Gathering Space for June 2, 2020
We have planned a later arrival this evening in our Sacred Garden on Iona so that we might enjoy the light of the almost-full moon.
As each woman comes into the grassy circle that opens among the worn ruined walls,
she stops to gaze at the explosion of beauty that has flowered here over the week since our last gathering.
We see Canterbury bells, tall purple Iris, June roses in red, white, warm shades of pink,flowering bushes of yellow forsythia.
The mingled fragrance hits our senses like rich wine.
Some of our companions have been busy creating a labyrinth in the centre of the garden,
using stones and shells from the ocean shore to outline the pathways.
In silent accord, we begin to walk the meandering way, recalling the teaching that one enters the labyrinth with a question,
pauses at the centre to hold the question, walks back allowing the answer to arise from within.
To open oneself to a question, to risk hearing a response that may be surprising, startling, perhaps unwelcome,
is to practice self-fragilization, to allow oneself to be vulnerable, to risk the embrace of mystery.
What question do I take with me now as I enter the labyrinth?
(we now make our way imaginally along the path)
As each person emerges from the labyrinth, she stands silently nearby, holding her companions in an intention
that they might know what to ask, might hear the response with an open heart.
When the last woman emerges from the labyrinth, a voice begins a familiar song and soon we are all singing:
We will never, never lose our way
to the well of her memory
and the power of her living flame
it will rise, it will rise again.
We repeat the song as voices weave in harmonies...
Now we move in behind the low stone walls to the roofless chapel.
Elements have been carefully placed for a ritual.
Each in turn, we kneel on a soft cushion, raise our hands to receive the water being poured over them
by one of our companions, who then offers a towel.
Each in turn, we rise, walk to the table where we choose a piece of bread from a bowl,
dip it into a second bowl of honey and into a bowl of milk. We consume it.
Two of our companions are holding the braided circle of cloth known as the crios of Brigid.
They hold it high enough for each woman in turn to walk through it.
The first entry is a time to choose to let go of something in our life that no longer serves us.
A second time we walk through the crios thinking of what we are grateful for.
On the third and final entry, we think of what we must now do in our lives: what call do we hear?
When each woman has completed her ritual, we join hands to move out into the garden
for a joyous spiral dance, to the music of our flute-player.
Celebrating the Gifts of May
Gathering Space for May 26, 2020
The warmth of this early evening in late May lingers as we walk towards the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona.
The grey stones come into view, with splashes of colour from our quilts brightening the scene before us.
Towards the edge of the grass lawn, May flowers and low bushes add softer shades of pink, mauve, purple.
But there is something more. Just beyond the quilts on the grass is a long low table, covered with a white cloth.
There are vases of daffodils, bugloss, lavender, small bowls where violets and primroses float.
Standing just beyond the table, at two metres’ distance from one another, our friends from Iona greet us: Elspeth, Bridie,
and two others who assisted in the creation of our quilts.
Elspeth speaks first: “You’ll remember Bridie, Mary Elizabeth and Jane. We got together on the weekend and decided to plan a celebration for you, with you.
"It’s almost the end of May and we’ve all been so taken up with the COVID restrictions that we hardly saw the beauties of this month.
“Here on Iona we are now free to gather in small groups, minding the social distancing rules. The four of us talked together for hours remembering
and then preparing a Celebration of May. We’ve put together a Ritual with some of the traditions we all love best.
“This evening you will be our guests as we lead the Ritual. We may ask you to share your memories and stories as well.
“Let us begin our celebrations by singing our chant:
Welcome to Summer with her lap full of flowers!
“Now I invite you to form a circle as you find a place to sit on a quilt, on the grass, or on the low stone wall where you may see each other.
Remember to keep an imaginary glass bubble two metres wide around you while Jane leads us in a guided reflection on summer:
REFLECTION ON SUMMERTIME
Jane comes to stand at the centre of our circle to speak to us:
Today we come to celebrate summer.
This is the season when we celebrate the dance of sun and earth.
Let us become aware of the earth under our feet.
Anchor yourself in the earth.
Imagine the earth rotating on its axle in the vast cosmos.
Imagine the millions of stars under you,
the millions of stars above you,
the millions of stars to the right and left of you.
Become aware of the sun; feel its rays on your face.
In your mind’s eye see the other planets orbiting around the sun.
The northern hemisphere of our earth is titled slightly towards the sun at this time; that is why we have our warm season.
If the sun were a few degrees nearer we would burn up.
If the sun were a few degrees farther away all life on earth would be frozen.
All life owes its existence to the sun.
(Pause for reflection)
WELCOMING THE SUN INTO OUR LIVES
Let us welcome the sun into our lives.
Take the sun’s rays into yourself.
Spread them imaginally to the person beside you.
Extend them to the earth and its inhabitants.
Send them to situations that need healing and warmth.
OFFERING OF FLOWERS
Elspeth speaks: “The next part of our ritual we have had to adapt. It was meant to be the creation of a garland of flowers to honour Mary.
In Celtic Christianity May has been Mary’s month. Some of you will recall walking in procession as children while you sang:
Bring flowers of the rarest,
Bring flowers of the fairest,
From garden and woodland and hillside and dale.
Our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest Rose of the Vale.
Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May….
“We didn’t think a procession would work very well with these rules of social distancing. Instead we invite you to come one at a time to the table.
"Choose a flower, and take it to someone in the Communion in whom you recognize a quality that we have attributed to Mary.
"Offer that flower to her and say the quality aloud for each of us to hear.
"When each woman has received a flower, Mary Elizabeth will lead the next part of our Celebration.”
CELEBRATING THE VISITATION
Mary Elizabeth speaks: “As a child, my favourite feast day was the Visitation, the day we remember how Mary, who had just said “yes” to bearing the Holy Child,
set off at once for the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant. Elizabeth’s son would be known as John the Baptist.
I loved this feast because it celebrated the two women for whom I was named. Now I still love the feast, but for different reasons.
Let me read the story as it is told in the Gospel of Luke:
Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
She gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
"Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.
"Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled."
“I used to think this story was about Mary being so unselfish that her first act after the angel’s visit was to rush over to assist Elizabeth who was six months pregnant.
"I see it differently now. Now I know that when annunciation happens, when our life is upturned with an unexpected invitation to gestate, nurture, birth newness,
our hearts, like Mary’s, long for the presence of someone with whom to share the joy, someone who knows mystery in the depths of her own being, as Elizabeth does.
"Would not each one of us set out at that time and go as quickly as we could to the embrace of a friend whose gaze mirrors our wonder and delight?"
“John O’Donohue wrote a poem about Mary and her visit to Elizabeth that I have come to love:
In the morning it takes the mind a while
To find the world again, lost after dream
Has taken the heart to the underworld
To play with the shades of lives not chosen.
She awakens a stranger to her own life,
Her breath loud in the room full of listening.
Taken without touch, her flesh feels the grief
Of belonging to what cannot be seen.
Soon she can no longer bear to be alone.
At dusk she takes the road into the hills.
An anxious moon doubles her among the stone.
A door opens, the older one’s eyes fill.
Two women locked in a story of birth.
Each mirrors the secret the other heard.
Elspeth speaks: “After our blessing, we four will make ready a May Feast of early fruits, white wine, fruit juice and desserts.
While we're doing this you may wish to talk together about the story of the Visitation, and how it echoes in your own lives.
"From what I understand about your Communion of Creative Fire, you have each been invited, and have agreed to provide,
the inner space for newness to gestate in preparation for birth. Each of you knows the need to nurture this newness in times of solitude,
and you know also the absolute requirement of being companioned by one another if your hearts are to remain open, nourished, and (as Hildegard says) juicy!
“When you return here next week, you may wish to bring your thoughts on the VISITATION, a feast that is celebrated on the last day of May.
"How do you experience in your own life what John O’Donohue speaks about in his poem?"
May all be blessed with the fragrance of wild flowers.
May all walk in their beauty.
May all be clothed in their grace.
May their colour surround all.
May their petals enfold all.
May their magnificence lead all into the spiral of mystery.
“Now let the celebration continue with a feast!”
Gathering Space for May 19, 2020
As we gather in the garden on Iona, the generous light of this May evening bathes each flower, each blade of grass, each greening plant with gold.
Aware of the presence of wisdom in all that lives, we look upon the beauty dancing everywhere before our wondering eyes.
We pause to listen to the birdsong, catch our breath. Is that a skylark singing?
We settle on our Communion quilts, remembering the wonder that each of our chosen colours represents.
We look around at our friends in the Communion with equal wonder, seeing in them the presence of Sophia.
Rosemary sits among us with her harp, her lucid chords a soundtrack for our growing awareness.
We sit listening until our breath slows, quiets, as our hearts move into a steadier rhythm…..
Ellyn speaks: I wonder how each one of us experiences the Sacred Presence in our lives. Who would be willing to tell us?
There is utter stillness as we ponder this question, then slowly, one by one, the answers come….
Shirley speaks: I have to remember that God wishes to be sought, wishes to be seen, wishes to be expected...
and I have to be awake to see this every day. I have to be still to come to new consciousness.
Just this morning, I turned to the window to my left and never, never before in my life have I seen the entire outstretched sky
in a blazing intense ruby red that was full of energy, light, love and presence. I kept saying “Oh, my God, Oh, my God - the power of love."
Noreen speaks: In the prayer to the Spirit attributed to Julian these words appear: “refresh and renew us from your living springs of water.”
These words spoke deeply to my inner Spirit. Daily I look out from my balcony and see this serene, yet sometimes turbulent body of water, Lake Nipissing.
She lures me to quiet refreshing thoughts. During those sacred moments I sometimes hear myself humming the words of the hymn,
“Come to the Water. Even if you have no money come.” Julian’s description of luring, desiring and longing is part and parcel of the Spirit’s quiet invitation
to be aware of her presence. Water reflects the underlying rhythm of my life as it refreshes, cleanses and restores my spirit.
Julian’s teaching inspires me to keep begging for the gift of Jesus’ love.
After each woman speaks, a holy silence allows her words to echo around our circle……….
What words will you speak into this circle?
Now Ellyn asks: Did someone bring a poem that speaks of this mysterious presence in all that exists?
Gaynell speaks: I have one by Rilke that speaks of our relating with living things:
The space within us reaches out, translates each thing.
For the essence of a tree to be real for you,
Cast inner space around it, out of the space
that exists in you. Encircle it with restraint.
It has no borders. Only in the realm
of your renouncing can it, as tree, be known.
We ponder this mystery, gazing at the trees in the garden, wondering…..
Yvette speaks: David Whyte has a poem called “The Fire in the Song” about the way the sacred presence wants to speak in us.
The mouth opens
and fills the air
with its vibrant shape
until the air
and the mouth
become one shape.
And the first word,
your own word,
spoken from that fire
grieves you now
you made that pact
with a dark presence
in your life.
He said, “If you only
I’ll make you safe”
as the comforting
sound of a door
closed on the fear at last,
but his darkness crept
under your tongue
and became the dim
and you grew
in that small place
too frightened to remember
the songs of the world,
its impossible notes,
and the sweet joy
that flew out the door
of your wild mouth
as you spoke.
After a pause, Yvette adds: In the words that describe Wisdom Sophia… nowhere is there a promise that she will make us “safe” ….
yet would we each not prefer “the sweet joy that flew out the door of (our) wild mouth as (we)spoke ”?
We take that question with us as we leave the garden, under the last crescent of the moon’s light.
Gathering Space for May 12, 2020
(revisiting our colour choices of last May)
As we come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona, the sun is still pouring its yellow-gold light over new life rising everywhere around us.
The Summer Solstice is little more than five weeks away. These longer evenings are a delight. We take time to appreciate the giddy green of the new grass,
the paler yellow-green of newly-opened leaves on trees and bushes, the brilliant variegated palette of blooming flowers.
The blue of the cloud-free sky is a comfort after the rains of recent weeks. The moon has not yet risen.
When she does, we will see a white-gold crescent, waning towards her last quarter.
There is a quilt spread out over the grass where our circle forms around the fire pot. A glance shows us the familiar colours and pattern
of the quilt that Bridie and her friends on Iona sewed for us three years ago. No one wants to question this but perhaps our expressions speak,
for Elspeth responds: "Yes, this is the quilt that was sewn from the colours you chose in 2017. But something new has happened on Iona since then.
"We now have the Internet. Bridie and her merry band of quilters have been reading the emails you've sent about your colour choices for this year's quilt.
