Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday (6)

Easter Day Breaks

Easter day breaks
Christs rises! Mercy every way is infinite-
Earth breaks up; time drops away;
In flows heaven with it's new day
Of endless life-
What is left for us save in growth
Of soul to rise up...
For the gift looking to the giver,
And the cistern to the river,
And from finite to infinity,
And from man's dust to God's divinity

Robert Browning

living water reprint

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday (6)


Good Friday 

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon--
I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

living water reprint from 2008

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rising Blessing


Christ be with me,
be after me,
be before me,
and be at my right and left hand.
May everything I do be for Christ.

to be said as you rise in the morning to face the new day

graphic: taken on the banks of the Grand by BC

Friday, March 22, 2013

Saint Patrick's Creed


There is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be,than God the Father unbegotten,without beginning,from whom is all beginning,the Lord of the universe,as we have been taught;

and His son Jesus Christ,whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world,before all beginning;

and by Him are made all things visible and invisible.He was made man, and,having defeated death,was received into heaven by the Father;

and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven,on earth, and under the earth,and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God,in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be,judge of the living and of the dead,who will render to every man according to his deeds; and

He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit,the gift and pledge of immortality,who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ;and Him do we confess and adore,one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.

from St Patricks Confession

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (634–687)

Cuthbert was from Northumbria, Dunbar at the mouth of the Firth of Forth in modern-day Scotland. One night as a young boy tending flock he had a vision of the soul of Aidan being carried to heaven by angels. After this experience he joined the monastery of Old Melrose and became a monk (651), However after a short while he left and became a soldier for several years.

Eventually he returned to the monastery. There after his fame for piety, diligence, and obedience grew. When Alchfrith, king of Deira, founded a new monastery at Ripon, Cuthbert was appointed it's visitors' host. Illness struck the monastery in 664 and upon the death of the prior Cuthbert was appointed in his stead. He spent much time among the people, ministering to their spiritual needs, carrying out missionary journeys, preaching, and performing miracles.

After the Synod of Whitby, Eata, his old abbott called on him to impliment the synods Rulings at Lindisfarne. This was an ungrateful task, but Cuthbert disarmed opposition with his loving and patient nature.

He continued his missionary work, travelling the breadth of the country from Berwick to Galloway to carry out pastoral work and founding an oratory at Dull, Scotland complete with a large stone cross, and a little cell for himself, at a site which subsequently became a monastery then later the University of St Andrews.
In 676 he adopted the solitary life and retired to a cave. After a time he settled on one of the Farne Islands, south of Lindisfarne, there he gave himself more and more to austerities. While on the Farne Islands, he instituted special laws to protect the Eider ducks and other seabirds nesting on the islands; these may have been the first bird protection laws anywhere in the world. Consequently, eider ducks are often called cuddy ducks (Cuthbert's ducks) in modern Northumbrian dialects.

In 684, at a synod at Twyford (believed to be present day Alnmoth) Cuthbert was elected bishop of Lindisfarne. It was only after a visit from king Ecgfrith, that he agreed to return and take up the duties of bishop. He was consecrated at York on 26 March 685.

After the Christmas of 686, he returned to his cell on Inner Farne Island (two miles from Bamburgh Northumberland), where he eventually died. He was buried at Lindisfarne.

living water reprint from 2009

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Hours (part 2)

A Brief History of Fixed Hour Prayer

I can hear the question. What the heck is this fixed hour prayer stuff? Quit simply it is the practice of praying at set intervals through out the day.

The Ancients marked time. The custom of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night goes back to the Jews. In the Psalms we find expressions like: I will meditate on thee in the morning..." -Psalm 62:7 "I rose at midnight to give praise to thee..." Psalm 118:62 "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice." Psalm 55:17 "Seven times a day I have given praise to thee..." -Psalm 119:164

The Apostles observed the Jewish customary times of prayer (see: Matthew 15:36; Luke 18:10; Acts 2:15; 3:1; 10:3,9; 10:30; 16:25; 27:35). The Christian prayer of that time consisted of almost the same elements as the Jewish: recital or chanting of psalms, reading of the Old Testament, to which was soon added reading of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles. At times canticles composed or improvised were added. "Gloria in excelsis" and the "Te decet laus" are remenants of these ancient inspirations.

