6th April

Angels Deflect An Epidemic

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds … and I saw another angel coming up from the east with the seal of the living God. The angel loudly called to the four angels to whom God had given power to damage the earth and the sea: Do not harm them until we mark the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads. Revelation 7: 1 – 3

Despite the advances of medicine, many people still live in fear of a sudden catastrophe or epidemic such as AIDS. In the period of the Celtic saints the deadly plague would suddenly sweep through and decimate whole populations. In such situations it is easy to lose sight of the fact that God is still in overall control. We feel so powerless; what can we do?

Columba set aside a day in the Iona woods for sustained prayer combat. As he began to pray an oncoming wave of deathly black creatures relentlessly attacked with iron darts, desiring to wipe out him and many in the Iona community. Columba linked this experience with the threat of oncoming plague. His biographer, Adamnan, writes:

But he, single-handed, against innumerable foes of such a nature, fought with the utmost bravery, having received the armour of the apostle Paul. The contest was maintained on both sides during the greater part of the day, nor could the demons, countless though they were, vanquish him, nor was he able, by himself, to drive them out from his island, until the angels of God, as the saint afterwards told certain persons, came to his aid, when the demons in terror gave way.

On his way back Columba informed some brothers that Iona would now be spared the plague, but it would invade the monasteries in the region of Tiree. This came only too true. Two days later Columba added a postscript, whose lesson for us is: Don’t leave the combat to somebody else. Baithen, the leader of one monastery in the Tiree region, had called his community to all-out fasting and prayer, and as a result only one brother there would die of the plague. This, too, came to pass exactly as Columba had foreseen.

Good angels, messengers of God,
Protect us from all that would plague our bodies
Protect us from all that would plague our souls.

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5th April

Angelic Guidance

The angel told Daniel: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth … Daniel 11: 2

Perhaps you have you been, or will be, involved in selecting or voting for someone to fill a vacant post? The Bible warns us against automatically choosing the person with the most charms. The story of the prophet Samuel choosing the future King David, who was regarded as the least of his large and talented family (see 1 Samuel 16) is a timely warning . The account of Columba’s choice of Aidan mac-Gabran to fill the vacant throne of Dalriada not only warns us against presumption, it also encourages us to believe that God always has ways of guiding us to the right person.

When the king of Dalriada died in 574 the question of the succession involved Columba, who was related to the royal household, and who was the leader of the now dominant religion. Columba went into retreat on the island of Hinba to seek God’s guidance. He felt that, since there were no sons, the eldest nephew of the deceased king should be chosen.

One night, however, Columba had a vision of an angel carrying a book which contained a list of the kings. Columba’s candidate did not appear in it, but his younger brother, Aidan, did. Columba read in the book that he was to instal Aidan as king, but he refused. Suddenly, the angel stretched out its hand and gave Columba a mighty slap on his side which left a mark for the rest of his life. The angel told him: ‘You must know for certain that I have been sent to you by God, and if you continue to refuse to install Aidan as king I shall hit you again’.

Columba was not amused by this vision, but it recurred three nights in succession.  After the third time Columba got the point. He sailed to Iona, consecrated Aidan as King, gave him a heartfelt blessing, and prophesied as to the the future of his dynasty. Aidan’s reign proved to be a period of sound government and of peace between previously warring regions.

O Michael militant king of the angels,
Shield your people with the power of your sword.
Spread your wing over sea and land
And bring us to our goal.

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4th April

Risen From The Dead

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Hebrews 11: 35.

A number of Irish Christians gained a remarkable reputation for bringing dead people back to life. Among these was Tighernach, who went to heaven on 4 April 549. Eithne, the daughter of the king of Munster had committed suicide rather than be forced to marry a British Prince against her will. She had desired to follow a calling as a virgin dedicated to God. Tighernach prayed over her and brought her back to life.

It seems the Lord gave Kieran the Elder a unique ministry to the victims of group casualties. Seven harpers of Aengus were way -laid and killed by brigands while on a journey, and were found, apparently dead, beside the track. Kieran prayed over them and they were all restored.

According to legend, a local ruler wanted to arrange decent funerals for a group of his soldiers who had been killed in battle, but there were not enough vehicles to arrange the funerals. Kieran once again came to the rescue, prayed over the soldiers, and they, too, were restored to life.

We have accurate accounts of Cuthbert’s visits to the plague-ridden Northumbrian people. He trudged through the devastated villages to minister to the few poor people who remained. Cuthbert was about to leave one village when he asked the priest, ‘Are you sure there is no one left whom I have not seen?’ The priest looked around, and found one tear-stained woman standing at a distance. She had lost one son in the plague, and now seemed about to lose her other son, whom she was holding in her arms. Cuthbert made his way to her, blessed her, kissed the boy, and said to his mother: ‘There is no need to be sad any more. Your infant will be healed and will live, and no one else in your family will die from this plague.’ Mother and son both lived long to bear witness to Cuthbert’s life-giving ministry.

