About Bridges

Wherever I walk or happen to be, anything may beckon me to take a picture. Sunrises and sunsets still catch my eye but lately, trails, pathways and bridges call to me. I began to ponder why I was so attracted to these images. The answer came quickly and with certainty. During my student life, papers, exams, not even intense discussions with peers compare to my life as I am experiencing it now. Now, is real. Everything before was a rehearsal without costumes on an empty stage. All the studying, discussions and reflections have not prepared me for the real life I live now. I am on bridges over uncertain terrain in between boundaries headed toward the unknown region in myself.

Carolyn Myss in her meditations in Entering the Castle ,Entering the Castle inspired by Teresa of Ávila begins with the Entry Prayer
The Interior Castle“I cross the bridge into the silent bliss of my Castle. I close the drawbridge and forbid all outside influences from entry into this holy place that is my soul. Here in my Castle, I am alone with God. Under God’s light and companionship I discover the depth and beauty of my soul. I embrace the power of prayer. I open myself to divine guidance. I surrender myself to become as a channel for grace” Teresa of Ávila reveled to her community the inward journey of the soul. Carolyn Myss takes a closer look at this journey in Entering the Castle, the journey one takes to be closer to the Divine in our innermost being.
Bridges allow us safe passage way over turbulent waters, deep chasms, and rough terrain toward new places.
vcm_s_kf_m160_160x120 While living in the East Bay area I delighted taking pictures of the Golden Gate while my husband drove over the bridge.

Several years later, in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Bay BridgeI was doing the driving and taking the pictures. Bridges serve as crossovers between boundaries. Take the beautiful bridge over the Rio Grande linking the US and Mexico. HomePageTraffic Bridge

Bridges are also metaphors for crossing from one state of life to another one. Like the bridge between two countries allowing passage between the borders of two countries, a bridge serves as a passageway between one to another stage of life.
I am walking such bridges now. Though crossing the Golden Gate and the Tampa Bay Bridge was always an exciting experience the ones I “walk” now are arduous over uncertain and unfamiliar terrain. I take comfort in the seemingly trivial account of Jacob passing over the Jabbok, a river, the first border leading to Canaan in Genesis 32, according to Swedenborg, this passage over the boundary river signifies the beginning process of living the truths of faith not just knowing them. These steps are taken towards the soul’s ultimate goal: to enter a heavenly state signified the promised land of Canaan. Robert R. Leichtman in Building The Bridge to Heaven: Connecting with the Light, explores this same process. He suggests that the spiritual passage requires us to learn from problems which force us to gain wisdom. Building the Bridge to Heaven: Connecting with the Light
Linda Shearer painting, Moon Bridge represents my present state of in betweeness.
Thank you Linda.
Moon Bridge

Peacable kingdom

Peaceable kingdom

Peaceable kingdom


What a preposterous notion; wild beasts, carnivores sitting with their natural prey without devouring them and a baby petting a leopard who seems to like it. Edward Hicks, the man who found his spiritual home among Quakers who are known for advocating peace not war, portrays just such a preposterous concept in his collection of paintings.
I loved these paintings long before I learned about the artist. I wondered what inspired Edward Hicks. A devout Quaker, his inspiration came from the Scriptures, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11 unfolds the Peaceable Kingdom.
Edward Hicks' rendition of Isaiah 11:6

