Let us rejoice in the Lord, with songs let us praise him.
Year: A(II). Psalm week: 2. Liturgical Colour: Green.
St Aidan (- 651)
Aidan, a native of Ireland, was a monk on Iona. When the Christian King Oswald returned from exile on Iona to his kingdom of Northumbria, he invited the monks of Iona to provide missionaries to instruct his people in Christianity. After initial difficulties, Aidan was consecrated bishop and sent with a group of Irish monks to begin this task.
He established a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne which became the centre of a major missionary effort in the North of England. The monastery also became a valuable centre of learning and an important training ground for the education of English boys who would continue the work of evangelisation.
From Lindisfarne Aidan journeyed throughout Northumberland, usually on foot, and working closely with King Oswald who found him to be a wise adviser and a good personal friend. After Oswald’s death in 642, Aidan continued this work under his successor, Oswin, but when Oswin himself was killed nine years later, Aidan did not long survive him and died two weeks later in 651.
According to Bede, Aidan was a man of great gentleness and moderation, outstanding for his energetic missionary work. His influence on the North of England was enormous, and his wise promotion of Christian education among the native English laid the solid foundation for the spread of the Gospel in the centuries which followed his death.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Thomas à Kempis (1379 - 1471)
The first thing to know about The Imitation of Christ is that it was published anonymously and that its attribution to Thomas à Kempis is not uncontested. Other possible authors have included (as his translator Betty I. Knott points out) thirty-five different people, including Gerhard Groote; Walter Hilton, the English mystic; St Bernard; St Bonaventure; Pope Innocent III; and John Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris. But on the whole Thomas à Kempis himself is still in the lead. (In any case, “Do not ask who said this,” says Book I chapter 5, “but listen to what is said”).
The late 14th and early 15th centuries saw a miraculous outpouring of mysticism and spirituality all over western Europe, encompassing The Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, and even the maddening Margery Kempe. Much of it was lay, and even Thomas à Kempis, who became a priest, belongs not to any of the great monastic or preaching orders but to the Brethren of the Common Life, a movement which started in the Netherlands and Rhineland in the late fourteenth century. The birth of the movement was the teaching of Gerhard Groote, who preached and taught a simple prayerful way of life which people could follow in their own homes. Groote shared most of his own large house in Deventer, in the Netherlands, with a group of devout women who lived together as a community (without taking formal vows), and Florentius Radwijns, one of the cathedral clergy and a follower of Groote’s, then hosted a similar community of men. The Brethren of the Common Life aimed to live a communal life in imitation of the simplicity and poverty of the earliest Christians, devoting themselves both to contemplation and to active works. In the time of relative ecclesial peace which preceded the Reformation the Brethren were allowed to grow and develop largely without too much interference. In due course a progression was also established whereby those Brethren who desired a more formal commitment founded, or joined, houses of regular Augustinian canons or canonesses.
Thomas à Kempis himself was born in Kempen, a small town not far from Cologne. He went to a school founded by Gerhard Groote, and in 1399 became a member of the recently founded Augustinian house of which John, his elder brother, was the first prior. He remained a member of this community for the rest of his life.
It was a custom of the Brethren to make collections of sayings on spiritual topics, and Thomas followed this practice from his schooldays onwards. Thus some of the Second Readings from the Imitation that we use in the liturgy read almost like a sequence of “bullet points”. In a sense this is the best use of the Imitation – as a bedside book to be read one chapter out of each night, as Monsignor Ronald Knox did in his later years. Thomas à Kempis manages, in each short chapter, to propound a theme or even sketch a situation, and to bring out of it a moral or a conclusion, food for the spirit. Knox tells us that in the days when English Protestants treated The Pilgrim’s Progress as a sort of extra book of the New Testament, The Imitation of Christ was practically the Catholic equivalent. But that does not make it a warm bath to sink oneself into. As Knox puts it:
“The whole work… is a sustained irritant which preserves us… from sinking back into relaxation: from self-conceit, self-pity, self-love. It offers consolation here and there, but always at the price of fresh exertion… Heaven help us if we find easy reading in The Imitation of Christ.”
Liturgical colour: green
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the orderly sequence of weeks through the year, a season in which we are being neither single-mindedly penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Jeremiah 31:33 ©|
This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Jeremiah 32:40 ©|
I will make an everlasting covenant with them. I will not cease in my efforts for their good, and I will put respect for me into their hearts, so that they turn from me no more.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Ezekiel 34:31 ©|
You, my sheep, are the flock I shall pasture, and I am your God – it is the Lord who speaks.