11th February

Song Maker

Let them tell of God’s works with songs of joy. Psalm 107:22

The first of English poets he
Who nurtured by the Whitby sea
A poor and simple cowherd seemed.
Yet here the gold of poetry gleamed
Though hidden deep within his soul
For from the company he stole
Fearful to be found afraid
When they their entertainment made
The very least among the throng
With little speech nor any song.
Then in the stillness of one night
His soul was filled with heavenly light
A vision of the world being made
Of God’s creation all displayed
As in the stable stall he lay
Dreaming he heard an angel pray
And speak to him of God’s great world
And how its majesty unfurled.
Then day by day to his inspired mind
That had seemed deaf and dumb and blind
There came sweet words so bright and clear.
Then Mother Hilda came to hear
And stayed with all her Abbey folk
While Caedmon, poet of Whitby, spoke.
No longer now to steal away
When came his turn the harp to play
For in his Saxon mother tongue
Were all his splendid verses sung
And improvised with great delight
In many a stormy winter’s night
When firelight filled the raftered hall
In far off ancient Streonshalh.
Then folk would learn the poems by heart
Or memorise a favourite part
Making them one with Christian praise
In those remote, unlettered days.
Tom Stamp

Praise you, wisdom and Founder of all.

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10th February

Kingly Qualities

The Lord has sought out a man after the Lord’s own heart to be the leader of God’s people. 1 Samuel 13: 14

The ambitious king Cadwallon slew the two kings of Northumbria. Oswald, the brother of one of them, and a man beloved of God, arrived with a small army to oppose the invader. He placed a large cross in the ground, and as he held the cross he addressed the whole army: ‘let us all kneel, and together pray the true and ever living God to defend us from a proud and cruel enemy. For God knows that this is a just war which we fight in order to liberate our people’. They won the victory against huge odds. The place of battle is called Heavenfield to this day, to indicate that Heaven’s standard was set up there, Heaven’s victory won, and Heaven’s miracles continued. Many people were healed when splinters from this cross mingled with water were brought to them.

Oswald initiated a mission to his kingdom from Iona, and cared for the poor. He was deeply devout and rose early each day to pray. Under his rule the previously warring kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira became one people, although ethnic cleansing was normal in those days. Oswald died, still young, on the battlefield; his dying prayer was for the souls of his soldiers, not for himself.

In succeeding centuries peoples throughout Europe longed for examples of Christian kingship, and Oswald became a model far and wide. Many churches in the European Union are dedicated to St. Oswald.
King Baudouin of the Belgians once told a friend that his purpose in beingking was: to love his country; to pray for his country; to suffer for his country. At his funeral in 1993 Cardinal Suenens said: ‘We were in the presence of one who was more than a king; one who was a shepherd of his people’.

High King of heaven and earth
from whom all authority flows
may the diverse authorities of our times
acknowledge you as the Source of life
emulate you as the Servant King
and fear you as the Judge of truth.

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9th February

Gentle Persuasion

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15: 1.

St. Molua who died in Ireland on 4 August in the 7th. century, was noted for using gentle persuasion rather than strictly imposed rules, as this story illustrates.

A bard named Conan, who was quite unused to manual labour, joined Molua’s monastery in the Slieve mountains. On the first day Molua personally accompanied him to a thicket of thistles that had to be cut down. On that day they cut down just one. On the second day they cut down two, and so it went on.

Molua was not afraid to reprove a person when necessary, but he always tried to do it with gentleness, and in God’s way, knowing that God always has the last word. `Once the king of Leinster arrived with four hundred of his men and demanded that they be instantly fed. Molua patiently explained why that would be difficult. The king, however, insisted, and food was brought as quickly as was possible, no doubt causing considerable disruption to the life of the community. The very first morsel the king tasted stuck in his gullet for twenty four hours, preventing him from either eating or sleeping. The king learned his lesson without anything more having to be said. From that time on he became thoughtful and generous towards the community.

Lord, help me
to take the time to sit in the shoes of the other person
to start from where they are
to listen to what they feel
to refrain from the too hasty judgement or the too ready answer
to smile and be gentle
and yet not to collude with the slipshod
but to prayerfully see a thing through.

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8th February

Taming The Wild Beasts

Jesus said: “You will find an untamed colt. Untie it and bring it here. If someone asks you why you are untying it, tell him that the Master needs it.” Luke 19: 31.

Tame pigs and goats and baby pigs
at home all round it
And wild pigs also
tall deer and their does
badgers and their brood.

In peaceful parties
crowds from the country visit my home.
From a poem of Marban the hermit

Kevin’s desire for solitude was realised when he made his home in the cave near the two lakes of Glendalough. There he developed close relationships with even the wildest animals.

