30th January

God’s Armour

Stand ready with truth as a belt, righteousness as a breastplate … faith as a shield … salvation as a helmet, the word of God as a sword which the Spirit gives. Ephesians 6: 14 – 17

When Cuthbert arrived in Farne Island, ‘our soldier of Christ entered, armed with “the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God”, all the fiery darts of the wicked one were quenched, and the wicked foe was driven far away together with the whole crowd of his assistants. This soldier of Christ. as soon as he had become monarch of the land he had entered and had overcome the many usurpers, built a city fitted for his rule, and in it houses equally suited to the city …

Moreover not only the creatures of the air but also of the sea, yes, and even the sea itself, as well as air and fire did honour to the honoured man. For if a person faithfully and wholeheartedly serves the Maker of all created things, it is no wonder that all creation should minister to their directions. For the most part, we lose dominion over the creation because we neglect to serve the Creator of all things…

Many came to the man of God … No one went away without enjoying his consolation … He had learned how to lay bare before those who were tempted the many tricks of the ancient foe, by which the person who lacks human or divine love may easily be trapped. But whoever goes strengthened by unwavering faith passes, with God’s help, through the enemy snares as if they were spiders webs. “How many times”, Cuthbert said, “have they tried to kill me. But though they tried to frighten me away by one phantasmal temptation after another, they were unable to mar my body or my mind by fear”’.
Bede

As I put on the belt of truth, may I be open to your word which is truth however it may come to me today.
As I put on the helmet of salvation, may your law be my guide and delight this day.
As I take up the shield of faith, may I hold on to your promises
and know them in my life.
As I put on the sword of the Spirit may I be open
to the promptings of your Spirit this day.
Michael Halliwell

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29th January

Jealousy

Do not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another. Galations 5: 29

Whoever made you to envy
Swarthy man or fair woman
I will send three to overcome it
Holy Spirit, Father, Son .
Carmina Gadelica

Jealousy can cripple, whether it is in oneself, or whether one is the victim of others’ jealousy. We need to guard against it in ourselves. The Worship Book of the Celtic Monastery at Cerne, Ireland contained this petition: ‘Guard my eyes for me, Jesus, Son of Mary, lest seeing another’s wealth make me covetous’.

What can you do if fellow Christians who work with you become jealous of you? Stand back, quietly do the essential things that have to be done, but do not aggravate the situation by pushing the boundaries. Place the situation into the hands of God and ask God to deal with it as and when God chooses. Only time will tell whether there has to be a break or whether love can replace jealousy. For jealousy feeds on a deficit of affirming love, so pray in the cure. The Three who can overcome jealousy are the affirming Father, Spirit, Son.

I will start this day
In the presence of the holy angels of heaven
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy
Without fear of any one under the sun
The holy Son of God to shield me.

God, kindle in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbour
And to my foe, to my friend, to all
To the winner, to the loser
O Son of the loveliest Mary

Without malice, without jealousy, without envy
Without fear of anyone under the sun
The holy Son of God to shield me
Carmina Gadelica (adapted)

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28th January

Hail To You, Glorious Lord

Let them all praise the name of the Lord, whose name is greater than all others. The Lord’s glory is above heaven and earth. The Lord made the nation strong so that all the people should give the Lord praise. Psalm 148: 13, 14

Hail to you, glorious Lord.
May chancel and church praise you,
May plain and hillside praise you
May the three springs praise you
Two higher than the wind and one above the earth
May darkness and light praise you
May the cedar and sweet fruit tree praise you.
Abraham praised you, the founder of faith
May life everlasting praise you
May the birds and the bees praise you
May the stubble and the grass praise you
Aaron and Moses praised you
May male and female praise you
May the seven days and the stars praise you
May the lower and the upper air praise you
May books and letters praise you
May the fish in the river praise you
May thought and action praise you
May the sand and the earth praise you
May all the good things created praise you
And I, too, shall praise you, Lord of glory
Hail to you, glorious Lord!
Early Middle Welsh

O Being of life! O Being of peace!
O Being of time, and time without cease!
O Being, infinite eternity!
O Being, infinite eternity!
Carmina Gadelica

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27th January

Animals

I will make a covenant with the wild animals, the birds of the air and the creeping things on the ground. Hosea 2: 17, 18

When Jesus commands us to love our neighbours, he does not only mean our human neighbours; he means all the animals and birds, insects and plants, amongst whom we live. Just as we should not be cruel to other human beings, so we should not be cruel to any species of creature. Just as we should love and cherish other human beings, so we should love and cherish all God’s creation.

