St Anne’s Reel

Saint Anne’s Reel is usually attributed to the great Quebecois fiddler Joseph Allard, the master who taught Jean Carignan.

 

Here is a very nice rendition of it:

youtube.com/watch?v=Rq-4oQHGq2…mbedded#!

 

St. Anne, the mother of Jesus, is not mentioned in the biblical canon at all, but first appears in 2nd century apocryphal literature. The French were the first people of western Europe to venerate her, around the 13th Century.  In the 17th Century, the French brought their unique devotion to St. Anne with them to the New World.  In 1658, a chapel was built about thirty miles northeast of Quebec City along the St. Lawrence River, called St. Anne-de Beaupre.  Over the centuries, the site grew into one of the most popular Catholic shrines in the world.  In 1922, a huge basilica was built on the site of the original chapel, which still stands today.  Joseph Allard, the composer of St. Anne’s Reel, was from Chateauquay, Quebec, not far from the shrine.

 

Being of Shetland descent, I rather prefer the legend that the seed idea for this reel came from the reel players of the Shetland Islands, as it is also known as the Shetland Reel in some circles. But that’s just me…

 

 

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The Celt’s Spiritual Journey — God as Traveling Companion

The God of Celtic Christianity is not a distant, rarefied icon, but gets His feet muddy and clothes wet along the same journey. He appears in the Celtic prayers as the understanding traveling companion, sharer of joys and hardships, the other side of a conversation between friends.  He is an intimate and confidante, close to and rather like the speaker, but a stronger, braver version, the one of the partnership who will step in, armed and defiant, to protect the speaker in an awkward moment.  There are those moments when the two are not side by side and the companion is less present, such as when the elements upon which the speaker is dependant for crops or travel are uncooperative, but they are rare.  There is also another beautiful sense in which the speaker or traveler is accompanied at all times by, not just one, but by the three companions of the Trinity–safety in numbers for the weary traveler!–

God be with thee in every pass,

Jesus be with thee on every hill,

Spirit be with thee on every stream,

Headland and ridge and lawn.

And again:

Be thine the compassing of the God of life,

Be thine the compassing of the Christ of love,

Be thine the compassing of the Spirit of Grace,

To befriend thee and to aid thee,

Thou beloved one of my heart.

God appears in every prayer as the Creator and “Lord of the Elements”: the Celtic way of prayer is never far from a sense of connectedness with the earth and a mutual nurturing that goes on between the earth and the traveler.  The intense physicality of the Celtic understanding of the Incarnation is essential to our appreciation of the importance of the body to the Celtic mind.  The Celtic Christian celebrates every cell of the physical being: the body is to be protected and cherished as a reflection of the Holy Trinity, and it is the piece of us that reflects the fully incarnated Christ. This feature of Celtic Christian theology serves to undo the Augustinian and Cartesian separation of body and spirit that was done to the utter detriment of body. Body regains its importance here as the beloved vessel of the Incarnation: “space, a sacred space, in which God dwells.”

The journey here is never into the detached self, possibly a concern of the seasoned contemplative; it is always, to the Celtic sensibility, aimed at relationship within the corporate whole–the village, the monastery, the Body of Christ. The question that gains the ascendance here is whether the Celtic Christian is growing in his ability to give and receive love in those relationships.

 

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The Celt’s Spiritual Journey — Peregrinatio

The spiritual journey of the Celt, as Esther de Waal reminds us, is captured in the term “peregrinatio” meaning search, quest, adventure. The Latin holds further riches: this journey is not linear, a complication suggested by the repeated sound at the start of the word–we are likely to cover the same ground more than once, whether by chance or by design–it is a wandering, in which the goal is uncertain and it is also, perhaps, an exile.  We are experiencing a leaving-behind, likely more than once, where footing that had once seemed firm has become unstable, and we must keep moving for our spiritual survival.

