By The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul - Celtic Christian Wisdom & Spirituality for the Here and Now – Part 6
***NO AUDIO THIS WEEK***
Made in your image, formed in your likeness, we carry your life within us, O God.
In every person, in every race, in every nation on earth, O God,
we look for your presence and long for your peace.
Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul – Sacred Feminine: St. Brigid of Kildare (Ireland)
John Philip Newell writes in his work entitled The Book of Creation: “In the Celtic tradition the sun is a masculine theophany [visible manifestation] of God and the moon a feminine theophany. . . . [However], it would not be right to give the impression that the Celtic tradition has perfectly held in balance the masculine and feminine theophanies of God. The great weight of cultural norms in the Western world, and the patriarchal imagery that dominates scripture, led Celtic Christianity, like the rest of the Church, towards a masculine bias in divine imagery. There has always been, however, a significant desire and tendency in the Celtic tradition to use more than masculine imagery to point to the mystery of God.” (p. 57.)
In the Celtic tradition, there was “the mixed nature of monastic life, men and women living together in community under the leadership of a woman. We know that women were celebrating the Mass in Ireland until at least the sixth century. In 520 a synod of bishops in Rome denounced the practice as ‘abominable’ and called on the Irish to forsake their sinful ways.”
“Celtic wisdom remembers the sacredness of the feminine. Deep within us and deep within the matter of the universe is a conjoining of masculine and feminine energy. Both are of God. Both are essential to us, individually and as a species. At the heart of the marriage of heaven and earth is a dance. When the sacred feminine and masculine move as one within us and make love, we are well. It is to this that the stories and legends of Brigid of Kildare invite us to awaken.”
“Probably the most beloved of Celtic saints is the golden-haired Brigid of Kildare (ca. 451-523). She is the saint who loves the earth, who reveals the sacredness of the feminine, who models female leadership, inspires poets and musicians, midwifes at new beginnings, and extravagantly embodies compassion and boundless generosity toward the poor and those who seek refuge. We need her among us again today.”
“We know little about Brigid historically. The first biographies of her, more hagiographical [idealized] than historical, were written over a hundred years after her death. Brigid’s life is shrouded in myth and legend. So, in a sense, the question before us is not so much who she was, but rather who she has become in the Celtic heart and imagination over the centuries.”
“Legend has it that Brigid was born just before sunrise, in the twilight of early morning, in that time governed neither by the sun’s light nor the moon’s light, but by the two lights, the twi-light. It is also said that her mother gave birth to her neither within the house nor outside, but at the threshold of the dwelling. So, her birth signals that she will be associated with the meeting place between opposites, the night and the day, the sun and the moon, the within and the without. She occupies the liminal space between worlds. She stands at the doorway or meeting place between the so-called opposite dimensions of life, which have been torn apart from each other.”
“We will explore four thresholds, or liminalities, through the lens of Brigid: the doorway between
the pre-Christian and the Christian, the portal between the divine and the human, the relationship between humanity and the earth, and the liminal space between the womb of the universe and what is trying to come into being.”
“The first threshold, then, is the doorway between the pre-Christian and the Christian. Brigid awakens us to be receptive to sacred wisdom well beyond the bounds of our own spiritual tradition and culture. . . . The St. Brigid myths weave together the pre-Christian and Christian. She combines the Druidic love of earth with Christianity’s awareness of heaven. She points to a sacredness that is within as well as beyond us, that is embodied in earth but not bound by form, a sacredness that is beneath our very feet yet higher than the highest heaven, the two forever one, both expressing the divine essence of life.”
[Brigid] “is a model for us of standing in the doorway between the wisdom of our spiritual tradition and the wisdom of traditions that have gone before us or alongside us. At the doorway between faiths we can stand and bow, awakening to what the soul deeply knows, that wisdom is to be found and reverenced way beyond the boundaries of any one tradition. We need these many wisdom traditions. They are given not to compete with each other, but to complete each other.”
“The second liminality [threshold] to be explored through Brigid is the way she appears in the portal between the divine and the human. She has been seen by Celts over centuries as bearing the energies of the sacred in ways that express the intermingling of the divine and the human that is in all people.”
“Brigid invites us to be aware of thresholds that we are in the midst of, both individually and together, at the changing of seasons, at the dawning of the day, and in the approach of nightfall. Similarly, threshold times in our lives include transitions in work, resettling as families, the births of our children, new seasons in our lives, endings and partings, and times of letting go. It can be important to create simple threshold rites and practices for these transition moments, for instance, the lighting of candles, standing together at an archway, walking a labyrinth, or undertaking a pilgrimage route. These can help us remain alert to the meeting of the divine and the human at the heart of our being. The portal is always near. We need simply open to it.”
Words of Awareness and Wisdom
“St. Brigid embodies the beauty and strength of the sacred feminine, which is deep within us all. Stories of her life call forth this dimension of the divine in us, that we may be strong again to serve the interrelationship of all things, within us, between us, and among us in the world.”
(Reflect for a brief time on the ways this wisdom applies to your life.)
Source: John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul, Chapter Two.
An invitation to our virtual participants: Discussion and comments are very much encouraged and
welcomed. Online discussions can be held in the comments section in the upcoming post on Facebook for
this week’s Deacon’s Reflection which is part of adult formation at St. Francis Episcopal Church.
Awake, O my soul, to the beauty of the divine deep within you
And awake to its fragrance in the body of the earth.
Know its strength of attraction and its grace to heal what has been torn apart.
Awake, O my soul, to the beauty of the divine deep within you.
May the light of God illumine the heart of my soul.
May the flame of Christ kindle me to love.
May the fire of the Spirit free me to live this day, tonight, and forever. Amen.
“Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.
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