St Columba

Today is the Feast Day of St Columba and this is my favourite painting of him by John Duncan. It depicts the story of Columba and the White Horse which goes thus:

After this the saint left the barn, and in going back to the monastery, rested half way at a place where a cross, which was afterwards erected, and is standing to this day, fixed into a millstone, may be observed on the roadside. While the saint, as I have said, bowed down with old age, sat there to rest a little, behold, there came up to him a white pack-horse, the same that used, as a willing servant, to carry the milk-vessels from the cowshed to the monastery. It came up to the saint and, strange to say, laid its head on his bosom-inspired, I believe, by God to do so, as each animal is gifted with the knowledge of things according to the will of the Creator; and knowing that its master was soon about to leave it, and that it would see him no more-began to utter plaintive cries, and like a human being, to shed copious tears on the saint’s bosom, foaming and greatly wailing. The attendant seeing this, began to drive the weeping mourner away, but the saint forbade him, saying: “Let it alone, as it is so fond of me, let it pour out its bitter grief into my bosom. Lo! thou, as thou art a man, and hast a rational soul, canst know nothing of my departure hence, except what I myself have just told you, but to this brute beast devoid of reason, the Creator Himself hath evidently in some way made it known that its master is going to leave it.” And saying this, the saint blessed the work-horse, which turned away from him in sadness.

From Adamnan’s Life of St Columba

And if you are near Edinburgh this weekend and into all things Iona-ish you could go to see a play called ‘An Island Between Heaven and Earth’ at South Leith Church Halls telling the story of the unemployed shipyard workers and trainee ministers who went to Iona to restore the Abbey in 1938.

And finally to finish… the prayer by George Macleod which I use as an invitation for communion:

Come, not because you are strong but because you are weak.

Come, not because of any goodness of your own but because you need mercy and help.

Come, because you love the Lord a little and would like to love him more.

Come, because he loves you and gave himself for you.

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