“Peregrinatio” is a state of being in which, however, the uncertainty of the goal does not presuppose the failure of the task: the journey IS the task and the Celt will find his God with him in many different forms and in many different places as he travels if he should but choose to notice.  The odd thing about the term is that we are almost more motivated by the things that have happened to us, by those things that have moved us on, than we are by the quest for God: the Celt finds God already present, in every detail, every action, in every piece of time, but the ground is crumbling behind him at every footfall–the only way is forward, and it may be hard to find a place to rest.

Of course, for the contemplative, the journey is an interior one. The journey is not so much a quest for God as a journey to our place of resurrection, to the new heaven and new earth of the true self.  For the Centering Prayer version of the contemplative, this is entirely in keeping with the true self that Thomas Keating urges us to seek in Christian meditation; the true self is what remains when the distractions of ego and indoctrination are let go–the Christ self, God’s image within is free to emerge. The Celt is much more accepting and forgiving of what is, I think. God’s image is there for the finding in every small detail–He is the God of small things.  We can purge and refine if we want to, but the Celt finds God in the imperfections. Far more important to the Celt than the perfected spirit is the propensity to love.  Refinement has its place as a tool to find “the stillness at the center” but to love and engage is far and away more preferable to living in rarefied detachment.

 

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The Silence of Angels and Men

Or, Reasons I Do Centering Prayer

 “You will feed with pleasure upon everything that is His.  So that the world shall be a grand Jewel of Delight unto you: a very Paradise and the Gate of Heaven.  It is indeed the beautiful frontispiece of Eternity: the Temple of God, and Palace of His children. The Laws of God…command you to love all that is good, and when you see it well, you enjoy what you love … They command you to love all Angels and Men.  They command all Angels and Men to love you” (Thomas Traherne, Centuries).

            Centering Prayer is a form of silent contemplative prayer that allows us to rest in the silence at our center where God resides.  We use a “sacred word” of our choice – something like “God,” “Jesus,” “Trust,” “Peace,” “Yes”; mine is “Agape,” Greek for “divine love” – to bring the mind back to silence when questioning, busy minds start to make noise. The sacred word symbolizes your consent to God’s grace and action in your life as you seek the place of safety and silent intimacy with Him that is at the center of every one of us.

Silence at the Center

             As Christians, we believe that the piece of God, the part of the Trinity that lives and acts in every single one of our souls, is the Holy Spirit.  Our souls are the part of us that are most like God, and it’s our souls that with continual measures of faith, hope, and charity in our mundane lives will gradually become more and more Christ-like.  Indeed, the attempt to become like Christ is at the heart of all serious Christian endeavor: who hasn’t at some time wished they had just one tiny piece of Jesus’ compassion, patience, or resilience?   Galatians 2:20 suggests our potential for identification with Christ:  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  In 1 John 3:2:  “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,” we see again our capacity to be Christ-like.  Doctrinal teaching and the examples of great Christians before us tell us that acts of piety – prayer, fasting, study, action – help refine us and encourage this process of transformation.

             While I fully appreciate and practice transformation through the spiritual disciplines (and, thus, my own action) – and while it speaks to my head – my heart still craves direct, passive experience of God’s own action in my life.  I can say with certainty that seeking God in the silence at my center has made me more open to and aware of God’s presence and action in my life and in the world around me.  I have a greater sense of connection with things and of my place in God’s universe; the glimpse of an ecstatic sense captured by Thomas Traherne, writing in 1662, “You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars.”  

            In 1997, Arundhati Roy wrote a book with the title “The God of Small Things.”  Centering Prayer helps me to find, and to see well, a bountiful God in the detail of daily living; in the curve of my daughter’s face, in the symmetry of an insect or leaf, in the smell of sage at dusk.  So that while, in this moment, God is transforming me, He is also transforming every part of my environment into Christ.  Christ’s face becomes everywhere and ever present.  The regular practice of contemplation or meditation is training me to listen beyond the noise of me to something other.  To a voice or presence of infinite calm, infinite love, and boundless peace.  To rest in that presence, even if only for the most fleeting instant, is to accept God’s eternal offer of profound relationship from his innermost dwelling place within you.

