Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve (4)

In Scottland and the Northern parts of England New Years ( known as Hogmanay) is an important celibration steeped in tradition. Shortly after 'the bells' - the stroke of midnight when public clocks would chime to signal the start of the new year neighbours go from house to house, wishing each other well for the coming year ahead. Good wishes are celibrated with food and plenty of drink. This visiting was known as first footing. Great importance was placed on who would be the first to eneter the home and " bring in the new year" once midnight passed.

Tradition has it a tall, dark and handsome man was the prefered first footer, red heads were always considered bad luck. (that leaves me out, or would have.. lol)

First-foots brought symbolic gifts to the house: coal for the fire, to ensure that the house would be warm and safe, and shortbread or black bun (a type of fruit cake) to symbolise that the household would never go hungry that year.

First-footing has faded in recent years, particularly with the growth of the major street celebrations in Edinburgh and Glasgow

graphic /an old etching of first footing in edinburgh

classic living water post

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day (3): the incarnation (5)

 O Christian, be aware of  your nobility

from a Sermon by Leo the Great, 5th century

This is the day our Savior was born: what a joy for us, my beloved!  This is no season for sadness, this, the birthday of Life - the Life which annihilates the fear of death, and engenders joy, promising, as it does, immortality.

Nobody is an outsider to this happiness.  The same cause for joy is common to all, for as our Lord found nobody free from guilt when he came to bring an end to death and to sin, so he came with redemption for all.  Let the saint rejoice, for he hastens to his crown; let the sinner be filled with joy, for pardon is offered him; let the Gentile be emboldened, for he is called to life.
When the designated time had come, which God in his deep and impenetrable plan had fixed upon, God's Son took the nature of man upon himself in order to reconcile man to his Creator.  Thus would the devil, the father of death, be himself overcome by that self-same human nature which he had overcome.
The angels therefore exult at the birth of the Lord: they sing ‘Glory to God in high heaven'; they announce ‘Peace on earth for men on whom his favor rests'.  For they behold the heavenly Jerusalem being constructed from out of all the peoples on earth.  How greatly ought mere men rejoice at this mysterious undertaking of divine love, when the angels on high thrill so much at it!
My beloved, let us offer thanksgiving to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit.  In the great mercy with which he loved us, he had pity on us, and ‘in giving life to Christ, gave life to us too, when we were dead through sin', so that in him we might be a new creation, a new work of his hands.
Let us then be quit of the old self and the habits that went with it.  Sharers now in the birth of Christ, let us break with the deeds of the flesh.
O Christian, be aware of your nobility - it is God's own nature that you share: do not then, by an ignoble life, fall back into your former baseness.  Think of the Head, think of the Body of which you are a member.  Recall that you have been rescued from the power of darkness, and have been transferred to the light of God, the kingdom of God.
Through the sacrament of baptism you have been made a temple of the Holy Spirit; do not, by evil deeds, drive so great an indweller away from you, submitting yourself once more to the slavery of the devil.  For you were bought at the price of Christ's blood.

graphic from the film the Nativity

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve (3)



Nativity Prayer

Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Antiphons: Day 7

Incarnation (4)

God puts on a frame of Flesh: some modern voices chime in

The mystery of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.
Martin Luther

Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man. If the holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too.
And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and re-create the human heart, because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.
– Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

As far as the Incarnation is concerned, I believe firmly in it. I believe that God did lean down to become Man in order that we could reach up to Him, and that the drama which embodies that Incarnation, the drama described in the Creed, took place.
Malcolm Muggeridge

Our imitation of God in this life … must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.
- C.S. Lewis, from his book The Four Loves

"There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation."
Madalene L'Engil

Nowhere is salvation conceived of as a flight from history as in Greek thought; it is always the coming of God to man in history. Man does not ascend to God; God descends to man.
George Eldon Ladd

graphic: the birth of christ by william blake

some of this material has been previously posted on living water from ancient well

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Incarnation (3)