It was said that when he prayed for one hour every night in the cold waters a monster used to distract and annoy him by curling itself around his body, biting and stinging him. In another story we learn of a monster in the Lower Lake which brought terror to the people who lived there. Kevin did not banish this creature as an enemy; it was said he took it with him to the Upper Lake. There his prayers, his patience and the warmth of God’s love in him made the monster feel that there was nothing to be hostile about.

This story can also be understood as a picture of our inner life. We all have dark or wild monsters lurking within us, things we dare not face. Kevin teaches us to embrace the shadow side of our lives, without fear, so that there is nothing in our lives that we have not made peace with.

Lord, help me to understand my own story
To fear nothing except fear itself
And to live at peace
with myself, the creatures and the world

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7th February

Wandering Thoughts

I will be quiet and listen to you. Job 6: 24

Our ideal should be to give our utmost attention to the words of whoever is speaking to us, or leading a meeting or worship. However, some of us suffer from wandering thoughts. This may be because we are too busy, and as we sit back, unattended business comes crowding in to our minds. This tells us that we need to do less and make our life style more simple. Or our thoughts may wander because we have repressed ‘primal inner material’ that has not been attended to; when we sit back this pops up to the surface. Take hold of something that pops up, and get to know that thing that has been repressed or unacknowledged and let Jesus pray with you for it. Our wandering thoughts may be because we are flowing with creativity, and these energies need to be taken at the flood. If so, write down the thoughts and the inspirations that are coming to you, so that you can do something with them as soon as you have opportunity. Your wandering thoughts may be because the brain is made like that, in which case there is nothing you can do about it. Bless whatever thought has wandered into your mind, and bless it as it wanders on its way, and then bless God for the words being spoken to you in the present moment. Return to being fully attentive!

God help my thoughts!
They stray from me, setting off on the wildest journeys.
When I am in church, they run off like naughty children,

quarrelling, making trouble.
When I read the Bible, they fly to a distant city, filled with beautiful women.
They slip from my grasp like tails of eels;

They swoop hither and thither like swallows in flight.
Dear, chaste Christ,

who can see into every heart and read every mind
Take hold of my thoughts.
Bring my thoughts back to me
and clasp me to yourself.
Prayer of a Celtic monk

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6th February

Lammas

All things were created by God and all things exist through God and for God. To God be the glory for ever!  Romans 11: 36

The season of Lammas begins on August 1. In the Celtic year this marks the first of several harvests. By Samhain, November l, all the the fruits and berries too had to be gathered in.

Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecon, described how the people of a locality would come together at harvest to do a circle dance around the churchyard. With mime and movements they re-enacted the occupations connected with the fields – the spinning, weaving, ploughing and reaping. They knew that all life is inter-connected, and that all life depends upon God.

Few readers will engage in harvesting in the way the following poem depicts from 19th. century western Scotland. Yet as we read these words, God may speak to us of the encompassing of the manifold activities of our daily lives – our shops, our office, home and locality; and the encompassing of the people who make up the chain that brings food to our door.

God bless Thou Thyself my reaping
Each ridge, each plain, each field
Each sickle curved, shapely, hard,
Each ear and handful in the sheaf.

Bless each maiden and youth
Each woman and tender youngling
Safeguard them beneath Thy shield of strength
And guard them in the house of the saints
Guard them in the house of the saints.

Encompass each goat, sheep and lamb
Each cow and horse and store
Surround Thou the flocks and herds
And tend them to a kindly fold
Tend them to a kindly fold.
Carmina Gadelica

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5th February

Gleams From Glastonbury

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122: 6

The exact details of how Christianity first came to the Britons are shrouded in legend, for example that of the coming of Joseph of Arimathea, but scholars think that Glastonbury, which became known as ‘England’s Jerusalem’’ probably had the earliest church.

After Jerusalem’s Christians were scattered the entomber of Christ,
the noble commander Joseph, the enlightener of Britain
planted here the Tree of salvation.
Gildas the Wise, first writer of the Britons, recounted for us
in Tiberius’ last year, the coming of the Light.
In these islands, stiff with pagan coldness, the Sun’s rays shone.
With Aristobulos, first Bishop of Britain, fanning the bright flame of Joseph’s kindling,
Fagan and Dyfan, for King Lucius the Glorious,
Restored here the church built by Christ’s apostles’ hands.
Set in the jewel of Avalon, a church of wattles was made by holy hands
Dedicated by command of Christ to the dearest Mother of God
That in these northern lands this first of churches should honour her who brought humanity’s fullness to birth.
We give thanks for this cradle place of faith,
Which drew to it, so ‘tis said ,
holy Irish hermits
David and his fiery zeal
Which draws still a multitude – saints, sinners, strangers, seekers all.