            I know that the place I come closest to knowing and experiencing the part of God, His Holy Spirit, that lives and acts in me, is in this place of silence.  I know that God works to transform me from the outside in but also, profoundly, from the inside out.  By dwelling for a while in the darkest recesses of me, and by waiting for God in that place, I know I will find Him, and that, when I do, He’ll gently remind me He was there all along.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;

my God, in whom I trust.”  (from Psalm 91)

 

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Dame Gertrude More — The Second Confession

THE SECOND CONFESSION

 ” Omnis ex vobis qui non renuntiat omnibus, quae possidet, non potest meus esse discipulus. Qui habet aures audiendi,audiat”- (” Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be My disciple. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear “).

 LUKE xiv. 33, 35.

 These are Thy words, my Lord, which, though they seem hard at first, yet, being unfolded to our souls by Thee, they become most easy, and sweet to perform. Teach me therefore, my God, I beseech Thee for Thy mercy’s sake teach me, I say, how I shall perform this to the glory of Thy Holy Name. Thou hast inflamed my heart, as Thou knowest, with such a continual desire and longing after Thee, that it seemeth easy to me to perform whatsoever is exacted by Thee. For though I be frail above all I can express or imagine, yet I am confident in Thee, by whose help and power it is possible to do all that it pleaseth Thee to exact of me.

Teach me to do Thy will, because Thou art my God. Let me love Thee, because to lack Thy love is a most grievous affliction to me. Far is it from me, as Thou knowest, to have a divided heart towards Thee. Is it possible that, having but one soul and heart, I should bestow any of the affections they are capable of on any thing but Thee? Oh, far be this from me! Nothing that could happen to my soul would so afflict and discomfort me as to see it adhere to any created thing, or to its very self, willingly, to the impediment of my being wholly possessed by Thee.

Make me as Thou wouldst have me, that I may, as Thou exactest, praise Thee. This shall be my study, my care, and all my endeavour to sing in my heart songs of love to Thee Who art only desired and sought after by me. In Thy praise only I am happy, in this my joy I will exult with all that love Thee. For what can be a comfort to me, while I live separated from Thee, but only to remember that my God, Who is more mine than I am my own, is absolutely and infinitely happy? Oh, let this Thy love wholly transform me into itself, that I may become insensible to all created things whatsoever; let me be wholly possessed by Thee, Who by so many titles layeth claim to me.

Can I say or think that anything is worthy of love but Thee? Oh no; but if I had ten thousand hearts, all were too little to bestow upon Thee. Shall I any more be so miserable as, by loving, having, adhering to, or desiring any created thing, to become estranged from Thee, in Whom I have placed all my hope, love, and desire? I have indeed chosen Thee for my only love, light, hope, comfort, refuge, delight, and whatsoever else can be desired or imagined. But it was not of my self, but Thy mercy and goodness that compelled me, even whether I would or no, by sending me the means to know how to serve Thee, and withal by giving me the grace of loathing all that was not to be a help to me.

Oh! these Thy mercies, when I recount them before Thee, even deprive me of my very senses to see Thee to have been so good and merciful to her who, as it is made plain to me by Thee, hath offended and been more ungrateful to Thee than any I did either see or hear of. Shall not I, therefore, humble my soul before Thee, and at the feet of all for love of Thee, Who hath been thus tender of her good, who of all Thine is the last and least and most contemptible? This being so apparent to me, I will yet more and more humble myself by desiring to be despised by all, for Thy honour and glory.

