Next week we will be celebrating St Cecilia’s day.
Click on the scroll to see how Cecelia’s story has inspired the use of music in healing.
I will soon be rector of St Ternan’s church in Banchory. Here is the little known story of Ternan, who is venerated as the “Bishop of the Picts.”
He was a Pict of the Mearns in Alba who was converted during St Ninian’s Pictish mission, he was educated at Candida Cassa, he was baptized in early manhood by that disciple of St Ninian whom the Roman writers confused with Palladius, whose native name is Pawl Hen or Paul the Aged. Paul was a missionary, a Briton, and worked with St Ninian. He survived into the early years of the sixth century and thus lived long enough to meet St David, but he could not see him because he was blind with old age.
Ternan founded a banchor (place of Christian learning) where is today the town of Banchory and, indeed, there are remains of a Celtic foundation to be seen in a number of carved stones close by the old grave-yard. It was here that St Ternan is said to have taught his convert, the Pict St Erchard. The Banchory in Erchard’s time was filled with manuscripts, and active missionary teachers, spreading the Gospel and Christian civilisation.
What was thought to be Ternan’s skull, and his copy of St Matthew’s Gospel (mentioned in the Aberdeen Martyrology) in a case richly adorned with gilt and silver, are said to have been preserved at Banchory until the 16th Century. So also was his bell called Ronecht, said by tradition to have been given to him at Rome by the pope, and to have miraculously followed him to Alba. This bell is last recorded as being transferred to the custody of Alexander Symson, vicare of Banquhoriterne in 1491. When the glebe was being excavated for the railway in 1863 an old bronze bell was found. It is not clear if this really is Ternan’s bell, but it now hangs on the front wall of Banchory Ternan East Church as a visible reminder of the debt that is owed to this early pioneer of Christianity in Scotland
On this day lift before God:
Anthony’s is another life deeply coloured by grief. He was born in 1477 in a Russian village near Archangel. From an early age he devoted himself to reading sacred books and making icons. When his parents died, he worked for a wealthy lord in Novgorod, eventually marrying the lord’s daughter. Less than a year later, however, he was widowed. The hagiography then writes: “Despairing of earthly consolations, he gave his wealth to the poor and, owning only the clothes that he wore, went to become a monk at the Monastery of St Pachomius.”
Anthony is clearly deep in grief and maybe in depression. He found solace in a life of prayer, vigil and ascesis. He prayed for most of the night, took on the heaviest work by day, and (in a time when this would be praised as a virtue, not questioned as an eating disorder) ate only every second day. After a short time he was ordained to the priesthood.
Some years later he and two companions, seeking a still more secluded life for prayer, travelled to the frozen shores of the White Sea and established a small monastic brotherhood where the River Siya enters Lake Mikhailov. They lived in utter poverty, staying alive by gathering mushrooms and wild berries. This phenomenal lack of worldliness impressed and intrigued others that were seeking deeper relationships with God. In time, therefore, other brethren were attracted to the site, and a monastery was founded with the help of the Grand Prince of Moscow.
Anthony’s response was to withdraw into the forests, living alone for many years. God however, who exists in the community of the Trinity, is always calling us back into community to share our lives with our neighbours as well as in communion with the divine. Anthony’s spiritual children called him back to serve as the monastery’s abbot.
Let us give thanks to God for taking even our most distressing experiences and using them to shine light into the world.
On this day, lift before God: