• Rev. Caroline

Holiday snaps (5): 7 swans a-swimming

There is something rather majestic about the sight of swans swimming.

This particular group of seven were enjoying the waters of the fishing lake found within Pitfour Estate, on the outskirts of Mintlaw in Aberdeenshire.

When they weren’t swimming, they were in the farmer’s field opposite the lake, munching his grain – very noisily. A very different picture to their majestic gliding!

The traditional carol, “The twelve days of Christmas”, provides yet another aspect to these beautiful white birds. For the seven swans are “code” for the seven “corporal acts of mercy” in the Roman Catholic tradition: this level of secrecy was needed in the years following the Reformation, when Catholics were forbidden from practising their faith openly. Each of the gifts sent by “my true love” (God) had a meaning contained in its number: the four calling birds, for instance, were a reminder of the four gospels.

But back to the seven acts of mercy. The key to these can be found in chapter 25 of Matthew and are all to do with helping people in need: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners, and the bereaved.

Next time you see some swans,

you might consider what you could do in response . . . While life as we know it is suspended, there is no shortage of charities which need our help.

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