Truth sprang from the earth and justice looked down from heaven

from a Sermon by St Augustine, 5th century

 Wake up, O man - it was for you that God was made man!  Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.  For you, I say, was God made man.  Eternal death would have awaited you had he not been born in time.  Never would you be freed from your sinful flesh, had he not taken to himself the likeness of sinful flesh.  Everlasting would be your misery, had he not performed this act of mercy.  You would not have come to life again, had he not come to die your death.  You would have broken down, had he not come to help.  You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption.  Let us celebrate the hallowed day on which the great eternal day came from the great eternal day into this, our so short and temporal day.  He has become our justice, and our sanctification, and our redemption.  And so, as scripture says: ‘Let him who glories, glory in the Lord'.
Truth, then, is sprung out of the earth: Christ who said, ‘I am the truth', is born of a virgin.  And justice looked down from heaven: man, believing in him who has been born, has been justified not by himself, but by God.
Truth is sprung out of the earth, for the Word was made flesh.  And justice looked down from heaven, for every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above.
Truth is sprung out of the earth - flesh born of Mary.  And justice looked down from heaven, for a man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven.
Being justified by faith, let us have peace with God, for justice and peace have kissed each other, through our Lord Jesus Christ, for Truth is sprung out of the earth.  Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we glory in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  Saint Paul does not say, ‘our glory', but ‘the glory of God'; because justice does not proceed from us, but has looked down from heaven.  Let him who glories then, glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.  Because of this, when the Lord was born of the Virgin, the angels announced, ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will'.
Whence is peace on earth, if not from the fact that Truth is sprung out of the earth, that is, Christ is born of flesh?  And he is our peace, who has made both one, that we might be men of good will, bound together by the sweet bonds of unity.
Let us, then, rejoice in this grace, that our glory may be the testimony of our conscience, and we may glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord.  Obviously, it was because of this that it was said, ‘my glory, who lifts up my head'.
For what greater grace could have dawned upon us from God, than that he, who had only one Son, made him the son of man, and so in turn made the son of man a son of God.  Ask yourself whether this involved any merit, any motivation, any right on your part; and see whether you find anything but grace!

O antiphon day 5:

Day 5 O Antiphon

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Incarnation (2)

Wonder of the Incarnation

Gregory Nazianze

 The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like. He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; his coming to birth had to be treated with honor, virginity had to receive new honor. He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it.

He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first.

Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son. The Son arranged this for the honor of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things.

The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice. When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven.

Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him. The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom’s friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit.

We need God to take our flesh and die, that we might live. We have died with him, that we may be purified. We have risen again with him, because we have died with him. We have been glorified with him, because we have risen again with him.

Gregory of Nazianzen was archbishop of Constantinople (now Istanbul) at the time of the First Council of Constantinople which in 381 revised the Nicene Creed .  He is one of the great of the Early Church Fathers.  This excerpt from his writings (Oratio 45, 9, 22.26.28;  PG 36, 634-635. 654,658-659. 662)  is a beautiful tribute to the wonder of the mystery of the Incarnation

graphic: head of Christ painted by Manuil Panelinos, Mt. Athos, 14th century

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Last week O Antiphons

Dec. 17th- the 24th

The "Late Advent Weekdays" or December 17-24, mark the singing of the Great Advent O Antiphons. These are the antiphons for the Magnificat at Vespers, or Evening Prayer (in the Roman Catholic Church) and Evensong (in the Anglican Church) each day, and mark coming birth of the Messiah. They cover the Advent period known as Octave.
No one is absolutley sure of the exact orgin of the "O Antiphons". There is a reference to them in the early 500's by Boethius a Christian Philosopher, suggesting there presence at that time.

