So it brings us to the time of year where Christians debate over whether it’s appropriate/proper/holy/unspiritual etc. to participate in the activities around the American celebration of Halloween. My friend, Tom Davis, got quite a few all riled up here on his blog. Definitely worth the read to see how many varying and polar-opposite opinions there are on the matter. In my humble opinion, given the history of Samhain in Celtic Ireland, it was one of many things that St. Patrick helped redeem for the people of Ireland away from their fearful world of superstition and towards the worship and understanding of the Creator God. It became associated with understanding the transition from life to death and with harvest moving toward winter. It was a means to mark the rythymn of the year with the natural transitions of mortal life. I quite believe that the practices of Halloween in their present form are neutral, it is the intent and object of affection for the celebrant as to what gives it meaning. From a Kingdom of God perspective, we fear not death, occult, evil, demonic, hate, cultic history etc. We are people of life, hope, redemption and resurrection. Everything we touch in this world can be shaped by the One who shapes us. Christians have zero issue with the fact that Christmas was redeemed from the pagan origins of Winter Solstice, but Halloween seems to have hung on as an enemy even though the history is similar. Putting all that aside, I was reflecting on a kind of Jack-o-lantern spirituality. The process of being cut open, cleaning out the guts, getting rid of the parts that would smell and decay, carving something beautiful out of something ordinary, and letting it be a lamp of revealed light. This light is not to scare away evil spirits in their transition to the other world, but to reveal the handiwork of its creator. Is this not a picture of spiritual transformation? Allowing our hard exteriors to be penetrated by the Spirit of the one who wants to make us new. Cleaning out the decay within us that clearly gets in the way of any light coming out of us. Having our external life/habits be changed and transformed into something beneficial to our world. To be carved into something beautiful, somethng creative, something that adds life and illumination to our world. This light welcomes the darkness, it doesn’t fear it. It exsits for the very reason to shine where there is no shine. We as jack-o-lanterns are a reflection of the handiwork of our Creator, if we just let Him do so.
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” – John 1:3-5
Wherever this issue leaves you, peace to your celebration,Marshall
Celtic Daily Prayer, April 22, Aidan Reading:
“We are all very subject to seasons; yet these seasons are there to make us eventually seasonless. There is only one way you are ever going to learn to triumph over all seasons, and that is to go through each and every season . . . many times. When you can reckon the sound of abundant rain and the hot blowing of a dry spell exactly the same, then you will be nearing the land of maturity.”
To make us eventually seasonless . . . wow. I like that. That doesn’t come natural to this empassioned irishman, but I sure see the wisdom in it. Typically, our approach in life is to avoid pain, suffering and all sorts of unpleasantries so that we can experience status quo or increased pleasure. Rarely do we ground our experiences in the context of ongoing maturity. That makes everything a teachable lesson and not something to rush through or avoid for personal safety. Ultimately, I follow Jesus because I believe his ways and his Kingdom are leading me back to the place I was always meant to be. It is a pursuit of becoming more fully human, becoming the human I was always meant to be. To do that, involves a process of “becoming mature” or “complete” as the apostle Paul put it. this doesn’t happen overnight, this is my life’s work in all seasons. That there come a day where my reaction and response to abundance and dry times is the same, all who know me will assuredly say that it’s not Chris, but Christ. peace,marshall
Today’s Aidan reading from Celtic Daily Prayer re: St. Columba’s residence in Iona Community:
“The days were filled with prayer, study and manual labor . . . In dairy, granary, or in the fields, each worshipped God in his appointed task, and made his toil a sacramental thing . . . The secret of the early Celts lay in this, that they linked sacrament with service, altar with hearth, worship with work.” – F. M. McNeil/Troup
