29th September

Michael – Angel Leader

Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone. Daniel 10: 13

In the New Testament Michael is named as the chief of the angels (Jude 9). The Book of Revelation depicts him as throwing down the dragon, a picture of Satan, who can come in the form of anti-Christ in any age. The first Celtic evangelists introduced Christianity to a society that was under the spell of many kinds of magical and unseen powers. They often built places of Christian worship on high places that had previously been dedicated to such powers; and these churches were often dedicated to Michael. Two well known examples of such Celtic foundations, built as a result of God giving direction to a Christian leader in the area, are Mont St. Michel in Britanny and St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

Thou Michael the victorious
I make my circuit under thy shield
Thou Michael of the white steed
And of the brilliant blades
Conqueror of the dragon
Be thou at my back
Thou ranger of the heavens
Thou warrior of the King of all
O Michael victorious
My pride and my guide
O Michael the victorious
The glory of mine eye.
I make my circuit
In the fellowship of the saint
On the grass sward, on the meadow
On the cold leathery hill.
Though I should travel ocean
And the hard globe of the world
No harm can ever befall me
Neath the shelter of thy shield
O Michael victorious
The jewel of my heart
O Michael the victorious
God’s shepherd thou art
Carmina Gadelica

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28th September

Seek The Supreme Illumination

I pray that you may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you… be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3: 17, 18, 19.

To receive and be aware of the light of Christ within one, it is necessary to withdraw from outward things, as far as this can be done. After purifying one’s soul by contrition and good works and proclaiming one’s faith in Christ crucified, a person should shut their eyes and concentrate on bringing their mind down into the depths of their heart, ardently calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then according to the ardour of their heart for the Beloved, they will find a sweetness, through inviting the Name, that evokes a longing to seek the supreme illumination. When the mind is concentrated in the heart through this exercise, then the light of Christ begins to shine, lighting up the temple of the soul with its radiance.

Lost in contemplation of the uncreated Beauty, a person forgets the things of the senses, even themself, and prefers to be buried in the earth rather than lose their unique treasure – God.
St. Seraphim of Zarov

Faith with action, desire with constancy, calmness with devotion, chastity with humility, fasting with moderation, poverty with generosity, silence with discussion, distribution with equality, endurance without grievance, abstinence with exposure, zeal without severity, gentleness with justice, confidence without neglect, fear without despair, poverty without pride, confession without excuse, teaching with practice, progress without slipping, lowliness towards the haughty, smoothness towards the rough, work without grumbling, simpleness with wisdom, humility without favouritism, the Christian life without pretence -all these are contained in holiness. It is then that a person is holy, when he or she is full of divine love.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

May I be lost in wonder, love and praise

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27th September

The Fulness Of The Holy Spirit

Be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5: 18

In 1931 Seraphim asked his young God-seeker, Motovilov:
‘What are you feeling, friend of God?’. ‘I’m amazingly warm’ his friend replied. ‘Warm? What are you saying my friend? We are in the depths of the forest, in mid-winter, the snow lies under our feet and is settling on our clothes. How can you be warm?’ ‘It’s the warmth one feels in a hot bath’. ‘Does it smell like that?’ ‘Oh no! Nothing on earth can compare to this. There’s no scent in all the world like this one!’ ‘I know,’ said Father Seraphim, ‘for it is the same with me. I’m only questioning you to find out what you are discovering. It is indeed true, friend of God, that no scent on earth can compare to this fragrance, because it comes from the Holy Spirit… The warmth isn’t in the air, it is within us. This is what the Holy Spirit causes us to ask God for when we cry to him “Kindle in us the fire of the Holy Spirit”. Warmed by it, hermits are not afraid of winter hardship, protected as they are by the mantle of grace which the Holy Spirit has woven for them … Now you know, my friend, what it is like to be in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.’
Seraphim of Zarov

The fifteen strengths of the soul: the strength of faith, the strength of gentleness, the strength of humility, the strength of patience, the strength of mortification, the strength of obedience, the strength of charity, the strength of justice, the strength of mercy, the strength of generosity, the strength of forgiveness, the strength of serenity, the strength of moderation, the strength of holiness, the strength of divine love.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

Spirit of God
the breath of creation is yours.
Spirit of God
the groans of the world are yours.
Spirit of God
the wonder of communion is yours.
Spirit of God
the fire of love is yours.
And we are filled
And we are filled

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26th September

Baptized in the Spirit

He will baptise you with holy spirit and with fire. Luke 3: 16

As Seraphim enthused about people in the Bible whose lives overflowed with the Holy Spirit , his young friend Nicholas Motovilov interjected: ‘But how can I know that I myself have this grace of the Holy Spirit?’