The O Antiphons were originally chanted. They form the basis for the verses of the popular Advent hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel" which was translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale. It is believed that the present melody is of French origin and was added to the text somewhere in the 12th century.
I have added a scripture from Isiaiah as was the original tradition and a small prayer to each day, followed by the O Antiphon and the refrain. Enjoy...

for a very cool and in-depth explanation of the Atiphons please check out
Antiphons chanted in latin
for more information on Anicius Boethius go to

classic living water from an ancient well post

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cowpers Onley Hymns: The Names of God

Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord Send Peace

 (Judges, vi.25) 

Jesus! whose blood so freely stream'd
    To satisfy the law's demand;
    By Thee from guilt and wrath redeem'd,
    Before the Father's face I stand.
    To reconcile offending man,
    Make Justice drop her angry rod;
    What creature could have form'd the plan,
    Or who fulfil it but a God?
    No drop remains of all the curse,
    For wretches who deserved the whole;
    No arrows dipt in wrath to pierce
    The guilty, but returning soul.
    Peace by such means so dearly bought,
    What rebel could have hoped to see?
    Peace by his injured Sovereign wrought,
    His Sovereign fasten'd to a tree.
    Now, Lord, Thy feeble worm prepare!
    For strife with earth and hell begins;
    Conform and gird me for the war;
    They hate the soul that hates his sins.
    Let them in horrid league agree!
    They may assault, they may distress;
    But cannot quench Thy love to me,
    Nor rob me of the Lord my peace.

William Cowper

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Incarnation ( 1 )

Ireneaus : Vision of the Incarnation

“…the Son of God being made the Son of man, that through Him we may receive the adoption—humanity sustaining, and receiving, and embracing the Son of God” (Against the Heresies, III.16.3).

“Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. Wherefore, the prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, announced His advent according to the flesh, by which the blending and communion of God and man took place according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold converse with them upon the earth, should confer with them, and should be present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is, from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, in order that man, having embraced the Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father” (Against the Heresies, IV.20.4)

“He might easily have come to us in His immortal glory, but in that case we could never have endured the greatness of the glory; and therefore it was that He, who was the perfect bread of the Father, offered Himself to us as milk, [because we were infants]. He did this when He appeared as a man, that we, being nourished, as it were, from the breast of His flesh, and having, by such a course of milk-nourishment, become accustomed to eat and drink the Word of God, may be able also to contain in ourselves the Bread of immortality, which is the Spirit of the Father” (Against the Heresies, IV.38.1).

“It was for this reason that the Son of God, although He was perfect, passed through the stage of infancy in common with the rest of mankind, partaking of it thus not for His own benefit, but for that of the infantile stage of man’s existence, in order that man might be able to receive Him” (Against the Heresies, IV.38.1).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

 Thomas Merton  (1915-1968)

Prayer for Peace
Almighty and merciful God, Father of all men, Creator and ruler of the universe,
Lord of all history, whose designs are without blemish, whose compassion for
the errors of men is inexhaustible, in your will is our peace.

Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to you from the tumult and desperation
of a world in which you are forgotten, in which your name is not invoked,
your laws are derided and your presence is ignored. Because we do not
know you, we have no peace.

From the heart of an eternal silence, you have watched the rise of empires
and have seen the smoke of their downfall. You have witnessed the impious
fury of ten thousand fratricidal wars, in which great powers have torn whole
continents to shreds in the name of peace and justice.

A day of ominous decision has now dawned on this free nation. Save us then
from our obsessions! Open our eyes, dissipate our confusions, teach us
to understand ourselves and our adversary. Let us never forget that sins
against the law of love are punishable by loss of faith, and those
without faith stop at no crime to achieve their ends!

Help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us.
Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war and
destruction. Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries
in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and
suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now
grow beyond belief and beyond bearing. They are at once a torment
and a blessing: for if you had not left us the light of conscience,
we would not have to endure them. Teach us to wait and trust.

Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace.
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily
your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your
designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth
reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.

Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm,

O God of holiness, merciful to men. Grant us to seek peace where
it is truly found. In your will, O God, is our peace.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teachings of the early church (Intro)

For some time i have wanted to do a series on what the early followers of Christ taught and believed. The theology of the early church is what i guess it could be refered to.  This is always interesting because it is usually interpreted in light of what ever stream is doing the presenting. 

