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Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul - Celtic Christian Wisdom & Spirituality for the Here and Now – Part 7

By The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan

 

Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul - Celtic Christian Wisdom & Spirituality for the Here and Now – Part 7

 

November 6th, 2022

 

Brigid of Kildare (ca. 451-523)

 

***NO AUDIO THIS WEEK***

 

Opening Prayer
For rest in the night and the day’s busyness, for the silence of the winter earth followed by spring’s energy and summer’s fruiting, thanks be to you, O God.
In the pattern of the seasons, in the rhythm of our days, show us the stillness that renews life,
the letting go that deepens our strength of soul.

  • J. Philip Newell, Celtic Treasure – Daily Scriptures and Prayer, p. 30.

 

Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul – Sacred Feminine: St. Brigid of Kildare (Ireland) (cont’d)
     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."

     “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.”

     “Many pre-Christian rituals continued in the Celtic Christian world. It is even likely that the Irish cross, sometimes called St. Brigid’s cross, carries within it features of pre-Christian symbolism. The Irish cross form is a symbol that we find in many ancient cultures, including those in India. With its four equal arms, depicted almost in rotating motion, it can represent the sun emerging from the winter darkness of the earth, rotating through the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter before being reborn into a fresh coming of light in the spring.”

     “We [continue to] 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.”

     Richard Rohr notes that “what some call ‘liminal space’ or threshold space (in Latin, limen means a threshold) is a very good phrase for those special times, events, and places that open us up to the sacred. It seems we need special (sacred) days to open us up to all days being special and sacred. This has always been the case and didn’t originate with Christianity. Ancient initiation rites were intensely sacred time and space that sent the initiate into a newly discovered sacred universe.”

     Rohr continues, “What became All Saints Day and All Souls Day (November 1-2) were already called ‘thin times’ by the ancient Celts, as were February 1-2 (St. Brigid’s Day and Candlemas Day, when the candles were blessed and lit). The veil between this world and the next world was considered most ‘thin’ and easily traversed during these times.” (“The Fullness of Time”, Monday, March 8, 2021.)

     “The intimate relationship between humanity and the earth is the third liminality that we find in connection with Brigid. Brigid is close to the earth, of the earth. Her feast day, as we have noted, is February 1, which in the Celtic world is the first day of spring. The symbolism of spring energy thus “Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022. abounds in Brigid myths.”

     “In the Celtic Christian world Brigid became the saint of the greening earth and of new life rising. Consequently, she is associated also with the healing energies of the earth and with herbal wisdom. This is part of what we need to reawaken to – the connection between humanity and earth’s healing powers, the connection between the spiritual and the physical – in our search for well-being. It will allow us to remember that resurrection energy, the stirring of new life in our souls, and spring energy, the bursting of new life from the earth, come from the same fountain source. The way life rises from the ground is the way new life can come forth from the human soul. Just as we expect spring energy to burst forth from the winter earth every year, so can we faithfully look to what is trying to come forth from the unknown depths of the soul."

     “The fourth threshold is the liminality between the womb and birth. What is trying to emerge from the unseen belly of the universe to manifest among us in new ways at this moment in time?”

     “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.” 

     “Perhaps the most famous well devoted to Brigid is in Kildare. Etched into stone beside it are the words, ‘Brigid, Mary of the Gaels, pray for us.’ Let this be our prayer. We need [Brigid’s] sacred feminine wisdom at the meeting place of so-called opposites in our lives and world, between spirit and matter, the divine and the human, the masculine and the feminine, humanity and the earth, the life of our nation and the plight of other nations, the insights of our spiritual tradition and the wisdom of other faiths, these and so many more. She will help us in all of these doorways to remember what we deeply know, that the earth and the human soul are sacred.”

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.


Closing Prayer
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.

  • John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul, p. 70.

 

“Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.

Posted by Mark Hamby at 6:00 AM
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