Blessings, today we continue our three-part email retreat on Celtic Spirituality, centred around the Irish mystic and saint, Brigid of Kildare. For the first three Wednesdays in February, I will send out a mid week message that has a reflection, a symbol, a reading, and a spiritual practice. The resources are adapted from The Prayer Bench retreat called, ‘Living the In-Between Way.’
Today, the symbol is a cross. If you have a cross in your house, I invite you to gather it as a focus for our reflection.
Legend has it that Brigid was called to accompany a pagan chieftain into death. While she sat beside him, she took rushes (straw) from the floor and wove it into a cross. He asked what she was doing, and she told him the story of Jesus. Before he died the chieftain had become a Christian. The story lives on. It is traditional to make a St. Brigid’s cross out of straw or grass on the eve of her birthday and hang it in the house.
The cross is a powerful symbol of “the in-between way.” The pandemic has raised our awareness of living in the “before times” and a time still to emerge “after the pandemic.” We are in what is called “the place between.” This can be a potent place of possibility between who we were and who we are becoming. This space beckons a commitment to personal work and the work of community.
Brigid is a perfect guide for this journey of transformation:
· Legend has it she was born in the doorway of a barn, between inside and outside.
· She was born at dawn, the space between night and day.
· Her birthday is February 1, between winter and spring.
· Her name itself is part of the old Irish religion and the new Christian culture.
· The stories of her occupy space between myth and history.
The “in-between way” is often an uncomfortable space between who we were and who we are becoming. We resist its invitations, especially as time goes on. Transformation always takes longer than we expect, and sometimes the energy of holding possibility dips under our awareness and it feels like nothing is happening. Sometimes we lose sight (vision) of any hope or goodness that can come from this ripe time. We despair at the lack of care for the common good. We centre ourselves and our opinions and fail to listen. We see division and troubles where once we tasted kindness and community. The in-between way surfaces our best dreams for change– and our worst leanings.
This is the transformational journey. It is the journey of the cross, the journey of Love’s deepest possibility. This is our moment. We are in this doorway between death and life. We live the in-between way by deepening conscious awareness and trusting the vision of wholeness. We gather up whatever straws of compassion and courage we can and weave them into a new way of seeing. The spirit of Brigid is with us.
Take a moment to read, and re-read the verse from Romans.
Ask yourself, what is God calling to be transformed in your mind?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
Spiritual Practice - Crossing Thresholds: A Prompt for Reflection or Journaling
Take a moment to reflect or journal about a moment of transformation.
It might be a moment in your own life such as leaving home, marriage, childbirth, the loss of a partner.
Or it might be a moment of change for your community of faith such as online worship, new music, the retirement of a much-loved minister.
It is a moment when you stand between the threshold, and perhaps unsure which way to go.
The Irish poet John O'Donohue reminds us that we cross thresholds several times a day. Literally, we pass from one room to another, but there are also thresholds to be found in the pauses between doing one thing and then the next. We also work our way through internal thresholds in our journey of becoming. About inner thresholds he invites:
"At any time you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing?
At this time in my life, what am I leaving?
Where am I about to enter?
What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold?
What gift would enable me to do it?”
(From his book, To Bless the Space Between Us.
Blessings, today we continue our four-part email retreat on Celtic Spirituality, centred around the Irish mystic and saint, Brigid of Kildare. Each Wednesday in February, I will send out a mid week message that has a reflection, a symbol, a reading, and a spiritual practice. The resources are adapted from The Prayer Bench retreat called, ‘Living the In-Between Way.’
Today, the symbol is a candle. I invite you to gather a candle, or candles to light before you continue reading.
The story goes that when Brigid built her monastery, she kindled a flame that was tended by each of her sisters for 19 nights, and she kept the ritual fire alight on the 20th night. It was an “everliving fire” and represented a tradition that went back to pagan times. It is said that Brigid’s fire burned for 500 years and produced no ashes. The light of Brigid’s fire welcomed the stranger and was a sign that Brigid would do whatever she could for a wanderer. She is remembered for her compassion.