"We decided to do something different this year, something more creative than simple blocks of colour, for you have challenged us
with your variation of shades: your yellow-greens and red-golds, tree-leaf greens and translucent greens, your turquoise and magentas,
your blue-sea-green-lavenders, and deep sky blues, your fiery red, radiant red and golden red…
"We hunted through our fabrics to try to come up with each of these as you described them.
"It was Bridie herself who had the inspiration. Some of the women in our group are still at work on the results.
They will arrive with this year's coloured quilt within the hour. So I suggest we begin now with a ritual.
Gather as comfortably as you can on your 2017 quilt. You may recognize the colour you chose for this first quilt,
and see how your choice has changed or deepened for this year's quilt.
"Will someone light the firepot?"
Ruth rises to do this for us.
Elspeth continues: "I would like to invite each of you to tell us about the colour you chose this time , and how for you it is an expression of your spirit,
a way of expressing your deepest desire for an aspect of a new spirituality.
"Whoever wishes to begin may do so. After each woman speaks, we will honour her words with a moment of silence.
"Then I shall lead you in this chant, adapted from Kathleen Glennon's book Heartbeat of the Seasons:
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Suzanne speaks: "The universe lures me to the blue green lavender of the ocean as my shimmering grey skin dives
meeting salty starfish, pink medusas, brown tiger striped crabs wrapped in the luminescent green of sea grass."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Noreen speaks: "My deepest desire, in the evolution of a new spirituality, is best described by a fiery red colour. I am drawn both to a flame
in the inner well-spring of my being, and to Teilhard’s vision of the divine flame at the heart of the universe. Both flames are vibrant and alive.
"Over several months the words, O breathe on me O breath of God, until this earthly part of me, glows with your love divine, has been a constant longing
in my prayer. This petition puts me in touch ‘with the fire of love within all things,’ drawing me forward as the universe expands.
"This love divine is a call for me to put my heart at the service of the evolution of love.
"This call asks of me to be the eyes of wonder, its heart of love, and its allurement towards union. Everything is blessed and holy.
"The flame of fiery red is a beautiful and heart-reaching grace calling me, us, to action in this new spirituality, the evolution of love.
"Love indeed is the energy that sustains the universe moving us forward into a future of resurrection."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Mary-Ellen speaks: "As I prayed with the colour of the new spirituality based in Love, my soul saw and experienced a golden red
at the heart of it all. I experience it in so many moments and places from the now lush green of spring which has evolved outside my window
to the energy of gatherings of persons to reflect on a just, compassionate vision for Canada in a Green New Deal,
to the mutual exchange of a silent loving gaze between myself and a loved one,
to the Sun breaking through the clouds bringing life and joy, to solidarity with the indigenous people of the world."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Yvette speaks: "The color I am choosing is turquoise. Turquoise connects to our lungs, especially to the higher vibration of the lungs
which is spirituality, creativity, intuition, imagination and the quality of being in-tune with nature, with oneself, and with the flow of life.
'Turquoise inspires calmness, clarity of thought and communication associated with recharging the spirit, replenishing energy levels,
and calling forth positive thought. Turquoise can help us to share our understandings with others as it encourages us to share from the heart.
"It can spur us on to believe that our personal contributions of knowledge and understanding are essential to the collective sense of communion."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Shirley speaks: "During my sacred hour this past week I was absorbed in the beauty around me and the word precious often arose in me,
as well as the symbol of a vibrating and radiating red heart. This for me represents the love and preciousness at the heart of the universe
and the Divine presence in everything.
"I choose a vibrant and radiant red for the colour of my cloth for our quilt. For me it is a symbol of the heart longing for deeper connection
with the Divine and a burning longing to bring new consciousness of our role to love and act.
"There is a quotation by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that I find relevant to our conversation: There is an almost sensual longing for communion
with others who have a larger vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness
has a quality almost impossible to describe.”
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Mary speaks: "Spring is full of many colours. As I watch the trees from my window with their many shades of green,
they speak to me of hope that all will be well. Therefore I choose the many shades of green."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Ruth speaks: "Having just spent the time in England with Carol, part of it under the gorgeous brilliance of the Cornwall sky,
and now spending two weeks in Colorado, where the same brilliant blue shines over dryer air and land,
I can choose no other color than that same beautiful deep sky blue. "
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Ellyn speaks: "Magenta is my colour. The Korean textile artist Kimsooja writes: When I was putting a needle into a silky fabric…
I felt the whole energy of the universe pass through my body and to this needle point.
"I learned how to embroider as a girl with my grandmother, Pearl. Did I feel the whole energy of the universe
pass through my body and to my needle point?
"Pondering those embroidery lessons and precious times of being guided...
I did feel the joy of being together, just the two of us."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Colette speaks: "I have always been mesmerized by the light of the sun shining through the leaves of the trees making them translucent.
This is way back and always even before I knew anything about Teilhard’s insights. Something in me knew somehow,
intuited that the Divine was shining through creation through this splendor. It always just turns on the contemplative gaze in me
and fills my heart with gladness. So I will choose a tender translucent green for the quilt."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Carol speaks: "My own is much like yours, Colette, the dazzling greens of this season of the sun shimmering in the leaves.
Yes, enchanted by this all my life, I choose for the quilt the pale gold-greens of new spring growth in their luminescence."
From our dreams
A quilt of many colours.
Just as we sing the chant for the final time, we see Bridie and three other women hurrying towards us.
They are carrying two long wrapped bundles among them. They stop at the edge of our circle, and Bridie gestures to Elspeth that she be the one to speak.
Elspeth is smiling like one ready to burst with her secret. "It was Bridie who noticed as she read your emails that this year
the colours you chose are more closely related to one another than last year's choices.
In fact the colours fell into two families of related shades. So Bridie and her friends decided to create two quilts for you this year.
They will spread them now on the grass so you can examine them more closely.
"Do you see how your desires for spirituality blend the cool shades of water/sky/ tree/leaf for the first quilt?
The second holds warm tones of fiery, vibrant red/ gold-red and magenta."
Bridie is clearly delighted with the results of their efforts and says something unintelligible to our ears which Elspeth translates:
"Bridie especially asks you to notice the butterflies that represent new life in shades of magenta and golden red."
We take time to marvel at the beauty of what our friends on Iona have created for us,
to gaze in wonder at the colours that express a new spiritual vision arising from our hearts, within our Communion.
Gathering Space for May 5, 2020
On this evening in early May, we gather in the garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona.
Though the day has been sunny, there is a brisk wind off the sea so we are clutching shawls, sweaters or jackets around us
as we settle onto the worn grey stones that once formed the foundation of the Chapter House. There is a murmur like the low hum of bees as we greet one another.
Anne Kathleen says, “I’ve been thinking about Julian of Norwich. Her feast days, May 8th for the Anglicans, May 13th for the Catholics, will soon be here.
Julian lived through three outbreaks of Black Plague in her lifetime. She could perhaps advise us how best to be during this COVID pandemic. I’ve had an idea.”
We all turn to look at her, wondering what she might have in mind. There is a rather alarming light in her eyes….
“I was thinking that Julian was living in Norwich at the same time as this Women’s Monastery was full of light and life and music and prayer,
so I wondered if this might be a place where she would feel at home.”
“What are you suggesting?” Ellyn asks. “Is it what I think you mean?”
“Probably,” Anne Kathleen says. “I think if we invited her to come here, Julian would say yes.”
There is complete and utter silence.
Undaunted, Anne Kathleen continues. “Look, we’ve learned about the way time past and present are one.
We’ve learned about the continuation of life beyond death.
"And we’ve learned that the Power of Allurement draws to us those whom we love. So I thought we should ask her.”
Then Yvette says, “I think that as you’ve had the thought, you should be the one to ask.”
Anne Kathleen smiles. “Well, actually, I already have.”
“And what did she say?” Violet asks.
“She asked if there was a window she might sit at, to speak with us…. Well, it’s what she’s used to.
"So I said that there was one left in the ruins.”
Like puppets on strings, we all turn to stare at that window.
the window (centre) where we invite Julian to speak to us
For a few heartbeats, no one moves or speaks. There is the song of a blackbird in the garden. Then silence…….
Then a sound so strange we do not at first identify it…… Laughter. From the other side of the window.
“If you could look upon your faces now, you would laugh more merrily than I do!”
We see a figure at the window, cloaked and hooded in grey wool, the face almost hidden by the hood.
But the eyes are bright and wise and merry! And the woman is laughing at us!
“Well, have you nothing to say to me? to ask me?”
Ruth is the first to recover: “Julian, will you teach us how we are to live, to be, to trust during this pandemic?”
Julian turns toward her and smiles. “Often our trust is not full. We are not certain that God hears us
because we consider ourselves worthless and as nothing. This is ridiculous and the cause of our weakness.
I know, because I have felt this way myself! But then Love told me this: I am the source of your prayers.
First it is my will that you have what you desire. Later I cause you to want it. Later on, I cause you to pray for it and you do so.
How then can you not have what you desire?
”Some of us believe that God is Almighty and may do all, and that God is All-Wisdom and can do all;
but that God is All-Love and will do all, there we stop short. Dear Women of the Communion do not stop short,
but trust that God is All-Love and will do all for our joy!”
Yvette asks the next question: “Julian why do you call Jesus our Mother?”
Julian pauses, then says, “I suppose it is what you now call an image or perhaps a metaphor.
He who loves us so much, with such great tenderness, is not this the Mother’s part?
I call the Christ our Mother because it is the Mother who best shows love, as the sea and the storm show power,
as the flower shows colour. It seems to me that Christ gave birth to us through his great love as he died.
Then having birthed us into life, he continues to feed us with himself through the Eucharist. That is how it is to my sight.”
Suzanne has a question. “Julian what must we do to be worthy of Love?”
Julian leans into the window and looks straight at Suzanne. “Nothing.”
Suzanne is puzzled. “Julian, I wonder if you heard my question?”
Once again Julian is laughing. “Oh my dear, of course I heard your question. And my answer remains. Nothing.
In the one night of my visions, I understood that the love in which we are held is unchanging, and depends not at all on what we do.
"Jesus is our clothing. He wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love,
which is so tender that he may never desert us. It is we ourselves who hold love away from us, believing we are not deserving.
"Oh, my dear friends, are you not now aware that you live within a universe that is continually alluring you with love,
yearning for you, drawing others to you and you to all of life? Love holds the stars in place, and sets the earth on its spiral dance around the sun?
"Oh, you are loved.”
Shirley is ready with her question: “Julian, if we are held in love, then why do we suffer?”
Julian looks at her with tenderness: “We suffer because we love. There is no love without suffering. In another sort of universe,
where one could exist without caring for another life, whether human or animal or tree or flower or river or sea, there might not be suffering.
"But once we allow ourselves to give and to receive love, we are saying yes to suffering. That is the price of love.
Human love. Divine Love. Agony enters in. But so does ecstasy. Who would wish to live without love?
“You, dear women of Creative Fire are learning this even now, as a virus that no one can seem to understand or to control
is causing devastation across the earth. Of course you are afraid, and of course you grieve for those who have lost loved ones
or who are themselves in the grip of this virus. It is the way of all that lives on this planet to be vulnerable, to suffer, to die and yet, that is not the end.
“You know this. Death is the next journey for all and it leads to Life, as I have found for myself, as you too will one day find.
“Be right glad and merry my dear ones, for you are held in love, and Love will never leave you. You are sorrowful now,
but this virus will one day end. Life will bloom for you once more. Trust this in the darkness until the light returns.”
We are still absorbing these words, drawing in the confidence and joy we could hear in Julian’s voice,
when suddenly the window is empty once more.
We sit together for a long time watching the Flower Moon, almost full now, so near to our earth as she orbits our planet that she is called a "super moon".
We watch as she rises, lifting herself above the highest of the ruined walls of the Nunnery, to shine upon us.
Gathering Space for Bealtaine
April 28, 2020
In the pre-dawn darkness we make our way into the circle of grass embraced by the low stone walls of the ruined nunnery on Iona.
We have never before been here before the sun, never seen our companions like this: darker shadows against a grey sky.
It is utterly still, without even the movement of light wind that heralds the sun.
Each of us has brought dry sticks, bits of gathered grass and heather. This we pile on the wood that awaits the Bealtaine fire.
On the edge of a cliff across the island is a pool that has been known for its spiritual power.
Two of our companions, Shirley and Suzanne, who have a deep affinity for water,
who work for its healing throughout the planet, went there yesterday to collect water for our ritual.
