Thursday, February 28, 2013

The New Moon Blessing

IN name of the Holy Spirit of grace,
In name of the Father of the City of peace,
In name of Jesus who took death off us,
Oh! in name of the Three who shield us in every need,
If well thou hast found us to-night,
Seven times better mayest thou leave us without harm,
      Thou bright white Moon of the seasons,
      Bright white Moon of the seasons.

 Carmicheal's foot note:THIS little prayer is said by old men and women in the islands of Barra. When they first see the new moon they make their obeisance to it as to a great chief. The women curtsey gracefully and the men bow low, raising their bonnets reverently. The bow of the men is peculiar, partaking somewhat of the curtsey of the women, the left knee being bent and the right drawn forward towards the middle of the left leg in a curious but not inelegant manner.

 Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1, by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900]

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fixed hour prayer (part 1)

The Hours : Rhythm 


Rhythm is about balancing the different aspects of ones life.... work, play, prayer, family, friends... etc. Time is one of our most precious commodities. In this day and age time has become a battle field of sorts, everything vieing for more and more of it. Over the years i have found that striking a balance became difficult to maintain.... particularly in my devotional life.

When our children were younger the issue was much simpler ... We had set times for certain things (we home schooled). A rhythm developed around our home life. Each evening we had a family time which helped me find somewhat of a rhythm in my personal life.

As our family transitioned, children getting older, finding a clearer track was always a challenge. Over the years i experimented with all types of different prayer, quiet time/devotional tools... some better than others. My wife and i had a difficult time finding something that worked for the both of us, particularly together.

Over a dozen years ago while attending a Celtic Spirituality conference we were introduced to "The Hours", "Fixed Hour Prayer" or as we have come to know them, "The Daily Office". I was previously aware of the hours in a monastic context, but quiet frankly had never considered their present application. Shortly after the conference we began applying the rhythm of the office to our daily live.

 Praying  the hours renewed our spirits. It has brought balance into our lives and has given  us something that facilitates journey together. We have been able to maintain a consistency with the hours that we just couldn't find with any other approach. Not to say it's the only way but it does have a time tested track record. After a dozen years we still  find it a life giving spiritual practice.

updated living water reprint

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Walter Hilton (1340 - 1394)

Little is known of  Walter Hilton's personal life, apart from his writings. We do know that he abandoned a promising career as a  lawyer. he may have completed the studies and examinations that would have entitled him to become a Master of canon law, but without undertaking the regency that would have given him the latter title. Prior to 1386, he retired from the world as a hermit,when he developed a deep devotion to the Carthusian Order.

His spiritual writings were influential during the fifteenth century in England. The most famous of these are the two volumes of Scale of Perfection. It survives in some sixty-two manuscripts, including fourteen of a Latin translation by Hilton's contemporary in Cambridge  the Carmelite friar Thomas Fishlake.  In Fishlake's translation, the Scale became the first work written in English to circulate on the European continent. It was printed by  Wynken Worde in Westminster in 1494, at the request of Lady Margret Beauford  the mother of King Henry VII, and five more times before the English Reformation of the 1530s.

The first book of Scale is addressed to a woman recently enclosed as an anchoress, providing her with appropriate spiritual exercises; the bulk of its ninety-three chapters deal with the extirpation of the 'foul image of sin' in the soul—the perversion of the image of the Trinity in the three spiritual powers of Mind, Reason and Will (reflecting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively, according to a tradition drawn from St Augustine) -- through a series of meditations on the seven deadly sins. The second book, which opens by addressing itself to Hilton's former reader, who, he says, has further questions, seems from its style and content rather to be addressed to a larger, perhaps more sophisticated audience; its major themes are the reformation of the soul in faith alone and in both faith and feeling. This latter is described in an extended metaphor as a spiritual journey to Jerusalem, or 'peace' in meditation, a gift which is also its own giver, Christ. The first book of the Scale was apparently written some time before the second, and circulated independently.

