Monday, September 1, 2014

August 31 Reading

St. Aidan Story: The Freedom of Dis-Possession

Aidan often looked back and wondered how his life might have been. He could have been a rich man with all sorts of possessions. Like Columba, he came from a ruling family, and could have owned many things. He could have built up a store of gold and increased his lands. But he had no longing in that direction, no desire for possessions. He had seen rich men fight to keep goods that they must leave one day. He had seen men die for very poor bits of land. He knew some who were afraid to leave their premises in case they were robbed. He knew others who lay awake at night fearing they might lose what they had gained. It would seem that most people believed that the more you have the better off you are. Aidan knew it was not so. He had discovered the great freedom of being dis-possessed. He had also discovered that the most generous of people were often those who had very little. Many times, in the hill country, the poorest of people would offer him far more than an equal portion of their food. He was beginning to learn that it was truly blessed to be poor in spirit, and it is more blessed to give than to receive.

photo from internet

  This learning about poverty had begun when he first entered a monastery. He had to leave so much behind. Not only things, but also his wilfulness and his desire to command. When he left Ireland for Iona, he knew he was leaving his own tribe and people. He was leaving behind a certain security and respect. He had servants who would obey his least command. Now, he knew he had less than some of his former servants. This knowledge was enforced when he heard the Rule of Columba: ‘Be always naked in the imitation of Christ and the Evangelists. Whatsoever, little or much, that you possess of anything, whether clothing, food or drink, let it be at the command of the senior and at his disposal, for it is not befitting for a religious to have any distinction of property with his own free brother.’

  Aidan learned to do without things. He had nothing that he called his own. He would give up, or give away, anything he had, if so required. He would leave where he was at the command of his superior and go wherever he was ordered. Slowly but surely he learned the travel lightly. He discovered that there is very little you really need for journeying. He also knew that the less you had the less you need fear being robbed. The more you carried about with you the more anxious and burdened you became. He came to know that the truly rich were not the ones with the most possessions but the people who were able to give away what they had. The others did not have possessions, they were possessed, captured, by the very things they thought they owned. Time and time again the words of Jesus came to mind, ‘What does it profit a man to win the whole world and lose this own soul?” Too many people were growing rich at the expense of their own well-being. A good way of life was often lost by ever seeking more. So Aidan rejoiced whenever he saw a generous act. Likewise he was sad when he saw a person selling themselves just to acquire more. Contentment is truly a divine gift.

This extract is taken from 'Flame of the Heart' by David Adam and reproduced by kind permission of SPCK. You can find this book here:

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