13 January 2016

13—January

Today’s entry in Ray Simpson’s book, The Celtic Book of Days, is titled, “Unwanted Baby”, and tells the story of Tannoc, the daughter to King Loth of Dunpelder.

The story goes that when Tannoc was a child, her father sent her off to a convent where she gave her life to Christ and excelled in “atmosphere of spiritual and intellectual learning.” Later, when she was 15, her dad offered her in marriage to a Prince Owen of Rheged (gee, thanks, dad). When Tannoc refused, she was exiled. In a shocking display of sexual violence, Owen tracked her down and raped her. Alone and rejected by her family and the convent, a local community of peasant farmers took her in and cared for her.

When Tannoc gave birth to her son, the farmers contacted a neighboring priest who christened the child “Mungo” (meaning “my beloved”) and adopted them both. Saint Mungo became the founder and patron saint of Glasgow.

The reflection Simpson gives talks about carrying “unwanted life” (whether literal or metaphorical) and “the living scars of rejection and loss of identity.” He then goes on to say “God has purpose for you and for that which you carry within you.” He then tells us to remember Mungo when fear and doubt begins to creep in. Simpson finishes this entry by saying—

“Believe that something beloved, something (or someone) with authority and sainthood will come into being through you. The God of creation can use even our deepest wounds to bring good into the world.”

I like that. If you or someone you love is carrying “unwanted life” or “living scars” may you find those words of healing for you for God is “ever present in our pain.”



~~~
In the Love of the Three In One,

Br. Jack+, LC

12—January

Today’s entry in The Celtic Book of Days, is titled, “The Divine Plan.” In it, Simpson tells two stories about the plans God had for Columba and Samson.

Columba’s mother, Eithne, dreamt that she was given a cloak containing “every color of the rainbow.” A young man in her dream told Eithne that the cloak meant she’ll have a son, “and Ireland and Scotland will be full of his teaching.”

Samson’s father, Amon, didn’t want Samson to follow God’s plan for his life, so he refused to send Samson to a Christian school. But, after a very powerful dream, Amon said to his wife, Anna, “Let’s lose no time in sending our son, rather God’s son, to school, for God’s with him and we ought to do nothing against God.”

I know that I fought God’s plan for my life for a long time. God used others—my Mother, friends, even strangers—and some dark times to get me to quit running from it.  And, honestly, it’s still something that I struggle with. But, the prayer at the end of today’s entry sums up my feelings very well:

Lord, help me to relax into your plan for me.
Unfold it for me as the acorn unfolds into the oak.

What about you? Do you think God has a plan for your life? If so, has God revealed that to you? What are your next steps to “relax into [God’s] plan” for your life?



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

12 January 2016

11—January

Today’s entry in Ray Simpson’s book, The Celtic Book of Days, is titled, “A Nursery of Saints.” Simpson asks us if our “faith communities” are either lifeless museums or life fostering nurseries. He then tells the story of St. Comgall.

It seems the day before his birth, Mac Nisse of Connor exclaimed that a passing carriage carried a future king. However, when the carriage was inspected, all that was found was “Sedna and his pregnant wife Birga.” Mac Nisse, of course, meant the child Birga was carrying—Comgall.

Comgall went on to found the great monastery at Bangor where several thousand monks resided. Their service booklet, The Antiphonary of Bangor, resides in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, and can be viewed online. Simpson gets his title for today’s entry from a comment by Bernard of Clairvaux who described the monastery as “the nursery of saints.”

It seems that what Simpson (and Bernard of Clairvaux) is suggesting that our communities of faith be places that help other followers in their growth. And I agree with that. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28.19). To me, making disciples is about helping people grow in Christ. It’s helping them become more like Christ. It’s helping them on their journeys into theosis (deification).

How is your community of faith? Is it more of a museum or a nursery? If it’s a museum, what steps can you do to help it become a nursery?



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

10 January 2016

07-10—January

I’ve been neglecting my daily reflections of Ray Simpson’s book, The Celtic Book of Days. I’ve been reading them but I haven’t written any reflections. Today, I’m going to combine days 7-10 in one post. So, let’s get started!

Day 7 is titled “Another Way” and it’s filled with poems and prayers about the wisemen’s journey home. These lines really spoke to me—

But journey we, three new-made men,
side by side.
Came we by old paths by the sands.
Go we by new ones this new day…

This captures what happens when someone encounters the Christ. As we begin one way, after encountering the Christ, we have a new way—The Way—to go.  There’s a saying on one of our kitchen cabinets the reflects this sentiment so well—

To meet him is to be penetrated by his love.
To know him is to know and love him forever.

The wise men were penetrated by the Love of Christ even though he was a small boy. This changed them forever and started them on a new journey on a new day.

The entry for January 8th is titled, “Strong Leadership” and focuses on the legend of King Arthur. A lot of us may not realize this but the Arthur legend is steeped in Celtic lore as emphasised in Stephen Lawhead’s book, Arthur.* The point of this entry is that of nations living and leading by the banner of Christ. To be honest, I’m not sure about this. My first thought was, “Which Christ?” There are so many versions based on different views and interpretations of the Bible that I’m not sure I would want to be part of a nation that, for example, believed that “God’s will as her destiny” would be to rule with violence based on their view of Revelation 19.

I think the final prayer sums up my thoughts on this quite well—

Lord, give us that inner dynamic that calls out and combines
the moral and spiritual responsibility of individuals
for their immediate sphere of action.

The entry for Day 9 is titled, Contemplative Leadership. As you can tell, it balances “Strong Leadership” from Day 8. However, I must stress that in no way does contemplative equal “weak.” The comparison that Simpson makes is between the “inner life” (contemplative leadership) and the “outer life” (strong leadership).

Simpson’s entry for Contemplative Leadership is that of Moninna (or Edana). She was baptised and confirmed by none other than St. Patrick himself and was brought up by St. Brigid. It was Brigid who inspired Moninna to found a monastery in Ireland. But when crowds of people started to flock to her, she left her beloved Ireland and settled in Scotland where she built herself a prayer cell upon a high hill. “The hill became known as Edana’s Hill, later as Dunedin, and much later as Edinburgh.” Because of her time in silence and contemplation, she was led to create prayer communities in all the regions that Arthur ruled.

Here we see that it takes both inner work and outer work to bring changes to our world; to help usher in God’s Realm “on earth as in heaven.”

Today’s entry is titled, “New Beginnings, New Births” and compares Zechariah’s prophecy over his son John the Baptist (Luke 1.76-77) with the dream Anna has about her son she’ll have. In her dream, an angel tells Anna to name her son “Samson” after the Old Testament judge. The angel goes on to tell Anna the baby would be “holy, profitable to many,” and that “‘of the British race there has not been or will be anyone like him’.” Simpson states that if anyone reads the Life of St. Samson no one will doubt that all of this came true!

I’ve said this before but this is one of the things I like about the Celtic Saints, they’re all so human. They’re ordinary people whom God uses to do extraordinary things. I’m waiting with trepidation to read Amma Beth’s+ dissertation about the life of St. Samson. I bet it’s going to be wonderful!



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