The large clay pitcher they carried back sits beside the readied fire.
Despite restrictions due to COVID 19, Dolores Whelan has travelled from her home in Ireland to our Gathering Space on Iona.
We find places to stand in a circle around Dolores who has come to speak with us about the meaning of Bealtaine.
"Bealtaine is the second most important festival within the wheel of the Celtic Year," Dolores begins.
"The positioning and significance of each of the seasons within the Celtic Year reflects much of the cosmology
of the ancient people who created this calendar. The most important festival, Samhain (November 1),
begins a journey through the cold dark season, which eventually yields to spring, emerging into summer on May 1 at Bealtaine.
"We begin to understand that there can be no Bealtaine without Samhain, because both in the natural world
and in our own lives we experience the reality that summertime always emerges from the darkness of winter.
"A quotation that I read somewhere says : It is always summer in the grateful heart.
"This appealed very much to me and I pondered what it might actually mean for me in my day to day life!
"It challenges me to constantly remember the many blessings present in my life.
"When I do this in a conscious way my heart swells and I feel the abundance of life flowing in and through me.
"Isn’t it in essence what summer is? This attitude of gratitude supports the blossoming of the many buds
that are deep within us awaiting the right circumstances in which to blossom.
"I am reminded of the beautiful poem St Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell:
The bud stands for all things,
even those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
"My wish for you this summer time is that you will experience the fullest expression of your unique self
and that your many gifts will blossom into fullness either within yourself or in the world,
so that you become a part of the wonderful explosion of life!
"May you relish the long days, may the sunlight brighten all aspects of yourself
so that you become a shining one walking this earth."
With these words echoing in our hearts, we stand in a circle facing towards the east.
We chant: “Look to the East where promise is born; look to the East where the sun brings the morn.”
Slowly, slowly, as we repeat the chant, the grey of the sky warms into shades of pale seashell pink, deepening into soft rose
then into deep rose madder. Slowly, slowly, the golden orb of the sun appears to be pushing itself up above the horizon.
In such a way, though we know it is in fact the earth on which we stand that is rolling towards the sun,
we still experience the moment as did our ancient ancestors. We still speak of a rising sun.
Bealtaine Sunrise 2012 Deerpark, Sligo, Ireland
At the moment when the sun becomes visible, Ellyn lights the fire. As the sun’s light ripples on the water in the clay container,
we come forward, one by one, to splash the water over our faces. Then with the water still wet upon us, we stand in the rays of the rising sun.
The sun blesses us, blesses the water upon us. As we feel the warmth that comes from sun and fire, and the wetness from the water,
we ask for a harmony within us of the masculine/sun/fire energies and the feminine/water energies.
By the time all of us gathered here have completed the ritual, the garden is glowing with the full golden light of morning.
Now we gather in a circle dancing. There is a lightness in our hearts that bubbles up in spontaneous laughter.
Someone begins to sing, “Morning has broken…” and we join in.
Dolores invites us to ponder the Bealtaine questions:
What negativity left over from winter do I now release into the Bealtaine fires
so that my heart is ready for the newness of life and work at this season?
What new fertility in my life, in my projects, do I welcome
in the form of the young mother of early summer?
How shall I honour the harmony of fire and water,
the masculine and feminine energies working within the land, within myself,
within the work that I am called to birth?
After we take time to answer these questions in our hearts, Dolores leads us in a Bealtaine Prayer:
May we embrace the support of the blossoming life force and growing light
as we step boldly into the world to express our creativity.
Gathering Space for Earth Day 2020
The waning paschal moon is barely a sliver of light as we make our way into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery
to greet our companions on the eve of Earth Day. Though the air is beginning to feel like spring, we have dressed warmly for our outdoor ritual.
The fire pot is already lighted. We form our circle around it, respecting the social distancing that is one way to show caring in this time of pandemic.
Cynthia comes forward to begin our ritual:
“Each one of us holds in our heart an image of a beloved place on this earth.
"Each of us remembers tonight that earth is our only home, our mother, our nurturer, the source of our life.
“In our time together this evening we want to offer gratitude for the power and beauty of our earth, for the spirit that pervades her,
the same spirit that dwells in all that lives upon her. We have a poem from Mary Malone that is based on a Native American prayer from the Ute,
translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887.
"I invite Shirley to read the first line, and then we’ll move around the circle with each person reading one line aloud.
"After the reading we take quiet time to hold the image or words that spoke to us most compellingly.”
Earth teach me stillness as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me honest suffering as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring as the mother bird nestles her young.
Earth teach me gentleness as the deer walks softly through the forest.
Earth teach me courage as the tree that stands straight alone.
Earth teach me limitation as the ant who crawls along the ground.
Earth teach me freedom as the lark who sings and soars.
Earth teach me joy as the bee delighting in the nectar of life.
Earth teach me resignation as the cycle of life turns and turns.
Earth teach me about the regeneration of life as the seed rises after being scattered and buried.
Earth teach me playfulness as the otter rolling with the river currents.
Earth teach me to be generous as the rains and snow water the soil.
Earth teach me to remember kindness as the blossoms turn rejoicing towards the sun.
Earth teach me good suffering as the land struggles with ingenuity to survive our greed.
Earth teach me gratitude as the soil begins a new journey towards the autumnal harvest.
Earth teach me to know the Author of Life as I daily gaze in wonder at the marvellous mysterious sustenance of all creation.
Cynthia speaks:“As I live by the ocean in Perth, Australia, I want to read these words by a good friend of Thomas Gerry: Miriam Therese MacGillis of Genesis Farm:
We now know that we're alive because the earth is alive. Unlike Mars, or the moon, or Venus, or the other planets in our solar system, we're a water planet.
Seventy percent of the earth's surface is salt water. That's why the earth is alive. It's a fluid planet.
But in our old cosmology, we call these fluids oceans. We name them . . . Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Antarctic. They're places. They're things. They're "its"...
You swim in them, you fish in them, you sail in them, you own them. You own home fronts on them.
And if your cosmology is such that those are just places, then it's very logical to dump wastes there, including our very lethal wastes.
But now we're beginning to understand that the oceans are the actual fluids of the planet. And everything that lives has the ocean in it.
The oceans are not oceans. They are one single salt water system which flows through everything on the surface of the earth that has life in it.
That's why things are alive–maple trees, bananas, or you. If we took you to the chemistry lab and had you analyzed right now,
regardless of your size or weight, you would be seventy percent salt water. And it's the same salt water as is flowing through the oceans.
The rest of you would be the minerals that form the crust of the earth.
We're the earth, with consciousness, with soul, with spirit. We're the earth in a new form. But we are the earth!
And now we understand that these fluids within the oceans are in us.
Because the oceans become the clouds and the clouds become the rain and the rain becomes the corn. And we eat the corn.
And we get our minerals and our salt water replaced. And we cry the ocean. We excrete the ocean.
We are just beginning to realize that the oceans are alive because over this long, painstaking process toward life,
they became a community of millions of varied species and organisms, all of which are a fabric and a community of life.
They are totally interdependent, all essential for each other's existence and for the well- being of the whole earth
so that it can function and constantly maintain the oxygen needed by everything that lives.
As we continue to dump our toxins in the oceans, we're beginning to see gaps in the fabric.
These marine organisms never evolved with the capacity to endure this sudden onslaught of poisonous new substances.
Many can't reproduce. They're becoming extinct.
And as one becomes extinct, the food chain gets altered. And as those toxins build up in the food chain,
more complex species are becoming extinct, so that the oceans could literally die. Jacques Cousteau says we have very few years left.
If we don't change what we're doing, the oceans are going to become toxic;
they will have lost their capacity to break down toxins and to keep oxygen flowing.
If the oceans do become toxic, then the clouds are going to be toxic, and the rain will be toxic, and the corn will be toxic.
And our children will be toxic, and their tears will be toxic.
If the oceans die, that's literally the death of the planet. And if the planet dies, the only cause of it will have been consciousness,
because without consciousness, the whole thing was coded toward life. Something's interfering with the process.
There are dynamics happening at the most profound level which are altering the capacity of the earth
to do what the universe has mandated it to do. That is to continue to live and to continue to heal and nourish and regenerate itself.
Consciousness is violating this mandate. And that's us.
Cynthia continues: ‘We know the healing the planet has already begun in our awareness of its importance to us,
in our love, our gratitude for its sustaining of our lives. We’ll close our ritual with a song celebrating the gifts of the earth.
It is called Gratitude, and it is written and sung by Carolyn McDade. I’ll pass around copies of the lyrics that we may follow while we listen to the MP3.”
Heron lays a wing
a dark and shaggy wing
upon the marshland flying
thus sings her soul, thus sings her soul
heron living soul
I lay my wing
my soul a shaggy wing
from deep waters rising
thus sings my soul, thus sings my soul
oh my living soul
Freedom lays a wing
a long and shaggy wing
and peoples waken rising
thus sings our soul, thus sings our soul
freedom living soul
Life lays a wing
a loose and shaggy wing
and through creation flying
thus sings the soul, thus sings the soul
whole and living soul.
Blessed the heron flying in the wind
Blessed the waters that rise and fall to rise again
Blessed the generations struggling to be free
For deep though the sorrow, shining in the soul
Life lays a wing, shaggy and whole
BLESSED: A LITANY
by Carolyn McDade and Mary Casey
Blessed the universe,
long unbroken story,
spirit in all things
Blessed the Earth dance born of burning
turning day to night to dawn
around an ancient sun.
Blessed the sea and sky — stars and rain,
that wash each soul in reverence
and guide us home
Blessed all who buzz and hiss, talk, croak and warble —
All who push roots and shout green
Blessed all who pass breath between them
Blessed all that struggle for their right to be —
that within each that will not lie down
that sings the song its heart must sing
Blessed the elders who call us deep
Blessed the young who deepen
Blessed the generations who love this world faithful to its wonder
Blessed all who choose to live whole and free,
grateful among the Blessed
Gathering Space for April 14, 2020
We gather outdoors, warmly wrapped against the wintry temperatures, just above freezing.
Some us have brought blankets, wool shawls, quilts to use as coverings over the crumbling stone walls of the Chapter House
where we seek a comfortable perch. The fire pot is lighted. The moon is already waning from her paschal fullness.
Since our last gathering here, Easter has come, celebrated alone or with immediate family, tuning into liturgical celebrations
offered electronically. Meanwhile, the planet awaits a resurrection from its suffering as the COVID 19 virus
continues on its destructive path through the countries of the earth.
This year the longing for new life is more than metaphor.
This year the stories of the Resurrection hold a power we have rarely experienced.
Mary Ellen stands now and says, "Last week we listened to a poem by Jan Richardson about Mary Magdalene's experience of Easter Morning.
Jan has another poem of Mary Magdalene. This one begins with the moment when someone whom she believes is the gardener speaks to her:
Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for? (John 20: 15)
You had not imagined
that something so empty
could fill you
and now you carry
like an awful treasure
or like a child
that curls itself
within your heart:
how the emptiness
will bear forth
a new world
you cannot fathom
but on whose edge
So why do you linger?
You have seen,
and so you are
You have been seen,
and so you are
There is no other word
There is simply
There is simply
Mary Ellen has a photo for each of us to take home. It shows the statue that stands in the grounds
of Salisbury Cathedral in England: Mary Magdalene is striding forth to take the good news to the apostles.
statue by Elizabeth Frink
While we continue our musings over the Magdalene poem and photo, a delicious scent is rising in the air.
Two of our companions, Patty Ann and Noreen, have opened large thermoses of hot cranberry punch. They are passing mugs around our circle.
We eagerly line up (six feet/ two metres apart) to fill our cups with the fragrant liquid.
Mysteriously, a table with plates of Easter baking appears, and the feast begins.
Gathering Space for April 7, 2020
The Paschal moon has reached her fulness as the great feasts of the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter approach.
Winds off the North Atlantic do their best to disperse the cloud cover, allowing brief glimpses of her radiant light.
We come into the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery, feeling the rising temperature as blessing even if it is only a little above freezing.
We have dressed warmly for our gathering under the open skies where our lovely embroidered cushions of winter
have given way to the low stones and grass that still remember winter.
The fire pot is lighted at the centre of our circle. As we take our places and greet our companions, thoughts of cold are forgotten.
Tonight we will celebrate Easter in poetry, in dance. Later there will be a feast of food and wine.
We see the covered trays of food, the wine glasses already set on the long table that rests against the wall of the monastery.
Cynthia stands to begin our celebration: "I have brought a poem by Jan Richardson that was written as a blessing for Mary Magdalene,
the first person to whom Jesus showed himself after the Resurrection:
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” John 20:16
The Magdalene’s Blessing
You hardly imagined
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.
you do not know
how to abide this hole
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.
I tell you,
This is not a banishment
from the garden.
This is an invitation,
This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.
So let the tears come
let them go.
Let this blessing
gather itself around you.
Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.
You will not remember
the words –
they do not matter.
All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.
(Jan Richardson in Circle of Grace)
While we are quietly taking in the wonder, the power of these words, Cynthia passes around the circle copies for each of us
of the painting by Sieger Koder inspired by that first Easter Morning:
Now the music begins, calling us to dance. What a great way to warm up after sitting still on stone.
Music, Dance… until the Easter Feast begins.
Gathering Space for March 31, 2020
We gather this evening in a quieter mood, aware of the solemnity of this time as the earth waits in stillness on the edge of new life.
The moon in her first quarter hovers in the darkness of night, a beacon of hope, swelling towards her Paschal fullness.
As the Corona Virus, COVID 19, encircles the planet, we are experiencing the mystery of life/death/life, the paschal mystery,
in an entirely new way.
We greet one another, find places to sit on the worn stone wall, all that remains of the Chapter House.
Some of us find that the grass is warm enough to make a soft perch. As we form a circle, we take care to respect
the new planet-wide practice of social distancing, allowing a space of two metres/six feet between us.
If we miss the comfort of our winter Gathering Tent, no one speaks of that.
Recent weeks of becoming aware of widespread illness, terror and grief have taught us to endure small inconveniences.
Noreen stands to light our fire pot, and speaks to us:
“These have been dark and difficult days for each of us. Yet it is important, as we reflected last week in our Equinox Ritual,
to keep balance: light and dark, joy and sorrow, grief and gratitude.
So a few of us decided we would bring poetry, stories, images that we have found in the past weeks.
Poets and writers, artists and musicians have been using their gifts to help us through the crisis,
to invite us to look at it with fresh eyes. Their gifts we will share now with you.”
Noreen returns to her place and Colleen steps into the circle:“This prose-poem, called Lockdown,
comes from a priest in Ireland, Richard Hendrick, OFM:
Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But they say that in Wuhan, after so many years of noise, you can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet, the sky is no longer thick with fumes, but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the house bound.
Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood
so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are preparing to shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world, people are slowing down and reflecting. All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality:
to how big we really are; to how little control we really have; to what really matters; to Love.
So we pray and we remember that Yes there is fear,
but there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation, but there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying, but there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness, but there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death, but there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now, today.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic, the birds are singing again;
the sky is clearing, spring is coming, and we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul and,
though you may not be able to touch across the empty square,
Colleen returns to her place and Heather comes forward:“The poet Rainer Maria Rilke
imagines God growing and changing with us as we evolve. He speaks to The God That is Coming :
You too will find your strength.
We who must live in this time
cannot imagine how strong you will become –
how strange, how surprising,
yet familiar as yesterday.
We will sense you
like a fragrance from a nearby garden
and watch you move through our days
like a shaft of sunlight in a sickroom.
We are cradled close in your hands –
and lavishly flung forth.
As Heather returns to her place Yvette comes forward, carrying a large image:
“This artwork, Quilt for Lockdown comes from Joan Chittister’s website. “
After Yvette sits down, Anne Kathleen comes into the circle:
“A friend sent me a reflection which looks at the Corona Virus from the perspective of Sophia. I shall read part of it:
The Great Mother has reclaimed Her dominion over Her realms of Nature through Her agent of this virus. Witness how the great and mighty powers of governments and nations have been brought to their knees to be humbled before Her. It is only through this humbling that humanity will transcend and ascend via Her agent in the form of this microscopic virus. Had this come in the form of a hurricane, or tsunami or earthquake, massive amounts of physical action, chaos and effort would have been the response. Marvel at Her wisdom in choosing instead this little virus, sacred in its own right, being chosen as Her agent of transformation to restore the planet to the energies of the sacred Feminine again.
The activity that has ceased around the planet has been Her method of bringing back into balance the out of control Yang energies of action, which when divorced from love, have taken the form of aggression, greed, control. The quiet that is sweeping the planet is something that has been needed for hundreds of years. The planet is getting a rest that it so desperately needs and deserves.
This offers an unprecedented GIFT to humanity. Yes, a GIFT! A window of quiet and inactivity worldwide the likes of which you will not see again in this lifetime. If you use this time by aligning with this outer stillness and silence by keeping the mind still and thoughts quiet as well, you will experience tremendous benefits, not only for yourself, but for the planet as well.
This energy of the divine Feminine has long been suppressed on this planet, and now is the time when it is ready to re-emerge in full force. Align with this force of the Yin, the stillness, the womb of creation, the “zero point” calling it by whatever name you wish. It is the place where all and nothing coexist. The no-thing-ness is one with all possibilities. Use this time to go within and access the space of stillness to tap into new possibilities for yourself and the world.
From this space of stillness, all creation emerges. Allow yourself to become one with this space to be a co-creator of the new birth about to emerge on the planet. It must first come from BEING, and then only align with DOING. It has been reversed for far too long with humanity’s doing coming before aligning with its being. This is the opportunity to hit the global reset button.
Align with the divine within you, and you will find this to be an exalted and sacred moment in the planet’s journey from the unreal to the Real. (Author Unknown)
Anne Kathleen returns to her place and Carol comes forward: I found such comfort in this poetic message from Pope Francis....
Tonight before falling asleep
think about when we will return to the street.
When we hug again,
when all the shopping together will seem like a party.
Let's think about when the coffees will return to the bar, the small talk, the photos close to each other.
We think about when it will be all a memory but normality will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift.
We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us.
Every second will be precious.
Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter.
We will go back to laughing together.
Strength and courage.
Carol sits down and Noreen returns to the centre of the circle: “Take these words and images with you
into your own homes to encourage you in what is still to come.
"We have one more gift to offer you tonight, a little laughter to keep your soul in balance.”
Gathering Space for Spring Equinox
March 24, 2020
It is twilight when we gather in the garden where Iona’s Augustinian nunnery once stood. The muted light gives the early grass,
the delicate snowdrops, the daffodils, the low stones that remain of the walls, a lack of clear definition.
There is a sense of presences, moving like soft shadows, perhaps the spirits of the nuns who once dwelt here.
The tent of our winter meetings has vanished. As we gather in a circle under the early evening sky,
we each form and hold our intention. As this time, just days past the Spring Equinox, we seek to experience the earth’s harmony and balance.
The fire pot is placed in the centre of the circle, reminding us of Brigid, reminding us who we are as the Communion of Creative Fire.
We begin by facing south, inviting Cynthia our southernmost member, to call the direction from Perth, Australia:
Spirit of the South, place of the warm sun, of brilliant flowers, exquisitely coloured birds, rainforests, sandy beaches,
let us know the joy, the playfulness, the celebration of summer.
We look to the west, inviting Jean, our westernmost member, to call the direction from Oregon:
Spirit of the West, spirit of fulfillment and abundance, of harvest, completion, and thanksgiving,
bring us close to the fruitfulness of our lives, the autumn days of our wisdom.
We look to the north, inviting Shirley, our northernmost member, to call the direction from Sudbury:
Spirit of the North, the place of courage and faithfulness, the place of winter’s rest and inward strength,
draw us to the richness of winter’s gift of journeying within.
We look to the east, inviting Carol Ohmart Behan to call the direction from Upper New York State:
Spirit of the East, place of the rising sun, of newness and creativity, of starting fresh,
align our hearts with spring’s gift of renewal.
Now we seek to get in touch with the energy of the Earth, as we each in turn read a section from
the Ritual for Spring Equinox from Kathleen Gleenon’s Heartbeat of the Seasons:
At this time the earth experiences a sense of balance.
The pendulum of the seasons rests for a brief moment.
The ebb and flow of life pauses for a moment,
A moment of harmony,
A moment of rest,
A moment when the fulcrum of the seasons is in balance.
Let us get in touch with the earth and feel her pulse at this time.
Let us attune ourselves to the twilight, to the magic of the in-between time.
Let us become aware of the struggle between light and darkness and the subtle
blending of both.
Let us become aware of the shapes of things in the twilight – the mystique that envelops everything.
Let us become aware of the last rays of the dying sun.
Let us be in touch with a sense of loss.
Let us also be aware of another emotion – the feeling of anticipation for the first rays of moonlight.
At equinox time, we have equal sunlight and nightlight.
Each of us is influenced by the rhythms of both the sun and the moon.
Sun energy influences our logical thought process, our analytical capacities, our decision-making skills.
Moon energy influences our intuitive capacities, and our aesthetic abilities.
We need both energies to be in balance—to be integrated, whole persons.
Hymn in Praise of Equinox
Response (Chant) Gently, gently, into the silence.
Blessed is this time of Equinox.
Blessed this time of balance.
Holy the pause for rest.
Sacred the moment of equilibrium.
Sacred the sunlight
That balances moonlight.
Holy the moonlight.
Equal partner of the sun.
Holy the cessation of ebb and flow
Sacred the time of stillness.
Sacred the journey inward
To the still point,
To the silence at the centre
Candles are now passed to everyone in the circle. We each move forward in turn to light our candles from the flame of the fire pot.
When each person’s candle is lighted, we begin walking clockwise around the circle, balancing our lighted candle on our right hand,
becoming aware of our body, our sense of balance, as we walk.
Now we move the candle to balance on the palm of our left hand, aware of our body and of our sense of balance
as we walk clockwise around the circle.
We next extend our left palm upward and place the right hand, with the candle on it, on top of the left, palm upward.
Again, we walk clockwise around the circle and experience our sense of balance as we walk.
We take time to reflect on balance in our life: is there balance between
Work and play,
Activity and rest,
Logic and intuition,
Busyness and relationships,
Joy and sorrow?
We pause for a while to think about this.
We call now on the energy of the universe to support us in our efforts at balance and integration.
We call on the energy of the earth at this time – the energy of integration and harmony.
We call on the energy of the moon to re-align us to our intuitive, creative side.
We call on the energy of the sun to align us to our logical, analytical side.
We call on the energy of twilight to attune us to the balance of polarities.
May the blessing of twilight integrate the light and darkness of all.
May the blessing of equinox balance and anchor all.
May the angel of balance support and strengthen all.
May all of creation be truly blessed with harmony and stability.
Gathering Space for March 17, 2020
The light breeze, wet with rain, coming from the north east carries a whiff of sea-air, though the early evening is milder, no longer freezing.
Through the cloud haze we cannot glimpse the waning moon, now in her last quarter, as we make our way across the grass to our Gathering Tent.
One of our companions speaks with the heavy tones of a tragic poet: “Look thy last on all things lovely.” We turn to her in surprise.
With the Spring Equinox less than a week away, surely things are on their way to being more lovely!
But it is our Gathering Tent that holds her gaze. “It won’t be here much longer. Didn’t it disappear last year on the Equinox?”
We go inside, already feeling the coming change. Tonight we will enjoy the silken softness of the cushions, the way the flame in the fire pot dances,
the delicious sense of being sheltered from the elements, circling in a warmth that comes from friendship as well as fire.
Once we are seated in the circle, we look around at the faces of friends who have been gathering here with us from the beginning,
others who have come more recently, delighting us with their wisdom, their insights, their questions, their questing.
Some thirty-five women we now number from Canada, the United States, Ireland and Australia.
There are also remembered friends, former members, still somehow part of our circle of love.
Jean Houston is with us. We notice her glancing around the circle, waiting for the conversations, greetings and questions to slowly subside.
Jean will be leading the gathering this evening.
“As many of you know,” Jean begins, “I have been engaged in the formation of a group called Rising Women, Rising World
made up of women who are leaders in many disciplines around the globe. Over the decades, my work has taken me
to more than a hundred countries. Everywhere I see the rise of women, moving towards full partnership with men.
One of the most exciting features of life today is the proliferation of women’s groups,
engaged in so many areas of human development from micro-economics to education to issues of justice to politics.
“What I see is that the groups that do best are often the smaller ones with intensive focus and perspective, sharing deeply, with a spiritual focus.
