At the Edge of the Rainbow

The Clifs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Scripture Passage:  Luke 3:21-22a

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

What does it mean for the heavens to open, to somehow, whether literally or figuratively, come pouring into the earth?  When you read that, it’s a little hard to go back to the notion of the separation of the secular and the sacred.  No longer is God or whatever you think of heaven “out there”.  In some incredible, wonderful way, the Holy and the Sacred has poured into where we are.  All is sacred.

On this day when all who are Irish and all who become Irish for this day celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, I thought we’d go back and visit his roots a little bit.  As his story goes, he was born Maewyn Succat in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.  Captured by Irish raiders when he was sixteen, he lived as a slave in Ireland for six years before escaping.  He would later return to Ireland as a missionary until his death in 460 or 461 and by the 8th century would become the land’s patron saint.  St. Patrick is, of course, associated with what we describe as Celtic Christianity.  This is a branch of Christianity that was unique to these Irish people during the Early Middle Ages.  The Celtic Christians unapologetically embraced their Celtic and Druid roots and articulated them through their new Christian lenses, even making some of their Druid gods and goddesses Christian saints.  We’re not completely sure how these Christians even got to Ireland but they were firmly established there by the 2nd century.  One view is that the Galatian Christians to whom Paul wrote (the Galts) were part of those who then migrated to what is now Wales, Ireland, and Scotland after the Roman invasion and occupation. (How cool and connected would THAT be?)

Celtic Christianity always has had a sense of pilgrimage, of journeying.  They were always, as Deborah Cronin describes it, “a bit on the edge”.  I think that would describe their physical location as well as their religious belief system.  But I also think it is where they are spiritually.  You see, the Celtic understanding is that all things are sacred.  Just as the Scripture implies, they had this strong sense that the spiritual world does indeed spill into the material world.  They embrace the image as a “thin place”, a place and time where time matters not and the spirit world is very close, a place where one can almost feel it, almost reach out and touch what is holy and sacred.  Rock bridgeThese thin places, thresholds between what is and what will be, are crossing places between the world and the Divine.  They are embraced as places of growth, as places through which we journey from one place to another, one way of seeing to another, one way of being to another.  So what we think of as ordinary places become sacred and holy as the sacred spills through them onto us.  Bridges, gateways, and causeways reconnect what is divided and make them accessible to each other.   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.  And the rainbow?  If you remember, the ninth chapter of Genesis says that God set a bow in the clouds, a sign of the connection, the covenant, between God and the earth.

Burial site of Owen Shannon (1762-1839), Old Methodist Cemetery, Montgomery, TX (my great-great-great-great grandfather)

It is a symbol of the promise that the Sacred and the Holy is not inaccessible or removed from us but has spilled into the earth.  Never again can we become separated or isolated; never again can we close ourselves off and not move forward.

And for us?  We are always standing at the edge of the rainbow, the edge of the Sacred and the Holy.  God is in our midst and everything is Sacred.  The mundane and the ordinary is marked by God’s fingerprints and have become extraordinary.  This Lenten season is a journey of transformation.  We are moving from one way of being to another, from that mountaintop to Jerusalem, from life to death and life beyond.  And along the way are thresholds that we traverse.  We are always at the edge of the rainbow.  We just have to open ourselves to the sacredness that everything holds.  God is in our midst. Heaven has opened and has spilled into the earth.  Everywhere we walk is holy ground.

God rejoiced to see [God’s] Dream reborn.  [God] desired to mark this moment eternally, as a sign to all creation that hope is more real and permanent than despair.  [God] shone [this] perfect , invisible light–the light of joy–through all the tears that would ever flow out of human grief and suffering.  That invisible light was broken down, through our tears, into all the colours of the rainbow.  And God stretched the rainbow across the heavens, so that we might never forget the promise that holds all creation in being.  This is the promise that life and joy are the permanent reality, like the blue of the sky, and that all the roadblocks we encounter are like the clouds–black and threatening perhaps, but never the final word.  Because the final word is always “Yes”!  (Margaret Silf, in Sacred Spaces:  Stations on a Celtic Way)

On this Lenten journey, look around. What holiness do you see?  Where do you see God in your midst?  What thresholds are you crossing in your life?  

Rath De ‘ort (Gaelic, pronounced Rah Day urt, “The Grace of God on you.”)

Shelli

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                  

At the Edge of the Rainbow

The Clifs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland
The Clifs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Scripture Passage:  Luke 3:21-22a

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.

What does it mean for the heavens to open, to somehow, whether literally or figuratively, come pouring into the earth?  When you read that, it’s a little hard to go back to the notion of the separation of the secular and the sacred.  No longer is God or whatever you think of heaven “out there”.  In some incredible, wonderful way, the Holy and the Sacred has poured into where we are.  All is sacred.

On this day when all who are Irish and all who become Irish for this day celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, I thought we’d go back and visit his roots a little bit.  As his story goes, he was born Maewyn Succat in Roman Britain in the late 4th century.  Captured by Irish raiders when he was sixteen, he lived as a slave in Ireland for six years before escaping.  He would later return to Ireland as a missionary until his death in 460 or 461 and by the 8th century would become the land’s patron saint.  St. Patrick is, of course, associated with what we describe as Celtic Christianity.  This is a branch of Christianity that was unique to these Irish people during the Early Middle Ages.  The Celtic Christians unapologetically embraced their Celtic and Druid roots and articulated them through their new Christian lenses, even making some of their Druid gods and goddesses Christian saints.  We’re not completely sure how these Christians even got to Ireland but they were firmly established there by the 2nd century.  One view is that the Galatian Christians to whom Paul wrote (the Galts) were part of those who then migrated to what is now Wales, Ireland, and Scotland after the Roman invasion and occupation.