At present the elements composing the Divine Office seem more numerous, but were derived, by gradual changes as the original elements developed and were added to. It appears from the texts of Acts cited above, the first Christians preserved the custom of going to the Temple at the hours of prayer. They also had their gatherings in private houses for the celebration of the Eucharist, sermons and exhortations.

The Eucharistic celibration soon entailed other prayers. The custom of going to the Temple disappeared. The abuses of the Judaizing party forced the Christians to separate more distinctly from the Jews in their practices and worship. From that point on the Christian liturgy rarely borrowed from Judaism and became distinct.

It's interesting to note that praying five times a day at appointed hours is one of the tenets of Islam making the custom of keeping fixed hour prayer common to all three of the Abrahamic faiths.

a history of fixed hour prayer by Phyllis Tickle
graphic by Night Prayers by Naomi Spears

Living water reprint from 2008

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Patrick of Ireland (389-460 AD)

Patrick never chased snakes out of Ireland and we don't really know whether he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. What he did accomplish over shadows any legends or myths of the man.

Patrick left Confession and Letter to Coroticus in his own hand. These Two documents are the basis for all we know of the historical Patrick. Confession was aimed at an apparently unsympathetic audience in Britain to defend his call and mission to the people of Ireland.. It is not a traditional biography.

He was born Patricius somewhere in Roman Britain to a relatively wealthy family. He was not religious as a youth and, in fact, claims to have practically renounced the faith of his family. While in his teens, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid and transported to Ireland. He was enslaved to a local warlord and worked as a shepherd until he escaped six years later.

Patrick returned home and eventually undertook studies for the priesthood with the intention of returning to Ireland as a missionary to his former captors. It is not clear when he actually made it back to Ireland or how long he ministered there. We know it was definitely for a number of years.

Thomas Cahill author of How the Irish Saved Civilization says, "The Patrick who came back to Ireland with the gospel was a real tough guy. He couldn't have been anything else—only a very tough man could have hoped to survive those people. I don't mean to say he wasn't a saint—he was a great saint—but he was a very rough, vigorous man."

Not surprisingly Patrick's own experience in captivity left him with a distaste of slavery. He would later become one of the first voices to speak out unequivocally against it. "The papacy did not condemn slavery as immoral until the end of the 19th century," Cahill says, "but here is Patrick in the fifth century seeing it for what it is. I think that shows enormous insight and courage and a tremendous 'fellow feeling. The ability to suffer with other people. To understand what other people's suffering is like." Cahill adds "He really is one of the great saints of the downtrodden and excluded—people that no one else wants anything to do with,".

Women find a great advocate in Patrick. His Confession speaks of women as individuals. Cahill points to Patrick's account of "a blessed woman, Irish by birth, noble, extraordinarily beautiful—a true adult—whom I baptized." In another passages he speaks highly of the strength and courage of Irish women: "But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most—and who keep their spirits up despite the menacing and terrorizing they must endure. The Lord gives grace to his many handmaids; and though they are forbidden to do so, they follow him with backbone." He is actually one of the first male Christian's since Jesus to speak well of women observes Cahill.
Cahill points out around the time of Patrick's death "the Irish stopped slave trading and they never took it up again. Human sacrifice had become unthinkable. Although the Irish never stopped warring on one another, violence became much more confined and limited by what we might call the 'rules of warfare."

"I think that though he probably died knowing that he had succeeded [in his mission]," Cahill adds, "he also died hoping that success would be permanent and not temporary." The fact is Patrick's success couldn't have been more permanent. Not only had he accomplished what he'd set out to do—convert the nation to Christ—but in the process he'd retrieved from obscurity the primary objective set by Christ for his apostles: the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Cahill makes the strong case in How the Irish Saved Civilization, that it is Patrick's conversion of Ireland that sets in motion the preservation of Western thought through the early Dark Ages by the Irish monasteries founded by Patrick's successors. When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.

By converting the Irish pagans to Christianity without making any attempt to Romanize them he founded a new kind of Church. One that was both Catholic and primitive. Of Patrick's introduction of Christianity to Ireland, Cahill says, the faith was introduced for the first time into a culture free of the sociopolitical baggage of Greco-Roman civilization. Prior to Patrick's gift of the faith to Ireland, to be Christian was to be Roman, or at least to be a product of Roman civilization.