In 1386, he wrote the Latin epistle of spiritual counsel, De Utilitate et Prerogativis Religionis, for his friend Adam Horsley, a former officer of the Exchequer, who was about to enter the Carthusian Order. According to manuscript tradition, Hilton died as an Augustinian regular  in the priory of St Peter  in Nottinghamshire. However, this manuscript was written much later than the history it reports, and it contains a number of historic mistakes

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hymn of the Sunday

ON the holy Sunday of thy God
Give thou thine heart to all mankind,
To thy father and thy mother loving,
Beyond any person or thing in the world.

Do not covet large or small,
Do not despise weakling or poor,
Semblance of evil allow not near thee,
Never give nor earn thou shame.

The ten commands God gave thee,
Understand them early and prove,
Believe direct in the King of the elements,
Put behind thee ikon-worship.

Be faithful to thine over-lord,
Be true to thy king in every need,
Be true to thine own self besides,
True to thy High-King above all obstacles.

Do not thou malign any man,
Lest thou thyself maligned shouldst be,
And shouldst thou travel ocean and earth,
Follow the very step of God's Anointed.

Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1, collected  by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anam Cara (Part 1) Desert Roots

"A person with out a soul friend is like a body with out a head" : St. Brigid

The Month having begun with  Brigid i thought it would be fitting to address the topic of Anam Caram. Today we use terms such as spiritual councilor, spiritual director and sometimes mentor. Before this role became primarily the exclusive domain of a predominately male clergy and more recently professionals this type of relationship called periglour or beriglour by the Welsh and Anam Caram by the Irish and the Scots meaning "friend of the soul" or simply "soul friend" was open to lay people and ordained, women and men alike to receive and give.

The following is a story from the life of St. Brigid which sheds light on the importance the Celts placed on this kind of relationship.

A young cleric of the community of Ferns, a foster-son of Brigit's, used to come to her with dainties. He was often with her in the refectory to partake of food. Once after going to communion she struck a conversation. "Well, young cleric there", says Brigit, "do you have a soul friend?". "I have", replied the young man. "Let us sing his requiem", says Brigit. "Why so?" asks the young cleric. "For he has died", says Brigit. "When you had finished half your ration I saw that he was dead". "How did you know that?" "Easy to say, (Brigit replies) from the time that your soul friend was dead, I saw that your food was put (directly) in the trunk of your body, since you were without any head. Go forth and eat nothing until you get a soul friend, for anyone without a soul friend is like a body without a head: is like the water of a polluted lake, neither good for drinking nor for washing. That is the person without a soul friend".

Set in the context of a meal with references to death and water, this story has symbolic, sacramental connotations that most Christians would recognize. It a loods to the fact Christian Celts believed that soul friends were crucial to the nourishment and spiritual growth of the individual. It presumes that such mentoring relationships were ultimately related to friendship with God.

To fully grasp the concept of soul friendship and its significance in the history of Christian spirituality it is important to understand that it emerged as a distinct form of spiritual mentoring. The lives and teachings of the Abbas and Ammas of the early desert, stories of the saints found in certain early Celtic hagiographies (In The Lives) and their writings affirm the value of friendly teachers, confessors, and guides for personal holiness and the sharing of wisdom grounded in deep friendships.

Scholars are in agreement that the early desert Christians had a major influence on the development of the Celtic approach to mentoring friendship. Pioneers of monasticism in both the western and eastern churches, these desert Christians were mostly laypeople who left their homes and traveled into the desert regions of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine in the 3rd 4th and 5th centuries.

Desert elders such as Antony (251-356) and Pachomius (292-346) desired a simpler life-style where "the air was purer, the heavens more open, and God nearer". They began living alone as hermits or together in communities, eventually becoming valued as teachers of prayer and councilors of the spirit. These "Desert Fathers and Mothers", as they came to be lovingly called, instructed those who came to them not only with words of advice, but more importantly example. "Be an example, not a lawgiver" was one of their favorite sayings.

