, no feeling can flow. They cannot reach out and touch. Whereas when people are vulnerable it draws out our love for them. Is this why God made us with a capacity to be hurt, so that we can love and be loved more deeply? God needs us and wants us to be lovable. By being vulnerable we are being considerate to God, we are being human.

Celtic Christians were vulnerable. They had no riches stored up, no protected stone mansions – they were vulnerable to the elements, to predators, to visitors. And how they were loved – loved by the people and loved much by God. We know this because people saw special guards of honour sent from heaven to welcome them when they died. How lovely to be vulnerable!

Yet it is all too easy to adopt an ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude. How can we overcome this? This is how members of the Northumbria Community try to do it:

We are called to intentional, deliberate VULNERABILITY.
We embrace the vulnerability of being teachable
expressed in a discipline of prayer
in exposure to Scripture
in a willingness to be accountable to others
in ordering our ways and our heart in order to effect change …
by making relationships the priority and not reputation …
living openly amongst unbelievers and other believers in a way that the life of God in ours can be seen, challenged or questioned.
The Rule of Life of the Northumbria Community

Take from me, O Lord:
Pride and prejudice
Hardness and hypocrisy
Selfishness and self-sufficiency
That I may be vulnerable, like you.

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8th July

Good And Faithful Servant

‘Well done, you good and faithful servant’, said his master … ‘Come on in and share my happiness.’ Matthew 25:21

In Wales Mungo was known by his formal name, Kentigern. He developed teamwork with a number of Wales’s vibrant Christian leaders, one of whom was Asaph. These two established the large Christian community at Llanelwy.

Six hundred years later Joceline of Furness wrote the story of its founding:
‘Kentigern had set his heart on building a monastery to which the scattered sons of God might come together like bees from East and West, from North and South’. Young men, scattered throughout a hostile countryside, heard by bush telegraph the news of the founding of the monastery. Many slipped quietly away from home to wend their way through the forests. Like the early Christians they were an underground movement. But they came by the hundreds, every sort of Briton, farm labourers and men of noble rank.

Joceline continued: ‘After prayer they manfully set to work. Some cleared and levelled land, others built foundations, carried timber, erected with skill a church of planed woodwork after British fashion, enclosing it all in a llan or rampart and named it Llanelwy’. Nine hundred and sixty five people moved in. One third laboured on the land. One third looked after the buildings, cooking and workshops. One third were responsible for worship, teaching, and scribing.

In 573 the pagans in the north suffered a mighty defeat, and the Christian Rhyderch received back his throne, though the Christian religion had been virtually wiped out. He asked his friend Mungo to lead a mission to his kingdom. Mungo spent eight years leading a mission from a half-way base at Hoddam, and then moved back to Glasgow.

He was to have heart to heart meetings with Columba from Iona, and with Bishop Gregory in Rome. These men perhaps discussed a common plan for the conversion of the English people. Mungo’s dying words were: ‘My children, love one another, … be hospitable … keep the laws of the church … she is the Mother of us all.’

Help me to be faithful in things both great or small
In setback or success
Faithful to the church, faithful to my call.

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7th July

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Use every opportunity you have, because these are evil days. Ephesians 5:16

We should never delude ourselves that the Christian way is all roses. There is much that is bad and ugly in the world, and there is no guarantee that Christians will not become victims of it. We can, however, learn to discover God in the ugliest of situations, and to use evil days as an opportunity for good.

Not long after Mungo’s consecration as a bishop an ugly crowd, headed by Morcant, arrived. ‘Your royal friend Rhydderch,’ he crowed, ‘has sailed away into exile, and now I am king of Strathclyde.’ Riding with him was a young man, a distant relative of Mungo, who was decidedly unfriendly. He lashed out with his stirruped foot and kicked Mungo in the chest, knocking him down. ‘You bastard bishop.’ he shouted as he rode away.

The writing was on the wall. It seems that Mungo set out to join David in Wales, so that a new mission might move north from a sound base in the south. But in order to get to Wales, he had to go on a difficult journey.

As Mungo and his companions trudged through the dales they found, not only a different, craggy landscape, but a hostile population. They reached the headquarters of the Christian Prince Urien, who conducted his government in exile near Penrith. The Prince was the most statesmanlike of the Christian leaders of that generation. They discussed the sad situation of the region. Perhaps Mungo had intended to pass quickly through on his way to Wales, but when he realised the swift growth of pagan influence in the mountain areas he turned aside, and with God helping him, won many from strange beliefs. As he journeyed from well to well, crowds gathered. Some jeered, but others were healed and some accepted Christ. The Christian Faith revived. At Crosthwaite, in 533, a crowd worshipped God as a large cross was erected opposite a pagan stronghold.

So once again we see that, in an ugly situation, God can bring good out of the bad.

Lord,
Help me to face the things
That are ugly in our situation today.
Show me how you want to bring good out of the bad.

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6th July

How Can I Blaspheme My King Who Saved Me?

