23rd November


Jesus said: Learn from me because I am gentle and humble in spirit. Matthew 11: 29

Aidan, the apostle of the English, was a gentleman.

When Oswald came to the throne of Northumbria he sent to the Irish leaders at Iona and asked them to send him a leader, by whose teaching his people might learn the lessons of faith in the Lord and receive the sacraments.
He obtained his request without delay, and was sent Bishop Aidan, a man of great gentleness …

When Paul listed gentleness as one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5.23) he used the Greek word praotes. This word overflows with meanings; it is far removed from some current images of gentleness as unreasonable sweetness, powerless passivity, or timidity. Plato considered gentleness to be “the cement of society”. Aristotle defined it as the mean between being too angry and never becoming angry; the gentle person expresses anger for the right reason and duration and in the right way. It is the characteristic needed when exercising discipline (Galations 6.1), facing opposition (2 Timothy 2.25), and opening ourselves to hearing God’s Word without pride (James 1.21).

This is the most important part of the rule;
love Christ, hate wealth;
Devotion to the King of the sun
and kindness to people.
If anybody enters the path of repentance
It is sufficient to advance step by step.
Do not wish to be like a charioteer.
From the Rule of St. Comgall

Gentle Christ,
may I see you more clearly
love you more dearly
and follow you more nearly
day by day.
After St Richard of Chichester

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22nd November

God’s Glory In Us

All of us reflect the glory of the Lord; and that same glory, coming from the Lord who is the Spirit, transforms us into his very likeness, in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3: 18

The glory of God is seen in a human life lived to the full

Plunge yourself into humility and you will see the glory of God
St. Isaac of Syria

He is a bird round which a trap is closed
A leaking ship unfit for a wild sea
An empty vessel and a withered tree –
Who lays aside God’s wishes unimposed.
He is the sun’s bright rays, pure gold and fine,
A silver chalice overfilled with wine
Holy and happy, beautiful in love –
Who does the will of God in heaven above.
Ancient Irish Lyric Translated by Molloy Carson

People are my scenery
A London landlady

Holy Spirit, Enlivener:
Breathe on us, fill us with life anew.
In your new creation, already upon us, already breaking through,
groaning and travailing,
but already breaking through,
breathe on us.
Till that day when night and autumn vanish:
and lambs grown sheep are no more slaughtered:
and even the thorn shall fade and the whole earth shall cry Glory at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
In this new creation, already upon us,
fill us with life anew.
George MacLeod

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21st November

Opposition Is Not The End

He will persist until he causes justice to triumph, and in him all people will put their trust. Matthew 12: 20, 21

Columbanus trained at the Irish monastery at Bangor, which was rich in its enterprises. Yet he felt impelled to go out to the great continent, where so much of the Christian heritage was being swept away, and eventually he was given permission to leave with twelve other monks. They travelled across what is now France, through the ruins of former Roman cities. The poor people who lived in the shadow of these ruins welcomed the brothers and their faith was transplanted.

When they reached northern Gaul several local kings welcomed them, since, whatever their personal life-style, they held men of God in respect. Columbanus told King Sigebert: ‘He who seeks nothing has need of nothing. My sole ambition is to follow Christ’. The king was so struck by this that he offered Columbanus land; he, however, was shrewd enough to realise that kings slaughtered one another, so he chose some land for a monastery on neutral territory in the Vosges mountains. Although winter was approaching, they set aside their own needs for comfort and built a place of prayer before they built their own bee-hive shaped cells.

Starvation threatened them, but a man whose wife had been cured in response to their prayers gave them food supplies. Crowds began to flock to them, and guest accommodation had to be built. The number of monks increased, so another monastery was built, at Luxeuil, and then a third.

Once a service to the people of the kingdom had been established, Columbanus turned his attention to the king, Theodoric. He tried to wean him away from his many mistresses and to persuade him to marry, which he did. The power behind the throne, however, the king’s grandmother, Brunhilda, soon sent the new queen packing, and declared unofficial war on Columbanus’ monasteries. Eventually Columbanus was ordered out of their territory, but on their way to the port crowds flocked to the monks. Moreover, the boat on which they were to be transported back to Ireland struck a sandbank, and the captain discharged his passengers. So the monks became free again.

Faithful God, teach me that defeat, if given to you,
is your opportunity for a new advance.
Help me to remain faithful in every setback today

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20th November

Island Soldiers

So then stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15: 58

A mind prepared for red martyrdom.
A mind fortified and steadfast for white martyrdom.
Forgiveness from the heart for everyone.
Constant prayers for those who trouble you.
Fervour in singing.
Three labours in the day – prayers, work, and reading.
From the Rule of Columba, now in the Burgundian Library, Brussels.

Iona, Iona, Iona,
The seagulls crying,
Wheeling, flying
O’er the rain-washed bay;
Iona, Iona,
The soft breeze sighing,
The waves replying
On a clear, blue day,Iona.
Iona, Iona, Iona,
The wild winds whipping,
Comfort stripping
With the gale’s chill sword;
Iona, Iona,
The waters glisten,
The wild winds listen
To the voice of our Lord;

Iona’s blessing strengthens and firmly it will hold you;
Then from this rocky fortress goes forth our island soldier;
May Christ who calmed the tempest with safety now enfold you.
From the play with music Columba.

Lord, may these graces flower as never before –
the grace of authenticity and trust
the grace of forgiving love and laughter
the maturity of pity for those who manipulate

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19th November

Families Need Fathers

Children, honour your father and mother; fathers, bring up your children with Christian discipline. Ephesians 6: 2

Although Samson’s father and mother gave him a nanny when he was small, they made sure that they gave prime time to playing with their child. They made little plays about the Christian festivals together, and they read together.
At the early age of five Samson proudly announced that he wanted to go to school – to the School for Christ made famous by Illtyd, for boys who would go on to be ordained into the Christian ministry. At first, Samson’s father Amon opposed this. He wanted his son to follow a career that would bring in money and which would continue the family’s links with high society. The issue became an almost daily battle with his wife. However, God spoke powerfully to Amon in a dream. This clarified for him that this plan was not just a wish of Samson or of his wife, it was the will of God. Amon and his wife, although she was again pregnant, rose up with one united purpose to introduce Samson to his new school.

When you face God in prayer, become in your thoughts like a speechless babe. Do not utter before God anything which comes from knowledge, but approach God with childlike thoughts, and so walk before God as to be granted that fatherly care which fathers give their children in their infancy.
Isaac of Nineveh 7th. c

give us all fatherly care.
Help fathers to reflect you
in the way they discharge their responsibilities.
May they be priests
to their spouses and to their children

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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.

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


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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