Two seemingly contradictory characteristics consistently appear: their great appreciation of friendship and an equally strong love of solitude. There is much evidence in the written works of the warmth, love, respect, and genuine affection the early desert Christians felt for each other. They warmly embraced on meeting and departing. They engage in friendly chit chat, yet also seriously discussed the spiritual progress each was attempting to make. They shared daily work and, at least once a week, celebrated Communion together. Most importantly, they called each other friend and rooted that friendship in Jesus' name and example.
Abba Theodore, taught "Let us each give his heart to the other, carrying the Cross of Christ". It is this capacity for deep friendships that attracted others to them. In their presence people felt safe opening their hearts sharing their struggles, confessing sins and seeking direction. This capacity for friendship and ability to read other people's hearts became the basis of the desert elders' effectiveness as spiritual guides.
Abba Helle is typical. Staying with his brothers for three days, he was so loved and trusted by them, we are told, that when he "revealed the secret counsels of each of them, saying that one was troubled by fornication, another by vanity, another by self-indulgence, and another by anger", they could only respond, "Yes, it is just as you say".

partially adapted from material by Edward Sneller and Ray Simpson.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a prayer for smoring the fire

Here is another Celtic blessing for setting or kindling the evening fire
on these sub zero winter nights

The sacred Three

To save,

To shield,

To surround

The hearth,

The house,

The household,

This eve,

This night,

Oh! this eve,

This night,

And every night,

Each single night.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

John Hyde (1865-1912 )

Praying John Hyde Missionary to India

John Hyde was born in Carrollton, Illinois. His father was a Presbyterian minister. The prayer centered atmosphere in the family home growing up made an indelible impression on the life of young John.
John was graduated from Cathage College with such high honors that he was elected to a position on the faculty. He felt he heard a divine call to India. He resigned from Cathage, entered the Presbyterian seminary in Chicago, graduated in the spring of 1892 and sailed for India the following October.

In India during the next 20 years such was example of prayer that the natives referred to him as "the man who never sleeps." More familiarly he was known as "the praying Hyde" It is reported that he often he spent 30 days and nights in prayer, and many times was on his knees in deep intercession for 36 hours at a time.
His sacrifice, humility, commitment to the rural poor and example of intercession have inspired many. He died February 17, 1912. 

living water reprint from 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday



Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee. 

 An Excerpt  from T. S. Elliot's epic poem ASH WEDNESDAY

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Celtic Christian Trvia Pt. 2

Interesting Facts about the Early Celtic Christians

6) The Celtic Church was using a rudimentary creed as a statement of faith before the Nicene Creed. The Celtic Church was the first church to use communion bread stamped with the symbol of the cross.  The Book of Kells depicts that circular bread stamped with a cross was in use in Celtic Churches by the 7th century.  Communion was given and received in both kinds (unlike Roman Church).  It was received while standing (This was consistent with the early church.  The Apostolic Constitution forbade kneeling on Sunday because that was the day Christ rose and was a time of joy) and communicants drank from a common cup.  Some Celtic Churches, ie Mozabarec and Brittish, took bread from pan and intincted and placed it in the mouth.  Broken bread on a pan in the shape of a cross which was the origin of the Celtic Cross.

8) Since the Celtic Church's roots were from Judaic-Essene traditions  they looked to Leviticus 21:10 for their definition of the priestly functions and anointed the heads and hands of their priests (Gildas wrote about this practice).  This was true in all the Celtic nations of Britain, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Gaul and the Basque lands.  The Roman Church would not begin anointing as a part of ordination until the 9th century.