Thus, my Lord, may dust and ashes presume to speak unto Thee, and sitting alone, I read what I write of Thee, and calling to mind what Thou hast done for me, I rejoice in the multitude of Thy mercy. For nothing can be discovered of what I here write for my comfort, and while I am banished from Him in nothing will I rest, for nothing can satiate me till I may enjoy Him as He is in Himself. Yet, as I say, it causeth me grief for having offended Thee, and of being thus remote from my beginning, to which most ardently I long to return as pure as when I was created by Thee. My speaking thus to Thee in all my misery none, therefore, can wonder at. For as one desiring the presence of her Beloved, and expecting when it shall be, can take no comfort till she see the One whom she so much desireth in the meanwhile spending her time, some times with thinking that this joy will shortly be to her, and sometimes being wearied with long expectations so she employeth herself in something which may a little recreate her heart, while thus with her it must be; and above all it is a pleasure to her to hear of Him Whom she cannot yet see.

Thus, O Lord, it passeth even in that love which will and deserveth to pass, which none deserveth but Thou. And there is no comparison able to express the love which is between a faithful soul and Thee. For the more we love Thee, the more pure and quiet becometh the soul by this Thy heavenly charity. Whereas, alas! it fareth far otherwise with us when we love anything out of Thee, and which is an impediment to Thy love. This misery before Thee, in the bitterness of my soul, I bemoan. Thou having made our soul so capable of Thy Divine love, and so able to have relation in all to Thee, it is an ingratitude able to astonish me that we should cast away our love upon that which is so little able to satisfy our soul, and whereof there is as little certainty as there is of the wind. Yea, even in a moment we lose the favour and opinion of one upon whom we have bestowed much time in winning it.

O folly, be thou henceforth far from me! Let that infinite and desirable freedom of my will pour itself out wholly upon Thee, that at last I may become perfectly united to Thy Divine Majesty. Oh, how little worth, when I am with Thee, is the desire of the praise, applause, and commendation of men, who are now of one mind and now of another, nothing being permanent under the sun! Verily, when in Thy light I see this truth, it seemeth to me to be an intolerable burden to be esteemed and praised by men, whose favour often maketh us incur Thy displeasure at least, my frailty causeth this effect in my case. Help me, therefore, and make me by all to become truly humble and pleasing to Thee.

Be Thou adored, Three and One for all eternity, to Thy infinite glory. Amen.

*****

Infinite,

It is so hard to let go of everything we have achieved in this world, to give everything away and follow you. We spend a lifetime seeking recognition; told from so young that success is a good and necessary thing. But everything was always yours: the accolade, the harvest, such as it was, was never mine to keep. But it really did feel good in the moment and left me wanting more. Aren’t I meant to act in the world, to build Jerusalem here in this place? Doesn’t the praise of good people matter?

When my free will is bound with yours; when my will is moved by your purpose in the world, not mine; then, and only then, I can act to your glory. There is no other goal than yours worth my attention. This is a unity I crave with you; that with common purpose, I can be an instrument of your sacred magic in this place.

Teach me to recognize the difference between my needs and yours. I am so easily misled, by my own restless mind. Pour me out, and fill that void with you. I started this life so capable of your love—find me again, and I will so run to you.

Amen.

*****

 

 

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Dame Gertrude More — The First Confession

THE FIRST CONFESSION

My Lord, we often read in our Office of the Breviary that those that forsake all for Thy sake shall receive a hundredfold in this life and life everlasting in the next. This we read and hear; this was spoken by Thy own mouth, and therefore of the truth thereof we cannot doubt, nor in the hope thereof can we be deceived, presupposing that we on our part be not wanting in that which is necessary to the performance of what Thou exactest.

But tell me, I beseech Thee, my God tell me, I say, for Thy own sake, what is it that Thou exactest of them who shall obtain this Thy promise? For I see many leave their parents, friends, acquaintances, their fortunes, their rich possessions, country and all, and yet is it plain that they find not this hundredfold in this life, which is the forerunner of the everlasting life in the world to come. For I see their state is a burden to them, and the obligations of obedience and religious observance are esteemed by them a great servitude and burden.