The thing i find extremely intriguing is that many things that we, particularly evangelicals hold dear are fairly new concepts that would have been forgien to the first followers of Christ. We have touched on some of these, for example early church practice when it came to war and the military, as well as  eluding to others, Theosis,  Imagio Dei, and Christus Victor.

This will be a project that will be interspersed among every thing else that gets posted here. So it will be on going.

Thought i would begin with the Incarnation being Advent and all,  though the main reason i thought i'd start here is that for early  Christ followers the  Incarnation was the lynch pin that held everything else together. Let us see. Emmanuel. God with us...


graphic: early last supper or agape feast

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We Beseech Thee

let our hearts be enlightened by the holy radiance of Thy Son's Incarnation; 
that we may escape the darkness of this world, 
and by His guidance attain to the country of everlasting clearness. 


graphic: JV Harvey. Incarnation. 1994.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Peace: a Celtic Night Blessing

The peace of God, the peace of men, 
The peace of Columba kindly, 
The peace of Mary mild, the loving, 
 The peace of Christ, King of tenderness.  
Be upon each window, upon each door, 
Upon each hole that lets in light, 
Upon the four corners of my house, 
Upon the four corners of my bed, 
    Upon the four corners of my bed;
Upon each thing my eye takes in, 
Upon my body that is of earth
And upon my soul that came from on high.
    Upon my body that is of earth
And upon my soul that came from on high.

Translated from the Gaelic by Alexander Carmichael 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Almighty God, 
who has planted the Day-star in the heavens, 
and, scattering the night, 
dost restore morning to the world, 
fill us, we beseech Thee, with Thy mercy, 
so that, Thou being our Enlightener, 
all the darkness of our sins may be dispersed, 
through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

from the old english sarum primer 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Desert wisdom (9)

  A certain Abba became very seriously ill and he lost much blood. One of the brethren had some dried prunes, and because of the severe illness of Abba, he cooked a little food and put the prunes in it, and brought it to him and entreated him saying, "Father do me an act of grace and take a little of this stew, for perhaps it will do you good." Abba lifted up his eyes and looked at him and said, "In what part of the Scriptures have you found this thing? Truly I have wished that God would leave me in this illness for the last thirty years, for when I am weak, then am I strong"; and the Abba although he was grievously sick, would not take even a little of the food, and when the brother saw this he took it and went back to his cell.

graphic: a monk at prayer

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

John of the Cross (1542-1591)

Ascent of Mount Carmel

I brought you into the land of Carmel to eat
its fruit and its good things,
Jeremiah 2:7

The Ascent Of Mount Carmel  is one of four treatises written  by this 16th Century Spanish mystic and poet. It explores  the process and journey of the soul seeking spiritual union with God. The Dark night of the Soul,  The Living Flame of God, and the Spiritual Canticle are the other three pieces that complete this work.

Written around 1578 after his escape from prison, the Ascent is divided into three sections that form  a  commentary examining four poetic stanzas ( written by John) charting the   Soul's progress to the summit of the metaphorical Mount Carmel where God is encountered.  John contends that the purpose of this journey is "nothing less than transformation in God".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Columbanus (543-615)

The Rule of Columbanus

Columbanus developed a monastic rule or set of guiding principles for life in his communities.  I n 627 Columbanus' Rule  was approved of by the Council of Macon for general monastic use outside the Celtic model. Before the close of the century it was superseded by the Rule of St. Benedict. For several centuries in some of the greater monasteries the two rules were observed.

It is much shorter than the Benedictine Rule, consisting of only ten chapters.The first six are concerned with obedience, silence, food, poverty, humility, and chastity. The first six chapters of the Benedictine code has much in common with these, except Columbanus' fasting is more rigorous.

Chapter VII deals in exacting detail with the daily Offices and how they will be ordered and employed in the life of the community. 

Chapter VIII explores the need for and use of discernment in the spiritual life.

Chapter IX is concerned with what Columbanus refers to as mortification more commonly understood by us today as death to self or surrender.