Take us from death to life
From the death of disease to the life of wholeness
From the death of despair to the life of hope
From the death of the body to the life of resurrection.

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3rd April

An Easter Day Feast For Everyone

The righteous will ask ‘When, Lord, did we see you hungry and feed you …?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these my brothers and sisters, you did it for me’. Matthew 25: 37, 40

The story is told that one Easter day, when King Oswald had sat down with Bishop Aidan, a silver dish was placed on the table before him full of rich foods. They had just raised their hands to ask a blessing on the bread when there came in an officer of the king, whose duty it was to relieve the needy, telling him that a very great multitude of poor people from every district were sitting in the precincts and asking alms of the king. He at once ordered the dainties which had been set in front of him to be carried to the poor, the dish to be broken up, and the pieces divided amongst them.

The bishop, who was sitting by, was delighted with this devoted action, grasped Oswald by the right hand, and said ‘May this hand never decay’. His blessing and his prayer were fulfilled in this way: when Oswald was killed in battle, his hand and arm were cut off from the rest of his body, and they have remained uncorrupt until this present time; they are in fact preserved in a silver shrine in St. Peter’s church, in the royal city (Bamburgh).

O beloved Father who has redeemed us
and who reigns serenely as sun and sea
may you forgive us our sins both past and present.
Remedy in heaven our faults
and may we today welcome with joy our Lord
An Timire collected by Sean O Floin.
Mount Melleray Monastery, Ireland

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2nd April

Seeds That Sprout New Life

Jesus asked his disciples ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?… Don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve’, they replied. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’ Mark 8: 19 -21.

Once Ninian sat down for dinner with his brothers and realised that there were no green vegetables on the table. ‘Run down to the garden and pick some of the vegetables that are springing up’, he asked someone. The chief gardener intervened: ‘There won’t be any growth yet, I was still planting seeds this morning.’ ‘In that case’, said Ninian, ‘go in the faith of the Lord to search for vegetables, for God Almighty can accomplish anything’. The gardener quickly made his way to the heart of the garden, and to his surprise found all sorts of vegetables springing up and sprouting. He returned to the brothers and was able to share vegetables with them all.

Ninian was given a gift of faith for a particular occasion. This was possible because he constantly cultivated an attitude of faith. We, too, can cultivate an attitude of faith, by frequently meditating on Scriptures and stories like those for today. As we do this, we will be given promptings that are in fact a gift of faith for a particular need. Look out for such an occasion today.

May the blessing of the five loaves and the two fishes,
which God shared out among the five thousand, be ours.
May the King who did the sharing bless our sharing.
May the food we eat restore our strength,
give new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds.
May our drink restore our souls
give new vision to dry spirits,
new warmth to cold hearts.
And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to you
who gives us all.
Celtic Graces

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1st April

I Rise Up In The Strength Of Christ

You have died with Christ … you have been raised to life in Christ .. you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self. Colossians 2: 20; 3.1, 9, 10

The people say that the sun dances on Easter day in joy for a risen Saviour.
Alexander Carmichael

The glorious gold-bright sun was after rising on the crests of the great hills, and it was changing colour – green, purple, red, blood-red, intense white, and gold-white, like the glory of the God of the elements to the children of men. It was dancing up and down in exultation at the joyous resurrection of the beloved Saviour of victory.
Old Barbara Macphie told this to Alexander Carmichael
Risen Christ we welcome you.
You are the flowering bough of creation;
From you cascades music like a million stars,
Truth to cleanse a myriad souls.
From you flee demons, omens and all ill will; Around you rejoice the angels of light…

I rise up clothed in strength of Christ.
I shall not be imprisoned, I shall not be harmed
I shall not be down-trodden, I shall not be left alone
I shall not be tainted, I shall not be overwhelmed
I go clothed in Christ’s white garments
I go freed to weave Christ’s patterns
I go loved to serve Christ’s weak ones
I go armed to rout out Christ’s foes
A Celtic Eucharist, Community of Aidan and Hilda

Christ of the Easter morning
Hope is one of your best gifts to us
So teach us to give it to others
A Prayer from Brazil.