What is the meaning of this, my Lord? Shall I doubt that those who resolutely and willingly forsake all the world for Thee would stick at forsaking themselves also, seeing that, by forsaking and denying themselves, they should find Thee in a most particular manner in their souls? Is such forsaking of ourselves to be accounted a losing of ourselves? Oh no! but it is a most sweet and happy exchange to leave our own wills to perform Thine; to be subject for Thee to every living creature is not a burden, but the greatest liberty in this world.

But, alas! my God, the reason why we find Thy yoke a burden is because we bear it not with Thee, by which only it is to be made an easy yoke. If souls who have actually forsaken the world, and in desire themselves also (which most coming into religion are desirous to do), were but put into some course between Thee and their souls by those who had the care of them or authority over them, they would not, as they do, fly back from their first intention, but would every day more and more, by conversing with Thee, get more light to know Thy will and strength to perform it.

But these souls, being ignorant how to converse with Thee, and how in all things to have relation to Thee, Thy yoke becomes more and more burdensome to them, and every day they fall into new difficulties and inconveniences, and are in danger at last to fall into open rebellion against their lawful superiors, and some of them admit of strange friendships, a thing which is worthy to be bewailed with tears of blood. Alas that hearts capable of Thy love, and by profession consecrated thereunto, should so miserably lose themselves in pouring out themselves to those from whom no true comfort can be found or had!

O Lord, remove these impediments from those who are Thine by so many titles; let them know Thee and know of Thee, that they may love nothing but Thee; and let them love Thee, that they may know themselves and their own weakness, and also Thy power and majesty. O my Lord, how infinitely is my soul bound to praise and love Thee, since by means of a faithful servant of Thine I have been instructed in Thy law, and taught how to have in all things relation to Thee, my only Beloved. By this means all crosses, miseries, pains, disgraces, temptations, are most tolerable to me, for having Thee so present to me may speak or write to Thee, by Whom (though I am contemptible in the eyes, as I justly deserve to be, of all the world) I am not yet despised or neglected; for which infinite mercy all praise and honour be given to Thee.

Oh! when shall I be grateful to Thee ? Or what shall I render for all Thou bestowest on me? I have nothing but a heart desirous to love and praise Thee, but ability to do either, alas, my God! it is wanting to me. Oh that all love might be wholly converted to Thee! At least let those who have dedicated themselves to Thee cease to desire anything out of Thee. Send them means to know how sweet it is to have no friend but Thee, and to be neglected by all but Thy sweet mercy.

Oh, can that soul that loves her God

For very shame complain

To any other than Himself

Of what she doth sustain!

No way to her was ever found,

Nor ever shall there be,

But taking up Thy Cross, my Lord,

Thereby to follow Thee.

This is the Way, the Truth, the Life,

Which leadeth unto Heaven;

None is secure but only this

Though seeming ne’er so even.

Those that do walk this happy path

Jesus doth company;

But those who go another way

Will err most miserably.

And in this way do not think much,

That thou dost much endure;

No, though it be from holy men;

For God doth this procure,

That thou mayst seek Himself alone,

And put thy trust in Him,

And not in any creature living,

How good soe’er they seem.

For suffering by the means of th’ill

Will little thee advance;

But to be censur’d by the good,

Goes near to thee perchance.

Alas ! we show but little love

If we must choose which way

Our Lord must try our love to Him,

And not in all obey.

We must submit ourselves to Him

And be of cheerful heart,

For He expecteth much of them

Who be of Mary’s part.

For she must bear a censure hard

From all without exception;

But Thou, O Lord, wilt her excuse,

Who art her soul’s election.

If she will patiently sustain

And be to Thee attent,

Thou favourably will judge of her,

Who know’st her heart’s intent.

For all but Thou, as well she sees,

May err concerning her;

They only judge as they conceive,

But Thou canst never err.

 

Complain not, therefore, loving soul,

If thou wilt be of those

Who love their God more than themselves,

And Mary’s part have chose.