You, in the Communion of Creative Fire, a group with depth, engaged in further deepening, have touched into the soul of what is happening,
into something that is a necessity for the world. You have touched into a cycle of turning, where women’s spirituality is being activated.
You have become a fold within a fold of the human/spiritual quantum field of wisdom, serving both the local and the larger story.
Communion Members Gathered at Stella Maris, September 2018
(l-r in the second row: Ellyn, Carol, Corinne, Clara, Colette, Mary; in front, Mary-Ellen, Anne Kathleen)
“You are part of a radical new paradigm. You do not know how these ripples you are creating will go out to reach others
in a society, in a world, in transition. For right now, we are all in God school, on the outer wings of the galaxy…
We are part of an experimental process, 13.8 billion years old, that could end in catharsis. That’s why you see the old stuff rising everywhere…
“What is needed now is a new understanding of cosmology which creates a profound opening for a new spirituality.
The two together will bring about the emergence of what is needed for our time, just as two parts hydrogen combine with one part oxygen to create wetness.”
The silence that follows Jean’s words is suddenly riven by laughter – Jean’s !
“You are all looking at me like basset hounds,” Jean says through her laughter. “What wrong?”
Suzanne responds, “I think we’re all overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task. Like we’re the ones who have to save the world.”
“Well, you are the ones,” Jean answers. “We all are. What’s more, we have been given everything we need for this time and for our task.
We just have to learn how to use the time, the gifts, the potential that we have.”
"I’ll give you something now that will be of immense help to you. Wherever you are now within this circle, just stand up."
Now hold up your hands patty-cake style. I want you to believe for the next few minutes that right there opposite you is your entelechy,
your great friend, your essential self, your guide. It is as if this being is you if you had spent a thousand years developing your full potential.
It is the part of yourself that is encoded with your higher destiny, your purpose for being.
This essential self, this entelechy, has a radiance that our local self often does not.
The entelechy is in touch with both your life and the life of the universe. It is in touch with the wisdom of the earth and the wisdom of the heart.
It can put you in touch with the unexplored continents that lie within your mind and your body,
for it knows the maps of the soul and the treasures that can be found there.
So I want you now to receive this friend, this magnificent being who loves you so much – total, complete loving –
and as your hands are up you feel this friend’s loving presence just moving through you, in you, above, within, around you.
You feel yourself so loved by this great friend, this entelechy; so deeply loved, so empowered, affirmed, accepted,
for this great friend is loving you now so much. You may feel a warmth suffusing your mind, your body, a great sense of affirmation.
And, yes, the friend knows your follies but also knows your glories, makes no judgment, is looking upon you with so much love, so much feeling.
And you feel yourself so deeply nourished, nourished by this loving friend, nourished and nurtured.
And in this nourishment and in this nurturing, the things–the great things within you that may have been put aside or shadowed–
these great things come forward again. They are being loved into being.
And with this love, this nurturing, you sense that you are not alone in the tasks, the great call that is coming to you for your life.
Whatever is required of you, this great friend is with you to empower, support and cherish you through it all.
And this great friend, the entelechy, is here now with you for the rest of your life if you choose, the great companion of your way,
to love you, to be with you, to open you now to the mystery of transformation. As your great friend, the entelechy, supports, guides, sustains you.
As you stand with this great friend, the entelechy, this great, great, loving friend, so many potentials are being grown in you.
A sufficiency of intellectual and moral passion to explore new ways of being for your body, your mind, your soul,
and with it the ability to present the availability of an unobstructed universe, both within and without.
You are so loved, so received, so called forth by this great friend, this one who loves you absolutely.
So many new potentials are being activated–potentials for imagination and for creation,
potentials to choose the best paths, potentials to enhance your senses. Your touching hands become more vivid.
You may actually begin to feel something of the friend’s hands on yours, a winged gift, perhaps a slight electrical impulse.
And now feeling, being utterly with The Friend, utterly with The Friend, so deeply loved, so richly called forth in the presence of the very wonderful friend.
And now taking a very deep breath. As you’re taking your deep breath, thank The Friend.
You’re going to find these potentials will be emerging more and more.
I invite you now to lower your hands, and sit down again.
“This practice of communing with the entelechy is one you may do often, even every day.
"Gradually you will come to trust that you are not alone in the great work life calls you to,
in the work you have committed to by joining the Communion of Creative Fire.
"Joy will grow in you and spill over into other aspects of your life, your work, your relationships.
“You have taken on a great task. It will require courage of you, as well as trust.
"You are called to be a container for the new spirituality that is rising around the planet.
"A clay container, as you know, is fired in a kiln. Don’t fear the fire, the creative fire that sears you,
for it creates a new capacity within you to hold the sacred rain.”
Silence fills the inner spaces of the tent.
After a time, Jean speaks:“I think we need to move. To dance. I have the Theme from Spartacus on my ipad.”
And so we dance, and fears fly off into oblivion as power rises within us, the joy of being invited to co-create something for the universe for our time.
Gathering Space for March 10, 2020
As we walk across the grass in the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery, Carol calls out to us: “Look! The full moon is gazing down at us.
The clouds hover on each of her cheeks, like her hands resting there…" We pause to look, to feel the delight of this tender gaze,
glad the clouds have moved aside to let us enjoy her presence.
The evening air is well above freezing, at 7 degrees Celsius, 44 degrees Fahrenheit; yet it is too cold to linger.
We hurry towards the welcome warmth of our Gathering Tent.
Inside, the fire pot is already lighted. Elspeth is seated in the circle as are three other women. Though their faces are familiar from past visits,
it takes us a few moments to recall their names. One is Dorothy, the tiny one is Rose, but what was the name of the tallest one?
Each is holding a basket with long strands of materials of many colours and textures.
Ah, yes! Elspeth promised us last week she would come with her friends to give us a lesson in weaving….
Once everyone is settled on the beautiful large cushions, Elspeth speaks. Last week, Suzanne showed us the reward
of her many months of weaving, her beautiful blue and green shawl.
We heard the story of Isis who taught the women of ancient Egypt how to weave.
We listened to a poem about women who weave with the events and emotions of their lives,
allowing their hands to reveal what their minds are not ready to grasp.
I promised you that my friends and I would give you an experience of weaving tonight.
I have also found another ancient tale of weaving, this one from India.
First, Monenna will you show you a simple framed loom for your first experience of weaving.
The tall woman now stands, reaching for a cloth bag next to her. Dorothy comes to stand beside her as together
they remove what looks like an old fashioned washboard, with threads between the outer frames, as well as a few simple tools.
Monenna speaks to us, gesturing excitedly towards the frame, the coloured pieces of cloth already inserted across the long warp threads,
the flat instrument with openings at each end. Her Scots accent is so rich and redolent, the pace of her speech so rapid that we cannot understand a single word.
Elspeth intervenes, smiling: What Monenna is saying is that the long wheat-coloured warp threads have been placed securely in the loom.
They need to be tightly affixed, under tension, to ease the interweaving of the many different coloured weft pieces or threads.
The shuttle guides the weft threads or pieces of fabric in and out of the warp threads.
The comb-like piece pushes the weft cloths securely in place to allow for the insertion of the next weft pieces.
My friends have brought many pieces of brightly coloured fabric for you to weave into the warp threads.
First, I invite you to think about your Communion of Creative Fire. For several years, you have been securing
the strong warp threads of a Spirituality needed for our time. You have inserted new learnings about the Universe,
Teilhard’s teachings that it has love at its very heart; Jean Houston has taught you of the interconnectedness of life in the universe,
that its energy is a music of joy and love, the love is at the core of all reality, both finite and infinite,
and that the wisdom of creation is available to us in our ordinary life experiences.
The warp threads hold your deep love for our planet earth, for luminous beings such as Hildegard, Julian, and Brigid who once dwelt here,
women whose wisdom still guides you. These and many other strong warp threads hold your weaving secure.
What do you wish to weave into these warp threads to represent the passion that you each wish to express in your life?
What is the newness that is coming to birth in you?
I invite you now into silence….Think about the colours you wish to add to the tapestry, colours that will represent
the work you feel most called to do at this time. I know from our conversations that Corinne’s deep desire is to assist people
to learn to listen to the beings that seem voiceless, the plants who have their own deep music.
Corinne might wish to choose a bright green piece of fabric, perhaps something silky, to represent plants and their music.
Carol has begun to offer talks on YOUTUBE at times of the new and full moons each month.
Carol might wish to express her joy in that work with bright yellow or gold fabric ….
And Cynthia is offering her energies as love and healing for Gaia our Beloved Mother Earth who has suffered
the ravages of wild fires especially in Australia. Cynthia may wish to choose a healing colour or even red or orange
to symbolize the fires, or brown for the topsoil, deep green for the trees….
So think of what you most wish to offer as your gift, your work, your response to the great needs of our time.
Think of the colour and texture of the fabrics you need to weave as weft threads into our tapestry.
While you do your silent preparation, Monenna, Rose and Dorothy will spread out the fabric pieces
they have brought on the table at the back of the tent. When you are ready, go to make your choices.
Ask the women of Iona to assist you to weave your weft pieces in and out of the warp threads.
We will be weaving, in the words of Isis, "the cloth of life.”
The silent reflection, the choosing of fabric, the weaving itself as we each use the shuttle
to draw our coloured pieces in and out through the warp threads, takes about a half hour.
Afterwards we regather in our circle and look towards Elspeth. “You promised us an ancient story of weaving from India,” Mary Ellen says.
“Yes, I did,” Elspeth says.
This story comes from the ancient ritual texts of India, composed in Sanskrit, known collectively as the Vedas. So here is the tale:
“Far away in the heavenly home of the great god Indra there is a magnificent net.
It has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a way that it stretches out endlessly in all directions.
By Indra’s directions, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every crossing.
Since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number.
There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the most brilliant light, stunning to behold.
If we select one of these jewels and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface are reflected
all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel
is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.”
Elspeth stops speaking, and just sits gazing around our circle with a questioning smile.
“That’s it? That’s the whole story?” Colette asks.
“The whole story,” Elspeth answers. “Does it remind you of something?”
“It sounds very beautiful,” Cynthia says, “but it cannot be real. It cannot exist anywhere.”
“Oh, but it is real and it does exist,” Elspeth answers, smiling like the Cheshire cat. “It is here in this tent.”
A puzzled silence follows. Surreptitious glances at the ceiling, then across the floor, into the dark corners…
Suddenly Yvette asks, “Do you mean it’s us?”
Elspeth nods. “Tell us why you think so.”
“We are woven together in the Communion." Yvette adds with increasing sureness.
"Each of us is a jewel at the crossing of the threads.”
A sense of excitement is growing among us. “And each of the jewels reflects all the other lights,” Clara says.
“When one of our lights grows dim, we still have the glow of our companions’ lights to guide us,” adds Suzanne.
“So if this is an image, a symbol of your Communion," Elspeth now asks. "What is your most important task?"
"What is the one necessary thing each must contribute to the whole?”
“Our light,” says Ellyn. “We need to keep the light within glowing. That’s what the Communion requires of us.”
There was more conversation after this, and then we went to look at our communal weaving which Monenna, Rose and Dorothy had been fine-tuning,
straightening out the wobbly lines of weft thread, so that the whole piece seemed to sing of life and purpose and joy.
When we said our goodnights and set out for home, I overheard a woman whisper as she gazed up at the full moon.
“We each need to shine like you do, Mother Moon.”
Gathering Space for March 3, 2020
Light rain is falling on the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona. Overcast skies obscure the light of the young moon.
Scarcely a wind stirs through the water-soaked air, a few degrees above freezing.
Our Gathering Tent is a welcome sight but for how much longer will its shelter enfold us?
Once inside, we wipe the rain from our eyes and immediately are cheered by the sight of a dear friend.
Elspeth is here, conversing now with Suzanne, who is showing her a beautifully woven cloth that she wears as a shawl,
green as a spring wood in new leaf, deep blue as the mother sea at midnight, soft as an April breeze.
After their conversation, Elspeth reaches out to embrace Suzanne. “You have created something of loveliness,”
we hear our storyteller say to Suzanne. “As women have been doing for millennia, you have woven your grief and your love into a work of art,
one that reflects the power of both emotions.”
Elspeth then turns her attention to our circle, where we sit gathered on our cushions around the fire pot. Colleen stands to light it,
and when she returns to our circle, we wait in silent expectation, looking towards Elspeth.
“Have you brought us a story tonight, Elspeth?” Yvette asks.