Chapter X regulates penances for offenses, and it is here that the Rule of St. Columbanus differs so widely from that of St. Benedict. The Celts developed the Penitential which were later adopted and expanded by the Roman Church. More on the original concept of penance in cletic monstic life.

Below is the opening of The Rule of Columbanus:

Here begin the chapters of the Rule
1. On Obedience
2. On Silence
3. On Food and Drink
4. On Poverty
5. On Overcoming Vanity
6. On Chastity
7. On Choir Office
8. On Discernment
9. On Mortification (the death of self)
10. On the Monks Perfection ( and Penance)

Here begins the Rule for the Monks of Columbanus the Abbot.
First of all we are taught to love God with all our heart all our mind and all our strength our neighbor as ourselves: and then our works (the working out of loving God and neighbor in this case in context of the rule).

( ) parenthesis are my added explanation

Graphic: stain glass from the Bibbio Basilica

Monday, November 22, 2010

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

The Screwtape Letters were originally published weekly in the Anglican periodical The Guardian between May and November 1941and appeared in book form in February of 1942.  

In the body of the thirty-one letters which make up the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and procuring the eternal destruction Wormwoods charge known only as  "the Patient"., The book is interspersed with observations on human nature and Christian apologetic. Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it.
Below is a sampling from the book:

  • There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
  • Of course a war is entertaining. The immediate fear and suffering of the humans is a legitimate and pleasing refreshment for our myriads of toiling workers. But what permanent good does it do us unless we make use of it for bringing souls to Our Father Below? When I see the temporal suffering of humans who finally escape us, I feel as if I had been allowed to taste the first course of a rich banquet and then denied all the rest. It is worse than not to have tasted it at all. The Enemy, true to His barbarous methods of warfare, allows us to see the short misery of His favourites only to tantalize and torment us — to mock the incessant hunger, which, during this present phase of great conflict, His blockade is admittedly imposing.
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."
  • Be not deceived, Wormwood, our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human, no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe in which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
The humans live in time but our Enemy (God) destines them for eternity.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Calling of God

I say the prayer from my mouth, 
I say the prayer from my heart, 
I say the prayer to Thee Thyself, 
    O Healing Hand, O Son of the God of Salvation; 
To give praise to Thee, Jesus, 
Lord of sea and of land, 
Lord of sun and of moon, 
    Lord of the beautiful stars. 
    O God of the weak, 
    O God of the lowly, 
    O God of the righteous, 
         O shield of homesteads: 
    Thou art calling upon us 
    In the voice of glory, 
    With the mouth of mercy 
         Of Thy beloved Son.
O may I find rest everlasting
In the home of Thy Trinity, 
In the Paradise of the Godly, 
    In the Sun-garden of Thy love.

Prayer from the Gaelic

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St Hilda (614-680 )

Bede is enthusiastic in his praise of Abbess Hilda, one of the great Celtic saints and memorable woman of antiquity: She was the adviser of rulers as well as of ordinary folk; she insisted on the study of Holy Scripture and proper preparation for the priesthood; the influence of her example of peace and charity extended well beyond the walls of her monastery; and "all who knew her called her Mother, such were her wonderful godliness and grace."

St. Hilda was especially revered for her ability to recognize spiritual gifts in both men and women. Her kindheartedness can be seen from the story of Caedmon, one of her herdsmen, whose poetic gift was discovered and nurtured by Hilda. She encouraged him with the same zeal and care she would use toward a member of the nobility, urging him to use his gifts as a means of bringing the knowledge of the Gospel Truth to common folk. St. Caedmon later composed the first hymns in the English language.

Though she presented and supported the Celtic monastic model her presence at the Council of Whitby and  leadership  of  Lindisfarne Community were key in the spirit of  Humility that pervaded the transition ( right or wrong) after the Council.

