Bede the Venerable: St Oswin and St Aidan Monday, Aug 19 2013 

icon_bede-The feast of St Oswin, King and Martyr, of Deira (part of Northumberland) is celebrated in the RC Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle on August 19th.

King Oswin was of a goodly countenance, and tall of stature, pleasant in discourse, and courteous in behaviour; and bountiful to all, gentle and simple alike.

[…] He had given a beautiful horse to Bishop Aidan, to use either in crossing rivers, or in performing a journey upon any urgent necessity, though the Bishop was wont to travel ordinarily on foot.

Some short time after, a poor man meeting the Bishop, and asking alms, he immediately dismounted, and ordered the horse, with all his royal trappings, to be given to the beggar; for he was very compassionate, a great friend to the poor, and, in a manner, the father of the wretched.

This being told to the king, when they were going in to dinner, he said to the Bishop, “What did you mean, my lord Bishop, by giving the poor man that royal horse, which it was fitting that you should have for your own use?

“Had not we many other horses of less value, or things of other sorts, which would have been good enough to give to the poor, instead of giving that horse, which I had chosen and set apart for your own use?”

Thereupon the Bishop answered, “What do you say, O king? Is that son of a mare more dear to you than that son of God?”

Upon this they went in to dinner, and the Bishop sat in his place; but the king, who had come in from hunting, stood warming himself, with his attendants, at the fire.

Then, on a sudden, whilst he was warming himself, calling to mind what the bishop had said to him, he ungirt his sword, and gave it to a servant, and hastened to the Bishop and fell down at his feet,’ beseeching him to forgive him;

“For from this time forward,” said he, “I will never speak any more of this, nor will. I judge of what or how much of our money you shall give to the sons of God.”

[…] The king, at the bishop’s command and request, was comforted, but the bishop, on the other hand, grew sad and was moved even to tears. His priest then asking him, in the language of his country, which the king and his servants did not understand, why he wept.

“I know,” said he, “that the king will not live long; for I never before saw a humble king; whence I perceive that he will soon be snatched out of this life, because this nation is not worthy of such a ruler.” Not long after, the bishop’s gloomy foreboding was fulfilled by the king’s sad death….

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 14.

Maximus the Confessor: Moses, Elijah and the Mystery of the Transfiguration (2) Monday, Aug 5 2013 

Maximus_ConfessorContinued from here…

Then they [Peter, James and John] are taught through them [Moses and Elijah] about wisdom and kindness dwelling with Him.

It is in accordance with wisdom that the word is declaratory of things made and prohibitory of things not made, and of this Moses is the type, for we believe the grace of law-giving to belong to wisdom.

And it is in accordance with kindness that the word invites and causes to return to the divine life those who have slipped away from it, and of this Elijah is the type, through himself manifesting the complete prophetic gift.

For the conversion through love for humankind of those who have erred is a characteristic of divine kindness, and the heralds of this we know as the prophets.

[And they are also taught about] knowledge and education. Knowledge is the source in human beings of the understanding of good and evil.

“For I have set before your face”, he says, “life and death” (Deut. 30:19), the one you are to elect, the other to flee, and lest through ignorance you disguise the worse with the good,

Moses proclaims what is to be done, prefiguring in himself the symbols of the truth. Education is needed for those who without restraint do what is contrary and indiscriminately mix what should not be mixed. In Israel the great Elijah was their teacher, the scourge of indifference, who, like reason, led to understanding and sense the mindlessness and hardness of those who were utterly addicted to evil.

[And they are also taught about] ascetic struggle and contemplation. Ascetic struggle destroys evil and through the demonstration of the virtues cuts off from the world those who are completely led through it in their disposition, just as Moses led Israel out of Egypt and educated her persuasively through the divine laws of the Spirit.

Contemplation seizes them as it were from matter and form, like Elijah on his chariot of fire, leading them to God through knowledge and uniting them with Him, so that they are no longer weighed down by the flesh because of the setting aside of its law, nor burning with zeal for the fulfillment of the commandments, because of the grace of poverty of spirit mixed with all real virtues.