The conversion of Ireland sees the faith thrive in an entirely different environment. A culture in which, according to Cahill, there is a "sense of the world as holy, as the Book of God—as a healing mystery, fraught with divine messages." In this tradition, Cahill explains, "there is a trust in the objects of sensory perception, which are seen as signposts from God. But there is also a sensuous reveling in the splendors of the created world, which would have made Roman Christians exceedingly uncomfortable."As a result, Cahill says, "The early Irish Christianity planted in Ireland by Patrick is much more joyful and celebratory in the way it approaches the natural world. It is really not a theology of sin but of the goodness of creation, and intensely incarnational."

Since it was the Irish monks who served as the bridge between classical Christianity and the Middle Ages, medieval Christianity tends to reflect the celebratory nature of Irish spirituality rather than the gloom and sin-centeredness of its classical predecessor.Finally. Patrick gave the Irish himself, willingly, joyfully, proudly. He did this despite the fact that, even at the end of his life, "after aproximatly30 years of missionary activity," Cahill says, "he knows he's still living in a very scary place. You don't change people who offer human sacrifice and who war on one another constantly, overnight."

But change they eventually did. The example of his life—his courage, his intelligence, his compassion and his incredible, indomitable faith still lives on.

Cahill writes, "Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before." Because of Patrick, a warrior people "lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery." 

compiled from several sources

living water reprint from 2008

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anam Cara (part 2)

 The Celtic Connection

For more than six hundred years from 400 to 1200 C.E., monastic biographers in the Celtic churches of Ireland, Northern England, Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and Brittany composed the Lives of literally hundreds of Celtic saints. These records leave a wealth of information about soul friendship and its immersion in the everyday life and spirituality of Celtic Christianity. Also revealed is how common soul-friend relationships were between men and men, women and women, and women and men and the importance of everyone having a soul friend even among non clerics.

Records tell us within a hundred years after the missionary activities of Saint Patrick in the fifth century, saint after saint were involved in soul friend relationships.

Finnian, who around 520 established the great monastery of Clonard, is considered the patriarch of early Irish monasticism. He tutored and acted as a spiritual guide to so many of the early founders of the other large monastic communities, Columcille of Iona and Ciaran of Clonmacnoise among that number. Finnian, himself had been mentored from boyhood by Foirtchernn of Britain. As an adult he had a number of soul friends: Caemon of Tours in Gaul, and David, Gildas, and Cathmael.

Ita as Finan evidently acted in a similar capacity. She taught so many young men who later became leaders in the early Celtic church that she became known as the "Fostermother of the Saints of Erin." One of these is Brendan of Clonfert. Famous for his voyages, he frequently turned to Ita for advice throughout his life.

A person may have a number of mentors and soul friends through out their lifetime. Often starting from an early age. Kevin of Glendalough is typical of this model. According to an early hagiography, he had "three elders to whom he was handed over as a child, so that he might learn Christ."

As Anam Caram, these early saints engaged in a great variety of ministries and roles. Some, like Patrick, Brigit, and Columcille, are clearly portrayed in their Lives as healers and spiritual guides to the tribes, as the druids and druidesses had once been before them.

Others such as Finnian, Ita, and Aidan, functioned as teachers and tutors both to younger and older students alike. Many of them, including Findbarr of Cork, David of Wales, and Hild of Whitby, were powerful founders of monasteries, a role that definatley involved good communication and administrative skills.

As in the case of Brendan and Columbanus, a large number were missionaries and pilgrims. They willing to lived extremely harsh lifestyles, far from friends and kin, to bringing the gospel to pagan lands.

Many of these soul friends were mystics and visionaries, like Samthann of Clonbroney and Maedoc of Ferns, who prayed intensely and had seer, intuitive abilities to read the future and, more important, the heart. All of them were pioneers, reconcilers, and confessors who, despite a very active life, valued deep freindships and solitude.

We know from the few hagiographies of female "saints" as well as the stories in the men's Lives that refer to women in the early Celtic church, that some of the greatest and most competent of the soul friends were Irish women. Brigit, Ita, Samthann, Moninna, and in Northumbria. The anglo-saxon Hild of Whitby, who, through Aidan's mentoring, was thoroughly immersed in Celtic spirituality. These woman funtioned as teachers, administrators, guides, preachers, and confessors in the Celtic tradition.

