Thought for the Day 9th July
‘’Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above your self, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’’
(Philippians 2: 2-7)
A shining example of humility is reflected in the life of Aidan, the 7th century Celtic saint. He was sent from the community of Iona on a mission to Northumbria. An earlier mission had failed, a fellow monk dismissing the Northumbrians as ‘’obstinate, barbarous people’’ Aidan’s heart was stirred with compassion and he reproved his brother monk for failing to give the people the milk of simpler teaching. With 12 companions he left Iona and established a monastery on Holy Island (also known as Lindesfarne). From here he took his mission to the people. Lindesfarne became the cradle of Christianity in north-east England for many generations.
Aidan travelled all over the region on foot, his preferred mode of transport for his pioneering work, identifying with ordinary people. He would stop and talk to everybody, both rich and poor. There is a story which illustrates his humility. He was once given a horse from the royal stables of Oswald, a regional Christian king who often accompanied Aidan on his travels. Aidan promptly gave the horse to the first poor person he met. When the king heard of this, he suggested that the beggar could have been given a less valuable horse. Aidan responded by asking ‘’What are you saying, your Majesty? Is this child of a mare more valuable to you than this child of God?’’. The king was moved to beg forgiveness.
Aidan’s humility was expressed through his simplicity of life and service to others. He showed no interest in earthly possessions unless he could give them to assist the poor. He showed deep compassion for people and would use gifts of money to ransom slaves, some of whom became Christians and trained as his assistants. Although humble in his lifestyle and his identification with the downtrodden, he was not afraid to speak up if the wealthy or powerful did wrong: he never kept silent out of fear or respect. His active faith was underpinned by prayer, discipline and fasting. All who travelled with him were required to read the Scriptures and learn the Psalms by heart, reciting them as they walked. He and his followers were renowned for living what they taught. The Venerable Bede, writing some 80 years after Aidan’s death in 651 AD, comments ‘’his life was in marked contrast to the apathy of our times’’. Sounds familiar!
Holy Island was no safe retreat from the world. St Albright’s is perhaps our Holy Island from which our pioneering team, strengthened and supported by prayer, reaches out to people in the surrounding estates. We may at times feel daunted by the prospect, as did Aidan’s predecessors, but if we approach with compassion and a heart willing to serve, we can say with St Paul ‘’I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’’
Prayer (written by Brother Roger Schutz of Taize´)
You remain, unseen,
at our side,
present like a poor man
who washes the feet of his friends.
who follow in your footsteps,
we are here, waiting for you
to suggest signs of sharing
to make us into servants
of your Gospel.