7th April

Sing With The Angels

Praise the Lord from heaven, you that live in the heights above. Praise the Lord, all you angels and heavenly armies of the Lord. Psalm 148: 1, 2

If you pray truly, you will feel within yourself a great assurance, and the angels will be your companions. Know this, that as we pray, the holy angels encourage us and stand at our sides, full of joy, and at the same time interceding on our behalf.
Evagrius of Pontus

He created good angels and archangels,
the orders of Principalities and Thrones, of Powers and Virtues
so that the goodness and majesty of the Trinity
might not be unproductive in all works of bounty
but might have heavenly beings in which he might
greatly show forth his favours by a word of power.

From the summit of the kingdom of heaven, where angels stand,
from his radiant brightness, from the loneliness of his own form
through being proud Lucifer had fallen, whom he had formed
and the apostate angels also, by the same sad fall
of the author of vainglory and obstinate envy,
the rest continuing in their dominions.

At once, when the stars were made, lights of the firmament
the angels praised for his wonderful creating
the Lord of this immense mass, the Craftsman of the Heavens,
with a praiseworthy proclamation, fitting and unchanging
in an excellent symphony they gave thanks to the Lord
not by any endowment of nature, but out of love and choice.
Altus Prosator Attributed to Columba

May the seven angels of the Holy Spirit
And the two guardian angels
Shield us this and every night
Till light and dawn shall come.
Carmina Gadelica

6th April

Angels Deflect An Epidemic

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds … and I saw another angel coming up from the east with the seal of the living God. The angel loudly called to the four angels to whom God had given power to damage the earth and the sea: Do not harm them until we mark the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads. Revelation 7: 1 – 3

Despite the advances of medicine, many people still live in fear of a sudden catastrophe or epidemic such as AIDS. In the period of the Celtic saints the deadly plague would suddenly sweep through and decimate whole populations. In such situations it is easy to lose sight of the fact that God is still in overall control. We feel so powerless; what can we do?

Columba set aside a day in the Iona woods for sustained prayer combat. As he began to pray an oncoming wave of deathly black creatures relentlessly attacked with iron darts, desiring to wipe out him and many in the Iona community. Columba linked this experience with the threat of oncoming plague. His biographer, Adamnan, writes:

But he, single-handed, against innumerable foes of such a nature, fought with the utmost bravery, having received the armour of the apostle Paul. The contest was maintained on both sides during the greater part of the day, nor could the demons, countless though they were, vanquish him, nor was he able, by himself, to drive them out from his island, until the angels of God, as the saint afterwards told certain persons, came to his aid, when the demons in terror gave way.

On his way back Columba informed some brothers that Iona would now be spared the plague, but it would invade the monasteries in the region of Tiree. This came only too true. Two days later Columba added a postscript, whose lesson for us is: Don’t leave the combat to somebody else. Baithen, the leader of one monastery in the Tiree region, had called his community to all-out fasting and prayer, and as a result only one brother there would die of the plague. This, too, came to pass exactly as Columba had foreseen.

Good angels, messengers of God,
Protect us from all that would plague our bodies
Protect us from all that would plague our souls.

5th April

Angelic Guidance

The angel told Daniel: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth … Daniel 11: 2

Perhaps you have you been, or will be, involved in selecting or voting for someone to fill a vacant post? The Bible warns us against automatically choosing the person with the most charms. The story of the prophet Samuel choosing the future King David, who was regarded as the least of his large and talented family (see 1 Samuel 16) is a timely warning . The account of Columba’s choice of Aidan mac-Gabran to fill the vacant throne of Dalriada not only warns us against presumption, it also encourages us to believe that God always has ways of guiding us to the right person.

When the king of Dalriada died in 574 the question of the succession involved Columba, who was related to the royal household, and who was the leader of the now dominant religion. Columba went into retreat on the island of Hinba to seek God’s guidance. He felt that, since there were no sons, the eldest nephew of the deceased king should be chosen.