~~~

* For those interested in really good Celtic lore, I highly recommend Lawhead’s Song of Albion trilogy. It’s a series I read almost every year. Yes, it’s that good!

06 January 2016

06—January

Today’s entry in The Celtic Book of Days, is titled, “Wise Kings on a Long Journey.” And, as one might anticipate, since today’s the Feast of the Epiphany, the entry’s about the Magi and their gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.

The first gift, the gift of gold, represents wealth. But Simpson notes that the person bringing this gift realized that wealth couldn’t buy the most important things in life “love, truth, eternity;” that it can’t “fill the heart.” And so, humbly, it’s given to the Holy Family.

The second gift, the gift of incense, represents the rituals of religion and scholarship. And while these thing can be good, too, they can often leave one empty and unfulfilled. They can represent cold repetition and logic, and lose their sense of mystery. When this gift was given, the person recognized all ritual should lead to a sense of “wonder at the smallest things, and all life becomes a sign of God’s Presence.”

The final gift, the gift of myrrh, Simpson explains, was used in burial rites. This person realized that all of life is fleeting and intuitively knew of the “early death that was to mark Jesus’ life.” This gift shows us that we can approach our mortality with acceptance and dignity.

What I love about these thoughts is that they’re of “heaven” and “earth.” They don’t separate the into the sacred and the profane but we can see that, even in the birth of a child, the sacred and the secular are intertwined, that there really isn’t a separation of the two. In the story of the Magi we see that all life is sacred, even the most human parts.

Finally, Simpson ends with this prayer:

High King of the universe,
we offer you our possessions, make them all your own.
We offer you our mindsets and we place them at your feet.
May we be filled with your Presence as incense fills a holy place.
We offer you the shadows of our lives, the things that are crushed;
our little deaths and our final death.
May these be like the straw in the stable.
May something beautiful for you be born in all this straw.

