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 being 4in 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.
Well, just because we’re wandering in the wilderness does not mean that we are not allowed to paint ourselves green and celebrate with good ole’ St. Patrick. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Because even those of us who are in traditions where we honor few feast days of Saints get in on this one! 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.
I love the Celtic tradition. It has fed me spiritually for some time. It’s probably a little wilder than that to which most of us are accustomed. Deborah Cronin characterized is as “a bit on the edge”. Rather than shunning the pagan belief that they inherited, they brought Christianity into it, letting the two traditions enter into a holy conversation. In fact, the Celtic Christians, without the limitations imposed by the Roman church, embraced even those considered “heretics” as part of their faith. So their version of the Christian tradition was “broadened” a bit beyond the traditional claims. See, history tells us that the Roman Empire never made it to Ireland, leaving the green isle just beyond the control of both the emperor and the authorities of early Christianity as most of us know it. So Ireland and the other islands that claimed this Celtic strain of belief, birthed a Christian experience somewhat removed both geographically and theologically from mainland Europe. It is Christianity mingled with, but not compromised by, the finest aspects of pagan Celtism, those that found resonance with Christian symbols and understanding. For Celtic Christians the experience of vision is a tangible way of seeing what God has done and then seeing it through God’s creative eyes, followed by seeing the life-giving possibilities God sees. Not overly concerned with ecclesiastical matters, the Celtic Way is instead expressed through the beauty of art and symbols, the richness of prayers and poetry, and an understanding of the sacredness of all of Creation.
What would our faith look like if we understood all Creation as sacred? What would our beliefs be if we allowed them to grow beyond what tradition has handed us? What would our lives look like if saw everything as “of God”, as a way that God is perhaps speaking to us, maybe leading us down a different path? What would our journey be if we became connected to more than what we know, more than what we see? What would it mean to live our lives “a bit on the edge”, in liminality (“betwixt and between”), as the Celts would have called it, on a threshold between what we know and what we don’t, between what we see and what has yet to be revealed to us, between what is true and what is Truth? In this season of Lent, we are called to open our thoughts, open our hearts to the way that God is leading us. We are called not just to see what is obvious but to let God be our Vision, our way of seeing, to enter the Sacred with new eyes and a new heart. Maybe we will find that the way out of this wilderness is not by exiting it but by beginning to see it differently, as a way filled with sacredness and wonder, as a Way of God.
Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish—separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars. (Barbara Brown Taylor)
FOR TODAY: Close your eyes and imagine God as your Vision. Open your eyes and behold the Sacred in everything…And THEN paint yourself green and do whatever you do to celebrate St. Patty’s Day!
Rath De ‘ort (Gaelic, pronounced Rah Day urt, “The Grace of God on you.”)