Bede described Hilda’s final years as a time of illness ‘she was attacked by a burning fever that racked her continually for six years’. Hilda died on 17 November 680 at the age of 66.
graphic:  Icon of Hilda and Caedmon

Monday, November 15, 2010

Celtic Advent Begins

The Celtic Advent period lasts for forty days. Nov. 15-Dec. 24.  The Dates are the same for Eastern Orthodox Advent (Nativity Fast, Winter Lent, or the Christmas Lent).

During the time of ancient Celtic Christianity, the entire Church, both Western (including the Celtic Christians), and Eastern (the Orthodox Communions, Oriental Churches, and Eastern Rite Roman Catholics) all celebrated a longer Advent Season as a lesser Lenten fast. 
Advent seems to have been a result of the observance of the Celtic monks in Gaul,

It began on the same date every year on November 15th (Orthodox Churches still observe it as beginning on this day Observance of Advent appears to have taken place since the 4th Century (300's A.D.)  Like Lent, it originally was a season when new Christians studied in preparation for being baptized.  In the early Middle Ages Advent was the Season of preparing oneself for the Second Coming of Christ.  It was a season of repentance and dedication to prayer.

a short Northumbrian Advent compline that can be used nightly until the 17th of December and the begining of the Advent Antiphons

 Celtic Advent liturgy that can be used Sundays leading up to christmas

 Living Water Acient Well explanation of Advent

Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Crysostoms (347-407)

 Words of John Chrysostom

When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies...but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power in God.

Let us relieve the poverty of those that beg of us and let us not be over-exact about it.

It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life.

What prayer could be more true before God the Father than that which the Son, who is Truth, uttered with His own lips?

When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration.

If the Lord should give you power to raise the dead, He would give much less than He does when he bestows suffering. By miracles you would make yourself debtor to Him, while by suffering He may become debtor to you. And even if sufferings had no other reward than being able to bear something for that God who loves you, is not this a great reward and a sufficient remuneration? Whoever loves, understands what I say.

O envious one, you injure yourself more than he whom you would injure, and the sword with which you wound will recoil and wound yourself. What harm did Cain do to Abel? Contrary to his intention he did him the greatest good, for he caused him to pass to a better and a blessed life, and he himself was plunged into an abyss of woe.

In what did Esau injure Jacob? Did not his envy prevent him from being enriched in the place in which he lived; and, losing the inheritance and the blessing of his father, did he not die a miserable death? What harm did the brothers of Joseph do to Joseph, whose envy went so far as to wish to shed his blood? Were they not driven to the last extremity, and well-nigh perishing with hunger, whilst their brother reigned all through Egypt?

It is ever thus; the more you envy your brother, the greater good you confer upon him. God, who sees all, takes the cause of the innocent in hand, and, irritated by the injury you inflict, deigns to raise up him whom you wish to lower, and will punish you to the full extent of your crime. If God usually punishes those who rejoice at the misfortunes of their enemies, how much more will He punish those who, excited by envy, seek to do an injury to those who have never injured them? 

graphic: Russian icon of St. John Chrysostom

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Martin of Tours (316- 397)

The episode of the cloak

  The most-repeated and painted story from the life of Martin of Tours.  While still in the military at the gates of the city of Samarobriva with his legion he met a scantily dressed begger. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is notbaptized; he has clad me." (Sulpicius, ch 2). 
See the Living Water from an Ancient Well Thumbnail life of Martin of Tours

Rememberance day

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.


Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day (3)

How shining and splendid are your gifts, O Lord
which you give us for our eternal well-being
Your glory shines radiantly in your saints, O God
In the honour and noble victory of the martyrs.
The white-robed company follow you,
bright with their abundant faith;
They scorned the wicked words of those with this world's power.
For you they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments,
they were drained by cruel punishments.
They bore their holy witness to you
who were grounded deep within their hearts;
they were sustained by patience and constancy.
Endowed with your everlasting grace,
may we rejoice forever with the martyrs.
O Christ, in your goodness,
grant to us the gracious heaven realms of eternal life.

