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.
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