Reflection for the thirtieth anniversary of the reopening of the Shrine Church.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your will.” Mary to the angel in Luke 1:38.
We thank you Lord God for the life and prayer of your servant Melangell. May her care and compassion for all your creatures inspire us in our day with the same concern for all you have made. May we learn to find your glory in the world around us and in all that you give us to do. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. The Pilgrim’s Prayer in St Melangell’s Shrine Church.
As we give thanks for the life and example of St Melangell and celebrate the reopening thirty years ago of the Shrine Church after its restoration, so today’s reflection is a poem about her. In it, the anonymous author examines some of the possible meanings of her name including the pun in the church registers from 1723 that it might mean a thousand angels: Mil engyl a Melangell Trechant lu fyddin y fallMelangell with a thousand angels Triumphs over all the powers of evil.
It’s also been suggested that, as Mêl is the word for honey, her name could be sweet angel but, as angel doesn’t have a double ll in Welsh,this may not be the case. The saint’s Latin name is Monacella and it is the opinion of Sir Ifor Williams in a letter in the Centre’s archives that Mel Angell originates from Mael (Lord) Ancilla (Handmaid). Hence, in answer to Brochwel’s question, “Who are you?” Melangell’s reply was, “The handmaid of the Lord” which echoes Mary’s response at the Annunciation.
The poem not only speculates about Melangell’s name but the possible conversation between the saint and Prince Brochwel on meeting, which had such profound consequences. In all the conversations we have with the people we meet, the possible consequences could also be profound – especially the spiritual communication that is prayer. As the saint, her church and the valley are commemorated once more, why not pray the pilgrim prayer associated with her, before reading the poem below in Welsh or English?
With my prayers; pob bendith,
Cyfrin enw, cyfrinach yw
ei ystyr; mwynaf ryw.
Debyg mae naws mil angel oedd arnat
Yn byw ar fel yn Nyffryn Tanat.
Medd eraill “cell melyn” a fu
lle ciliaist yn dawel rhag elynion lu.
Fy hun, credaf Syr Ifor, mawr barch,
mae ateb yw i Farchog ar farch;
“Pwy rwyt?” gofyn Brochwel
Ysgythrog, gan sgythru
“Sy’n byw ar fy nhir heb gymorth, heb bopty?”
Ateb deg gan forwyn decach:
“Fy nisgrifiad yw hyn – Mael Ancillach,
sef Morwyn yr Arglwydd yr wyf,
yn gweddio yn barchus a llon yn dy blwyf”.
“Ond o le yr hannaist, forwyn wen,
a mil o angylion yn cyrchu dy ben?”
“Dros mor a thir y teithiais am hir
nes cyrraedd y man lle clywais y gwir.
Yn nhawelwch, llonyddwch, dedwyddwch Pen-nant
ces dawel weddio ty hwnt i bob chwant.
A llygaid ar gau a chefn unionsyth
ces fewnol gerddoriaeth, goleuni a llith.”
“Rhyfeddod yw hyn a groesodd fy hynt,
ysgwarnog yn cuddio lle na guddiai gynt!
O’r herwydd rwy’n gosod y tir ar dy ran
i amddiffyn pob “Oen Fach” am byth yn y llan.”
Gwrandawyr, ga’i ofyn;
“Oes rhywle sy’n well,
neu llecyn sy’n harddach
na Chwm Felan-Gell?”
Mysterious name, a mystery is its meaning, o fair lady.
Likely the atmosphere of a thousand angels was upon you
living upon honey in Dyffryn Tanat.
Others say you found refuge in a “yellow cell” from a host of enemies.
Myself, I believe Sir Ifor, of great renown,
that an answer it was to a knight on horseback;
“Who are you?” asked Brochwel Ysgythrog, in haste, “who lives on my land without support nor oven?”
A fair answer from a fairer maid;
“My description is thus – Handmaiden of the Lord”, who worships respectfully and happily in your shire”.
“But where are you from, fair Maiden, with a thousand angels circling your head?”
“Over sea and land I travelled long time, ‘till I reached the land where I heard the truth.
In the silence, stillness and blessedness of Pennant, I quietly prayed, away from all temptation.
With eyes closed and posture erect came inner choirs, light and learning”.
“Strange is this that has crossed my path – a hare who has hidden where never before!
Consequently I give the land for your use, to protect your “Little Lambs” forever in this Llan.”
May I ask;
“Is anywhere better or a site more beautiful than Cwm (Pennant) Melangell?”
by Dafydd Griffiths (copyright with the author)