Edward Hicks’ rendition of Isaiah 11:6


I remember learning about Quaker attitudes toward violence from the movie, Friendly Persuasion I watch it every time it is shown on TMC. The acting performance of Antony Hopkins adds to the movie’s appeal.
Today, we are surrounded by pictures of violence. You cannot avoid seeing violence committed against men women and children shown in every media. We may have become jaded or perhaps we tune it out. Yet, we long for a peaceful world. How can we bring it about? Is there anything we as individuals can do to stop the tidal wave of violence in far off place in our communities and in our homes? In 1661, George Fox, made his declaration against wars and strife to Charles II. His declaration is known as the Peace Testimony. He is reported to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Quakers and people holding to non-violence look to Jesus at the time of his arrest when one of his companions cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, He said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Quakers and many Christians do not believe in taking up the “sword”. Read more about it here: http://www.quaker.org/peaceweb/pdecla07.html. See more about Quakers and peace
I am awed by one woman’s effort to stop violence in her community. She saw children captured and forced to become soldiers, her neighbors raped, violence and brutality destroying her community and she acted to change the course of history in her Liberia. That woman is Leymah Gbowee a social worker, she began a movement with other women by praying and signing in a fish market. Leymah Gbowee was able to bring about a change in her community. I am captivated by these brave courageous women. Surely they were lead by Spirit to Pray the Devil Back to Hell Learn more about this movement here Pray the Devil Back to Hell
I am inspired by all the men and women of peace. But I am confused by the events a few Sundays ago when Pope Francis delivered a message from his window The fate of the Doves of Peace is in doubt. In the company of two children, he urged a peaceful resolution to the violent clashes between protesters and police in the Ukraine. He released two doves, long held as symbols of peace, above the crowds. The two doves were attacked by a seagull and large black crow. The shocking incident recorded by many, went viral. It is not natural for human beings to live in peace and harmony.
Peace must be chosen over violence over and over again. Lions and leopards cannot stop hunting smaller animals. It is how they survive. We human beings do not have to devour each other. Killing, brutalizing, raping terrorizing another human being or condoning and supporting such behavior is a choice for evil. Perhaps the women in Liberia have the answer; praying the devil back to hell. Praying for peace, living peacefully begins with me, with my words and my actions with the choices I make every day. What do you say?

“Eye for an Eye”

I learned many things about the ideas and people who influenced Dr. Martin Luther King this past week.
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Mahatma Gandhi’s influence Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr. adopting “passive resistance” and “non-violence” as grounding principles for his civil rights must have solidified during his visit to India in 1959. I was surprised to learn that Gandhi’s attitude toward British oppression was inspired by the Russian Christian Anarchist Leo Tolstoy’s writings particularly the book first published in 1894 in Germany but banned in Russia, The Kingdom of God Is Within You

Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You

Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You

As I delved a little deeper, it made sense that Martin Luther King a Baptist Minister inspired by the non aggressive attitudes Jesus taught during his life on earth would be inspired by Gandhi who lived those very principles of non-violence. Gandhi not only preached non-retaliation he lived it, he put his own life in jeopardy to stop the violence that threatened to destroy the brand new India following British withdrawal. Martin Luther King showed the same kind courage facing racial hatred and violence. Acting on the impulse to take revenge, is our first instinctual response. The “fight” response feels good and righteous. “Eye for an Eye” is deep in our psyche. “We ought to compel ourselves to resist evil”, says Swedenborg in his seminal work, Heaven and Hell “and to do good as of self but at the same time acknowledge that it is from the Lord.” Hitting back, firing the gun and dropping a bomb may be our first response but it never leads to peace; it only fuels more violence. Resisting the impulse to take revenge is the way to peace and reconciliation. Mahatma Gandhi’s defining moment is captured in this clip. He refused to validate the raging impulses of his people burning for revenge. Eye for and Eye
How do we respond to the violence suffered by millions of people across much of the world? Are we able to see our own violent tendencies and resist them the way Jesus taught us? Do we hear his words, “it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:38-40.
Living a non-violent way of life is as much counter culture today as it was in the time of Jesus. But today, great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and others’ exemplary lives of non-violence can inspire us to live in a way that does no harm to others. The film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”
Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

documents a peace movement called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. Organized by a social worker Leymah Gbowee, the movement started with praying and singing in a fish market. Leymah Gbowee organized the Christian and Muslim women of Monrovia, Liberia to pray for peace and to organize nonviolent protests.

