A Meditation on the Feast of St. David of Wales

Father Gabriel Rochelle

Happy St. David’s Day to you all! Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus i bob!

St. David is the patron saint of Wales, and lived during the golden age of Welsh Saints in the 5th and 6th centuries. His mother, Non, is also reckoned a Celtic saint. He was a cousin of St. Cadoc, who founded the great monastery at Llancarfan. David studied under St. Paulinus, another of the learned monks of the age, and in turn began his ministry as a founder of missions in southwestern Wales. The last monastery he founded was in Mynyw (Menevia) in far Southwestern Wales. He lived by a strict monastic rule that was patterned after the Desert Fathers of Egypt. There are many links between the Eastern Church and the church as it developed in Celtic regions; this is surely one of them. At Brevi in Cardiganshire in 550, a synod was called which David at first did not attend, but he was summoned thence and, surrounded by many who had benefited from his ministrations, he was elected Archbishop of Wales. The biography states that he was consecrated bishop by the Patriarch of Jerusalem but that may be legend. In any case, David was disinclined to remove to Caerleon, where the bishopric was housed, and instead moved the seat to his monastery, where it remains to this day at the town now named for him. St. David has a jovial disposition and was a tireless worker and confidante to many in his life. His last words to his monks before dying at a great age on 1 March 589 were, “Brothers and sister, be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.” Gwenwch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd, “do the little things in life,” is still heard in Wales today. St. David is recognized by the Orthodox, Roman and Byzantine Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. His relics are entombed in St. David’s Cathedral, which remains a place of pilgrimage. In the 12th Century, Pope Calixtus II said that two pilgrimages to St. David’s Cathedral were worth a trip to Rome, three to Jerusalem, demonstrating his importance as a major saint of the church.

Troparion – Tone 1

Having worked miracles in thy youth, founded monasteries and converted the pagans who had sought to destroy thee, O Father David, Christ our God blessed thee to receive the episcopate at the place of His Resurrection. Intercede for us, that our lives may be blessed and our souls may be saved.

Kontakion – Tone 6

The living waters of godly discipline encompassed thee and the saving waters of faith flowed through thy teaching, O Hierarch and Waterman David. Symbolising the baptism of Wales in thy life, thou art worthy of all praise, wherefore we keep festival in thy honour, glorifying thine eternal memory.

The Very Reverend Gabriel Rochelle is pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert, Las Cruces NM, a mission of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. He is a frequent podcaster on Ancient Faith Radio and is the author of several books on theology and Celtic Studies. He is fluent is several languages, including Welsh. Most recently, Father Gabriel contributed work to the latest volume of poetry from Darkly Bright Press: Clearing Paths: A Darkly Bright Anthology of Verse. 

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