March 1st is the Patronal Feast of Saint David of Wales, who died around AD 600, but whose legacy still resonates here in the small city of St Davids. In his ‘Life of Saint David,’ Rhygyfarch, 1056-1099, mentions three gifts offered to Sanctus, David’s father, in honour of Saint David: the stag, the fish and the honeycomb from a hive of bees. These three gifts were prophetic symbols of Saint David’s life, the God-like glory of the royal stag, the revelatory presence symbolised by the Christly fish, ICHTHUS, and the wisdom of co-inherence embodied in the honeycomb. The glory of Christ inspires the wisdom of the bees unveiling wondrous communion empowering many bees to live and act as one. The stag is lord and king of the forest, transfixing evil, whilst the fish thrives in the ocean, the oceanic presence of God, whence the honeycomb stores honey that both nourishes and heals.
The forest, the ocean and the hive stand for dimensions that embrace us like the heavenly reign of God. The stag, the fish and the honeycomb reveal God in ways that throw light on how Saint David manifests three kinds of theophany. Saint David is the Patron Saint of Wales precisely because he is the stag in our forest, the fish in our ocean, the honeycomb in our hive, nourishing and healing us. As stag, he pierces poisonous serpents with his antlers, changing deadly venom into powerful medicinal remedies. As fish, he swims in the seas of divine presence without drowning, flourishing where land lubbers would most certainly drown. As honeycomb, he feeds the hive and brings nourishment and healing way beyond the hive. These three ancient symbols continue to resonate down the ages with shamanic power, inspiring mythic, rational and post-rational eras with a glory and a wisdom that unveils Holy Presence in new, integral ways.
March 1st was the day of Saint David’s death, but the year of his passing is less certain, but was about 600, perhaps about three years after Saint Columba died in 597. This was the age of saints in Wales, Ireland and Scotland that has lost none of its radiance, although we have largely lost our capacity to discern it. Ancient shamanic symbols are able to speak to us, however, even in our secular age. The stag, the fish and the bees have not lost their power to remind us of dimensions of ourselves that the saints embody. Secularism may trash the saints but the saints are our link to a far more ancient past and to dimensions that are timeless in their wisdom and their glory. Saint David stands steadfast despite our cynicism and our folly, unaffected by their corrosive influences, well able to cure our cynical confusion and foolish division. On March 1st, the daffodils flower undismayed, offering their beauty in honour of Saint David, reminding us of the stag, the fish and the honeycomb given to Sanctus in honour of Saint David, well over fourteen centuries ago.
Patronal Feast of Saint David, Wisdom Hermitage, St Davids