Wednesday, 10 April 2013

St. Brynach - April 7th

Brynach may well have been Irish since Bernach is an Irish name and he is occasionally referred to in some accounts as Brynach Wyddel, the Irishman. In his early youth he was described as ’wild’ but when he came to faith his character changed and he became devout and virtuous.

As a young man he made a pilgrimage to Rome and on his return journey settled in Brittany where he made efforts to evangelise the native population. He eventually moved to Wales landing at Milford Haven. He travelled to Carmarthenshire and tried to find lodgings in several places but was denied shelter. Eventually he built a small hermitage for himself in Llanfyrnach where he was once attacked with a spear by a local woman because he rejected her advances ("hell hath no fury as a woman scorned!). Luckily he was rescued by a passer-by and his wounds tended in a nearby well known as “Fons Rubeus'

He next moved to Pont-Faen on the River Gwaun but was chased away by demons and later at Llwyn Henllan on the River Nevern as he tried to build a church the locals stole his wood. An angel appeared announcing that this was not the place God wanted him to be and so he moved on to Nevern  where he settled introducing agriculture to the people teaching them how to yoke wild stags to the plough and milk the hinds.

His preaching made a deep impression on the local king Clether who gave up his throne and became a hermit moving to Cerniw in Cornwall. But before leaving he gave Brynach all his lands and his 20 sons who became his first disciples at the monastery which developed around his little church. Brynach also founded churches at Dinas and Newport (Pembs) near where he is said to have conversed with angels on Carningli.

During his life at Nevern Brynach often moved around South Wales founding churches wherever he went including Llanfrynach in Brycheiniog and Llanfrynach and Penllin in Morganwg. He became a great friend of St. David who often visited him and gave him a carved stone cross, a replica of which is there at Nevern today.

Brynach later left Wales for Dumnonia/lived as a hermit in Braunton, N. Devon where died on 7th Jan/buried there. Here his feast is April 7th -traditionally it’s the day when the first cuckoo said to sing every year from the top of St. Brynach’s Cross in Nevern Churchyard.

Several features of his life stand out:
1. First the change in his character after his conversion, from a wild youth to a reflective, devout and committed Christian. It brings to mind Paul’s words to the Corinthians, no doubt remembering his own transformation when he met Jesus: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  (2 Cor 5:17)

In the original Greek the change is more heavily underlined: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ - new creation!” This underlines the change Christ brought to Brynarch’s life and to all who come into contact with the Risen Jesus. That change often marks a new turning point in a person’s life and can send them in a totally new direction.

2. Second, this new life brought with it a new love for God which propelled Brynarch’s life and ministry and helped him deal with the many setbacks he faced, especially during his earlier life. Again Paul has been there before and talks about how his love for God helped sustain and drive his ministry. He writes: “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…” (2 Cor 5:14)

The word ‘compel’ means that the love of God acted as a means of propulsion in his ministry as he desired to tell as many people as possible of how great was God’s love and acceptance of even the most notorious of sinners. Brynarch obviously felt the same and went to any lengths, facing many trials, in order to get the message to as many people as possible during his life. This correlation between God’s love for us and our love for others is what drives mission.

3. Third, mission and evangelism is not rocket science. Someone once described it in these terms: “It is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” All the time we recommend something we have found beneficial to others, whether it is a new cleaner, a new TV programme or a new recipe. All Brynarch did was to recommend to others the love and acceptance he had found through Christ. The rest was up to the Holy Spirit.

So some lessons for us today. Brynarch still lives where people encounter the Risen Christ, learn of his love and acceptance, and, with the help of the Holy Spirit go on to tell others what they have found.

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