They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’. Acts 7:59

Celtic Christians had heard of the beautiful martyr’s death of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, who became a bishop in the east of the Roman Empire. Polycarp was led before the proconsul who urged him to change his mind saying ‘Have respect for your age. Swear by the genius of Caesar and say “Away with the atheists”.’ The proconsul thought of atheists as people who would not worship the Roman gods, including the Emperor. Then Polycarp looked sternly at the noisy mob in the stadium, and waving his hand at them said ‘Away with the atheists’. But the proconsul went on ‘Swear, and then I will release you; curse the Christ.’ Polycarp said ‘Eighty six years have I served him and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?’

Now it was the turn of Mungo’s generation to face persecution. Mungo had developed a close friendship with King Rhyderch of Strathclyde, but in the 540s Morcant, a pagan ruler, raided the farms of Christians in Rhyderch’s territory; then pagans threw out the Christian ruler and church leaders in the Carlisle area, and one disaster followed another. A violent mob swept through the town of Falkirk, and its Bishop, Nevydd, who may have ordained Mungo, died a martyr’s death, his place of worship being burnt over him. Mungo, deeply grieved, soon also suffered the death of his dear mother. Then he learned that the priceless library at Whithorn had gone up in flames, and the members of its Christian community had fled to Gaul. Worse, there was now no Christian bishop in the entire north, and no one to ordain new priests.

Rhyderch conferred with Mungo, and they agreed to ask an Irish bishop to come over and consecrate a bishop of the north. Then Rhyderch insisted that, although the minimum age for becoming a bishop was thirty, the twenty five year old Mungo was the man to be consecrated. This was not Mungo’s idea, but how could he, in this crisis, deny his King who saved him? ‘Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd. Hold up the weak, bind up the broken, bring again the outcast, seek the lost.’ was the charge to Mungo. With all his soul Mungo answered, ‘I will, with the help of God.’

Lord, do not lead me into a time of such trial
But in whatever trials I have to face
Help me to remain true to you,
My King who saves me.

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5th July

How Can I Know The Will Of God?

The God of our forbears has chosen you that you should know God’s will. Acts 22:14

So often we miss God’s will for us because we spend our lives like actors, acting out a script that others have written for us. This may consist of the expectations that parents or peers have put upon us, or perhaps, because of our insecurity, we ourselves are trying to copy others. We need to learn to follow, not our conditioning or our compulsions, but what our soul desires according to God.

Someone asked Abba Nisteros, a friend of Antony, ‘What good work shall I do?’ He replied ‘Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elijah loved solitary prayer and God was with him. And David was humble before God and God was with him. Therefore, whatever you see your soul desire according to God, do that thing and you shall keep your heart safe.’

Sometimes God uses circumstances to draw out our true calling. Mungo grew to manhood and was ordained a priest in his home area. No doubt he had dreams of being called to some glorious, sacrificial task. Instead, he was called to visit an ailing old priest, Fergus, who lived seven miles upstream. He was shocked to find how the old man was failing; he stayed with him, cooked supper, and listened to the old man’s memories of his home on the river Clyde, where the great missionary Ninian had established a church. About midnight Fergus had a fatal seizure, and died in Mungo’s arms. His last words were ‘Promise you will bury me at the old church hallowed by Ninian.’

So Mungo, with the oxen pulling Fergus’ body, went a day’s journey to the little church by the Clyde. Neighbours gathered. They looked forlorn; they had not seen a priest for several years. Next day, at the funeral, as Mungo looked at these sad faces, and as he looked at the large Druid centre four miles away which threatened to replace the faith to which they had held, he knew that he could not return, as he had planned. For God’s plan was that he build up a community of faith here. Soon his mother joined him. She called the community ‘Eglais Cu’ (the loved church) meaning the people as a family. Today it is pronounced Glasgow.

Lord, we propose, but you dispose.
Teach me that your plan unfolds
As I follow the desire you put in my soul,
As I follow the way of unselfish service
And as I let one thing lead to another.

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4th July

More Sayings From The Desert

An honest answer is a sign of true friendship. Proverbs 24:26

If you have a chest full of clothing, and leave it for a long time, the clothing will rot inside it. It is the same with thoughts in our heart. If we do not carry them out by physical action, after a long while they will spoil and turn bad.
Abba Pastor

When someone wants to return evil for evil, they are able to hurt their neighbour’s conscience even by a single nod.
Abba Isaiah

As wax is melted before a fire, so is the soul enfeebled by praise, and loses the toughness of its virtues.
Amma Syncletica

Unless a person says in their heart, ‘I alone and God are in this world’ they shall not find quiet.
Abba Allois

Abba Arsenius was taking counsel with an old Egyptian man. Someone said to him  ‘Abba Arsenius, how is it that you, such a great scholar of Latin and Greek, should take counsel from this countryman?’ Arsenius answered, ‘It is true I have acquired the learning of the Greeks and the Latins, as this world goes; but the alphabet of this countryman I have not yet been able to learn.’

We do not go in to the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them.
Thomas Merton

Our prayers today are for the Aidan and Hilda Community of USA.

Infinite One of the wise heart
Saving One of the clear sight
Knowing One of the hidden deeps
May I learn from you as an eager pupil
May I learn from life as a humble child
May I learn from night, may I learn from day
May I learn from soul friends, may I learn from the stillness.

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