Monday, May 24, 2010

wild christianity

i had a bonfire for pentecost. actually, i had two bonfires for pentecost: on the first eve, as i was enjoying the smoke that reminded me of the cloud on the mountain, i thought that perhaps the better time for a fire would be on the second eve. so i had one on the second eve as well.

now, i know that pentecost, despite the cloven tongues of flame, is not primarily a fire festival. the fires of pentecost, like the fires of all hallow's, are about purifying us so that we can properly receive the holy spirit and become saints.

i need all the purification i can get. and i also need the sort of concrete presentation of how the holy one works that bon fires and other catholic superstitions provide. i am not just a rational person. on the other hand, i know better than to follow my emotions. so i thought the representation of christ on the high cross of muiredach at monasterboice is fascinating. on the left side of christ is the great god pan, with his pipes, while king david plays harp on his right. the tension between the two is resolved in christ, the perfect man.

Monday, May 17, 2010

or, why the english think the welsh are emotional

i just started to move back to the pacific northwest, again, and then decided to stay in arkansas and just visit the majestic fjords of washington.

i also just finished reading shirley toulson's the celtic alternative, which is a book one wishes were true. one must also admit that much of what she writes is speculation, especially about the sources of celtic christianity, although she does seem to be on quite solid ground when she writes about celtic monasticism. and since yesterday was the feast of st. brendan, i read his navagatio during the long early summer twilight. there was too much lightning around to go out in my little boat.

but amidst the various bits of wisdom and historical improbabilities of toulan's book was this passage i found quite fascinating:

"the celts of the early church were travelers of an especial sort. occasional journeys could be interpreted as planned missionary projects; but often the instinct that motivated them to follow the example of abraham and leave a settled homestead at god's command was even more compelling than the urge to spread the gospel. yet unlike the true itinerant who knows no other home than his boat or his tent [,which was true for me for several years], they had an intense nostalgic yearning (the hiraeth of the welsh) for their homeland whenever they were away from it [,which has become true for me since coming to the ozarks]. this yearning was of an intensity matched by the desire to be on their travels again once they were at home. it was a desperate sort of restlessness, not unknown to many people today, although they acted it out in a more extreme fashion than most of us are able to do. they had no refuge in save tourism." (p. 80)

how true.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

st. chad's hidden life

although i met st. chad as the bishop of litchfield, who had been the humble bishop of york, his life at lastingham has come to be more meaningful to me. it is not really a hidden life, but it was much less public than his work as a bishop. he became abbot of lastingham on the death of his brother, cedd, and it would be at lastingham that he, too, would die.

it was at lastingham that chad was able to spend time in prayer and study, something almost as rare in today's world as walking. but if in today's world walking is very noticeable--i am know in eureka springs as "that walking guy," except by the younger folks who call me "that walking dude"--but no one knows what i do in my private life. st. chad provides a good example for me to pray and study.

but his prayer and his study were different from what comes so easily. his prayer was almost reflexive, and responded to the needs he saw around him as automatically as cnn responds to whatever is the news of today's moment. but prayer is probably a more effective response, sometimes a more compassionate response, than dispatching a person to tell us what is happening with no way to respond. and chad's study was what we would call medittion, or contemplation.

it is that example that makes me realize how much of my study is about god, rather than actually seeking to know the holy one. i need that example, each day.