We learn to love other human beings by discerning their pleasure and pain, their joy and sorrow, and by sympathising with them. We need only poke a horse with a sharp stick to discern the pain it can suffer; and when we stroke and slap that same horse on the neck, we can feel its pleasure. Thus we can love a horse in the same way we can love another human being. Of course, our love for other species is less full and less intense than our love for humans, because the range and depth of their feelings are less than our own. Yet we should remember that all love comes from God, so when our love is directed towards an animal or even a tree, we are participating in the fulness of God’s love.
Pelagius To an elderly friend.

Encompass each goat, sheep and lamb,
Each cow and horse and store
Surround the flocks and herds
And look after them in a kindly fold
Carmina Gadelica

Father, bless the pet
also bless the vet.
Saviour, bless the flock
also bless the cock.
Spirit, bless the horse
also bless my course.

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26th January

Discipline

Everything must be done in a proper and orderly way. 1 Corinthians 14: 40

Do not give room to a person who is full of idle chatter and tittle tattle; just give them your blessing and send them on their way.

Go along with any rule that evokes devotion.

Divide your work into three parts: first, your personal needs; second, the needs of your community; third, work that meets needs of your neighbours, either discipling or practical work.

Give to people in need.

Do not eat until you are hungry. Do not sleep until you are ready for it.

Do not converse with people except for a good cause.

Every time you receive something, give something away to a friend or a poor person.

Love God with all your heart and strength.

Love your neighbour as yourself.

Make the Old and New Testaments your home at all times.

Work at your devotion until tears come, or at least until perspiration comes.
Selected from Columba’s rule….

Lord temper with tranquillity
our manifold activity
That we may do our work for thee
with very great simplicity
A sixteenth century prayer

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25th January

Extremity

We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4: 8, 9

Did Jesus’ mother Mary feel she had lost everything as she saw her son die on the Cross? Mary had become ‘willing to lose’ even to the utmost extremity.

Did Aidan feel he had lost everything as his dear friend in Christ Oswine, the King who opened the door to the Christian mission, was killed? Aidan died eleven days afterwards, and some think he died of a broken heart.

‘I’m broken’ confessed Columbanus, but God used him to the end.

Mungo’s great mission partners Cadoc, Asaph and Deiniol died. Then his royal Christian friends Aidan King of the Scots, and Rhyderch, King of Strathclyde, died under the shadow of failure. The Britons were routed and would never act as a united force again. Now, in 603, it was Mungo’s time to depart, also under the shadow of failure. What Mungo did not know was that his story had only just begun, and the greatest period of evangelisation of his people would soon be under way.

Never forget that before the brightest dawn comes the darkest night.

Never forget that our extremity is God’s opportunity.

I know perfectly well that poverty and misfortune suit me better than riches and pleasure. Christ the Lord, himself, was poor for our sakes.
Patrick

God of heaven
do not leave me in the path where there is screaming
from the weight of oppression.
Great God, protect me
from the fiery wall,
the long trench of tears.
Dallan Mac Forgaill The Elegy of Colum Cille

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24th January

Moderation

Avoid extremes. If you have reverence for God things will work out anyway. Ecclesiastes 7: 18

Some people wear out their bodies by denying them food or rest; but because they have no discretion they are far from God.
Antony Sayings of the Desert Fathers
And so for several years he continued to live a solitary life cut off from the sight of people; and alone in all conditions he bore himself with unshaken balance… His conversation, seasoned with salt, consoled the sad, instructed the ignorant, appeased the angry, for he persuaded them all to put nothing before the love of Christ. And he placed before the eyes of all the greatness of future benefits and the mercy of God, and revealed the favours already bestowed, namely that God spared not his own Son but delivered him up for the salvation of us all.
Life of Cuthbert by an anonymous monk of Lindisfarne
In accordance with the example of Samson the strong, who was once a Nazarite, Cuthbert carefully abstained from all intoxicants; but he could not submit to this kind of abstinence in food, lest he became unfit for necessary hard labour.