Unknown author, 10th century

Graphic: Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven

Fra Angelico - 1428-30, Tempera on wood - National Gallery, London

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Sanhain Liturgy

Let's just spend a moment or two in quietness:
Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the luminaries and the sun. You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter.
(Psalm 74:16-17)

In the fading of the summer sun,
the shortening of days, cooling breeze,
swallows' flight and moonlight rays


In the browning of leaves once green,
morning mists, autumn chill,
fruit that falls frost's first kiss


Creator God, forgive our moments of ingratitude,
the spiritual blindness that prevents us
from appreciating the wonder that is this world,
the endless cycle of nature,
of life and death and rebirth.
Forgive us for taking without giving
reaping without sowing.
Open our eyes to see
our lips to praise
our hands to share
and may our feet tread lightly on the road.

Listen to the profound words of the French novelist Albert Camus, and just think about them for a moment :

'Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower'

Here a song, chant or hymn might be sung

We see signs of summer's passing in golden leaves,
shortening days, misty mornings, autumn glow.
We sense its passing in rain that dampens,
winds that chill, Harvest's bounty placed on show.
Creator God, who brings forth
both green shoot and hoar frost,
sunrise and sunset,
we bring our thanks
for seeds that have grown,
harvests gathered,
storehouses filled,
mouths fed.
And, as your good earth rests
through winter's cold embrace,
we look forward to its re-awakening
when kissed by Spring's first touch.
For summer's passing
and harvest home


For autumn's splendour
and winter's chill


For seed that has fallen
the promise of spring


As a part of nature's wondrous cycle
Of new birth, growth, fruitfulness and death
We rejoice in the creation of new life,
For parenthood, the passing on of knowledge,
For understanding and the wisdom of years.
We are grateful for those who have gone before
Passing on to us our spiritual heritage.
May our lives blossom as the apple tree in Spring
May we become fruitful in thought and deed
And may the seed of love that falls to the ground
Linger beyond our time on this earth.

St. Francis of Assisi wrote these wise words: 
'Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received…but only what you have given'

The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap... (Psalm 92:12ff)

For fruitfulness

For a generous spirit

For wisdom and faith

For old age and new birth

For those who have gone before us
Seeds planted in your rich pasture
With the hope of life eternal
May their enduring spirit live on
Enriching and empowering our lives
Their love linger
Their presence be near
Until we meet once more.

'The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power' (1 Cor 15:42-43)

For your embracing love
A Father's love
A Mother's love
The love that sees our failings
And forgives us
The love that sees our joys
And embraces us
The love that knows no end
or beginning
A love that could die for us
We bless you.

We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest
And we bless each other
That the beauty of this world
And the love that created it
Might be expressed though our lives
And be a blessing to others
Now and always


thanx to  John Birch at Christian Prayers and Resources
photo: BC

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Celtic Year

The Celtic year was divided into four main parts based on the farming cycle. The Celtic year begins with Samhain. In Ireland the year was divided into two periods of six months by the feasts of Beltane (May 1) and Samhain ( November 1), and each of these periods was equally divided by the feasts of Imbolc (February 1st or 2nd), and Lughnasadh (August 1)

Samhain (pronounced 'sow'inn' and the word for November in some Gaelic languages) which is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. It was also the time of year when the veils between this world and the Other world were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again. Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows' Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honoring the dead (not forgetting the festival of Harvest Thanksgiving which tends to be a movable feast these days)

Imbolc most commonly is celebrated on February 2nd, since this is the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Among agrarian peoples, Imbolc has been traditionally associated with the onset of lactation of ewes, soon to give birth to the spring lambs. The Christian Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrating  an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around February 2nd.

Beltane (the Gaelic names for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on the first day of May) is a festival celebrating the beginning of summer and open pasturing in Ireland and Scotland. There were similar festivals held at the same time in the other Celtic countries of Wales, Brittany and Cornwall. The festival persisted widely up until the 1950s, and in some places the celebration of Beltane continues today. Pilgrimages to holy wells are traditional at this time.

