30th December

Our Brief Flight

I came from the Father, and I came into the world; and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father. .. It is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. John 16: 28; 16.7

King Edwin informed the missionary Paulinus that he was willing to accept the Christian faith for himself, but he first wished to consult with his pagan advisors; if they agreed, they would all together be consecrated in the waters of life. Coifi, the chief of the pagan priests told the king:

‘I frankly admit that the religion which we have hitherto held has no virtue nor profit in it’. Another of the king’s advisors added: ‘ This is how the present life of human beings on earth appears to me, King. You are sitting feasting with your staff in a hall warmed by a fire, while outside the wintry storms rage; then a sparrow flies across the hall. It enters at one door and quickly flies out through the other. For the few moments it is inside the wintry storm cannot touch it but after its brief moment of calm it departs from your sight. Out of the wintry storm and into it again. – that is what human life is like. We know nothing of what comes after it, or what went before it. If this new teaching brings us more information, it seems right that we should accept it…’ So King Edwin, with all the nobles of his race and a vast number of the common people received the faith, and were baptised at York in 627.

When the time came for Alexander Carmichael to bid a final farewell to the friends he had made in the western parts of Scotland, Mor MacNeill, who was ‘poor and old and alone’, sent him on his way with this prayer:

And you are now going away
and leaving your people and your country
dear one of my heart!
Well, then, whole may you be
and well may it go with you
every way you go and every step you travel.
And my own blessing go with you
and the blessing of God go with you
and the blessing of Mary Mother go with you
every time you rise up and every time you lie down,
until you lie down in sleep upon the arm of Jesus Christ
of the virtues and of the blessings
Carmina Gadelica