Cuthbert wore ordinary garments and, keeping the middle path, he was not noteworthy either for their elegance or for their slovenliness. Hence his example is followed in the same monastery (Lindisfarne) even to this day, but they are fully satisfied with that kind of garment which the natural wool of the sheep provides
Bede’s Life of Cuthbert

Lord, today may the needs of my body and the needs of my mind,
the practical needs of work, and the social needs
each be given their rightful place and kept in balance.
May the needs for rest and fun, study and sleep,
household order and justifiable work all be completed

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23rd January

Cheer Up!

To the pure all things are pure. Titus 1: 15

Some years after the death of Kevin at Glendalough a very pious monk there named Moling used to miss meals in order to pray in the place of worship. Not only did he despise food, he never allowed himself the pleasure of listening to music. Until God sent someone to cheer him up.

One day a young man arrived and asked if he could play his harp to the brothers while they were in the refectory. They welcomed this. Since Moling, who was praying in church, missed this, the young man then went to the church to play. Moling, who was kneeling, did not lift his head, but took from his pocket two balls of wax and stuffed them in his ears.

The young man smiled and continued playing. To Moling’s amazement the wax in his ears began to melt. Try as he might to push it back into his hears, it just trickled down under his habit.

At that moment the young man took a stone and started to scrape the harp. Moling found this excruciating sound unbearable. Then the young man threw the stone away and played music so sweet that Moling was filled with a joy greater than he had ever known.

When the harpist had finished playing Moling asked him ‘Are you a devil sent to tempt me or an angel sent to bless me?’ ‘You must make your own judgement’ the young man replied. ‘When I scraped the harp it made the noise of the devil, and when I played it with my fingers it made the sound of an angel. Music, like food and drink, can be an agent of evil or a source of goodness’.

The young man then left. From that day Moling welcomed all musicians to play at the monastery, and he gave up undue fasting, abstaining from food only on those days when everybody fasted. His brothers could not help noticing that from that day onwards he became more gentle and kind, and even acquired a sense of humour.

O Son of God, change my heart.
Your spirit composes the songs of the birds and the buzz of the bees.
Your creation is a million wondrous miracles, beautiful to look upon.
I ask of you just one more miracle:
beautify my soul.
From a traditional Celtic prayer

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22nd January

The Church Is Our Mother

My dear children, just like a mother in childbirth, I feel the same kind of pain for you until Christ’s nature is formed in you … the heavenly Jerusalem is free and she is our mother. Galations 4: 19, 26

.
One Sunday the ailing Mungo felt a keen desire for a hot bath. With loving care his Christian family lowered him in to the warm soothing water. After a time he rallied, and gave these, his final words to his friends: ‘My children … love one another … be hospitable … beware of heresy .. keep the laws of the church … she is the Mother of us all’. His jaw dropped and this dear soul, known as the Beloved by so many, was dead.

‘She is the Mother of us all’. The church is divine, though its members are all too human. Wheat and weeds grow together. Those who take their cue from the weeds become cynical about the church. Those who take their cue from the wheat become part of its divine work of fostering and mothering. Before Illtyd and Samson brought a renewal to the church in Wales most clergy were drunk. By the end of David’s life ‘everywhere are heard evidences of churches, everywhere voices are raised to heaven in prayers; everywhere the virtues are unwearedly brought back to the bosom of the church; everywhere charitable offerings are distributed to the needy with open arms’.

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

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21st January

God in Ordinary People

Now remember what you were when God called you. From the human point of view few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. God purposely chose … what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. 1 Corinthians 1: 26, 27

The Lord prefers common looking people. That is why he made so many of them.
Abraham Lincoln

We should never forget that, although only the words and deeds of the most notable Christians get handed down, Christianity was first spread by slaves, working soldiers and traders.  In Celtic times Christianity was the religion of the people, it took root in ordinary hearts and homes. This fact is reflected in the prayers of the Scottish highlanders and islanders recorded by Alexander Carmichael so many centuries later. Here we have a glimpse of an army of ordinary people who invited God to be in the warp and weft of their everyday lives.

These arrow prayers for ordinary days are inspired by the Carmina Gadelica:

As I wash, the love of Christ be in my breast
God protect the household
God consecrate the children
God encompass our assets

May I do my rounds under the shield of Michael chief of angels

May the ingredients for the meal be mixed together
in the name of God’s Son who gives growth

Circle all my business dealings,
keep out what is false, keep within what is good

In everything my hands do today I will keep my fingers as a cross
In my exercise may thankfulness pulse through my body
As I sleep may your right hand be under my head

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