In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2He was in the beginning with God.3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Yes, even those of us who are in traditions where we honor few feast days of saints get in to this one and don our green. Now, admittedly, most of us don’t even know much about Patrick or his tradition, save a few legends about snakes and stuff. Patrick was said to have been born Maewyn Succat (Lat., Magonus Succetus) in Roman Britain in the late 4th century. When he was sixteen, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He wrote that his faith grew in captivity and he prayed daily. The story is told that one day Patrick heard a voice saying “your ship is ready” and took it to mean that it was time to return home. Fleeing his master, he traveled to a port two hundred miles away, found a ship, and sailed home. He entered the church and later returned to Ireland as a missionary. By the eighth century, he had become one of the patron saints of Ireland.
Patrick’s life, like his Celtic tradition, is based on pilgrimage. Life in this tradition is about growing and moving and not “pitching our tent” in one place too long. It is about connecting to all of Creation, about honoring and revering all as sacred. It is about treating all of life sacramentally, embracing it as a gift from God and a way to God. Embracing the Celtic spirit means going on a journey, open to moving from one place to another, one thought to another, one way of seeing to another. In the midst of this journey, Celtic spirituality recognizes the importance of crossing places, seeing them as thresholds of growth. These places are truly looked upon as sacred spaces. Bridges and gateways express a determined refusal to be stopped by what blocks our way; causeways open up pathways to places that have been inaccessible; and burial grounds mark the crossing place from life to death, from “this world” to an “other world”, from time and space to eternity and infinity. These thresholds prevent us from becoming islands, closed off to change and moving forward. The thresholds open up new worlds and new possibilities. Thresholds are bridges between the now and the to be.
For us, this Celtic tradition holds a lot of things that can help us on our Lenten journey. In fact, they are notions that we spend a good part of our Lenten season trying to grasp. Lent itself is a threshold, a sacred doorway to growth and connection, to learning to embrace our own lives as gifts, as sacramental journeys toward a new oneness with God. It is a journey to the ultimate threshold of all, the gateway between life and death, between the world that we know and the Way that we are called to go. Lent keeps us from staying behind when God is moving just ahead. There is an Old English word, “liminality”, that literally means “betwixt and between”. It is a place of intersection, a threshold, between what is and what will be. And we are called to that place, to the intersection of this world and the world to which God calls us. We are called to be “betwixt and between”, with our feet firmly planted in this world and our heart, our soul, and our mind stretching beyond ourselves, stretching to God.
And the snakes? Well the legend credits St. Patrick with banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Evidence suggests, however, that post-glacial Ireland never had any snakes. But some suggest that Patrick was instrumental in ridding the Celtic Christians of all the “serpents” that were so common in their pre-Christian Druid belief, of helping them get rid of those things that got in the way of their movement, of their threshold, of their journey toward God. Hmm! Sounds like Lent to me!
So, as we journey during this Lenten season, let us embrace our threshold, let us embrace all of time and all of space that has brought us to this place, and then let us journey toward the Way that God is calling us.
Rath De ‘ort (Gaelic, pronounced Rah Day urt, “The Grace of God on you.”)