Friday, December 6
The sixth century of the Church
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
And although it befits us at all times to be adorned and resplendent with good works, most chiefly on the day of our Lord’s Nativity ought our works (as Himself also says in the Gospel) to shine before men. Consider, I entreat you, brethren, when any man in power or of noble birth desires to celebrate his own birthday, or that of a son, how diligently for many days before he looks to what is filthy in his dwelling, and orders to be cleansed whatever he sees filthy in his house; ids what is trifling and unbecoming be cast away, and what is useful and necessary set forth; the house, too, if it be dingy, is whitewashed; the floors are swept with brooms, and strewed and adorned with various flowers; and whatever serves to gladness of mind and comfort of body is provided with all care. And why all this, beloved brethren, but to celebrate with joy the birthday of some perishable mortal? If, then, you make such preparations on your own birthday, or that of a child, O how many, and of what kind, should be your preparations for the Birthday of Your Lord? If you prepare this for a mortal, what ought you prepare for the Eternal? Whatever, then, you would be unwilling to find, so far as you can help it, in your dwelling-house, strive that God find not in your soul.
Were some earthly king, or master of a family, to invite you to his birthday feast, with what garments would you study to go adorned-how new and clean; nay, how gorgeous-that so neither their oldness, nor their homeliness, nor anything filthy about them might offend the eyes of your host!
As often, then, as you lay yourselves out to celebrate either the Lord’s Nativity, or any other solemnity of the Church, before all things flee drunkenness, withstand anger, as if it were some sort of raging beast; drive out of your hearts all hatred, as ye would some deadly poison; and let there be among you such love as reaches not to your friends only, but to your enemies as well; that so you may say, in the Lord’s Prayer, with a safe conscience, Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. For I know not how a man came come clear to the Lord’s Altar, who is conscious of owning a grudge to any single person; more especially when St John the Evangelist exclaims, in fearful words, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. And I leave it to you to judge, whether a murderer, before he has done penance, should venture upon receiving the Eucharist. Holy John, too, cries aloud, saying, He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. And again, If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? Whoever, then, cherishes hatred or anger in his heart, and by thunders like these is neither frightened nor awakened, is to be accounted not asleep, but dead.
Attributed to Columba of Iona, c. 521-597
My dearest Lord.
Be Thou a bright flame before me.
Be Thou a guiding star above me.
Be Thou a smooth path beneath me.
Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me.
Today and evermore.