Columba, Abbot of Iona, Missionary, 597
Ephrem of Syria, Deacon, Hymn Writer, Teacher of the Faith, 373
Happy the one whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile. For I held my tongue; my bones wasted away
through my groaning all the day long. Your hand was heavy upon me day and night; my moisture was dried up like the drought in summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful make their prayers to you in time of trouble; in the great water flood, it shall not reach them. You are a place for me to hide in; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance.
‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; I will guide you with my eye. Be not like horse and mule which have no understanding; whose mouths must be held with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.’
Great tribulations remain for the wicked, but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes. They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their abominable sin will not be found out. The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit; they have ceased to act wisely and to do good. They think out mischief upon their beds and have set themselves in no good way; nor do they abhor that which is evil. Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains, your justice like the great deep; you, Lord, shall save both man and beast. How precious is your loving mercy, O God! All mortal flesh shall take refuge under the shadow of your wings. They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; they shall drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light. O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you and your righteousness to those who are true of heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away. There are they fallen, all who work wickedness. They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.
2 Chronicles 34.1-18
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a boy, he began to seek the God of his ancestor David, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and the cast images. In his presence they pulled down the altars of the Baals; he demolished the incense altars that stood above them. He broke down the sacred poles and the carved and the cast images; he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and purged Judah and Jerusalem. In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, he broke down the altars, beat the sacred poles and the images into powder, and demolished all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. They came to the high priest Hilkiah and delivered the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the keepers of the threshold, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim and from all the remnant of Israel and from all Judah and Benjamin and from the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They delivered it to the workers who had the oversight of the house of the Lord, and the workers who were working in the house of the Lord gave it for repairing and restoring the house. They gave it to the carpenters and the builders to buy quarried stone, and timber for tie-beams and joists for the buildings that the kings of Judah had let go to ruin. The people did the work faithfully. Over them were appointed the Levites Jahath and Obadiah, of the sons of Merari, along with Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to have oversight. Other Levites, all skilful with instruments of music, were over the burden-bearers and directed all who did work in every kind of service; and some of the Levites were scribes, and officials, and gatekeepers.
While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses. Hilkiah said to the secretary Shaphan, ‘I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord’; and Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, ‘All that was committed to your servants they are doing. They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers and the workers.’ The secretary Shaphan informed the king, ‘The priest Hilkiah has given me a book.’ Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.
What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Almighty God, who filled the heart of Columba with the joy of the Holy Spirit and with deep love for those in his care: may your pilgrim people follow him, strong in faith, sustained by hope, and one in the love that binds us to you; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.