Wow, I’m a fan of this kind of thinking. I am as guilty as the next person of having a bad attitude re: work. I worked in vocational forms of ministry for about 10 years before somewhat firing myself for a life of being bi-vocational in ministry. I just couldn’t stomach the focus on $ for church buildings and staff salaries when the needs were so great in the larger community around us. I struggled for years with this shift internally, feeling that I had lost a huge part of my identity, of who I was. Now I see all and any kind of work somewhat wholistically. No separation of sacred and secular. All work can be sacrament, that is sacred, holy, meaningful and done unto our Creator. We may struggle with work structures, culture, organizational management, pressures, over-bearing coworkers, lack of respect, sense of being dehumanized etc. But no matter the context, the desire to make work sacramenet I think is up to us. I have longed believed that hard work is good for the soul. I was in a meeting this week with a room full of life coaches, corportate speakers, HR consultants, inspirational cheerleaders, job seeking gurus etc. It was all about them wanting to work with my clients to help them find fulfillment in their work etc. There is some merit to this kind of coaching, but I really struggle with the premise. I do not believe you look to work to find meaning, meaning is found within. You have a life for meaning, you work to work . Meaning is in relationships, work is for provision. I believe the curse to man going back to the Garden of Eden that he will toil the land all his days is still a part of this broken world. Women face pain in childbirth as a part of this curse and anyone (male or female) who are working to provide, will find work hard. Work is supposed to feel like work and the sweat of our brow can be a holy thing. Work as sacrament, sacred and holy, it’s what we choose to make it. peace,marshall
I daily use Celtic Daily Prayer from Northumbria Community. It is a monastic community on the north shore of England bordering Scotland. I stayed there on a personal retreat a few years ago and it continues to have a hold on my thinking and my living. They organized a prayer book and I’m a pretty big fan. I have long been interested in Celtic Christianity and the legacy of St. Patrick. I would say St. Patrick has influenced my spirituality as much as the Apostles. It must be the Irish in me. I read this in Celtic Daily Prayer from today’s Aidan reading and it hit me between the eyes:
“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11) God can take events of the past and weave them so skillfully inot a new plan for us that not only do we find there is a future for us after all, but it is as if there have been no wasted years.”Christ Before MeHe forever goes before us to prepare a place for us. He is on the road we tread. Where life is leading us, He has gone before. Perhaps we have no clue about what lies ahead; we know who is ahead of us, so the future is not quite unknown. – David Adam, The Edge of Glory
peace to your future,marshall
Today is St. Brigid’s day after Brigid of Kildare. She is known for a “call to recklessness“, particularly in terms of her generosity and hospitality. Here is a description of her from Celtic Daily Prayer:
Many legends and few facts survive about this Irish woman who founded a community at Kildare, primarily for women. She was famed for her generosity and hospitality, and her influence was widespread; but she remained eminently practical.
I live in America which means ask the common person on the street what the great perception of those who claim to be Christian is and most likely not in the top 100 are the words generosity or hospitality. (of course that’s a generalization based on the person’s experiences, but I would wager its decently accurate) Perhaps words like self-righteous, judgmental, greedy, immoral, close-minded etc. may make that top 100 list. Whether the perception is based on micro experiences (local church, interactions with Christians, spiritual history) or macro observations (fantastic media reports, the folks on the tele etc.) the perception may be reality or atleast perceived. The point is that our micro and macro messages hardly reflect the one we claim to follow. So what is getting in the way? Surely at least our broken humanity for starters and the list can go on from there. My reflection today is that I want to be known as being recklessly generous and hospitable to both strangers and friends. Thanks, St. Brigid for the reminder. Here is just a portion of the Celtic Blessing for the day of St. Brigid for our homes:
For love of Him we offer friendship and welcome every guest.Lord, kindle in my heart a flame of love to my neighbour,to my enemies, my friends, my kindred all,from the lowliest thing that liveth to the name that is highest of all.I would welcome the poor and honour them.I would welcome the sick in the presence of angelsand ask God to bless and embrace us all.Seeing a stranger approach I would put food in the eating place,drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place,and look with joy for the blessing of God, who often comes to my home in the blessing of a stranger.