If all thou dost be taken ill

By those of high perfection,

And further if thou be accus’d

To be of some great faction,

 

Our Lord will answer all for thee,

If thou wilt hold thy peace,

And from contention and complaints

Wilt patiently surcease,

Leaving all care unto thy God.

And only Him intend;

Yet what is ill reform in thee,

And this will all amend.

As far as He doth think it good,

Who is most just and wise,

He will thee by afflictions purge

From what displease His eyes.

Wilt thou of all that love thy God

From suff’ring be exempt?

Oh no, but bless, as others do

Thy God, and live content.

Amidst the various accidents,

That do to thee befall,

Commit thyself and all to God,

Who seeks our good in all.

Thyself art blind, and cannot judge

What is the best for thee;

But He doth pierce into all things,

How hid soe’er they be.

My heart shall only this desire,

That Thou my Lord dispose,

E’en as Thou pleasest in all things,

Till these mine eyes Thou close

By death, which I so much desire,

Because it will procure

Me to enjoy my God, my all,

Where I shall be secure

That none from me can take my Lord;

But for eternity

I shall enjoy my only good,

And to Him ever be

United by a knot of love,

Which nothing shall untie,

But will remain as permanent

As His Divinity.

O happy hour, when wilt thou come,

And set my spirit free,

That I may love and praise my God

For perpetuity,

Contemplating His glorious face,

With all that Him adore,

Singing with them His sweetest praise

For ever ever more?

In this is such great comfort and peace that well may the soul be termed to receive a hundredfold in this life who despiseth herself and all other things that she may find Thee. Oh, how free is such a soul to fly with the wings of love to the throne of Thy Divine Majesty! Never was there, or can there be imagined, such a love as between a humble soul and Thee. Who can express what passeth between such a soul and Thee? Verily neither man nor Angel is able to do it sufficiently, and the more such a soul knows of Thee, the more sound becometh her humility. This Thyself only can teach one perfectly, and it is impossible to get it in truth and perfection but by conversing with Thee.

O my God, bestow this heavenly gift on me, which only findeth favour before Thee! Those that possess it are able in and by Thee to bear all things, to understand all things, as far as it is necessary for them. For one learneth more in prayer of Thee in one hour than all creatures in the world could teach one in fifty years; for that which Thou teachest is sound, solid, and secure, because it tends to nothing but to love Thee and neglect oneself. Thy words bring force and strength in themselves; Thy words are words of peace to the soul; Thy words are not like the words of men, which pass as a sound through the air, but Thine pierce the very bottom of our souls.

Let me hearken therefore to Thee, Who speaketh love and most certain truth. The wisdom of the world is foolishness before Thee, but Thy wisdom is much to be desired, and for it willingly ought we to give all our substance; to it we ought to be espoused; and by it, if we will be happy, all our actions ought to be governed.

Although Thou didst say that unless we become as little children we could not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, yet withal Thou hast said that we ought to be as wise as serpents and simple as doves; that is, that we should be wise before we be simple, and not place simplicity before wisdom; whereof I ask Thee the reason, O my Lord, with all the humility I am able, for it seems to me that therein, as in all Thy words, there is a hidden mystery.

Tell me, I say, my God (of Whom in all cases and doubts I ask solution, and many times by it Thou dost make many things manifest to my simplicity) tell me, I say, what was the reason? Verily it seems to me that Thou biddest us be wise before we become simple, because that only is true simplicity which followeth true wisdom. For we cannot become truly simplified in our soul but by Thy heavenly gift of true wisdom; for there is a simplicity which is without wisdom and discretion which little availeth unto perfection.