Checking-in

We are accustomed to “checking-in”, a task we perform to get our boarding pass on the flight for which we have purchased a ticket. It’s an easy task to check in on my home computer and print my boarding pass for my departing flight. However, away from home, checking in and especially printing a boarding pass can be a bit more complicated. Airlines offer apps to check in on your smart phone. Never the less, you must check in at the security gate, a process that can be tedious. Signing your name, getting your packet at a seminar and name badge is another familiar activity. Arriving at a hotel, checking in at the registration desk or picking up a prepaid ticket at the admissions desk involves checking in. All check-in involve some form of identifying yourself.
checking-in
Nowadays, many of us check-in with our friends on Facebook. In fact, Facebook invites you to “Share how you’re feeling or what you’re doing.” Most support groups counselling groups begin with an invitation to share your feelings and what is happening with you In an individual counselling session the counselor or therapist may start the session asking you to share about your present circumstances.
Group session
A far deeper checking-in is a part of prayer, a going inward process. Though formal and public prayer could involve a checking-in with God, individual prayer by its very nature involves going deep into our innermost self. A prayer that begins with checking-in involves a humble request, “Search me, O God, and know my heart,” Psalm 139:23. Checking-in involves putting aside pride, ego and above an attitude of knowing our needs. Surely God knows are needs. More than we know ourselves.
Checking-in at the onset of prayer is identifying yourself, who are, where you, how are you feeling right now, what bothers you. Checking-in part of prayer is like going through customs at an international airport. Not only will your baggage be checked, but you will be asked questions about what you are brining into the country. Checking-in when you pray is like that, only you are the one going through you baggage asking yourself, what am I brining into prayer today? How do I feel? Is there anything I need to declare? Asking these questions is the invitation for God to search into our hidden places to illuminate the dark places in our hearts. “[T]ry me and know my thoughts try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me,” urges the Psalmist further in Psalm 139:24.
Prayer Prayer should not be a list of our requests but rather going into your inner room, closing the door and praying to our Father who is in secret, who sees our secrets. Jesus taught, “when you pray, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:7-13
Listen to The Prayer
Our busy lives can become a barrier to spending time in prayer. Like the airlines apps, prayer websites can help us check-in with our soul’s needs.
The Angel of the Hour is my favorite prayer website.Angel of the Hour
I love closing my day with Compline Compline

Inventory

Do you remember the big signs across store windows in January, “Closed For Inventory”? Nowadays businesses rarely close for inventory. Inventory is on going and often done at night. Taking inventory is a necessity for if you own a business.

inventoryb

Inventory

 

You must take great care to manage and account for your inventory, because it’s the source of your income. The proper collection of taxes, depends on an accurate assessment of your sales revenue, inventory value and cost of goods sold. Although inventories are often done on a laptop nowadays, still, someone must make assessments and create action plans.

While I took inventory of my cupboards something I do before going shopping, reminded me of business inventories. I planned to make chili but wasn’t  sure I had the ingredients. Looking for cumin, chili powder, garlic, onions and of course tomato sauce and beans was my first step. A quick inventory dictated my shopping list.  Shopping, preparation, cooking chili for dinner was my action plan.

Much like taking inventory in your business, in your cupboard, a good idea might be to take a “personal spiritual inventory”. What is a spiritual inventory you might ask? A spiritual inventory will reveal your spiritual needs and resources. Spiritual inventory is an honored spiritual practice in Christianity. People of faith invite God’s presence when involved in doing spiritual inventory.

Cupboard

“Examine me, oh Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart,” invites the Psalmist, “For Your loving kindness is before my eyes” Psalm 26:2  Taking time for self-examination is an ancient practice for Christians. What better time to do it than in the beginning of the New Year? Noticing where you are needy in your spiritual life, taking stock of our spiritual resources will lead you to an action plan. We are all spiritual beings with spiritual needs just as our bodies need nourishment our spirits also need replenishment.  A healthy body and spiritual health depends on being aware of our needs and replenishing the lacking areas. Doing a spiritual inventory in the past days, I discovered some of my own deficiencies.  I made plans to fill the voids in my spiritual life. I am learning more about myself and the barriers that keep me from God’s presence. Spiritual inventory is an ongoing process for me. To be in touch with more than my external self requires the continuous spiritual practice of self-witnessing, in order to create an action plan. As in any inventory we discover what we have on hand, our present status, and our needs. We discover the self in need of God’s infusion of love, forgiveness and guidance.

People familiar with the AA’s Step Four, “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our selves”, understand the urgency of working on this step.

spiritual inventory book

John Baker’s Taking an Honest and Spiritual Inventory is one of many books about the path to recovery   involving “spiritual inventory”.  Long before AA, Emmanuel Swedenborg was keen on self-examination. He    claimed that interior Christian life is possible only for those who cultivate self awareness for the purpose of discovering habits of character that ought to be modified or reformed.

Thus, self-modification techniques must be learned along with self-witnessing in order to participate in God’s plan for us.

Spiritual inventory is not only a Christian practice for the faithful. Recent studies reveal that many people come to realize a deep need though they may not understand what that need is. PsychoMatrix a spiritual inventory may be a good start for discovering your spiritual nature.