I really like the line, “May we be filled with your Presence as incense fills a holy place.” This is my prayer on this Feast day of the Epiphany.



~~~
In the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

05 January 2016

05—January

Today’s entry in The Celtic Book of Days, is titled, “The Aidan Way Ahead.” For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Saint Aidan, here’s a brief summary from Wikipedia:

Aidan of Lindisfarne (died 31 August 651) was an Irish monk and missionary credited with restoring Christianity to Northumbria. He founded a monastic cathedral on the island of Lindisfarne, served as its first bishop, and travelled ceaselessly throughout the countryside, spreading the gospel to both the Anglo-Saxon nobility and to the socially disenfranchised (including children and slaves).

He’s known as the Apostle of Northumbria and is recognized as a saint by the Anglican Communion, the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and others.

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There’s a statue of Saint Aidan on the island of Lindisfarne. Simpson points out four things that may help us moving forward into the new year: his face, his torch, his staff, and the Celtic cross behind him.

According to Simpson, Saint Aidan’s face looks to “regions that had never heard the good news.” Simpson questions, “Where does Christ want us to direct our attention this year?”

The torch, Simpson claims, represents the faith of Aidan, and inquired to whom we might pass on the “flame of faith” in the coming year.

The staff, or shepherd’s hook, represents Saint Aidan’s “gentle love and compassion for all.” Then Simpson asks the most difficult question of all, “Where do we need to grow in gentleness and compassion?”

Finally, we come to the Celtic cross that stands behind and above Aidan. This cross is probably the most unique in all of Christendom. The beams represent “heaven and earth”—the two parts of God’s Realm meeting together and are a picture of the time when “heaven and earth” become One (Revelation 21.1-5).

The circle of the cross, encompassing the intersection of “heaven” and “earth” (its most unique aspect), represents the Love of God. It surrounds all of life and shows there’s no difference between the “sacred” and the “profane”. Simpson states that the cross isn’t only a “message of words,…but an experience…to be lived and applied in every area of life, every moment of every day…No words divorced from humble service. This is the only way our dreams and resolutions will survive the rocks of human nature.”

This captures the essence of the Gospel so well. It’s about both doing and being. It’s about words and “humble service.” Quite often, the Christianity I grew up with, the Christianity most people are familiar with, is a religion of “words divorced from humble service.” But the lesson we learn from the Celtic Saints, especially from Saint Aidan, is unity—the marriage of words and service; of doing and being.

May our prayer for the coming year be more of this both/and way of Saint Aidan.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

04 January 2016

04—January

Today’s entry in The Celtic Book of Days is titled “On the Move for God” and continues with the idea of wandering or walking with God; of being a pilgrim. I have to admit that the idea of being a “pilgrim”—that somehow this world isn’t our home—really bothers me. From what I can gather, it comes from two misunderstandings—that “heaven” is our real home and an unrealized eschatology. I would like to quickly address these in reverse order.

As most of you are aware, I’ve written a series about eschatology (the “end times”; the first article’s here) and, to put it bluntly, it’s not what we think it means. The “pilgrim” imagery we have in the New Testament (most notably those given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10), is not about “going to heaven”; it’s about the change of covenants. It deals with the transition between the full completion of the Old Covenant (that was still going on during the New Testament time; Hebrews 8) and the full establishment of the New Covenant. Thus, the followers of Jesus in the first century were “pilgrims” or “wanderers in the wilderness” between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This transition was accomplished in 70 CE when the Temple and city of Jerusalem was destroyed, hence ending the Old Covenant age.

The second misunderstanding is the idea of “going to heaven”. As Tom Wright is fond of saying, “Heaven’s important but it’s not the end of the world.” For some reason, we’ve bought into the lie (yes, lie) that God’s going to destroy creation and start all over; that the sole purpose Jesus came was to “save us from our sins” so we can go the “heaven.” Therefore, since God’s (supposedly) going to wipe out creation, we don’t do anything about climate change or poverty or AIDS or any host of other global issues. As one preacher criticized, “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?” The idea here is that creation is the sinking ship and that “heaven” is the reality. This paints a very different picture from that of the Bible. It’s one that reeks of gnosticism, the Greek idea that “matter” (the material world) is “bad” and “spirit” (the immaterial world) is good. But as we see in Revelation 21, “heaven,” and this should be understood as God’s part of creation, actually comes “down” to our part. In other words, “heaven” and “earth” become one.