This virtue of simplicity becometh more and more perfect in the soul as she increaseth in humility and charity; yet at the very beginning of our conversion this is in some sort practised by us, if we do as we ought to do as, for example, to become pleasing to Thee it is absolutely necessary that a soul walk simply and sincerely before Thee and all men, and read and hear, obey and perform all in a simple and humble manner, not searching into that which belongeth not unto her. This, I say, Thou dost exact, for nothing is more odious to Thee than the contrary practice. But yet this doth not diminish our natural reason, but maketh it more clear and able to comprehend what is necessary for us. This virtue also, therefore, bestow upon me, who even naturally (as Thou well knowest) did ever above all things hate dissembling and dissimulation.

O Lord, poor as I am and most sinful, Thou seest how I thus presume to speak unto Thee. But easily shall I obtain pardon of Thee, because Thou overflowest with the abundance of Thy mercy, for which glory, praise, adoration be to Thee, Who art my Lord and my God, and only desired by me. I have no friend to speak or treat with but Thee, and some of Thy Saints to whom Thou hast given charge of me and to whom I fly when my sins affright me, amongst whom next after Thy dear Mother, the Queen of Mercy, is my beloved St. Augustine.  

O glorious Saint, whose heart did burn

And flame with love Divine,

Remember me, most sinful wretch,

Who starv’d doth sorely pine

For want of that which thou enjoyest

In such abundant measure,

It is my God that I do mean,

My joy and all my treasure.

Thy words, O Saint, are truly sweet,

Because thou dost address

Them unto Him Who’s only meet

Our mis’ries to redress.

At the intercession of these Saints much hast Thou done for me.  Honour them, my Lord, for me, who am so poor that I have nothing to present them or Thee, only a desire of being grateful to Thee. Be Thou by all eternally praised. Amen.

*****

Infinite,

We each search for you with our body and soul, knowing that a life with you demands obedience, poverty, and chastity in all things, including the desire for knowledge. So much of your truth lies at the intersection of two or more realities, clothed in contradiction and paradox.  We strive to know you, and to stay humble on the journey, but we have from you, Eternal, minds that crave, and fear, and crave again the hidden mysteries of the universe. Remind us that the more we know, the more there is to know, and so keep us humble and full of wonder.

It’s so easy to put trust in the wrong place. I will rely on your answers only, Infinite, and will find you in the luminal place between silent prayer and benediction. If I have the strength to listen; if I can, through unforced concentration, find the peace where you are, there will, in that moment out of time, be grace.

Amen.

*****

 

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The Jacamar Door

I have had, for a long time, a fascination with St Anne, the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus.  She has many roles in Christian tradition: amongst them, she is patron saint and protectress of horses, horsemen, horsewomen, stablemen, and horse-breeding; of mothers, homemakers, pregnant women (especially those in labor), childless people; cabinetmakers, carpenters, and miners.  Her horse connection probably comes from her association with the Pan-Celtic Great Mother Goddess in various forms, especially those of Anu, Ana, and Anand.

It was only recently, though, that I found she is also the patron saint of doors.  I imagine this is due primarily to her association with childbirth, but as I looked more closely, each of her associations — childbirth, stablemen, horse-breeding, cabinetry, mining — has something to do with the movement from containment to a place of light, or new beginning.

I chose the title “Jacamar Door” for this because it is a image of new beginning that forms me on a daily basis.  The Great Jacamar is a bird that lays its eggs in what is ostensibly a hostile environment — inside termites’ nests.  The termites seal in the eggs and enter into a strange symbiotic relationship with them: one in which some eggs are lost — the unwitting guests are eaten by their host — and some are allowed to develop.  When the eggs remaining are ready to hatch, the Jacamar returns to the termite nest, breaking a doorway into it, whereupon the new young birds are released from the dark into a new world of light and freedom.

This seems to me a fitting symbol for our lives of spirit in this beautiful world, that can be at once so kind to us and yet so intolerably cruel.  There will be suffering; there will be unconscionable loss; but there will also be the nurture, love, freedom, and release of a life lived in Christ.

May Christ and St Anne bless you, and be with you, on your journeys into the light.

–Sorche

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