Thursday, April 26, 2012

Saint Columba and the White Horse

by Jenny Schroedel

St Columba's Farewell to the White Horse by Alice Boyd

St. Columba was born in Ireland on December 7521. He was of a royal line and his life was characterized by missionary zeal. He was also the founder of the monastery on the famed Holy Island of Iona in Scotland which remains a popular pilgrimage sight to this day.

According to one legend St. Columba handwrote 300 books during his lifetime. Two of the books which he may have transcribed, The Book of Durrow and a Psalter called The Cathachare still intact to this day. St. Columba is the patron saint of bookbinders.

One of the most beautiful legends of St. Columba involves his white horse. When he was very old and tired he made his way to visit his brother monks who were working in a field. He was so weak that he could not walk but had to be carried in a cart. When he saw his brother monks he explained that during the recent Easter celebration he had felt a great longing in his soul to go and be with Jesus. He understood that he could go and be with his Lord if he wished but he decided to linger a little longer on this earth as he did not want to grieve his brother monks during the Easter season.

Saint Columba Bidding Farewell To The White Horse
By John Duncan

At these words the monks were deeply grieved because they knew that Columba did not have much more time on earth. He turned to the east and blessed the island and islanders who dwelt there as well as the monastery that he had founded and nurtured.

As his death drew near St. Columba shared this secret with his companion Diarmid — it was soon to be his day of rest this own Sabbath. He was tired from the toil of this life and his Lord had invited him to be with him. Columba understood that he would die around midnight following the footsteps of his fathers in the faith. At this Diarmid wept. Columba tried to comfort him as well as he could.

Columba then headed back to his monastery one last time but he was so weary that he stopped to take a rest by the side of the road. As he was sitting beside the road his white horse ran up to him and leaned his head against the holy man's chest drenching his shirt with his tears which poured into his lap.
Diarmid rose to push the horse away from his beloved friend but Columba stopped him saying “Allow this lover of mine to shed his tears on my chest. For this horse being an animal understood instinctively that I was going to be with my Lord yet you as a man could not foretell this.”

At this St. Columba blessed the white horse that had faithfully served him for so many years and the grieving horse continued on his way. St. Columba then returned to the monastery for his final Vespers (or evening prayer) service. Later that night when the bell tolled for the midnight service Columba returned to the monastery church but collapsed before the altar surrendering his soul to God. St. Columba died in 597 when he was seventy-seven years old. He is commemorated on June 9.

Written by Jenny Schroedel  

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