What I think would be a better understanding of “pilgrim”—and would fit better within a Celtic worldview—is someone going throughout the world where God’s Realm hasn’t been planted yet and work there. For as we see from Jesus’ stories about God’s Realm (Luke 13.18-21) or from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 47.1-12; cf. Revelation 22.1-5), God’s Realm starts in our world and will one day fill the entire creation.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

03 January 2016

03—January

Today’s entry in Ray Simpson’s book, The Celtic Book of Days, is a quotation from Columba: A Play with Music by Juliet Boobbyer & Joanna Sciortino; music composed by Elaine Gordon. In the quoted section, Simpson emphasises walking with God “into the great unknown.” Here’s the opening stanza:

Home is not a place, it's a road to be traveled, we say,
our only defense is the armor of God,
with the Gospel of Peace our feet are shod;
so alone, alone,
we walk into the great unknown.

The verses continue with this theme of wearing God’s armor and walking into the great unknown. Here’s the closing stanza:

The seed of God's love in the hearts of folk we sow;
and stronger and taller that seed will grow,
that all creation the truth may know;
then alone, alone,
it will conquer the great unknown.

Here we see that truth of the Gospel (God’s Love)—it will grow “stronger and taller” until all creation is infused with God’s Love, “conquer[ing]” all of the “unknown” things that oppose it. Here I take “conquer” to mean, not in some violent manner, but in the manner of winning one over to the side of Life and Love.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

02—January

Today’s entry in Ray Simpson’s book, The Celtic Book of Days, talks about Saint Samson. I’m no expert on Samson (I’ll leave that to Amma Beth+ from the Lindisfarne Community), but it seems the only date we’re fairly certain of is Samson’s ordination as a bishop on February 22 in 521 CE. According to Simpson, Samson arrived in Guernsey in the 5th century during the celebration of the New Year which was celebrated “according to a vile custom” of their ancestors. According to his biographer, Samson made friends with the islanders, “exuding a spirit of love, not judgement.” Gathering everyone together in one place, Samson started a conversation with the islanders about the emptiness of some of their customs. Because of Samson’s love for them, God began to open the eyes of the people.

Simpson tells us, “[Samson’s] method was one of meeting, not denunciation. Confronted by his dedicated love, the people’s hardness melted away. They threw away all that was empty, and the customs of generations were enriched.”

This type of encounter is quite common in the lives of the Celtic Saints. What would our nation look like today if the first Christian people that came to this country followed the example of St. Samson? How can we take this example and apply to our lives today? What if we didn’t look at the refugees as potential terrorists and saw them as fellow human beings in need of sanctuary? What if we follow the example of the Celtic Saints and didn’t see minorities as non-humans that need to be eliminated or their culture decimated? What would happen if we saw true beauty is not found in uniformity but diversity? How would our world change? How would our country change? How would our communities change? Perhaps you and I can be those changes today. Maybe, in the gentleness of God’s Spirit,  we can take those first steps, those pulse-pounding, fear of the unknown steps, and start changing our world.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

01 January 2016

Gillette Safety Razor

I’ve been using a double-edge (DE) safety razor for about a year and a half and have gotten the best shaves with it. For those of you who don’t know, a DE safety razor is one of those metal razors with a razor blade in it. Think about the razor your Grandpa used to use.

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No, not the straight razor; the other one.

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Yeah, that’s the one.

Recently, I’ve been seeing older razors. Razors that were the “originals” and were refurbished. Razor Emporium is a company that will actually makes your old DE razor look like new. And that got me searching. I wanted to find a Gillette razor that was produced in 1965, the year I was born. Well, I found one! And I got it for Christmas!

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Here it is!

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As you can see from this (out of focus) image above, the head of this razor looks quite differently from the image of the Maggard razor posted above.

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A lot of razors come in two or three pieces (Maggard’s are 3 piece razors). But the Gillette 1965 is a twist-to-open (TTO) or “butteryfly” razor.

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All you do is turn the handle at the bottom of the razor, and the head opens. You insert your blade, and twist the handle to close it. It’s that simple!

I’ve used this razor since Christmas and it’s a nice razor. A very mild razor with a nice weight to it. It’s really well balanced.

Think about this for moment...would the multi-blade razors we have today survive 50 years? Hardly! But this 50-year-old razor works just like I expect it did when it was first made. Smooth. Flawless.

As I’ve said a couple of times before, if you don’t use a DE safety razor, you own to yourself to get one. Not only will it help your wallet, your face will thank you!



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC