St. Aidan’s feast day Aug. 31, 2021 “Milk of God’s Gentle Love” John 10: 9-16
St. Aidan is a wonderful saint to have as our Patron. Born in Ireland and living in Scotland, in the Monastic community of Iona, founded by St. Columba, St. Aiden listened to a monk called Corman, as he returned from an attempt to preach the Gospel to the wild Saxon’s, living in Northumbria – NE England under King Oswald. Corman returned bitter and complaining that these Saxons were uncivilized and unteachable. The venerable Bede the famous English historian who wrote from Northumbria about 50 years after St. Aidan’s death and visited Lindisfarne, writes of a meeting where St. Aidan addressed Corman as follows:
“It seems my brother; your judgement of these ignorant people is too hard. Your teaching has been too severe; you have expected too much at first; you have not, according to the apostolic council offered them first the milk of gentle doctrine, so as by degrees to lead them to the understanding and practice of more advanced and deeper commands.”
The monks quickly decided to send St. Aidan to Northumbria to replace Corman. His loving, gentle and humble spirit quickly made inroads, and King Oswald came to love him dearly and gave him Lindisfarne – an Island two miles out from the mainland at high tide, but traversable by foot at low tide as his base. King Oswald himself was often St. Aidan’s interpreter in the early days of his mission. Bede wrote warmly of St. Aidan’s love of prayer, study, humility, his purity of life, and his care for the sick and the poor.
After the death of King Owald, King Oswin his successor also grew very fond of St. Aidan. It is reported he wished to help him and so gave him a fine horse which St. Aidan promptly gave away to a poor man. When confronted by King Oswin regarding this, St. Aidan told the King that he should be more concerned with the soul of the poor man than with the fate of his present, and that he preferred to travel on the same level with those he was bringing the Gospel to, rather than preach to them from high above on a horse. The King quickly forgave Aidan and asked for his forgiveness!
St. Cuthbert, the disciple of the Venerable Bede, when still a teenager saw a column of light connecting heaven and earth and saw St. Aiden being accompanied by angels in this light on the night of his death, on Aug. 31, 651. What a wonderful example and living presence we have in our patron saint, to guide, pray and watch over us here at St. Aidan’s.
Like St. Aidan, we are situated here in the middle of a great mission field. Perhaps our neighbours are not quite as uncivilized as those 7th century Angles that St. Aidan encountered, or perhaps in some cases they may be not that far off. I have heard some stories! But the need is the same; they need to know the love that Christ has for them. That is the need and purpose of every human being traveling on this brief journey here on planet earth. That is also our deepest need, and until we begin to experience this ourselves, we really have very little to share. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. St. Aidan understood this and allowed the love of Christ to flow from him to these Northumbria barbarians that Corman found unlovable and unteachable.
The Kingdom of God is difficult to grasp with our minds; it is counter-intuitive to our culture, and for most of us doesn’t really square with what we learnt at home and school and in the culture around us about how to get ahead. This region is a particularly ripe field waiting for harvest, as there are many who have already concluded that not conforming to the world’s values is the best path to follow. They just need to be introduced to Christ and everything will all make much more sense. The problem is that often they have been introduced to a very sick and distorted version of Christ already, and therefore have formed a very twisted image in their understanding of who they believe Christ is. “God loves you and can hardly wait to send you right down the shute if you don’t behave properly. Into the burning fire of hell for you my dear precious child.” I think that the only sane reaction is to run screaming in the other direction from such a distorted picture of our great and loving Lord. I’m sure God would bless such a reaction, and has great love and understanding and even appreciation of many “non-Christian” types rejecting this distorted image of Himself.
As we begin to experience a little of the unbelievable and completely undeserved love that God has for us, as our hearts begin to be touched by His unconditional and ever existing grace, a little corner of our stony, self protected heart begins to soften, and the grace of God is able to travel through us to touch those thirsty souls all around us. This is our mission; this is the gift of Christ. St. Aidan is praying we allow Christ to transform us with His grace and love. This love of Christ is the living water, the light of transfiguration, the ever-present blessing of grace which cannot be contained. This is what the entire community of Cranbrook and all of the surrounding area is longing to find. He can best be found when He is enthroned in His body – in us His church. When we are able to truly allow the love of Christ to shine forth, especially to each other to our brothers and sisters, then to all of the hurting needy community we find ourselves living in. Then Christ Himself, not some distorted intellectualized version of Christ, will be able to reach out and to gather in His sheep which He has such great love for.
This is the mission of Christ through us; the body of Christ, and the world around us groans awaiting His gift to them. Through the prayers of St. Aidan may Christ be revealed through each of us to each other and to those we meet. With the Feast!