Neo-Druids, Goddess-worshippers and others are not all to be dismissed as cranks. As I know, wise and well-disposed spirits are among them. Yet their outlook is surely partial … Better any number of quests, even if some are illusory, than the arid pretence that there is no quest at all.
Geoffrey Ashe Avalonian Quest

As we enter a new millennium
we pray for the withering of gods that fail us.
May the Christ of the cosmos be to those who quest
also the Christ of the womb, the workshop and the wounds.
May the Christ of the resurrection live in our bodies now and for ever

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4th February

All Things Through Christ

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 13

Sometimes, perhaps especially during holiday periods when familiar helps are not to hand, we slide into the ‘any thing goes’ mentality when faced with a catalogue of difficulties. Learn from a convert of Patrick’s named Attracta how to overcome a catalogue of woes. She wanted to establish a Christian community in one place, but Patrick insisted she establish it somewhere else. This proved to be a place where one disaster after another faced her. She could easily have left in a sulk, telling him ‘I told you so’, but Attracta was made of sterner stuff than to do that.

Every one in the area was terrified of a wild animal which attacked people at whim; eventually Attracta killed it herself, using her metal cross to do so. Then a local bard drowned in the nearby lake; Attracta nursed and prayed over him and brought him back to life. They needed to cut and transport trees with which to build the monastery, but there were no horses to pull the timber; Attracta used deer instead. Then they realised that they had no ropes with which to tie the timber to the wagons; so she used everything that was to hand, including strands of her own hair, to create strong cords.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Traditional British Saying

May the cross of Christ be over this face and this ear
May the cross of Christ be over this mouth and this throat
May the cross of Christ be over my arms
From my shoulders to my hands.

May the cross of Christ be with me, before me
May the cross of Christ be above me, behind me.

With the cross of Christ may I meet every
difficulty in the heights and in the depths.
From the top of my head to the nail of my foot
I trust in the protection of your cross, O Christ.
Attributed to Mugron, Abbot of Iona from 965

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3rd February

God Is Relationship

No one can deny how great is the secret of our religion: Christ appeared in human form; was shown to be right by the Spirit; was seen by angels. He was preached among the nations, was believed in throughout the world, and was taken up to heaven. 1 Timothy 3: 16

Any one who rejects God’s will
Is like a leaking ship on a stormy sea
Is like an eagle caught in a trap
Is like an apple tree which never blossoms.

Any one who obeys God’s will
Is like the golden rays of the summer sun
Is like a silver chalice overflowing with wine
Is like a beautiful bride ready for love.
Traditional Celtic saying

I believe that God is One
I believe that God is eternal
I believe that God is Love

Therefore I believe that God is relationship
Therefore I believe that God is community
Therefore I believe that God is Three

Each of the Three Persons is God
Without this God could not be the Highest
Without this God could not be Eternally Love

Loving Saviour, show yourself to us
that knowing you we may love you as warmly in return
may love you alone, desire you alone
contemplate you alone by day and night
and keep you always in our thoughts.
May affection for you pervade our hearts.
May attachment to you take possession of us all.
May love of you fill all our senses.
May we know no other love except you who are eternal.
A love so great
that the many waters of land and sea will fail to quench it.
Columbanus

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2nd February

Samson

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The child grew and the Lord blessed him. And the Lord’s power began to strengthen him…. Judges 13: 24, 25

Samson was born about 486 in South Wales. When he was five his parents took him to Illtyd’s famous school at Llantwit major, near Coatbridge, and while still there, in his twenties, he was ordained deacon and priest. God directed him to join the monastery of Piro. From there, somewhat reluctantly, he visited his sick father, who recovered through his prayers. As a result the entire family (with the exception of his youngest sister) devoted themselves to God’s service and planted churches. Samson succeeded Piro as abbot. He went on a mission to Ireland, and on his return sent his brother Umbraphel to be abbot of a monastery given to him in Ireland. While in retreat with his parents near the river Severn he was summoned to a synod and ordained a bishop. This (unlike present ecclesiastical practice) freed him to evangelise and travel widely. He longed to go over to Britanny, but a British Christian prophesied that he was first to evangelise Cornwall. This he did. Once he was in Britanny an amazing number became Christians, and formed Christian communities.For a time Samson was on a mission in Romania. He returned to Britanny, where he died on July 28, and his remains were kept at the great monastery at Dol which he founded.
In truth his humility, courtesy and gentleness, and above all his wonderful love, beyond human measure, so to speak, was such that he was regarded by all the brothers with wonderful affection.
The Life of Samson

We bless you Lord
that Samson’s birth, schooling and calling
were the fruit of prophecy.
We thank you Lord
that his prayer, his heroic acts of witness
his courtesy and wonderful love towards all
won pagans to the Faith
and patterned a new way of being the church.
As we contemplate his life
give us a holy renewal.

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