Dear brothers and sisters, Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!
Greetings and congratulations as we celebrate the feast of St David, with the blessing of the sun shining, blue sky, plum blossom and the first leaves unfurling in the hedgerows – in Carmarthenshire, at least.
Our holy father, St David was born into the fading legacy of ‘Romanitas’ in Celtic Britain, as the memory and culture of Rome faded and grew ever dimmer with the incursion of Germanic invaders and the passing of time, and his life and ministry connected Wales to both of the ancient patriarchates of Rome and Jerusalem, a wonderful link to both East and West.
The Jerusalem connection was reflected in the pilgrimage of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Damian I, together with the First-Hierarch of our Russian Church Abroad, to St David’s in 1925.
I am always in awe of this visit on the part of our First-Hierarch, Metropolitan Anthony, as a sign of our Church’s devotion to the ancient saints of the west.
Let us turn to St David to pray for Metropolitan Anthony’s successor, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and for the suffering and persecuted Ukrainian Church.
St David’s memory is one of continuity through the life of our nation, even though protestantism airbrushed and renovated our great patron saint, transforming him into an image of its own making and desire – a comfortable and charismatic image, that does not particularly challenge or prompt serious spiritual questions.
For us Orthodox Christians, who have preserved the patterns of ancient monasticism whose hierarchs are still first and foremost men of prayer and intense spiritual life; who still uphold the ascetic traditions of ancient Christianity; who take prayer and fasting seriously, and who are not worried by long hours of liturgical-prayer – the spiritual world of St David is not far from us and our experience of the Christian life.
But, do we live up to his testament – “Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do”?
We know the things he did, simply from the fact that he was a monk and bishop: being humble, loving and merciful; seeking to serve and protect others; immersing himself in prayer and interceding for the world; fiercely opposing doctrinal falsehood; embracing the discipline of fasting and struggling to overcome the bodily weaknesses that damage us spiritually – in short, spiritual warfare.
The list may sound daunting, but when we break it down to individual actions, decisions and scenarios, all is rather more straightforward for us in imitating him…
Do I choose or even try to be generous, loving, and merciful?
Do I try to live a simple, godly, prayerful and devout life – praying, fasting, serving Christ by serving others and putting them before me?
Do I try to ‘police’ my thoughts, actions and words in the struggle for purity and the restoration of God’s image in me?
Do I seek reconciliation and forgiveness, labouring for peace in my family, street, community or workplace?
Do I try to imitate the Saviour in thought, word and deed?
Do I show humility and obedience by embracing the Traditions and teachings of the Church, even though I may find some of the things difficult and challenging – or do I pick and choose, doing it my own, self-determined way?
We may be doctrinally steadfast and unshakeable, but are we doing the little things? This constant challenge and questioning is a key to the road-map to the Kingdom of Heaven, embracing and joyfully reflecting the way of the saints, which is none other than a reflection of Our Saviour, the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
For St David, Christianity is not simply believed, but a life of doing and action, realised and proved in details and little things, and it is in doing the seemingly little things that we remain steadfast in our Faith and are then able to do the big things.
Real Christianity is not an impressionistic picture painted in approximate, broad and wide brush strokes, but one in which Faith is realised in the small details of living the Gospel in our daily lives, in our families and communities.
Be joyful! Be steadfast! Live the Gospel by doing these little things!
May God bless you all, and have mercy upon us, through the prayers of St David and all of the saints of Wales.
In Christ – Fr Mark.