26th February

Oswin And The Horse

My sisters and brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favouritism. James 2: 1

Oswin, who was king of Deira for seven years of great prosperity, was tall, handsome, courteous; a man of pleasant conversation who treated people of all backgrounds in an open manner. As a result he was loved by everyone. He was especially graced with virtues that spring from self-denial, and in particular, with humility, as the following episode illustrates.

The king had given a highly bred horse to Bishop Aidan so that, although it was Aidan’s custom to walk, he could ride it across rivers or for urgent missions. Not long afterwards Aidan met a poor beggar, and gave him the horse with all its expensive trappings, for Aidan was like a father to those in need.

When the king was told of this before dinner that night, he angrily asked Aidan:’Why did you give the royal horse to a beggar? We have other things and less valuable horses which can be given to the poor without giving away the horse that I specially chose for your own use’. ‘What are you saying’, Aidan instantly replied, ‘surely that son of a mare is not more precious to you than that son of God?’ As the king warmed himself by the fire Aidan’s words smote him; he threw down his sword, fell at Aidan’s feet and asked his forgiveness. ‘Never again’, he said, ‘will I speak of this or pass judgement on what wealth of mine you should give to God’s children’. Aidan was moved to tears by these words. A priest asked him why he was weeping. ‘I know that the king has not long to live’, Aidan told him. ‘I have never seen a humble king before, and I therefore expect he will soon be taken from this life. This nation does not deserve to have such a ruler’. This grim prophecy was, indeed, shortly fulfilled, on 20 August, and eleven days later Aidan himself died, perhaps in part out of a broken heart.

Lord, help me to look upon each person I meet as a child of God
to treat each person as a royal soul
and to share with each person in the way you desire.