Born in the serenity of divine light in the midst of a great storm, St David was remembered for his wisdom and spiritual strength in symbols embedded in the older traditions upon which Rhygyfarch drew at the end of the eleventh century. As honey is present in wax, so the spiritual meaning is present in the literal text, says Rhygyfarch, who in the first chapter of his Life of St David tells us that the saint’s father was given three symbolic gifts before his birth: a honeycomb, a fish and a stag, The honeycomb foretold his wisdom, the fish his union with the living waters of illumination and the stag his dominion over the serpent, transforming its venom into spiritual strength. Honey from St Madock’s bees and the waters of the Alun river sustained the monks who gathered in Vallis Rosina around David, monks whose hearts were pure in his baptism of fire, monks who recognised in him the spiritual strength of a stag. Symbols such as these point to the spiritual significance of St David in the traditions that inspired Rhygyfarch’s Life, traditions that speak straight to the heart of wisdom tradition in our own times. Just as wisdom inspired the traditions which revered the elder David and the Welsh saints, so she awakens hearts to the mysteries of glory in every age. In our own day, the tradition is renewed when wisdom returns at centre to welcome glory home, glory radiant in hearts transfigured by love.
According to the Welsh text of the Life, the honeycomb of St David’s wisdom bore fruit as joy, faith and love embracing little things. Wisdom was transmitted to Irish as well as Welsh saints who went to Brittany founding churches and monasteries wherever they went. The living waters of wisdom gave birth to tears, piercing the heart and purifying the senses, inspiring a culture of humility and radiance. Through illumination, the glory of the stag was victorious over the poisoning energies of the serpent so that darkened energy transmuted into healing energies of light. Desert wisdom opens the heart to joy that keeps faith with hallowing trust, transfiguring poisoned passions into healing balm. David’s legacy is in fact the ancient inheritance of desert elders bequeathed to saints so that in wisdom they might turn and see. Turning opens to seeing and seeing to glory, God unveiled through God in God. Symbols of the Kingdom of Holy Trinity serve transmission of light and glory.
On March the first each year, Wales still celebrates David, its patron saint, but the mystery of glorification enshrined in the symbols of honeycomb, water and the stag has been overlooked or forgotten. Remembrance of God is so much more than historical memory, although tradition normally embraces both as a union of heaven and earth. For the hesychast tradition, St David is not a vague and wispy legend but a glorified saint whose radiant presence renews the traditions that recall him with transfiguring light. In each age he transmits uncreated light in which God awakens glory, renewing glorification among the saints through wisdom and the Holy Name. Wales was peopled by radiant seers who as elders generated saints, well able to transmit wisdom even in our own very secular age. No time or place is cut off from this illumination, because the saints of Wales bear faithful, joyful witness to the light that generates glory in the radiant coming of the age to come. This witness to wisdom remembers little things, ensuring that nothing is left out in the cold. Elders fulfil the function of imparting the blessing of spiritual marriage that weds heaven to earth, hallowing the earth as God’s kingdom come.
Saint David’s honeycomb wisdom drips with overflowing golden light that nourishes awakened hearts, sustaining them with love’s radiant glory. His fish wisdom is utterly at home in the fathomless waters of uncreated light, waters that purify the heart in a baptism of liquid fire, seas that open to oceans of uncreated glory. His stag wisdom pierces serpent energies, transfixing their knotted coils of deluded confusion, transforming confusion into wisdom, transfiguring division into translucent refraction, transparent clarity that lets glory through. Here, where Saint Non gave birth to Dewi Sant in the stillness at the heart of torrential storms, wisdom’s sacred legacy of honeycomb, fish and stag still purifies hearts, piercing them in the midst with love’s transfiguring glory. Honeycomb wisdom communicates an amber alchemy of golden light which turns the lead of fallenness to gold. Waters of wisdom bubble up from forgotten, ancient wells, unsealing the fountains of the heart. Antler points pierce open the serpent venom, extracting powerful, timeless medicine, curing hearts with healing balm. The honeycomb wisdom of Saint David still overflows here in this desert, here on this crystal shore, as sustaining today as it always was, full of grace and truth.