“When I learned that you are working together to weave into your own lives and into your communion with one another
the new spirituality you have been reflecting on for so long, I began to think of stories and poems I knew about weaving.
Last November I told you of the Woman in the Cave at the End of the World whose weaving was picked apart by Raven,
so that time and time again she had to start over with bright hope.
I have brought you tonight a story that is the most ancient one I know since it tells how the Goddess Isis taught the women of Egypt to weave.
First, I would like to read a modern poem by Adrienne Rich from “Transcendental Etudes”.
The poet speaks of how women have used the art of weaving as a way of allowing their body’s wisdom to guide their fingers
when their thoughts are unable to grasp what they need. Suzanne’s weaving was such an activity and you can see
the unfolding of wisdom in what she has created.
Women Who Weave
Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow-colored shells.
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance --
only with the musings of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright, silk against roughness,
pulling the tenets of a life together
with no more will to mastery,
Would you like to think about this poem for few moments in silence?
What if you imagined your fingers pushing some of the rough dark fabrics of your life against the joy, the bright silks…
How might each be changed?
(ten minutes of silence)
Now, may I tell you of Isis? I had forgotten the details of the story, so I brought with me tonight Jean Houston’s book,
The Passion of Isis and Osiris. I have found the page about weaving. It takes place while Isis has been imprisoned by her enemy Seth,
destroyer of her husband Osiris. Isis is pregnant with her son Horus, and spends her time in prison weaving.
Isis remained in the prison of Seth, a sunless room beneath a mountain filled with the voices of the dead.
She gathered their words, their memories, and spun them into song, lullabies for an unborn king.
Day and night she worked the spindle, recalled the turnings of a life.
Because Seth wanted fine linens fit for a king, he sent his courtiers to Isis.
“Teach them something useful,” he instructed her. Teach them the lessons of bondage. Show them the truth of the role of weavers”
Isis taught them the art of transforming flax into thread, of thread into linen, of dead matter into new life.
She combed the flax, she saved the seed. She taught them the cycles of transformation, separation, unification, desire.
She named her flying shuttle the barge of Ra.
She taught them the stringing of the loom, the plucking of individual strings, the insertion of fine golden threads.
She taught them the precognition of the shuttle’s path, the making of patterns.
She gave them her love, the prayers of spinners, the binding of the cloth of life.
Each day the courtiers came to admire her handiwork and the fullness of her belly.
“Teach us the magic of weaving fine children,” they said.
“Pray as you weave,” said Isis. “With prayers, clot the blood and knit the bones into form. Bind red and blue threads, black and white.
I weave what I envision: a ladder to Heaven, threads of sunlight through gold wings.
I make a web of flesh and ensnare in it a soul shining and silver as a fish.
I weave a story old as memory, long as the life of a god. Sing to the child: may he live long, flourish and grow in health.
Bind his fate with love and blood and desire. With every thread speak his holy name.
That is the cloth of life.” (The Passion of Isis and Osiris, 63)
We receive the story in silence, each holding its images within our imagination,
each envisioning Isis, wondering at her courage, the wisdom of her words…
After the quiet, Elspeth asks:
What do you wish to weave for the newness that is coming to birth in you? Bring those desires with you next week to this tent.
The women of Iona will teach you to weave. Think about the colours of your threads and scraps of fabrics.
Will they be nubby or smooth? silk or rough linen? velvet or soft cotton? some of each?
Maybe like the woman in the poem you will want to add small shells, or perhaps pearls or precious stones?
Bring these things with you and be ready to tell why you chose each.
We will be weaving, in the words of Isis, “the cloth of life”.
Gathering Space for February 25, 2020
The new moon is young. She has no light to offer us though, even if she had, the clouded sky dripping rain and wet snow would obscure it.
Our bodies bent like trees in the stiff wind, we make our way across the open space of the Garden of the Ruined 13th c. Women’s Monastery on Iona.
The temperature is above freezing, but the wind and wet make our Gathering Tent a welcome promise of warmth and shelter.
With a quick shake to remove rain and snow from umbrellas and raingear, we open the tent flap and go inside.
Blinking to remove drops of moisture from our eyes, we gaze with gratitude upon the tall white candles that stand
in silent greeting around the periphery, suggesting a medieval castle, rather than a canvas tent.
Many of our companions are already seated on the large embroidered cushions that surround the flaming firepot.
We join them, greeting our friends, exchanging small bits of news, expressing our joy at being here once more.
When the murmur of voices, sounding like the poet Yeats’ “bee-loud glade” finally stills, Joy steps forward.
“Our commitment to the Communion of Creative Fire includes a daily contemplative practice. This is a way for us to open ourselves to receive the inner wisdom that awaits our listening hearts. Though we may each have our own way of doing this, I am wondering if we would appreciate learning of a contemplative practice that we might engage in communally, knowing others in the Communion are also entering the silence in the same way. So I have asked Jean Houston to lead us tonight in a contemplative practice of finding light within us, one we could take home with us and continue to experience.” Joy returns to her place in the circle.
Jean, from her place among us begins to speak:
Please begin by breathing slowly and deeply; slowly and deeply; slowly and deeply. Continue doing so…
In the quiet of the breath, I invite you now to begin to imagine that within the center of your mind there is a quiet, calm lake,
and it is a lake of light – serene, peaceful, placid, in the center of your consciousness. This quiet lake of light . . .
… and as you breathe in, the light grows. And as you breathe out, it contracts.
But now you find that you’re able to be with the light in a playful way so that as you breathe in, the light expands, it grows brighter.
As you breathe out, it moves through your entire mind-brain system and illumines that mind-brain system – that whole beingness.
So, inhale and the light becomes more intense, expands, becomes brighter; exhale, it is dispersed to all parts of you, all parts –
atoms, molecules, cells, neurons, the structures of your brain, mind, even now the whole body,
the brain that moves down through every part of the body, receiving that light.
Inhale, the pool becomes intense, expansive. Exhale, the lights particles, the photons, move out throughout your brain and body, filling your heart.
Inhale, it becomes brighter, more expansive, richer, lovelier. It is a loving light filling your heart.
Exhale, these particles, these parts of loving, living light, move through your whole body, your entire being.
You find yourself in a vast sea of light. You are there in the fathomless depths of that oneness which is light.
And the light that is embedded in you burns deeper and brighter because you are in that field of light.
You are in the field – the quantum field – that banishes all that is negative, all the old things that you no longer need.
You are also in that quantum field where all new possibilities exist.
And from this moment forth, if you choose, it is never, ever going away.
If you choose, you will always have access to your beingness of light.
And it may even be that an emotion so sweet, so lovely, so beautiful – pure love and compassion or just sure delight of beingness – fills you now.
You are also the light that moves the sun and all the stars. And, being filled with light, you can say in your heart’s mind, in your mind’s heart,
“I am a being of light. I love the light. I serve the light. I am illumined, sustained, supported by the light,
and I support and sustain the light. The light, which is also love, and I, are of the same essence.”
And it seems to you that within this great sea of light, which is you, which is the quantum field of all possibilities, which is the light,
which is love, this essential nature dwells in you, calm, serene, centered, illumined, sustained and sustaining the universe, always there --
although it may be that before this moment you never knew it was there, sitting perhaps like a Buddha in the center of your very being.
Full of light and yet no one thing and now discovering in the light the pattern of your own possibilities emerging from the light.
You may see or feel what is emerging of these possibilities, these new ways of being, but also placing there some intention you have for your life;
some dream or desire, placing it in this field in which your dream, your desire, your intention, is taken up in the interdependent co-arising
so that your intention is made clearer. It may grow or change as you feel and observe it in this vast sea of creative, fertile light.
Observe it now as it begins to take on the qualities, the very form that you intend.
It is partnership in creation – your desire, your intention, and the cosmic response. Watch now.
Feel now as it grows in clarity, in manifestation, as it is remade, improved, deepened in the quantum field of all-becoming.
And do that now. I will be quiet a few moments as you do that now.
But always remember that you are made of light. You are of the same essence as the quantum field of light, wherein all thoughts, all dreams, become reality.
On each of the days to come, practise being the light as a joyous experience that you look forward to engaging in.
You’ll begin to find yourself filled with luminous joy, and you will also discover how radiant will become your intentions as they move to manifestation.
Following these words, Jean invites us into a further time of quiet, as we continue the meditation.
Now weaving through the stillness, there is a steadily growing drumbeat, joined by the high songbird-like notes of a flute.
One by one, we rise, seek a clear space somewhere in the tent. Joy is rising within and around us.
Sitting still is no longer an option! We dance.
Gathering Space for February 18, 2020
Brigid's breath has changed the air on Iona Island, lifting the temperature this evening to 48 degrees Fahrenheit, 9 degrees Celsius.
As we enter the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery, clouds conceal the waning moon. The brisk breeze off the sea carries rain.
The sheltering warmth of our Gathering Tent beckons. A sudden gust off the North Atlantic reminds us that Spring is still a month away…
Inside, the fire pot is lighted, our companions already seated within the circle, exchanging news, wondering aloud about the theme of tonight's gathering.
Has someone brought a poem? a song? a reflection?
Rita Kehoe has joined us this evening after a long absence. On the eve of her 92nd birthday, Rita has brought a poem to share with us, and introduces its theme:
I have been reading reports that the number of people who left the Catholic Church in recent years is more than 29 million.
I expect the numbers in the other established churches reflect the same trend.
Mary Malone has a poem that speaks to that. I'd like to read it, and invite us to take time to think about what we heard.
Her poem is called, "Jumping Sideways".
The numbers of lapsed, I read, are leaping ahead;
Year by year, “those who have fallen away” grow in numbers.
Churchmen – always the men—bewail the faithless ones.
Crisis time has come:
“If only,” they say, “they knew what they are missing.”
Perhaps, I think, they didn’t lapse.
Perhaps, like me, they just jumped sideways.
Perhaps the cornered, much-defined God of celibate men
no longer suffices for opening hearts and minds,
for questioning spirits and love-drained souls.
Suppose we asked the women:
“What think you of God?
What God breaks and heals your woman’s heart?
What woman-faced God
peers into depths of woman-being
and awakens echoes of integrity,
echoes of prayer that ring with truth?”
What if, I wondered,
what if women trod the forgotten paths?
What if the old, old voices
were raised again,
voices raised to a new face of God
by an old race of women?
What if the Woman-God of Woman-Christians mattered?
What if we proclaimed again:
The Woman-Spirit God of Hildegarde
and her Lady-Wisdom God,
who breathed God-knowledge into the sisters at Bingen?
The Mother God of Julian,
who is courteous and homely and knows no anger?
The God who is Lady-Love,
beloved of Marguerite (Porete)
who led her on beyond the human-divine divide?
The laughing God of Hadewijch,
whose laughter makes no appearance
in all the tomes of learned men?
The dancing God of Mechtilde,
who laughed and leapt
and invited all to follow?
The sweet-smelling God of Gertrude,
whose perfume penetrated every corner of life?
The friendly God of Catherine,
who made friendship the core of a well—lived life?
The poor God of Clare,
who wished for nothing but to share this poverty?
The heartbroken God of Christina,
who healed the scars of cruelty?
The strong-voiced woman God of Hrotsvit,
who urged her to move
beyond the ancient silencing of women?
And the fierce God of Perpetua,
who looked into the face of violent death
and recognized a life beyond life?
And the human-divine face of Catherine’s God,
who mirrored her Self to herself
in the mystery of shared human-divine life?
This is not falling away.
This is leaping for joy.
We take time in silence to allow lines of this poem to stir within us…..
How does this poem find an echo in our hearts?
How would you answer Mary Malone's questions:
“What think you of God? What God breaks and heals your woman’s heart? "
We spend time reflecting, then speaking with one another about how we each respond to these questions.
The animation of our conversation warms the tent.
Now it is time to enjoy the birthday cake brought to celebrate Rita's new year of life.
During your Sacred Hour, would you like to make a drawing, write a poem or a few sentences about “Woman God”, or about something else in Mary Malone’s words that stirs your heart?
Gathering Space for February 11, 2020
A sudden brisk wind off the North Atlantic sends the clouds scurrying. The moon, two days past her fullness, illumines
the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery on Iona just long enough to light our way towards the opening flap of our Gathering Tent.
Inside, our companions have already taken their places on the large colourfully patterned cushions.
No one seems to notice us as we choose the last four, joining the circle. An explosion of laughter erupts.
Seeking its source we follow the gaze of our friends, who are looking towards someone in the circle. It is Jean Houston.
