31st August 2022
Long ago, on the island of Iona, a meeting had been called. An angry brother spoke about his failure, telling of the hardness of heart in the kingdom of Northumbria, a land of darkness refusing the life-giving light, inhabited by a stubborn, unreachable people. And one man heard, and his heart was stirred with compassion for that land and its people. To open his heart to this could cost him everything: leaving the island he loved, the companionship of his brothers, their prayer and work. Were there not others still to reach much closer to home? If he stayed seated among his brothers no one would notice him, no one would know what he had heard in his heart: the cry of the desert, ‘Come over to Northumbria and help us.’
‘O Lord’, he prayed, ‘give me springs and I will water this land. I will go, Lord. I will hold this people in my heart.’ A moment later it was his own voice, the voice of Aidan, that broke the awkward silence. ‘Perhaps, my brother, if you had spoken with more gentleness, and of the love of Christ, giving them the gospel to nourish them like milk is given to a tiny baby, then you would have won them and remained among them.’
I think the key thing about Aidan that we can learn from is this. Listening. He listened to God habitually. You could say he listened for God even when there was nothing forthcoming, so that when God did speak he was already paying attention. He listened to other people, recognising that everybody had something to teach him and so paying attention to what they had to say. He listened for every sign of what God may be doing in the heart or life of each person he met, whether they acknowledged God yet or not. He listened deeply, rather than assuming that he already knew what they needed to hear. It showed humility, not presumption. He paid attention, and was willing to have the course of his day or his life altered by what he heard. Andy Raine
THE AIDAN LITURGY
Some reflection questions:
- Part A of the Aidan liturgy describes a willingness to respond to God’s call. How can we hear the call of God ‘deeper in [our] hearts’? What might help to deepen our attentiveness and sharpen our response?
- Part B of the Aidan liturgy expresses the desire to be more open to the world and a plea for God’s intervention and protection. How do we maintain an openness that feels ‘pain and brokenness’ and ‘suffering and injustice’ without giving in to despair? Given so much disturbing daily news, how can we remain ‘free from sin’, ‘protected from all anxiety’ and expectant ‘in joyful hope’?
- Part C of the Aidan liturgy asks for ‘the gift of friendship and of faithfulness’ and to ‘be freed from selfishness’. Why does true friendship and loyalty require us to be authentic? In what sense is pretence a form of selfishness? How does being authenticity relate to being ‘intentionally vulnerable’?
- Part D of the Aidan liturgy speaks of the desire to be ‘an island set apart’. What is the difference between solitude and isolation? How can times of silence and solitude help to prepare us for ‘the busy world beyond’? Why do we need courage to be ‘left alone with God’?
- Read Part E of the Aidan liturgy. In your own context, what situations and issues need God’s wisdom? How might you demonstrate God’s goodness in the midst of these?