|St. David written by Aiden Hart +|
'Be joyful and keep the faith.' Visit his site here
Life under his rule was harsh and tough, but he nonetheless attracted many followers eager to learn from him. That was back in the 6th century AD but St David's message is still relevant to us in the 21st century AD - especially at a time when - as in his day- Christianity in Britain and Ireland is under attack from within and without. In fact, I see him as having more relevance to the modern world nowadays, and not less. The details of his life can be read elsewhere, but his message for our times is much easier to summarize. It is recorded that his last words were 'be joyful , keep the faith and do the little things that you heard from me.' Do the little things: 'Gwnewch y pethau bychain'.
Although David lived a hard life - living mainly on the word of God rather than bread - he lived it with joy. And he calls us to live a life in faith which is mainly fed by the word of God - the food of our hearts - and not the food for our body. To drink living water and not look to other beverages to quench our thirst for meaning and happiness. Most of us are not called to live the austere life of David and his monks, but we are called to live simply and attend to the purity our hearts and not to the fullness of our physical bodies. We must keep the faith joyfully - despite all the challenges this inevitably involves. And we must remember that keeping the faith joyfully involves 'doing the little things': that is sanctifying all aspects of our lives, however small they appear. Ian Bradley expresses this nicely in his book The Celtic Way, (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1993) :
'For the Celts, God was to be found, and worshipped, as much as the little everyday tasks of life as in the great cosmic dramas like the dance of the sun at Easter time. St David is said to have told his followers on his deathbed, "Keep the faith and do the little things that you heard and see me do' . This sense of the importance of the little things parallels the Celts' identification with the little people, the marginalised and the oppressed'. p39
In St David's last sermon so much of what Celtic Christianity is about is captured - I might even say distilled. As Bradley argues, Dewi Sant's final sermon expresses the way in which the Celts had found :
'that great gift which George Herbert asks for in his famous poem which begins:' Teach me my God and King in all things thee to see, and what I do anything to do for thee'..... [For] they knew what sociologists and psychologists are increasingly telling us - that ritual and ceremony, investing even the simplest and most commonplace tasks and events with a sense of worth and a measure of transcendence, is vital to the health of both societies and individuals. ' p39
St. David left his followers and his dear little country (Wales) with a message that our God is indeed a God of small things. Our lives are, in truth, full of little things. But we must remember that when we see Christ in 'all things great and small' we sanctify our world: we 'salt' the earth and preserve its holiness. Our lent can be a time of small things which we invest with meaning and significance because all things can serve to reveal God in our lives and in his creation. Saunders Lewis - who was a famous Welsh convert to Catholicism - says this beautifully in a poem entitled ( in English) ' The Last Sermon of Saint David'. I quote the last few lines. ( using Gwyn Thomas's translation.) He observes that David's rule was a 'heavy yoke', but that his last few words on 'the little things' are very feminine:
'They are the words of a maid, the gentleness of a nun,
The 'little way' of Teresa towards the purification and the union,
And the way of the poor maid who saw Mary at Lourdes. ' *
In this light we can say the prayer after communion at today's mass:
We pray, almighty God...that we..may learn through the example of your Bishop Saint David to seek you always above all things and to bear in this world the likeness of New Man.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
+ Aiden Hart has written a number of icons of St. David and may be viewed on his site. HERE. Ian studied iconography under Aiden.
*in A.R. Jones and G. Thomas (eds) Presenting Saunders Lewis, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1973: 184)