One night, however, Columba had a vision of an angel carrying a book which contained a list of the kings. Columba’s candidate did not appear in it, but his younger brother, Aidan, did. Columba read in the book that he was to instal Aidan as king, but he refused. Suddenly, the angel stretched out its hand and gave Columba a mighty slap on his side which left a mark for the rest of his life. The angel told him: ‘You must know for certain that I have been sent to you by God, and if you continue to refuse to install Aidan as king I shall hit you again’.

Columba was not amused by this vision, but it recurred three nights in succession.  After the third time Columba got the point. He sailed to Iona, consecrated Aidan as King, gave him a heartfelt blessing, and prophesied as to the the future of his dynasty. Aidan’s reign proved to be a period of sound government and of peace between previously warring regions.

O Michael militant king of the angels,
Shield your people with the power of your sword.
Spread your wing over sea and land
And bring us to our goal.

4th April

Risen From The Dead

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Hebrews 11: 35.

A number of Irish Christians gained a remarkable reputation for bringing dead people back to life. Among these was Tighernach, who went to heaven on 4 April 549. Eithne, the daughter of the king of Munster had committed suicide rather than be forced to marry a British Prince against her will. She had desired to follow a calling as a virgin dedicated to God. Tighernach prayed over her and brought her back to life.

It seems the Lord gave Kieran the Elder a unique ministry to the victims of group casualties. Seven harpers of Aengus were way -laid and killed by brigands while on a journey, and were found, apparently dead, beside the track. Kieran prayed over them and they were all restored.

According to legend, a local ruler wanted to arrange decent funerals for a group of his soldiers who had been killed in battle, but there were not enough vehicles to arrange the funerals. Kieran once again came to the rescue, prayed over the soldiers, and they, too, were restored to life.

We have accurate accounts of Cuthbert’s visits to the plague-ridden Northumbrian people. He trudged through the devastated villages to minister to the few poor people who remained. Cuthbert was about to leave one village when he asked the priest, ‘Are you sure there is no one left whom I have not seen?’ The priest looked around, and found one tear-stained woman standing at a distance. She had lost one son in the plague, and now seemed about to lose her other son, whom she was holding in her arms. Cuthbert made his way to her, blessed her, kissed the boy, and said to his mother: ‘There is no need to be sad any more. Your infant will be healed and will live, and no one else in your family will die from this plague.’ Mother and son both lived long to bear witness to Cuthbert’s life-giving ministry.

Take us from death to life
From the death of disease to the life of wholeness
From the death of despair to the life of hope
From the death of the body to the life of resurrection.

3rd April

An Easter Day Feast For Everyone

The righteous will ask ‘When, Lord, did we see you hungry and feed you …?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these my brothers and sisters, you did it for me’. Matthew 25: 37, 40

The story is told that one Easter day, when King Oswald had sat down with Bishop Aidan, a silver dish was placed on the table before him full of rich foods. They had just raised their hands to ask a blessing on the bread when there came in an officer of the king, whose duty it was to relieve the needy, telling him that a very great multitude of poor people from every district were sitting in the precincts and asking alms of the king. He at once ordered the dainties which had been set in front of him to be carried to the poor, the dish to be broken up, and the pieces divided amongst them.

The bishop, who was sitting by, was delighted with this devoted action, grasped Oswald by the right hand, and said ‘May this hand never decay’. His blessing and his prayer were fulfilled in this way: when Oswald was killed in battle, his hand and arm were cut off from the rest of his body, and they have remained uncorrupt until this present time; they are in fact preserved in a silver shrine in St. Peter’s church, in the royal city (Bamburgh).

O beloved Father who has redeemed us
and who reigns serenely as sun and sea
may you forgive us our sins both past and present.
Remedy in heaven our faults
and may we today welcome with joy our Lord
An Timire collected by Sean O Floin.
Mount Melleray Monastery, Ireland