 

Psycho Matrix in art

Happy New Year and may blessings be with you as you become aware of your innermost longings.

Rev. Gabriella

Hope

Hope

Emily Dickinson imagined “Hope” as “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.”

Hope is one of our most commonly used phrases. We say, I hope it won’t rain, I hope I can make that train, I hope I’ll pass the test; our expressions of things we “hope” for is endless. But what does hope really mean?  John F. Kennedy’s quote springs to mind, he said, “We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.”

We really do not understand hope until we find ourselves without it. When we are hopeless even for a short time our world becomes dark.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow must have understood this. He said, “The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone.”

I love taking pictures of sunsets and sunrises. It intrigues me that sunrises and sunsets appear very similar. Looking at pictures I took a long time ago, I am the only one who is certain whether the picture is of a sunset or sunrise.  Friends may guess but only I know whether it was beginning or the end of the day.  Sometimes, hope is like  like that, we can’t be sure in what guise it will return. When the glow of sunset turns to darkness, we hope for the sunrise.

sunset6-1-05c

No biblical story illustrates better a state of utter desolation and hopelessness than that of Sarah’s maid[GC1]  Hagar in Genesis 21 (KJ21). She was sent into the desert with her son Ishmael for mocking her childless mistress illustrates utter hopelessness. Hagar had every reason to fear her son would die of thirst. We, who live in the desert understand better than most the consequences of being without water and shelter in the desert.  Her wailing was interrupted by the angel’s greeting, “Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the child where he is”. Once fear dissipates,  “hope is at hand” .

“Fear not,” is often announced by angelic beings to human beings in desperate times.Their message always offers hope. When fear is taken away, hope is born; For Hagar, hope of life came when her eyes were opened to see the spring nearby. Hope is there for us when we perceive things in a new way.  The darkness of hopelessness gives way to light when we see our situation in a new light. The message of hope may come to us in many guises. Hopelessness may be lifted by prayer, meditation, witnessing a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a flower, may bring hope and comforting in our time of distress.

Meister Eckhart‘s poem gets to the heart of the matter. We become hopeless and fear the most when something we love appears lost to us.

The Hope of Loving

What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure?

I think it is the hope of loving,

or being loved.

I heard a fable once about the sun going on a journey

to find its source, and how the moon wept

without her lover’s

warm gaze.

We weep when light does not reach our hearts. We wither

like fields if someone close

does not rain their

kindness

upon

us.

 

Patiently we must wait for the darkness to give way to the glow of day, reach out for the hand offered in kindness. open our eyes to new possibilities.

Inspiration and Prayer for 7/28/13, offered by Rev. Judith Vadergrift posted each week on the On-line Swedenborgian Community

Your inspiration this week is to find a place where you can be alone in silence and listen for the voice of God. Take your journal with you, and any books for inspiration you like. Write, pray, listen, Love Enjoy! ” Dear Lord teach me to take your Love deeply inside my being. Teach me to keep my focus on you. Let me be the observer only, of this world. Thank you for my soul’s rest and renewal each day. Gratitude fills my heart for all I have been given both good and bad. The good uplifts me and the bad strengthens me. My heart fills with love for all beings. Let me walk in deep peace with you knowing your love fills me completely. AMEN.” With Love, Rev. Judith

 

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Vessels

I recall several lectures at the Pacific School of Religion focusing on the work of the versatile scholar, geologist, theologian and Biblical archaeologist   William Fredrick Bade. He carried out excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh  in Palestine. Much of the artifacts are housed in the Bade Museum, located on the Pacific School of Religion campus. There, we learned about vessels, pottery shards, coins of antiquity that  confirmed biblical accounts. Much has been learned about the lives of the people of ancient times from the pieces, shapes, colors textures of vessels and the environment in which they were found. Ancient potteries were containers and vessels for holding some type of liquid, grain or manuscripts. Recall the Dead Sea Scrolls found in jars?

Pottery in which dead sea scrolls were found

Those jars were most likely used to hold many other things before they became the repository of ancient’s texts hidden form the uninitiated. No one could have guessed the contents until it was opened.