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31st March

Consistency

The father asked his elder son to work in his vineyard that day. ‘I don’t want to’ he said; however, later he changed his mind and went. The father said the same thing to his second son, who replied ‘Yes, I’ll go’, but he did not in fact go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? Matthew 21: 28 -31

After Cuthbert reluctantly agreed to become a bishop ‘he continued with the utmost constancy to be what he had been before. He showed the same humility of heart, the same poverty of dress, and, being full of authority and grace, he maintained the dignity of a bishop without abandoning the ideal of a monk or the virtue of the hermit…

His discourse was pure and frank, full of gravity and probity, full of sweetness and grace, dealing with the ministry of the law, the teaching of the faith, the virtue of temperance, and the practice of righteousness … He followed the example of the saints, fulfilling the duty of peace among the brothers; he held fast to humility also and the excellent gift of love without which every other virtue is worth nothing. He cared for the poor, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, took in strangers, redeemed captives, and protected widows and orphans.
The Life of Cuthbert by an anonymous monk of Lindisfarne

The silent power of a consistent life
Florence Nightingale

Long obedience in the same direction.
Frederick Nietzsche

I make Christ’s Cross over my face
Each day and each night
That I place myself under his keeping
I shall not be overwhelmed
I shall not be destroyed
I shall not be imprisoned
I shall not be cast down.
Black thoughts shall not lie on me
Confusion shall not lie on me
No ill-will of enemy shall lie on me.

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30th March

Integrity

We have given up underhanded ways; we refuse to manipulate or to misconstrue God’s word, but by the open statement of truth we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience. 2 Corinthians 4: 2

When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire Christians fell into the temptation to adopt double standards. Aidan’s example, however, was different from the model of Christianity that was being expressed in the church elsewhere. Integrity was a hallmark of Aidan and the Celtic saints.

The highest recommendation of (Aidan’s) teaching to all was that he and his followers lived as they taught…

Such was Aidan’s industry in carrying out and teaching the divine commandment, his diligence in study and keeping vigil, his authority, such as became a priest, in reproving the proud and the mighty … To put it briefly, so far as one can learn from those who knew him, he made it his business to omit none of the commands of the evangelists, the apostles, and the prophets, but he set himself to carry them out in his deeds, so far as he was able. All these things I greatly admire and love in this bishop and I have no doubt that all this was pleasing to God.
Bede

I would be true, for there are those who trust me.
I would be pure, for there are those who care
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
Howard Arnold Walter

Sift me, O Lord.
Bring all that is false in me into the light
And take it away.
Give me strength to be true
In all I say and think and do.

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29th March

Growing In Goodness

We all reflect like mirrors the glory of the Lord, and are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3: 18

Whenever I give moral instruction, I first try to demonstrate the inherent power and quality of human nature. I try to show the wonderful virtues which all human beings can acquire. Most people look at the virtues in others, and imagine that such virtues are far beyond their reach. Yet God has implanted in every person the capacity to attain the very highest level of virtue.

But people cannot grow in virtue on their own. We each need companions to guide and direct us on the way of righteousness; without such companions we are liable to stray from the firm path, and then sink into the mud of despair. At first a companion who has achieved a high level of virtue can seem utterly different from oneself. But as friendship grows, one begins to see in the companion a mirror of oneself. The reason is that, in moral capacities, God has created us all the same: we are each capable of achieving the same degree of moral goodness. Once people perceive this truth, they are filled with hope, knowing that in the fullness of time they can share the moral virtue of Christ himself.
Pelagius in a letter to Demetrius.

The best thing we can do is to prepare for the five encounters we shall all have: an encounter with disappointments, an encounter with death, an encounter with God’s people, an encounter with devils, an encounter with resurrection on Judgement Day.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

God, I am bathing my face in the sun
In the nine rays of the sun
As Mary bathed her Son
In generous milk fermented
Love be in my countenance
Benevolence in my mind
Dew of honey in my tongue
My breath as the incense
Carmina Gadelica

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28th March

Humans And Creation

Because of what you have done the earth shall be cursed. Genesis 3: 17

The person who tramples the world tramples themself.
Columbanus

The high, the low
All of creation
God gives to humankind to use.
If this privilege is misused
God’s justice permits creation to punish humanity.
Hildegaard of Bingen

I am Eve, great Adam’s wife
It is I that outraged Jesus of old.
It is I that stole heaven from my children
By rights it is that should have gone upon the Tree,
It is I that plucked the apple.
It overcame the control of my greed
For that, women will not cease from folly
as long as they live in the light of day.
There would be no ice in any place
There would be no glistening windy winter
There would be no hell, there would be no sorrow
There would be no fear
Were it not for me.
Early Irish lyrics

Since the beginning of time our task has been to harmonise the spiritual and material realms. We were intended to be mediators between God and creation, but have been disobedient. In our failure, God, in human form, fulfils this task by uniting to himself his creation in the closest possible way, taking the form of that which he created.
Tim Cooper, Green Christianity

There is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.
Mahatma Gandhi

O one God, O true God, O chief God,
O God of one substance, O God only mighty in three Persons
truly pitiful, forgive.
Attributed to St. Ciaran

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