29th April

As I Am So Is My People

O Lord, here we are before you in our guilt… Ezra 9: 15 (The prayer of Ezra on behalf of his people)

A romantic idea gained credence that Celtic saints such as Cuthbert prayed in the sea all night and every night. There is no evidence for that, and, if they did, they would have been masochists.

It is true that Celtic Christians at times prayed in cold water as a form of penance. And there is no doubt, as we have learned, that Cuthbert was once seen praying in the sea at night during a visit to the monastery at Coldingham.

In this case, there may have been a particular reason. This is how I see it: The men and women in this mixed monastery had slid into immoral ways. Their Abbess, Ebba, though a good person, was ineffective. So she invited Cuthbert to visit the monastery, no doubt filling his mind with all the sleaze she had been unable to deal with.

Cuthbert, within himself, took authority over the situation. He made himself one with his brothers and sisters in the monastery. Then, acting as their representative, he went down into the pure, salt sea. The sharp cold of the water cooled their passions; the size of the ocean put their sins into perspective compared to the love and power of God. The immersion of their representative in the sea was a way of immersing this community in God. The chanting of God’s praise in the psalms was an offering on behalf of the community, as well as a weapon that made its enemies – lust, lies, laziness – flee away.

It may be that your attention is drawn to a situation where immorality or dishonesty have taken a hold; it seems like a barrel of apples in which every apple threatens to become rotten. You ask ‘What can I do?’

Perhaps the example of people in the Bible such as Ezra, or of forbears in the Faith such as Cuthbert, will give us the resolve to take authority in prayer, and to make confession, petition and praise on their behalf. For, as the saying has it, As I am, so is my people.

Lord Jesus Christ
who became the representative of the whole human race
in your name I represent this group of people which is in such a mess and which you have put on my heart.
I bring them now to you…