...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...
- Philippians 3.10
Coemgen was accustomed all his life through the severity of his asceticism to spend every Lent in a wattled pen...and he would spend a fortnight and a month thus. And one Lent when he was acting in this way, a blackbird came from the wood to his pen, and hopped on his palm as he lay on the flag-stone with his hand stretched out; and he kept his hand in that position, so that the blackbird built its nest in it, and hatched its brood...Coemgen said the pain of his hand being under the blackbird till she hatched her clutch was little compared with the pain which his Lord suffered for his sake...
- The Monk Solomon, Life of Coemgen of Glendalough, Irish, 18th century from a contemporary ms.
Kevin (Coemgen) was praying cross-vigil, stretched out on the flagstone in a form of a cross, and he persisted in that posture until the blackbirds fledged.
Did he really?
Probably not. But this was the Monk Solomon’s way of portraying Kevin as a great man of prayer, showing how much he suffered in prayer for those in his charge.
Kevin labored in prayer, devoting extensive periods and seasons to it, and aching in his soul and body on behalf of his monks and others. This quaint anecdote - a good example of Celtic Christian hagiography (history on a wink and a prayer) – is meant to encourage all readers likewise to enter into the sufferings of Christ.
There’s something to this. Prayer should cost us something, just as following Jesus should cost us something. I think if we had a greater appreciation for how much Jesus suffered, bearing our sins in His own body on the cross, we might be a little less willing to add to that suffering, as it were, by persisting in sin.
Try praying “cross-vigil” (Gaelic: crosfigell) with your arms outstretched, palms up. Pray through Psalm 22, or seek forgiveness for every person you have wronged, as the Lord brings them to mind. Soon – quite soon, actually – you will begin to feel the pain in your shoulders and arms, pain that cannot compare with, but certainly bears witness to, the pain Jesus endured for our sins. Let that pain be for you a convicting and renewing experience – convicting, for your pain is the pain you – and I – have caused Jesus; renewing, because by His pain and suffering we are hatched, fledged, and set free to fly in His Spirit and love.
Share in the suffering of our Lord, and you will soar in His forgiveness.
Psalm 22.1, 2 (St. Christopher: “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)
Upon the cross of Calv’ry He suffered ‘neath the rod;
Alone, He cried out, “Why have You forsaken Me, My God?”
As day to bitter darkness turned, the Savior of the blest
Cried, “Father, answer Me, I pray; restore Me to Your rest.”
Thank You, Lord, for suffering for me; I would live for You, my King, no matter the cost.