Lughnasadh marked the beginning of the harvest season, the ripening of first fruits, and was traditionally a time of community gatherings, market festivals, horse races and reunions with distant family and friends. On mainland Europe and in Ireland many people continue to celebrate the holiday with bonfires and dancing. The Christian church has established the ritual of blessing the fields on this day and in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1st is Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Desert Wisdom (8)

In the days of the Desert Fathers, a young monk sought out an elder monk who was known for his great holiness. The elder agreed to teach the young man everything he knew about prayer and the spiritual life.

He took the young man to a river and instructed him to immerse himself. The young man did and immediately the older man pushed the young man’s head under the water and held him down. The young man submitted to this for a short time, but then he became frightened that he was going to drown. He began to struggle against the old monk’s grip, fighting for air.

Finally, when the young man thought his lungs would burst, the old man released him. The young man stood up, gasping for air, looking at the old man in astonishment.

The elder monk looked at him calmly. “What did you experience while you were under the water?”

“I thought I was going to die,” he spluttered.

“Why were you going to die?”

The young man was angry. “Old man,” he spat, “I needed to breathe. I came here to learn the ways of God, and of prayer. And instead you tried to murder me!”

“You wanted that breath of air more than anything else?”

“Of course.”

“When you desire God as much as you desired that breath of air, then you will understand.”

graphic: abba-siseos

Monday, October 18, 2010

George Macdonald: (1823 -1905)

"Diary of an Old Soul"

C. S. Lewis often referred to George MacDonald as his "spiritual master/teacher."

George MacDonald published over fifty volumes of fiction, verse, children's stories, and sermons. His verse is delicate, graceful, and tender in feeling, with a pervading spiritual quality. The Diary of an Old Soul strikes a deeper note of thoughtfulness. His stories for children rank among the classics of juvenile literature.

"Nothing is inexorable but love. For Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love's kind must be destroyed. And 'our God is a consuming fire.' It is the nature of God so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure as fire. He will have purity. It is not that the fire will burn us until we worship thus, if we do not worship God, but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God. In the outer darkness, where the worst sinners dwell, God hath withdrawn himself, but not lost his hold. His face is turned away, but his hand is laid upon him still. His heart has ceased to beat into the man's heart, but he keeps him alive by his fire. And that fire will go searching and burning on in him, as in the highest saint who is not yet pure as he is pure. But at length, O God, wilt thou not cast death and hell into the lake of fire even into thine own consuming self? Death shall then die everlastingly, and hell itself will pass away, and leave her dolorous mansions to the peering day. Then indeed will thou be all in all. For then our poor brothers and sisters, every one,-O God, we trust in thee, the consuming fire, shall have been burnt clean and brought home."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Teresa of Avilia (1515-1582)


Teresa wrote Interior Castle as a spiritual guide to union with God. The inspiration for the work came from a vision she received. In it, there was a crystal globe with seven mansions, God inhabiting  in the innermost mansion. Teresa interpreted this vision as an allegory of the soul's relationship with God. Each mansion represents a step on the path towards the "spiritual marriage",  union--with God reached in the 7th mansion. One begins this journey through prayer and meditation. She also spends much time examining  the resistance that the Devil places in various rooms, keeping the pilgrim from union with God. The  work contains excellent encouragement and advice for spiritual growth. Beyond its spiritual merit, Interior Castle is a fine  literary  work of the Spanish Renaissance. A  deeply challenging book, Interior Castle stands on par with other great works of this time, such as Dark Night of the Soul.

 LW thumbnail life of Theresa of Avilia

picture: old graphic of  Interrior castle

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanks Giving (3)

We Thank Thee 

Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell;
for the love that unites us;
for the peace accorded us this day;
for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies,
that make our lives delightful;
and for our friends in all parts of the earth.
Let peace abound in our small company.

Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere.
Give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders.
Forgetful ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully
      the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies.

Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
      that which is to come,
that we be brave in peril, constant in tribulation,
      temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune, and, down to the gates of death,
      loyal and loving one to another.

Robert Louis Stevenson