Ahhh, so that is the source of the laughter. Jean must have just told one of her favourite jokes.
Jean looks up to greet us, responding to the question she sees on our faces. “The one about ET in Australia. You’ve heard it before.”
As the laughter subsides, Anne Kathleen walks to the centre of our circle to light the fire pot: “As you see, and have heard,
we are blessed to have Jean Houston with us this evening.
"As you know, Jean is the one who imagined the Communion, inviting me to begin it. On this day, February 11th, seven years ago,
the responses arrived to the invitation I sent on Brigid’s Feast Day in 2013. Some of you here tonight were among the first to respond :
Jean herself was the very first, followed by Suzanne, Ellyn, Yvette, Mary-Ellen, Colette, Kate, Colleen, Adriana and Mary Teske.
"Others have come in the years since, some staying with us, as many of you here tonight have done.
“This year, on Brigid’s Feast Day, while I was attending Jean’s Salon at EarthRise, at the Institute for Noetic Sciences in Petaluma California,
Jean offered me her wisdom, her guidance, regarding our Communion. Jean suggested I write to you about our conversation.
Instead, I asked Jean to come here to Iona to speak with you in person.
“Jean, will you speak to us now?”
Jean looks around the circle, silently greeting each of us before she speaks: You are here tonight in response to a call.
You may not have fully understood what you were saying “yes” to when you responded, but you said it and the universe heard you.
I do not need to tell you how the planet has darkened in these seven years. We have lived through the good times. The great times are now upon us.
I do not say this to burden you, to bring sadness or despair. This is not a time for either. This is our time, and we have and shall be given
all we need to live it magnificently.
I used to ask those who came to my Mystery School, “Why are you alive at this time in history?
"Did you put up your hand to go the bathroom when the 21st century was asking for volunteers?”
Yet never doubt that you will be able to meet these challenges. And know too that you will, at times, be surprised by joy as we live into this new mystery.
Predictions are dire: unless the crisis on our planet is addressed and abated, there may be only some 150 million humans still alive by the end of this century.
Now I see you all looking at me like basset hounds so I want to offer you a poem of great hope written by Christopher Fry
who lived into the early years of the twenty-first century:
The human heart can go the lengths of God…
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake…
But will you wake, for pity’s sake?
"The enterprise is exploration into God." This, dear friends, members of the Communion of Creative Fire, is your entrance cue.
You have been engaged in this exploration, some among you for several years, and have listened and shared with one another what you have discovered.
What I ask of you now is that you make a deeper commitment to this work of Spiritual Artistry,
not just for yourselves, not just for the members of the Communion, not just for those whom you love, but for the entire planet.
Do not doubt that your strengthening spirit, your fiery intention, will have, does have, powerful effects on the entire ecosystem.
Remember that we do not simply live in the Universe. The Universe lives in us.
I wrote the first Reflection for the Communion in 2013. I called it, “Communing with the Creative Fire of the Universe”.
Anne Kathleen will post it on your Reflection page tonight with part two following next Tuesday.
Please take this into your Sacred Hour along with what you have learned over these years.
Begin this new cycle of seven years in hope, with confidence. Live your commitment with a creative fire that moves you
from walking to dancing, from speaking to singing, from smiling to laughing. Let the joy of what you have created among you
rise in you to illumine your days with its growing radiance.
Feel the wonder and enchantment of what you are creating together in four countries on three continents! You are what is needed now.
You have a place among the myriad enterprises arising around the planet. You are part of what I have seen in my travels,
the Rising of Feminine Power, the crucial need for women’s gifts and perceptions if there is to be hope for the planet.
The Communion will last. I am certain of this. Rejoice that you have been called, that you have answered, and let your creative fire ignite the planet.
I shall expect to look out of my window on the hillside in Ashland to see your light lifting from the horizon.
I offer you a blessing written by the poet Rilke, speaking on behalf of "the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars,"
as Dante wrote: “L’amor che muove il sole e l’altre stele”
You, sent out beyond your recall,
Go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose Me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give Me your hand.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
In the stillness that follows upon Jean’s words, the music of a flute rises. Slow, almost uncertain notes soon become sure,
as a melody entices us to dance. It seems the only way to respond to the gift of Jean’s words, her contagious courage and joy.
Gathering Space for February 4, 2020
Since Brigid’s Day, we feel the breath of life in the mouth of dead winter. The evening sky holds light longer, the morning dawn comes sooner.
Yet it is fully dark as we make our way just before eight o’clock towards the Gathering Tent in the garden of Iona’s Ruined Nunnery.
Inside, the light of tall candles, placed around the outer edges of the room, softens the gloom.
At the centre of the open space the firepot burns, within a circle of large soft cushions.
Taking time first to greet our companions, we make our way into the circle, each choosing a cushion whose pattern or colour or fabric draws us.
Once everyone is seated, silence rises, bathing each of us in its calm, in quiet. At our own pace, each in our own rhythm, we begin to breathe deeply.
This evening our Reflections are about longing. Here is a 17th c. Welsh poem about that human desire that haunts our lives:
What is longing made from?
What cloth is put into it
That it does not wear out with use?
Gold wears out, and silver wears out
Yet longing does not wear out.
The moon rises and the sun rises,
The sea rises in vast waves,
But longing never rises from the heart.
We take time to let the words and images of the poem echo and re-echo with us. We ask ourselves:
What is the deepest longing of my soul?
We think of the Beguines, those medieval European women who designed a new path of spiritual life for their time.
Their twofold longing was for the Beloved of the Soul and for ways to be a sign of love to the people around them.
These same desires are echoed in our own Communion of Creative Fire.
A famous beguine, Mechtild of Magdeburg, wrote “The Flowing Light of the Godhead” an account of her mystical experiences.
Mechtild’s prayer-poems, written in the style of the courtly love poetry of the troubadours, are expressions of longing:
Lord, you are my lover,
My flowing stream,
And I am your reflection.
Mechtild’s writings are in the form of dialogues where the soul (herself) speaks with God and hears a response.
In this exchange we hear both the longing and its source:
Love me intensely,
Love me often and long!
For the more often you love me, the purer I become.
The more intensely you love me, the more beautiful I become.
The longer you love me, the holier I become.
And Love responds:
It is my nature that makes me love you often,
For I am love itself.
It is my longing that makes me love you intensely,
For I yearn to be loved from the heart.
It is my eternity that makes me love you long,
For I have no end.
This evening, Noreen reads to us an expression of her own deep longing:
Within our darkest night
You kindle a fire
That never dies away…
You kindle the fire…
Noreen speaks to us of THIS INNER FIRE:
There is a deep, powerful, and attractive energy that pervades all of life, matter, space and time.
There is also a fire that never dies and this fire comes always bearing gifts.
My inner work is to savour and to discern where this fire is leading and what gifts are being offered.
This allurement shapes me by the daily beauty which calls and beckons me onward.
Frequently, I give abundant thanks for being in the company of other like-minded seekers who recognize
the need for support and enlightenment as well as for their own inner longing.
I have received much help in the form of intellectual insight, clarity, prayer, and encouragement
from the various reflections and readings. I go with joy daily to join my companions on the holy grounds and chapel at Iona.
Together we pray, as many have done before us, for our world, for our planet’s healing,
and for our own ever-unfolding sacred narrative or feel the grace, or dream which fashions us.
I walk in gratitude for the gift of being a member of the Creative Fire Communion.
My prayers, reflections and ministry have been enriched and enlightened.
I feel deeply the desire to be the cup that holds the rain, or the bowl,
which Christine Lore Weber speaks about, in her beautiful poem.
I desire to look at the universe with the eyes of a lover,
and to be alive with the Holy Presence at the heart of all that is.
Someday I hope to echo Rumi’s wonder-filled exclamation: “Is the one I love everywhere?”
I long to put my heart at the service of love, which is the call of the universe and my personal call.
Belonging to the Communion has supported and assisted my desires.
May the Holy Fire, creating anew, find me open, present, faithful and engaged in this sacred calling
as a member of the Creative Fire Communion. Thank you to each of you who have assisted me
to feel my life with wholeness and for deepening my love and reverence for the universe’s story,
the planet’s well-being, and my growth in evolutionary consciousness.
May we always see anew and with gratitude the landscape of our life.
And what of you, dear Companions in our Communion?
How would you speak of your yearning, of the longing in your heart and soul?
Would you write your response in a few words or sentences or a poem to share with us?
Gathering Space for January 28, 2020
Dolores leads the Crios Ritual
On this night, so near to Brigid’s Feast, we are seated in our circle within the Gathering Tent, anticipating the Ritual in which Dolores Whelan will lead us. Some of us have assisted Dolores is preparing an altar for Imbolc at the centre of our circle. Dolores now bends towards the Communion fire pot to light the candle she has brought from Brigid's Festival in Faughart.
THE BRAIDED CRIOS SURROUND THE ALTAR
Dolores then invites Shirley to light the candles and lanterns that have been placed within the circle.
When all are glowing, Dolores speaks:
“Imbolc is synonymous with Brigid, Celtic Goddess and saint,
who embodies the energy of new life and of new beginnings.
She is the fertile aspect of the divine feminine energy,
which emerges from the hag or cailleach,
that dark barren aspect of the feminine energy.
"This transformation of the cailleach into the maiden
reflects the same mysteries which are happening
in the natural world as winter yields to spring.
"Brigid is the energy which at this time
into the mouth of dead winter.
"She is the fertility goddess
who embodies the neart or life force,
that raw primal feminine energy
which gives rise to all living beings.
"Tonight our ritual begins with a thank you and farewell to the cailleach who brought us into and through the darkness of winter
where new life was being planted deep within each of us. As we prepare to thank the cailleach,
we may reflect on what new seeds the darkness has quickened within us.
Who would like to carry the statue of the cailleach around our circle
so that each of us may offer our thanks and our farewell?"
Mary Teske offers to be the bearer of the cailleach energy. She lifts the statue from the centrepiece,
carries it to each woman in our circle, allowing time for each of us to quietly express our gratitude and say goodbye.
What new seeds have been quickened within us by this winter’s darkness?
Let us say thank you to the Cailleach.
"Imbolc welcomes the maiden into our lives," Dolores says. "Will someone now carry the image of the maiden around the circle
so that we may welcome her into our lives? As we wait for our turn, we may become aware of the way the neart,
the life force is rising in us, breathing life into our being.
How will our lives be different now?"
Corinne stands to lift the image of the maiden, to take her around our circle, as we welcome the life force of spring.
IMAGE OF THE SPRING MAIDEN
After we have each greeted the Maiden of Spring, Dolores speaks:
“Brigid has the ability to stand in the gap and remain centred within the uncertainty present in the outer world.
This quality of being centred and aligned with one's deep inner knowing
is a quality that each of us can and must develop at this time.
"This braided length of cloth is a crios, also known as Brigid’s belt. It was used in ancient times by midwives
to assist women in childbirth. In a few moments, I shall place the crios in the open space beside our ritual altar.
I will invite you, each as you feel ready, to come to the crios and imagine it as a womb of new life.
“Step into the crios womb and speak aloud your intention for this new springtime,
the way you wish to stay centred. As each one speaks, we will respond: We support you in this.
Then move forward to step out of the circle on the far side to symbolize your emergence from the womb."
Dolores arranges the crios in a womb shape and asks, "Who would like to begin?"
What is my intention for this new springtime?
How shall I stay focused, with my life centred on this intention?
Each of us now takes our turn, stepping into the centre of the crios, the womb of news life,
speaking aloud our intention, hearing the heartfelt response from our companions:
We support you in this.
Dolores invites us to take a few moments to record in our journals the words that came to us within the crios.
This will help to remind us of our intention for this new springtime
so that our energies may stay focused on what we most desire in our lives.
As the sound of scratching pens and pencil fades, music from Abba fills our Gathering Tent. We set aside our journals,
move into the open space, as each of us becomes a "Dancing Queen", transformed for this time into spring maidens …
Gathering Space for January 21, 2020
The Garden of the Ruined Nunnery is dark, the January wind a chilling breath, a fingernail of moon remains to light our steps.
On a night like this, the moon's light almost hidden, the stars become jewels of white fire.
We cross the frozen earth, eager for the light, the welcoming warmth of our Gathering Tent.