It is like that with us. We, like vessels hold many things; but we are not the vessel itself; we are not our bodies, not our thoughts and we are not our feelings. Life-energy pours into the sacred spaces of our being and from the outside into our minds, and bodies.  Like ancient pottery, our minds and bodies hold secrets. Shouldn’t we examine what we contain, what we hold in our minds, bodies and spirits? Like the pottery in our homes, ancient pottery was designed for all kinds of uses. Archaeologists study the form/color/material, but only guess  what the vessel may have held because the contents changed. Basically, we create our reality when we become aware of our changing thoughts, feelings. What we do, say and think changes us. After all  isn’t that learning? Our awareness of what is happening changes us.

Every cell in our bodies and  minds is in constant motion and therefore constantly changing. Think about how you are affected and changed by what you have seen and heard about the tornadoes in Oklahoma and its aftermath. You may have already donated or are planning to help survivors and communities affected by the tornado. You may have relatives living in the areas, your thoughts and feelings are deeply affected. We respond to events and circumstances.

 

Tornado cleanup

Tornado cleanup

Tornado Damage

Tornado Damage

Shattered homes, broken pieces, damaged goods may not ever be be mended but people may be healed. Unlike the smashed pottery of ancient times and the trashed tornado sites of today, people can mend and heal. Our loving thoughts and actions can help bind-up broken lives. We can be like the The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37  who helped the wounded traveler.

Compassionate caring response does not originate or end with us. It flows in and around us to others creating a new reality. We decide to help others and we are changed from within.  Max Planck, one of the most important German physicists, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918; considered to be the founder of quantum theory delved into the innermost secrets of the life, His famous statement, “all matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force  which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume’ , asserts Plank, that ‘behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”  Not being a scientist I interpret to mean that the inflow of creative energy is not accidental, the love we sense when we respond with compassionate care is the intended purpose of creation. The inflow of love is unceasing constant and eternal though the vessel itself, our bodies are temporary. When the body and spirit suffer all is not lost. We recover slowly but surely in the outpouring of compassionate care. Life itself, is becoming always renewing from within.

A few websites for donating:

Samaritan’s Purse

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/oklahoma-tornado-response/?utm_source=Ggl&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=m_YGOT-013V_GGLOT&gclid=CMnvkbaTsrcCFeU5QgodXSwAgw

Billy Graham Crisis Response:

http://www.billygraham.org/CrisisResponse/?QR=168&BA=2704&SOURCE=BY130DPGG&gclid=COyQttaTsrcCFWXZQgod1REAuA

The American Red Cross:

https://www.redcross.org/donate/index.jsp?donateStep=2&scode=RSG00000E017&itemId=prod10001&subcode=grantdonations&gclid=CL7FqpGVsrcCFUQ6QgodCQMArw

A hug changes everything for a survivor

A hug changes everything for a survivor

In Heaven, so upon the Earth

Earth Day 2013 celebrations are past but the responsibility to cherish, as in do no harm, sustain and protect our environment continues to draw us to re-conceive our notions about what it might mean to care for our earth. As I meditate on what God intends for us while we make our home on this earth the Lord’s Prayer comes to mind.  “When ye pray, say: Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. (Luke 11:2 KJ21) The phrase “as in heaven” conjures up manicured gardens, beautiful fragrant flowers, birds singing and butterflies sporting in the air, a river meandering through the garden.

heavenly garden

 

Every gardener  knows it takes planning, planting and enormous amount of effort and attention to maintain a garden. A few days of carelessness will most likely have consequences. On the other hand, appropriate attention will revive the garden. I believe we are called to co-create heaven on earth not just in our physical environment, the earth itself but also our spiritual environment, our minds. Heaven inflows into our very beings.  Swedenborg speaks of  this inflow coming “into our souls because the soul is the inmost and highest part of us. The inflow  from God reaches that part first and then comes down into the things below and enlivens them, depending on our openness to what flows in.” (In the 21st Century translations of Swedenborg’s True Christina Religion, “inflow” replaced “influx.”