Seraphim gripped him firmly by the shoulders and said: ‘My friend, both of us this moment are in the Holy Spirit, you and I. Why don’t you look at me?’

‘I can’t look at you, because the light flashing from your eyes and face is brighter than the sun and I am dazzled!’ Nicholas replied. ‘Don’t be afraid, friend of God, you yourself are shining just like I am; you, too are now in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see me as you do’.

Nicholas later wrote about what he saw: ‘You can see only the blinding light which spreads everywhere, lighting up the layers of snow covering the glade, and igniting the flakes that are falling on us both like white power.’

Then Seraphim drew out of him, step by step, what he was feeling ‘An amazing well-being… a great calm in my soul… a peace which no words can express… a strange unknown delight… an amazing happiness..’. Seraphim related each of these to experiences recounted in the Bible.
Seraphim of Zarov

In whom does the Holy Spirit dwell? In the one who is pure without sin. It is then that a person is a vessel of the Holy Spirit, when the virtues have come in place of the vices.
Colman mac Beognae The Alphabet of Devotion

O Thou who camest from above
The pure, celestial fire to impart
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart.
Charles Wesley

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25th September

The Peace Of The Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is … peace. Galations 5: 22..

Learn to be peaceful, and thousands around you will find salvation… There is nothing better than peace in Christ, for it brings victory over all the evil spirits on earth and in the air. When peace dwells in a person’s heart it enables them to contemplate the grace of the Holy Spirit from within. The person who lives in peace collects spiritual gifts as it were with a scoop, and sheds the light of knowledge on others. All our thoughts, all our desires, all our efforts, and all our actions should make us say constantly with the Church: ‘O Lord, give us peace!’. When a person lives in peace, God reveals mysteries to them.
Seraphim

Live in peace
Columbanus

Peace of all felicity
Peace of shining clarity
Peace of joys consolatory.
Peace of souls in surety
Peace of heaven’s futurity
Peace of virgin’s purity.
Peace of the enchanted bowers
Peace of calm reposing hours
Peace of everlasting, ours.
George McLean (trans) Poems of the Western Highlanders

Deep peace of the quiet earth
Deep peace of the still waters
Deep peace of the setting sun
Deep peace of the forgiving heart
Deep peace of the true call
Deep peace of the Son of Peace
Be ours, today, for ever

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24th September

The Joy Of The Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is.. joy. Galations 5: 22.

The expression on his face seemed so extra-ordinary. A light shone from within, illuminating his features. His whole being seemed enfolded in the grace of the Holy Spirit and raised above the earth.

He spoke to me about the heavenly joys of those who have a share in God’s glory. It was as though he himself was actually living all this at that very moment, partaking of this bliss and enabling me to live it with him. He seemed unable to find words to express what he was experiencing, so he ended: ‘O my joy, such bliss, such beatitude, I cannot describe it all!’
Anne Eropkine, describing her visit to Fr. Seraphim in 1830

When Cuthbert returned to the Farne Isle to lead the life of a hermit ‘he spent almost two months greatly rejoicing in his new found quiet’. Once he sent some visitors on their way with the injunction to cook the goose that was hanging in the visitors’s hut. They in fact left it there, having plenty of food, but then they found the weather turned against them and they could not sail for day after day. Eventually Cuthbert went over to their hut and explained ‘with unruffled mien and even with joyful words’ that their problems were caused by their failure to eat the goose as he had advised. They immediately cooked the goose, and the weather immediately became fair. They returned home with some feelings of shame because they had not taken Cuthbert’s words seriously, but with even greater feelings of joy, because they realised God took such good care of his servant Cuthbert that he even used the elements to give a gentle rebuke to those who took his words too lightly. They rejoiced because the Creator took such good care of themselves that he corrected them by means of a miracle.

Grant me the grace to appreciate your providence
to contemplate your glory
and to become part of creation’s song of joy

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23rd September

Spring Cross-Roads

Listen! Wisdom is calling out. Reason is making herself heard. … at the cross-roads she stands. Proverbs 8: 1

The Spring Equinox, one of the two days in the year when day and night are of equal length, owing to the sun’s crossing of the equator, is also St. Cuthbert’s Day:

As the heralds of Spring
golden trumpet
the arrival of Easter,
as the dark night of Lent passes
and the days lengthen
so like Cuthbert,
bright star of the North,
we would become
your Easter people, O Christ,
shepherds of your sheep,
peace makers and hospitality givers
open to change and partnership
Spirit led, in solitude and costly service.
Kate Mcllhagga Cuthbert’s Folk

