Integrity and Praise

Homily at Nazareth House for the Vigil of St David’s Day, 2016The Cross of Saint David

Wherever Saint David’s day is kept as a Feast, the readings from Philippians and St Matthew are proclaimed, but only here in Wales do we have the reading from Isaiah. It is a unique reading – no other day in the Church’s year has that exact combination of verses. It got me wondering why this precise mixture of verses was chosen to mark the patron saint of Wales, in Wales?

The first part proclaims that the Messiah brings good news and restoration to those in trouble. As a small nation, not always sharing the good fortune of our powerful neighbours, this is consoling. The third verse says again that God will give praise in exchange for despondency. Hebrew poetry often repeats the same sentiment – and are we not a nation of poets?

The final verses, taken from a little later in Isaiah’s chapter, speak of integrity and praise. Here is another special message for us, the people of Wales. We must continue to live out two values we are known for – one a British value, the other truly Welsh.

 

The first value is integrity – or we might call it the British sense of fair play. Why do we patiently queue in shops and stop at red lights on deserted roads? We have a sense of doing the right thing because it’s right, not because of the consequences.

The second value is praise – and is not Wales the land of song? I’ve spent a lot of time as a science student and a trainee priest outside Wales. I’ve sung in many churches. What I lack in tunefulness I make up for in enthusiasm, and people often comment. “I’m Welsh,” I explain. And that is a good enough explanation! English-speakers everywhere have head of Welsh male voice choirs and expect Welsh men to sing! So much so that the comic duo Flanders & Swan could come up with no worse insult than the Welshman “sings far too loud, far too often, and flat!”

 

As Christians, there are many values we must follow, but we can only be prominent for one or two of them. One way we can continue to be good news, is reinforcing the positive values associated with our nation. So let’s do our part to continue to make Britain known as a nation which plays fair, and Wales as a land of song. Let’s renew our commitment to be people who sing God’s praises, especially when we gather to celebrate Mass in Welsh. We can be, at the same time, representatives of Wales and ambassadors of heaven. And let’s do this wholeheartedly, since:

Dim ond calon lân all ganu

Canu’r dydd a chanu’r nos.

(Only a pure heart can sing all day and all night.)