Friday, 14 September 2018

On the Island of Birds

The Navigatio or Voyage of St Brendan is filled with fabulous tales which cannot be taken as history. This extract from chapter 11 beautifully illustrates the spirituality of the people Brendan inspired. Notice their attention to creation, which they relate to scripture, in this case the familiar psalms which they would chant every day - the words the birds chant are verses from different psalms.

On the approach of the hour of vespers, all the birds, in unison, clapping their wings, began to sing ‘A hymn, O Lord, becometh Thee in Sion, and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem’ (Ps 65:1); and they alternately chanted the same psalm for an hour; and the melody of their warbling and the accompanying clapping of their wings, sounded like unto a delightful harmony of great sweetness. When supper was ended, and the divine office discharged, Brendan and his companions retired to rest until the third watch of the night, when he aroused them all from sleep, chanting the verse: ‘Thou, O Lord, wilt open my lips’ (Ps 51:16), whereupon all the birds, with voice and wing, warbled in response: ‘Praise the Lord, all His angels, praise Him all His virtues’ (Ps 103:21). Thus they sang for an hour every night; and when morning dawned, they chanted: ‘May the splendour of the Lord God be upon us’ (Ps 90:17) in the same melody and rhythm as their matins praises of God. Again, at tierce, they sang the verse: ‘Sing to our God, sing; sing to our King, sing wisely’ (Ps 47:6); at sext: ‘The Lord hath caused the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us’ (Ps 67:1); and at nones they sang ‘Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity’ (Ps 133:1). Thus day and night those birds gave praise to God. St Brendan, seeing all this, made thanksgiving to the Lord for all His wonderful works; and the brethren were thus regaled with such spiritual viands until the octave of the Easter festival.

Our God-given world is full of real life wonders too - watch this amazing video of a murmuration of starlings on Lough Derg, just a few miles up the lake from my home.

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