Many Native American cultures believed in the sacredness of the earth and in responsibilities for caring for all things created.  We must be mindful of creation pronounced by God as “very good” surely we must bear responsibility for maintaining its goodness and beauty as co-creators of heaven on earth. Genesis 1:31

William Blake's Earth Answer

 

Earth’s Answer by William Blake from Songs of Experience 1794

Prayers for Mother Earth

Five Senses

Under the blooming Jasmine and gardenia, I found the empty broken shell of a baby bird. Our small potted garden sits underneath the flowering bush that serves as cafeteria for goldfinches, house sparrows and cardinals. The birds happily fly in and out of the feeders hung in the bush and refresh themselves in the birdbath and water fountain a few feet away from the bush.  The delicate shell held traces of blood still fresh. Holding the shell I was captivated by the awe-inspiring lesson in my hand.

The shell of a newly hatched bird

The shell of a newly hatched bird

The shell served its purpose, when it became a hindrance to a new life, the bird began to struggle and free itself from its prison that once held life for it. The baby bird chipped away its shell and struggled out of its shell to gain freedom and life.

Beyond the greening and flowering spring offers lessons about transformation in every living thing. The lessons about life-changes are often inspire lessons about our own life events; the end of one state of being and into new emerging. Most of us are blessed with five senses. We can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. Yet for Helen Keller  awareness of the awesome beauty  in every living thing did not depend on her five senses. She experienced life in an internal way. One of my favorite Helen Keller quotes, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Here, she speaks of heart vision not vision through the eyes. Her perception of beauty and understanding of life came from an internal vision. I believe if Helen Keller would have felt the egg shell she would have sensed the lesson about the true nature of life. Like the baby bird, once she learned from her teacher Anne Sullivan, who assisted her to break free of the shell she lived in up until that point in her life, a new life opened up for Helen Keller.

I wondered, holding the baby bird’s left behind home what shell holds me back from experiencing life in a new way. Slowly, I made connection. I must recognize where I am in spirit and that this is not where I want to be. Like the baby bird, “we must want to get out and must ourselves make an effort from what seems to be our own strength” (Read more on this in Emanuel Swedenborg’s Divine Providence #278.6)

Fear of the unknown or imagined can keep us trapped in our shells, though safe it is too restricted to support life. Fearful of the struggle to break free, distrustful providential care, unbelieving and distrustful of what the eye cannot see, the life of the heart and spirit is thwarted.

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Man and myth

Myths grow up around men and women who stand out from the crowd. Not surprisingly, Saint Patrick stood out among missionaries and evangelizers. Myths were circulating about him during his life time but over the centuries a mantle of the miracles spread about him.Our second child was born on St. Patrick’s Day. Naturally, I became fascinated with the myths surrounding St Patrick. Happily I shared them with our children. I was in good company on St. Patrick’s Day, then and now, we celebrate our son’s birthday with the traditional corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread.

The man emerged from the legends while I studied   The History of Christian Spirituality  at Earlham School of Religion. A revival of  all things Celtic particularly music and art though popular everywhere does not shed light on the man or separate him from the myth.

The myths shrouding the man Patrick fell away to uncover an audacious bold evangelist who Christianized Ireland.  Patrick, I learned is the rock star among Celtic Saints, set the course for Celtic Spirituality. St Patrick, born in England in the late 4th century A.D., was captured by pirates as a child and brought to Ireland. During his enslavement, he was called in a vision to Christianity and escaped his captors after six years. He returned to Ireland as a missionary, and in his teachings, combined Irish pagan beliefs with Christian sacrament, devising the Celtic cross. Celtic crosses prominent in Ireland’s cemeteries testify of the ancient blending of Christian and Celtic motifs.

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross

He was a hero for Christ. Patrick modeled the Apostle Paul in his travels across Ireland. Patrick overcame the cruel violent Celtic Gods with Christ’s love.

We can know something of the trust and confidence Patrick placed in divine leading from his beautiful prayer known as ‘St. Patrick’s Breast-Plate,’ a poem that reveals a man seeking divine aid against the enemies of Christ. It is believed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over paganism.  Here is one of my favorite translations.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet “Well done” in judgement hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Happy St Patrick’s Day

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
against the heart’s idolatry,
against the wizard’s evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 

Patrick’s prayer inspires us to “bind ourselves to God” each day, trusting Christ within to overcome our 21st Century “gods” that enslave us; greed, hatred, fear, disillusionment, revenge, loneliness just to name a few. They are not brazen as the gods of old, but rather like weeds in a garden,  growing insidiously; choking our happiness, trust, joy and confidence in God’s power.

Ancient Celtic Cross

Ancient Celtic Cross