Celtic Christianity always has had a sense of pilgrimage, of journeying.  They were always, as Deborah Cronin describes it, “a bit on the edge”.  I think that would describe their physical location as well as their religious belief system.  But I also think it is where they are spiritually.  You see, the Celtic understanding is that all things are sacred.  Just as the Scripture implies, they had this strong sense that the spiritual world does indeed spill into the material world.  They embrace the image as a “thin place”, a place and time where time matters not and the spirit world is very close, a place where one can almost feel it, almost reach out and touch what is holy and sacred.  Rock bridgeThese thin places, thresholds between what is and what will be, are crossing places between the world and the Divine.  They are embraced as places of growth, as places through which we journey from one place to another, one way of seeing to another, one way of being to another.  So what we think of as ordinary places become sacred and holy as the sacred spills through them onto us.  Bridges, gateways, and causeways reconnect what is divided and make them accessible to each other.   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.  And the rainbow?  If you remember, the ninth chapter of Genesis says that God set a bow in the clouds, a sign of the connection, the covenant, between God and the earth. 

Burial site of Owen Shannon (1762-1839), Old Methodist Cemetery, Montgomery, TX (my great-great-great-great grandfather)
Burial site of Owen Shannon (1762-1839), Old Methodist Cemetery, Montgomery, TX (my great-great-great-great grandfather)

It is a symbol of the promise that the Sacred and the Holy is not inaccessible or removed from us but has spilled into the earth.  Never again can we become separated or isolated; never again can we close ourselves off and not move forward.

And for us?  We are always standing at the edge of the rainbow, the edge of the Sacred and the Holy.  God is in our midst and everything is Sacred.  The mundane and the ordinary is marked by God’s fingerprints and have become extraordinary.  This Lenten season is a journey of transformation.  We are moving from one way of being to another, from that mountaintop to Jerusalem, from life to death and life beyond.  And along the way are thresholds that we traverse.  We are always at the edge of the rainbow.  We just have to open ourselves to the sacredness that everything holds.  God is in our midst. Heaven has opened and has spilled into the earth.  Everywhere we walk is holy ground.

God rejoiced to see [God’s] Dream reborn.  [God] desired to mark this moment eternally, as a sign to all creation that hope is more real and permanent than despair.  [God] shone [this] perfect , invisible light–the light of joy–through all the tears that would ever flow out of human grief and suffering.  That invisible light was broken down, through our tears, into all the colours of the rainbow.  And God stretched the rainbow across the heavens, so that we might never forget the promise that holds all creation in being.  This is the promise that life and joy are the permanent reality, like the blue of the sky, and that all the roadblocks we encounter are like the clouds–black and threatening perhaps, but never the final word.  Because the final word is always “Yes”!  (Margaret Silf, in Sacred Spaces:  Stations on a Celtic Way)

On this Lenten journey, look around. What holiness do you see?  Where do you see God in your midst?

Rath De ‘ort (Gaelic, pronounced Rah Day urt, “The Grace of God on you.”)

Shelli

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                  

Getting to a Thin Place



The Celtic Spiral

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I do not know of any true Irish blood in my family but my hodge-podge geneaology includes enough of the British Isles to at leaast come close.  So I have donned my green and I’m set for the day!
St. Patrick was said to have been born Maewyn Succat (Lat. Magonus Succetus) in Roman Britain (Scotland) around the year 387.  As the story goes, 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 the patron saint of Ireland.

In this season of Lent, we are called to do our own returning.  Part of Lent is about returning to your source, to that from whence you came.  It is our season of returning to God, letting go of all the baggage that we’ve stacked up along the way, and beginning again.  Lent is about relearning to travel light.  Celtic spirituality is based primarily on pilgrimage.  Life, in this understanding, is about growing and moving and not “pitching our tent” in one place too long.  It is about connecting with all of Creation.  It is about connecting with God.  It is about recognizing the transcendent, those places where one meets God in his or her life.  In Celtic Spirituality, they are called “thin places”, those places where the spiritual spills into the material, where time and space are one, those places where we feel so connected to God, to our source, that the eternal is there for the taking.  It is those places that are in this life and in this world where one has the sense that one hears the harps eternal just over the not-too-distant hill.  It carries an understanding that all in life is sacred, that all in life is of God; we just have to return with new eyes and new ears and a new heart to see it.  Lent calls us to find our own thin places.  They are not the places where God exists but rather the places where we can finally sense the Presence of the One who is everywhere.

Legend credits St. Patrick for banishing all of the snakes from Ireland.  It is interesting to note, though, that evidence suggests that post-glacial Ireland never really had any snakes.  Perhaps it was an account of Patrick’s influence in the doing away with the belief in serpents that were so common in Druid belief.  Or perhaps it is a reminder to us what a life of true faith, a life of singular devotion to God, can mean.  When one returns to his or her source, when one finds that place where one knows God and senses the God who is all things and everywhere, all those things that haunt us, all those things that perch around corners and strike unexpectedly, all those things in life that we try to avoid, try not to step on, finally do not matter.  It is said that Patrick feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God.

So, in this Lenten journey, may you find your thin place.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left,…
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today the strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity,
The Creator of the Universe.  
(From The Prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate, supposedly composed by him in preparation for victory over Paganism.)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli