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