Again, they learnt from the Word the mysteries of marriage and celibacy: through Moses, how one is not prevented by marriage from being a lover of divine glory; and through Elijah, how he remained completely pure from any marital intercourse, and how the Word and God proclaims that those who direct themselves in these things by reason according to the laws that are divinely laid down concerning them are made to enter into Himself in a hidden way.

Maximus the Confessor (580-662):  Eighteen Spiritual Interpretations of the Tranfiguration, From Maximus the Confessor by Andrew Louth (Routledge: London 1999) pp. 128-134 @ Mystagogy here and here.

Bede the Venerable: The Humility and Kindness of St Oswald, the Most Christian King of the Northumbrians Friday, Aug 2 2013 

icon_bede-August 3rd is the Feast of St Oswald (604-642) in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle

King Oswald, with the English nation which he governed, being instructed by the teaching of this bishop [St Aidan], not only learned to hope for a heavenly kingdom unknown to his fathers, but also obtained of the one God, Who made heaven and earth, a greater earthly kingdom than any of his ancestors.

In brief, he brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain, which are divided into four languages, to wit, those of the Britons, the Picts, the Scots, and the English.

Though raised to that height of regal power, wonderful to relate, he was always humble, kind, and generous to the poor and to strangers.

To give one instance, it is told, that when he was once sitting at dinner, on the holy day of Easter, with the aforesaid bishop, and a silver dish full of royal dainties was set before him, and they were just about to put forth their hands to bless the bread, the servant, whom he had appointed to relieve the needy, came in on a sudden.

He told the king that a great multitude of poor folk from all parts was sitting in the streets begging alms of the king; Oswald immediately ordered the meat set before him to be carried to the poor, and the dish to be broken in pieces and divided among them.

[…] Oswald, the most Christian king of the Northumbrians…was killed in a great battle, by the same pagan nation and pagan king of the Mercians, who had slain his predecessor Edwin, at a place called in the English tongue Maserfelth, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, on the fifth day of the month of August.

How great his faith was towards God, and how remarkable his devotion, has been made evident by miracles even after his death; for, in the place where he was killed by the pagans, fighting for his country, sick men and cattle are frequently healed to this day.

Whence it came to pass that many took up the very dust of the place where his body fell, and putting it into water, brought much relief with it to their friends who were sick. This custom came so much into use, that the earth being carried away by degrees, a hole was made as deep as the height of a man.

Nor is it surprising that the sick should be healed in the place where he died; for, whilst he lived, he never ceased to provide for the poor and the sick, and to bestow alms on them, and assist them. Many miracles are said to have been wrought in that place, or with the dust carried from it.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Ecclesiastical History of England, 3, 6; 9 here and here.

Pope Francis: The Fruit of a Torn Heart, Reconciled by a Love that Overwhelms Us Thursday, Mar 14 2013 

Francisco_(20-03-2013)Yes, it is possible that all is made new and different because God remains “rich in kindness and mercy, always willing to forgive” and He encourages us to begin anew time and again.

[…] Today, the words of the prophet Joel are strong and challenging: Rend your heart, not your clothing: be converted to the Lord, your God.  These words are an invitation to all people, nobody is excluded.

Rend your heart, not the clothing of artificial penance without [an eternal] future.

Rend your heart, not the clothing of technical fasting of compliance that [only serves to keep us] satisfied.

Rend your heart, not the clothing of egotistical and superficial prayer that does not reach the inmost part of [your] life to allow it to be touched by God.

Rend your heart, that we may say with the Psalmist:  “We have sinned.”

“The wound of the soul is sin: Oh, poor wounded one, recognize your Doctor!  Show him the wounds of your faults.  And, since from Him our most secret thoughts cannot hide themselves, make the cry of your heart felt [to Him]. 

Move him to compassion with your tears, with your insistence ¡beg him!  Let Him hear your sighs, that your pain reaches Him so that, at the end, He can tell you:  The Lord has forgiven your sins” (St. Gregory the Great).

[…] This is not a matter of discrediting one’s self-worth but of penetrating, to its fullest depth, our heart and to take charge of the mystery of suffering and pain that had tied us down for centuries, for thousands of years, in fact, forever.

Rend your hearts so that through this opening we can truly see.

Rend your hearts, open your hearts, because only with such a heart can we allow the entry of the merciful love of the Father, who loves us and heals us.