I also omit how Cuthbert saw the soul of a farm manager carried up to the sky at his death; how he wonderfully sent demons packing; or how he healed people of disturbed mind through his prayers.
The Anonymous Life of Cuthbert

God of Spring-time
While the sun is crossing over the equator
may I be crossing over
from dark to light
from complaining to appreciation
from dither to boldness
from stagnation to creativity
from coldness to love
from me to you

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22nd September

The Glow Of The Spirit

Be aglow with the Spirit. Romans 12: 11

If you would get the centre of your soul right, you should first of all get ready the needed materials, so that the heavenly Architect can begin to make the building. The house must be light and airy, with windows, which are the five senses, so that the light of heaven, the Sun of righteousness, can penetrate to our inner dwelling. The door of the house is Christ in person, for he said ‘I am the door.’

When mind and heart are united in prayer, without any distraction, you feel that spiritual warmth which comes from Christ and fills the whole inner being with joy and peace. We have to withdraw from the visible world so that the light of Christ can come down into our heart. Closing our eyes, concentrating our attention on Christ, we must try to unite the mind with the heart, and, from the depths of our whole being, we must call on the Name of our Lord, saying ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.’

To the degree that love for the Lord Jesus warms the human heart, one finds in the Name of Jesus a sweetness that is the source of abiding peace.
Seraphim of Zarov

Let us recall again St. Patrick’s experience:

The love and fear of God increased more and more in me and my faith began to grow, and my spirit to be stirred up, so that in one day I would say as many as a hundred prayers and nearly as many at night, even when I was staying out in the woods or on the mountain. And I used to rise before dawn for prayer, in snow and frost and rain, and I used to feel no ill effect and there was no slackness in me. I now realise it was because the Spirit was glowing in me.
St. Patrick

Eternal Creator of day and night
cleanse us by your refining fire
kindle in us the Pentecostal flame
and make our hearts burn with heavenly desires

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21st September

‘Acquire’ The Holy Spirit

‘Give us some of your oil for our lamps.’ They replied ‘We may not have enough; go and buy some for yourselves.’ Matthew 25: 8, 9.

The oil in this parable, as we shall see, represents God’s Holy Spirit.

The Celtic tradition of hermits living close to God and nature was lost or overlaid in the West; but in the East this tradition continued and, in a country such as Russia, it flowered in the tradition of the Staretz, or holy hermit who lived alone, but in deep solidarity with the people of his neighbourhood. Seraphim was a notable Russian Staretz of the nineteenth century whom I look upon as a Soul Friend for followers of Celtic spirituality. He once had this conversation about the Holy Spirit, sitting on a stool by his cell in the forest, with young Nicholas Motovilov, whom he called Friend of God:

‘When you were a child you wanted to know the purpose of the Christian life but none of the ecclesiastics told you. I will try to tell you. Prayer and good works are good, but they are only means to an end. The true end of the Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit’. ‘What do you mean by acquisition?’ Nicholas asked. ‘You know what it means to earn money, don’t you? Well, the Holy Spirit is also capital, but eternal capital. Our Lord compares our life to trading and says “Buy gold from me” (Revelation 3.18). Good works, if they are done for the love of Christ, bring us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

In the parable of the virgins at a wedding (Matthew 25. 9-15) the foolish virgins were told to buy oil for their lamps. What they were lacking was the grace of the Holy Spirit. So you see that the one essential thing is not just to do good, but to acquire the Holy Spirit as the one eternal treasure which will never pass away….

This Holy Spirit, the All-powerful, takes up his dwelling in us and prepares in our souls and bodies a dwelling place for the Father.’
Seraphim of Zarov

Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy sevenfold gifts impart.
Veni Creator, Nineth. Century

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20th September

Earth

The Lord knows what we are made of, that we are but dust. Our days are but as grass. Psalm 103: 14, 15

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes.
Funeral Service, Book of Common Prayer

To be of the earth is to know the restlessness of being a seed
the darkness of being planted
the struggle towards the light
the pain of growth into the light
the joy of bursting and bearing fruit
the love of being food for someone
the scattering of your seeds
the decay of the seasons
the mystery of death
and the miracle of birth.
John Soos

Earth teach me stillness as the grasses are stilled with light
Earth teach me suffering as old stones suffer with memory
Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning
Earth teaching me caring as the mother who secures her young
Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone
Earth teach me limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground
Earth teach me freedom as the eagle which soars in the sky
Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall
Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring
Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life
Earth teach me to remember kindness as dry fields weep for rain.
Ute Prayer

Creator, make me malleable, like your earth
Saviour, make me humble, like your earth
Spirit, make me receptive, like your earth

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