In 2006, Brigid’s sacred flame was re-lit in the Kildare Town Square “as a beacon of hope, justice and peace for Ireland and our world”. Her flame continues to burn in the hearts of ordinary mystics.
The experience of a global pandemic is changing how we see spiritual practice. There is an urgency to bring qualities of kindness, goodness, and compassion to the world and find ways to support the common good. There is much to learn these days about privilege, racism, poverty, and the effects of climate crisis and how all life is connected. We pray for eyes to see so we can tend the call to take part in the unfolding of a greater vision.
Take time to read, and reread Luke Slowly Read: Luke 2:22-40
Candle mass is celebrated on February 2. It commemorates the visit of Mary and Joseph to the temple 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Here is a lovely story, recorded by Alexander Carmichael in the Carmina Gadelica, of Brigid walking before Mary with a lighted candle in each hand shedding light on her path.
“It is said in Ireland that Bride [Brigid] walked before Mary with a lighted candle in each hand when she went up to the Temple for purification. The winds were strong on the Temple heights, and the tapers were unprotected, yet they did not flicker nor fail.”
Spiritual Practice -silent meditation
· I invite you to light your candle.
· Take a moment in silence to watch the light – the ever-living fire.
· Allow the ever-living burning fire burning in your heart to draw your attention to something by asking, “What needs my attention now?”
· Reflect silently on who serves as “Brigid of Brightness” in your life?
· Reflect on what ways that you are shedding light on the path of others?
End you time of silence with saying the Saint Brigid prayer aloud:
“Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.”
– Saint Brigid Prayer
Blessings, today we begin a four-part email retreat on Celtic Spirituality, centred around the Irish mystic and saint, Brigid of Kildare. For the month of February, I will send out a mid week message that has a reflection, a symbol, a reading, and a spiritual practice. The resources are adapted from The Prayer Bench retreat called, ‘Living the In-Between Way.’
Today, the symbol is a shawl, scarf, or blanket. I invite you to gather one and wrap it around you or lay it over your lap before you continue reading.
Legend has it that Brigid wanted to build a convent. She found the perfect place, but the land belonged to the King of Leinster and he refused her request. She and the sisters prayed his heart would soften. Later, she met him on the road and asked for as much land as her small mantle (cloak) covered. Bemused, he granted her request. She threw down her mantle and it grew and spread across many acres. He recognized her as a “holy woman” and granted her the land and she built her convent in Kildare. There is an ancient tradition, marked by some today, to leave a piece of cloth (the size of a handkerchief) outside the home on the night on January 31st, the eve of St Brigid’s birthday. It was thought Brigid’s spirit travelled the land and blessed the cloth. The next day, the cloth would be brought indoors and kept safe. Throughout the year the cloth would be used for healing humans and animals and to offer protection from evil.
These stories of Brigid’s life occupy a space between myth and history, as do many of the stories of the lives of the saints. Rather than literal truth, they offer us metaphors that can be helpful in guiding our spiritual journey. What can we make of Brigid’s mantle? From our baby “blankies” to our favourite cozy sweaters we know the power of fabrics to soothe and comfort. At Grace we have a prayer shawl ministry that provides a shawl or blanket to those who are in need of comfort – letting them know that they are not alone, and are wrapped in prayer.
Take time to read, and reread this scripture from Philippians 4:6-7, taken from The Message:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Spiritual Practice - prayer
I invite you to wrap yourself in a blanket, a shawl, even a cosy sweater. Feel it’s warmth around you, and imagine that this is Christ wrapping you in his arms.
Take a moment of silence to ground yourself. Take a few deep breaths as you become aware of God’s wholeness around you.
Name aloud your worries and concerns, maybe for yourself, your family, your community, or the world. Don’t worry about making them into fancy prayers – just name them – remember, ‘God knows your concerns’
As you name them, let them go to God – maybe taking a deep breath and breathing out the worry as you hand it over.
Before you end, take a moment of gratitude – thanking God for ‘settling you down.’
Each Wednesday we send out an inspirational message.