9) The Celtic Church maintained a reverence for nature.  John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople wrote that the church was our mother, but the Celtic Church felt that the earth was our mother and God our father.  They looked to the passage in Genesis where God created Adam from the earth.  The church developed the blessing of animal rites which are used in other churches liturgies today.  It is believed the rite is attributed to St. Columcille that is based on a story recorded by St. Adamnan.  St. Adamnan describes how, in the month of May in the year 597, Columcille, then 77 years old, was  taken in a cart to visit the monks who were at work.  He told them that his end  was drawing near, and blessed them.  On the Saturday after that, he and his  personal attendant Diarmait went out for a short walk, but Columcille's  age and state of health prevented him going further.  He told the sorrowing Diarmait that he  expected to die that night.  On the way back to the monastery he sat down to  rest.  While he was resting, he was approached by one of the monastery's horses, a loyal work-horse that carried the milk-pails  from the booley (cow-pen) to the monastery.  The horse placed its head in the saint's bosom and seemed to weep, as  if it knew that its master would soon be taken from it.  Diarmait came over and wanted to lead the animal away, but Columcille would not allow this.  Columcille felt that the horse sensed that he was going to die, and wanted to comfort him, or perhaps say good-bye.  Columcille allowed the horse to nuzzle against him and then he blessed the horse.

10) The Celtic and Gallican Churches developed the first complete prayer books in their vernacular language and also the first lectionary for readings.

(courtesy of Rt. Rvd. John Dillard of Saint Andrews Church)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Poem of the Lord's Day

A poem of the Lord's Day, 

O bright God,
Truth under the strength of Christ always.
On the Lord's Day Mary was born,
Mother of Christ of golden yellow hair,
On the Lord's Day Christ was born
     As an honour to men.

The Lord's Day, the seventh day,
God ordained to take rest,
To keep the life everlasting,
Without taking use of ox or man,
Or of creature as Mary desired,
Without spinning thread of silk or of satin,
Without sewing, without embroidery either,
Without sowing, without harrowing, without reaping,
Without rowing, without games, without fishing,
Without going out to the hunting hill,
Without trimming arrows on the Lord's Day,
Without cleaning byre, without threshing corn,
Without kiln, without mill on the Lord's Day.

Whosoever would keep the Lord's Day,
Even would it be to him and lasting,
From setting of sun on Saturday
Till rising of sun on Monday.

  He would obtain recompense therefrom,
Produce after the ploughs,
Fish on the pure salt-water stream,
Fish excelling in every river confluence.

The water of the Lord's Day mild as honey,
Whoso would partake of it as drink
Would obtain health in consequence
From every disease afflicting him.

The weeping of the Lord's Day is out of place,
A woman doing it is untimely;
Let her weep betimes on Monday,
But not weep once on the Lord's Day.

The wood of the Lord's Day is too soon.
In the pool it is pitiful,
Though its head should fall in char,
It would till Monday be dormant.
About noon on the Monday,
The wood will arise very quickly,
And by the great flood without
Hasten the story of my trouble. 
Without any searching for lamb, sheep, kid or goat
That would not belong to the King in the cause.
It is now it ought to be burnt,
Without listening to the clamour of the stranger,
Nor to the blind babbling of the public.

To keep corn on a high hillock,
To bring physician to a violent disease,
To send a cow to the potent bull of the herd,
To go with a beast to a cattle-fold,

 Far or near be the distance,
Every creature needs attention.
To allow a boat under her sail from land,
From land to the country of her unacquaintance.
Whoso would meditate my lay,
And say it every Monday eve,
The luck of Michael would be on his head,
And never would he see perdition.

Carmicheqal's foot noteL THIS poem was obtained from Janet Currie, Staonabrig, South Uist, a descendant of the Mac Mhuirichs (corrupted into Currie) of Staoligearry, the famous poet-historians to the Clanranalds. She was a tall, strong, dark-haired, ruddy-complexioned woman, with a clear, sonorous voice. Her p. 217 language was remarkably fluent and copious, though many of her words and phrases, being obsolete, were unintelligible to the stranger. I took down versions of the poem from several other persons, but they are all more or less corrupt and obscure. Poems similar to this can be traced back to the eighth century.

 Carmina Gadelica, Volume 1,collected  by Alexander Carmicheal, [1900]

Friday, February 8, 2013

Celtic Christian Triva Pt 1

Interesting Facts about Celtic Christianity

1) The practice of Lent originated in the Gallican Church in the 4th century and was later adopted by Rome.  It was a 40 day period of fasting that can be traced to the writings of St. Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp who in turn had been a student of St. John.  The idea was to prepare candidates for baptism by fasting as Jesus had fasted in the wilderness in preparation of His ministry.  In the Gallican and Celtic churches Lent begins on Monday and not Ash Wednesday. 