Once we have joined our companions and exchanged greetings around our circle, Clara stands to light the fire pot:
"Let's gather in a standing circle," Clara invites us, "our feet rooted on the earth, steady as trees, our arms outstretched like branches to receive the moon's remaining light, the cold air, the hints of ocean moisture. Tonight seems a good time for the sacred movement we call Awakening Fire. It feels like a way we may each prepare for the seventh anniversary of our Communion and our own discernment about this year’s commitment, how we wish to be present within this sacred companionship of Creative Fire.
"Now, standing at ease, we become aware of the earth beneath our feet, the embrace of air and light on our bodies. We move our awareness inwards, to the deep centre of ourselves. Here is where the fire burns that ignites our passion for life. Let us hold our attention on this inner fire. Imagine it as a small flame. Now see if our inner gaze upon it makes it grow stronger, steadier, hotter.
"This is the fire at the heart of our being, the source of the love we send forth to others, to people on the planet we have never seen, to places where there is a hunger for peace, for food, for shelter. Send it to the grieving people of Australia whose hearts are breaking, where fire has leapt its bounds, killing plant life, trees, billions of wild creatures as well as humans, destroying habitats, homes.
“Yet inner fire is the source of our impulse to reach out through our work, our service, our caring, our wisdom, our strivings to understand life and all it requires of us.
"This fiery centre is also the dwelling place within us of the Holy One. Love awaits us here, awakens us to joy, to the knowing that we are worthy, and beautiful, and held in a love more tender and deep than we can imagine. The Sufi poet Hafiz says it best: There is something holy deep inside of you that is so ardent and awake …
"This inner fire of love, received and given, is the holy heart of our communion. It is present in the depths of each of us, and each of us is invited, called, to awaken this fire, to tend it, so that its flames become a burning that radiates forth to the Communion, to all those we love, and finally to all of life.
"Some gentle movement will warm us, while reminding us of our task, our great work:
Stretch your arms upwards into the sky that hovers above. Feel the waning moon's caress on your outstretched hands, on your palms. Now draw warmth in through the crown of your head. Imagine it passing down into your body to the place of inner fire, adding warmth and light. Now slowly, gently bend forward, and with your outstretched arms, scoop up from the earth the heat that is in the belly of the planet herself. Draw it upwards as you slowly stand. Now draw it into your body, into the heart of your being where it meets the light you have drawn in from the moon. Stand at ease, your eyes closed, as you imagine the fire of the earth and the fire of the moon and stars meeting in the deep centre of your being, increasing the fire within you. AHHHH. Breathe slowly in and out for a few moments as you feel this inner fire growing, filling you. Then with a gesture of giving it away, send it forth as radiant light and love to the planet.
"This is a simple practice we may do each day, remembering our Companions in the Communion of Creative Fire, imagining them standing in a circle around us.
"Let us offer as a Blessing to one another this poem from Jan Richardson, prepared for Women’s Christmas 2020."
Singing to the Night
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas by Jan Richardson
Who would have thought
The sky could be so pierced
Or that it could pour forth such
light through the breach
whose shape matched
the hole in the heart
that had ached
for long ages,
weary from all its emptying?
And what had once been
like a door
or a dream,
radiant in its welcome,
singing to the night
that would prove itself
Call the piercing a star.
Call it the place the light begins.
Call it the point that tethers us
to this sheltering sky.
Call it the hope
that keeps holding us
to this broken,
that keeps turning us
toward this world
Call it the vigil fire
kept in that place
where every last thing
will be mended
and we will see one another
shining like the
Gathering Space for January 14, 2020
Revisiting our First Imaginal Gathering on Iona on February 17, 2013
Chapter House Stones at the Ruined Nunnery on Iona Island
Imagine yourself here in this Gathering Space for the Communion of Creative Fire amidst soft grasses, ancient stones, early spring flowers, beneath the wide blue skies over Iona. Find a place to sit on one of the stones or on the grass, leaning against the ruined walls of what would have been the Chapter House or Meeting Place for the Augustinian Nuns who lived here in medieval times.
Close your eyes, listen carefully. Hear the sea washing against the shore behind you. Feel the sun touch your face with tentative fingers. Be still, silent, letting the peace in this place fill you. Breathe deeply, in and out for several moments, feeling yourself relax, letting anxieties, concerns, any shadow of darkness, go. Here among your companions in this Communion of Creative Fire, you are home.
When you feel ready, open your eyes and look around you at the companions gathered here. Imagine their features, expressions. What would you like to say to them on this our first gathering? What are your hopes and desires for this communion? How have you experienced a sacred presence in your life?
Here are the responses received over the following days from some of the earliest members of our Communion:
I sit in this gathering space
in silence and thanksgiving
aware of Wisdom's sacred Presence.
She wraps me gently in her cloak of knowing
assuring me again
that Love holds this pregnant universe
in compassionate, creative embrace,
that Hope awaits with outstretched arms
expectant hands cupped to receive
the promised new birth.
In silence she offers me her cloak of knowing
inviting me to remember
her constant Presence and her gifting
of Creative Love and Expectant Hope.
Rita speaks: At our birth, love and gratitude are some of the gifts given freely to us.
Our call through prayer is to develop these into life-giving gifts for ourselves and others.
As I reflect on our “Communion of Creative Fire”, I am searching to know what is at the heart of what we are about together.
When I read what mystics have written about their experiences of life, of light, of love, I glimpse what I desire.
Gertrude of Helfta longed to “pour back like water” the gifts she had received, to live in continual gratitude “like a tree greening”,
covered with leaves and blossoms of good works.
Gertrude wanted to offer her heart to God as a dwelling place where “no joy would be lacking”.
I think of Paul writing to Timothy: “stir into flame the gifts God has bestowed onto you. The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly Spirit, but rather one that makes us strong, loving and wise.”
And Matthew Fox reminds us in his new book Hildegard of Bingen of her call to us to “rise up from our sleep”
and “live with passion and blood” in order that we might contribute to “making the cosmic wheel go around”,
for the Holy is found in the heart of the Universe.
Clara speaks: While on retreat one year, I was sitting in my room, facing the river. It was morning
and I noticed a cloud of steam rising from the river. Gently and ever so slowly it circled the tree that was close to the river
and touched her branches and leaves from bottom to top. Each part of the tree was reverenced, kissed, loved, embraced.
I was deeply touched and I felt “Love” deep within me communicating “I love you.”
Mary-Ellen speaks: I have such a strong sense of the women gathered. I see their eyes, radiant, wise, open to all.
I experience them as strong and filled with compassion. Strength and power as well as goodness are the energies
I am most aware of, and I feel very strengthened by them. I cannot believe how meaningful it has felt
to be amongst these women, as I longed to be amongst kindred spirits.
Of the three original women you invited into the circle, Brigid has been speaking most to me –
her focus on God which never left her. I am inspired by her and this focus, and am drawn to focus in a similar way.
These women have reminded me of some experiences which have stood out for me recently.
In each case a person – Teilhard de Chardin, Allana Obamsawin, and Douglas Roche – spoke to a similar necessity
to remain hopeful in the long journey of change and growth. Each of their expressions shook me at a deep level
and I felt I was being called to such patience and hope. So important in our world just now, and so important for me.
The women in the Communion also seem to have this strong capacity for hope and waiting in trust.
Mary speaks: The image of our paved roads comes to mind. We humans pave over Mother Earth,
but she tries her best to break through, with a crack here, a pot hole there, a green shoot somewhere else.
As I sit and look at the other twenty-five women, they are like that energy, that green shoot
poking through the hard pavement of the old ways, the old guard, to bring new life.
Yvette speaks: A dream image awakened me on the morning after sitting in our sacred, creative space. I awaken to a coiled snake staring at me from the middle of the circle where we all were gathered. I cannot remember ever having such a snake in a dream before. I remember no other dream segment but this beautiful, seemingly smiling coiled creature just smiling at me. I awoke smiling so the image was obviously evoking a positive response. I dialogued a bit with this snake and we shared that this is a time of transformation for me, a new time in my life, a shedding of “official community leadership skin” for new life. I see the primal quality of the snake just as I see the primal quality of the space to which you have invited us. The snake, whom I have not named yet, may guide us/me to deep places, to contemplative experiences I/we do not yet know but for which I/we yearn…
And on this day, in the winter of 2020, as you join the circle on Iona’s grass,
how do you experience this gathering of the Communion?
What words rise in your heart to share with them?
Please send your response to me: email@example.com for inclusion in our next Gathering Space.
Gathering Space for Epiphany, 2020
This January night on Iona in the North Atlantic is cloudy at 10 degrees Celsius and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The moon will be full in three days: wolf moon, snow moon, ice moon, after-yule moon as she has been named, her fullness this year partially eclipsed. She parts the clouds as she would pull aside curtains, offering us her light as we come to the Garden of the Ruined Nunnery.
Tonight we will celebrate Epiphany together, so some of us are carrying trays of Christmas baking, thermoses of hot cranberry punch, and small wrapped gifts that are meant to be symbols of light. The tent flap is held wide, making room for us and our many bundles to enter.
Once inside, we find places for the food, beverages and gifts on a long covered table on the far side of the tent. When we come to take our places in the circle, we see that the planning committee has already placed beautifully illustrated booklets on each cushion. We gaze at the painting that adorns the cover page: “Home Another Way”, and read the artist’s name: Jan Richardson.
Home Another Way by Jan Richardson
When we are settled and still, Yvette stands to introduce the prayer:
January 6, Epiphany, the final feast of Christmas, has long been celebrated as the day the Three Wise Ones from the East found their way, through the guidance of a star, to the Holy Child born in Bethlehem’s Stable.
A dark journey into the unknown, lured by promise of new life, guided by a shining star… rich metaphors with mythic power for our 21st century lives.
Beginning in Ireland, and spreading to other countries, Epiphany has become known as Women's Christmas, a day when women took the occasion to enjoy a bit of respite and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.
Jan Richardson, poet, artist, spiritual writer, has been offering a yearly “Women’s Christmas Retreat”, a feast in images, poetry and reflections. Tonight we shall hear three of her poems and take quiet time to look at our lives in their light.
Noreen stands to read the first poem in our booklet:
The Map You Make Yourself
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas
You have looked
at so many doors
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.
choose the door
to the inside.
Travel the most ancient way
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.
but the one
you make yourself.
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim’s way.
Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.
Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
as doors deeper in.
Pray for protection.
Ask for guidance.
for the gifts that come,
let them go.
Do not expect
by the same road.
Home is always
by another way,
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you
but by the star
that blazes inside you,
where you are
and you are welcome
Noreen invites us to take five minutes now to ask these questions or others:
What is the longing that keeps leading you to so many doors?
What is the map you carry? What are the provisions you already have?
How will you know when you are “home”?
The singing bowl calls us back to awareness of the present moment.
Now it is Shirley who stands to offer the second poem:
The Shimmering Hours
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas
There is so much
I want to say,
as if the saying
could prepare you
for this path,
as if there were anything
I could offer
that would make your way
Once you step out
you will see for yourself
how nothing could have
made you ready for this road
that will take you
from what you know now
to what you cannot perceive
in your dreaming
or as it gives a glimpse
But I can tell you
this journey is not
It is not about how far
you can walk
or how fast.
It is about what you will do
with this moment, this star
that blazes in your sky
though no one else
So open your heart
to these shimmering hours
by which your path
Open your eyes
to the light that shines
on what you will need
Open your hands
to those who go with you,
and those known only
by their blessing, their benediction
of the road that is
Shirley invites us into reflection:
Here are a few questions you may wish to wonder about during these five minutes of silence. You may have other questions, or you may simply wish to stay with an image or line in the poem. The time is for you:
What will you do with this moment in your life? this star that blazes in your sky?
What is it that you need to see?
Who are the ones who go with you? Who blesses the road that is your own?
A small ping on a singing bowl tells us that the time is up.
The Wise Ones
Artwork by Jan Richardson
Carol Ohmart-Behan steps forward to read the third poem:
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FAR TO TRAVEL
An Epiphany Blessing
If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
as it comes into
There is nothing
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond what would
from the way.
There are vows
that only you
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
you could not
Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel
to offer the gift
the gift that only you
before turning to go
Carol invites us into silence for five minutes to ponder these or other questions
the poem awakens in our hearts:
What feelings arise in you as you read this invitation to the journey?
What are the vows, the secret promises that only you know?
What is the gift that only you can give?
The singing bowl tells us our reflection time is over, and yet for some minutes all is stillness as we breathe in what we have heard, felt, seen and understood.
Now it is time to celebrate with food and drink and gifts.