Whether female or male saints, it is interesting to note how often they are pictured, like the desert Christians, sitting, praying, studying, writing, or teaching in their cells. The scholar Charles Plummer says that in addition to the common buildings of each monastic community (that is, the chapel, the oratories, refectory, school, and guest-house), cells were constructed for individuals or small groups of monks.

Older members, ascetics, and anchorites would probably have had their own separate cells. Many of these cells were of the beehive type still visible today in all their terrible beauty on Skellig Michael, off the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. This type of cell definitely had room for more than one inhabitant.

In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the Venerable Bede tells us that during the early days of the Celtic church large numbers of people from England "left their own country and retired to Ireland either for the sake of religious studies or to live a more ascetic life. In course of time some of these devoted themselves faithfully to the monastic life. Others preferred to travel round to the cells of various teachers and apply themselves to study." Cells were frequently shared between teachers and students, confessors and those seeking forgiveness, and anam caram.

adapted from material by Edward Sneller

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Free Will (10 )

More Early fathers on free will

Clement of Rome (AD30-100)
"On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodom when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture. For Lot’s wife, who went forth with him, being of a different mind from himself and not continuing in agreement with him [as to the command which had been given them], was made an example of, so as to be a pillar of salt unto this day. This was done that all might know that those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on themselves? and become a sign to all succeeding generations." (Clement, Epistle to the Corinthians, XI)

Ignatius (AD30-107)
"Seeing, then, all things have an end, and there is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life. For I remark, that two different characters are found among men — the one true coin, the other spurious. The truly devout man is the right kind of coin, stamped by God Himself. The ungodly man, again, is false coin, unlawful, spurious, counterfeit, wrought not by God, but by the devil. I do not mean to say that there are two different human natures, but that there is one humanity, sometimes belonging to God, and sometimes to the devil. If any one is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice. The unbelieving bear the image of the prince of wickedness. The believing possess the image of their Prince, God the Father, and Jesus Christ, through whom, if we are not in readiness to die for the truth into His passion, His life is not in us." (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, V)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Micheal Mass (4)


THOU Michael the victorious,
I make my circuit under thy shield,
Thou Michael of the white steed,
And of the bright 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 the victorious,
     My pride and my guide,
     O Michael the victorious,
     The glory of mine eye.

I make my circuit
In the fellowship of my saint,
On the machair, on the meadow,
On the cold heathery hill;
Though I should travel ocean
And the hard globe of the world
No harm can e’er befall me
’Neath the shelter of thy shield;
     O Michael the victorious,
     Jewel of my heart,
     O Michael the victorious,
     God's shepherd thou art.

Be the sacred Three of Glory
Aye at peace with me,
With my horses, with my cattle,
With my woolly sheep in flocks.
With the crops growing in the field
Or ripening in the sheaf,
On the machair, on the moor,
In cole, in heap, or stack.
     Every thing on high or low,
     Every furnishing and flock,
     Belong to the holy Triune of glory,
     And to Michael the victorious.

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

David of Wales (500-589)

'Do the little things in life' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd')*

A renowned teacher, Dewi Sant better known as David of Whales was the founder of 10 monastic communities. His main monastery was at Meneiva in Pembrokeshire. He looked to the model of the desert fathers and took a very austere approach. He lived a simple life, practiced asceticism and taught his followers to refrain from eating meat or drinking beer.

The Monastic Rule of David prescribed that monks pull the plough themselves without the aid of beasts; drink only water; eat only bread and vegetables with salt and herbs; spend the evenings in prayer, reading and writing. No personal possessions were allowed: to say "my book" was an offense.

" They should work so hard that they want only to love one another" he would say. David taught that someone wanting to become a monk should be made to wait out side for 10 days. After being treated with hostility if the candidate is patient through this ordeal he should be welcomed warmly.

He was anointed as a bishop by Patrick, presided over two synods and went on a number of pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

His last words to his followers were in a sermon on the previous Sunday. His biographer, Rhygyfarch relates these 'Be joyful, keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard I've done. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.'

*This quote by David of Wales is still a very well-known phrase in Welsh

living water reprint from 2008