2) Bishops could be consecrated with only one bishop present, instead of the three required in the Roman Church.  In most ordinations it was not uncommon for more than one bishop to be present.  Abbots sometimes passed their succession on one on one to their son or grandson.

3) The Celtic Church was organized around monasteries and not parishes like the Roman church.  The parish system was modeled after the Roman government’s territorial system which was given to that church by the Roman Emperor Constantine.  No single bishop was the head of the Celtic Church, rather the church leadership was made up of bishops and abbots with equal authority as stated in the early church councils, ie, Ephesus.   Their bishops were viewed as successors to the apostles and keepers of the apostolic faith.

4) The Celtic Churches had two altars (Gildas’ writings describe this as do St. Adamnan’s), one in the far east end of the church and one in the front of the church.  The one in the east was a larger alter and known as the Heavenly altar (representing worship in heaven).  The other one was known as the Jerusalem or worship altar (representing Jesus’ life on earth).  Early Christians were Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah, so they adopted Jewish liturgical forms of worship and modeled the early churches after synagogues.  Hence the two altars are representative of the Tabernacle and the Ark in Old Testament worship.  The liturgy begins with the priest facing the rear altar with his back to the congregation.  This recalls worship in the temple with the priest before the tabernacle.  “David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place in Gibeon” (1 Chronicles 16:39).

5) The Celtic Church was strongly Trinitarian.  It was the only church that prayed to the Father, the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  There were also some liturgical prayers to Michael the Archangel.

(courtesy of Rt. Rvd. John Dillard of Saint Andrews Church)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Columba's House blessing


Blessing  the Home

Peace of God and peace of man,
Peace of God on Columb-Killey*
On each window and each door,
On every hole admitting moonlight,
On the four corners of the house,
On the place of rest,
And peace of God on myself

*Saint Columcille/Columba

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Imbolic, Saint Bridgid, Candle Mass and ground hogs

If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.

Imbolc (also Imbolg), or St Brigid’s Day (Scots Gaelic Là Fhèill Brìghde, Irish Lá Fhéile Bríde, the feast day of St Brigid, is a Celtic festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on 1 or 2 February
The festival was observed in Gaelic Ireland during the Middle Ages Reference to Imbolc is made in Irish mythology, in the Tochmarc emire of the Ulster Cycle. Imbolc was one of the four cross-quartwe daysreferred to in Irish mythology, the others being Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain.

Traditionally what we modern Westerners know as Groundhog Day was and is, on Feb 1st or 2nd is celebrated in the Modern Irish Calendar as Saint Brigid’s Day,or Bride’s Day. Both a Catholic and an ancient Pagan Celebration,an ancient Goddess tradition, also called Imbolc, still celebrated by Wiccans/Pagan based Earth honouring religions. Christians overlaid the Ancient Goddess worshipers’ holiday renaming it Candlemas or the fest of the Purification of the Virgin. This celebration also relates to the midpoint between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

It is a “cross-quarter” day in the 8 rounds of the Wheel of Time in the Solar based year. Since the Celtic Year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, it is most likely the holiday would be celebrated on the Full Moon nearest those 2 midpoints, when early spring flowers would begin to rise up through the snow, and snakes would come out of the ground. This is the precursor of the Groundhog, which the Romans replaced with a Hedgehog,

how to make St Brigid's cross

a short office for  Cadlemas

Imbolic liturgy 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Brigid (451 - 523 )

St. Brigid's Blessing

Through her holy intercession
with our Father in Heaven,
may St. Brigid bless
you and and make you
generous in your giving,
pleasant in your greeting,
honest in your speaking,
loyal in your loving,
clear in your thinking,
strong in your working,
and joyful in your living
And when it's time
for your homecoming,
may there be peace in
your passing and a warm
welcome in heaven

from the Carmina  Gadelica, collected by Nicheal Carmicheal in 1900