Rend your hearts the prophet says, and Paul asks us — almost on his knees – “be reconciled with God.”

Changing our way of living is both a sign and fruit of a torn heart, reconciled by a love that overwhelms us.

This is [God’s] invitation, juxtaposed against so many injuries that wound us and can tempt us temptation to be hardened:  Rend your hearts to experience, in serene and silent prayer, the gentle tenderness of God.

Rend your hearts to hear the echo of so many torn lives, that indifference [to suffering] does not paralyze us.

Rend your hearts to be able to love with the love with which we are beloved, to console with the consolation with which we are consoled and to share what we have received.

Pope Francis (b. 1936): Cardinal Bergoglio’s Lenten Letter, 2013 (extract); translation of full text here @ Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

John Ruusbroec: By Gentleness and Kindness, Charity is Kept Quick and Fruitful Monday, Nov 26 2012 

From the renunciation of self-will springs patience.

[…] Patience is a peaceful endurance of all things that may befall a man either from God or from the creatures.

Nothing can trouble the patient man; neither the loss of earthly goods, of friends and kinsmen, nor sickness, nor disgrace, nor life, nor death, nor purgatory, nor devil, nor hell.

For he has abandoned himself in perfect charity to the will of God, and…everything that God imposes on him, in time and in eternity, is light to him.

By this patience a man is also adorned and armed against peevishness and sudden wrath, and impatience in suffering which often stir a man from within and from without, and lay him open to many temptations.

From this patience there spring meekness and kindliness, for none can be meek in adversity save the patient man.

Meekness gives a man peace and rest in all things.

For the meek man can bear provoking words and ways…and every kind of injustice towards himself and his friends, and yet in all things remain in peace; for meekness is peaceful endurance.

By meekness the irascible…power remains unmoved, in quietude; the desirous power is uplifted toward virtue; the rational power, perceiving this, rejoices.

And the conscience, tasting it, rests in peace; for the second mortal sin – anger, fury, or wrath – has been cast out.

For the Spirit of God dwells in the humble and the meek; and Christ says: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth – that is, their own nature and all earthly things…, and after that the Country of Life in Eternity.

Out of the same source wherein meekness takes its rise springs kindliness, for none can be kind save the meek man.

This kindness makes a man show a friendly face, and give a cordial response, and do compassionate deeds, to those who are quarrelsome, when he hopes that they will come to know themselves and mend their ways.

By gentleness and kindness, charity is kept quick and fruitful in man, for a heart full of kindness is like a lamp full of precious oil,

For the oil of mercy enlightens the erring sinner with good example, and with words and works of comfort it anoints and heals those whose hearts are wounded or grieved or perplexed.

And it is a fire and a light for those who dwell in the virtues, in the fire of charity; and neither jealousy nor envy can perturb it.

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381): The Spiritual Espousals, 1, 15-17.

Bernard of Clairvaux: “The Kindness and Humanity of God our Saviour Appeared” Tuesday, Dec 29 2009 

Behold, peace is no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed.

Behold, God has sent down to earth a bag bulging with his mercy, a bag that, at the passion, is torn open so that our ransom pours out of it onto us.

A small bag, perhaps, but a full one: for it was a small child that was given to us, but in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.

After the fulness of time had come, there came too the fulness of the Godhead.

He came in the flesh, so that at least he might make himself manifest to our earthly minds, so that when this humanity of his appeared, his kindness might also be acknowledged.

Where the humanity of God appears, his kindness can no longer be hidden. In what way, indeed, could he have better commended his kindness than by assuming my flesh? My flesh, that is, not Adam’s, as it was before the fall.

What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself that very thing which needed mercy?

Where is there such perfect loving-kindness as in the fact that for our sake the Word of God became perishable like the grass? Lord, what is man, that you make much of him or pay him any heed?

Let man infer from this how much God cares for him. Let him know from this what God thinks of him, what he feels about him. Man, do not ask about your own sufferings; but about what God suffered. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you, so that his kindness may show itself to you from his humanity.

The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater has he shown himself in kindness. The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love.

The kindness and humanity of God our Saviour appeared says St Paul. The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the name of God gave great proof of this kindness.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): Sermon 1 on Epiphany, 1-2; taken from Office of Readings for December 29th, at Universalis.