Dearest Monks, Artists, and Pilgrims,
I love revealing each of the newest dancing monk icons (created by Marcy Hall of Rabbit Room Arts). This week we welcome in Saint Brigid to our dancing circle. She is one of the most revered saints of Ireland, second only to St. Patrick. Born in the middle of the 5th century, and carrying the name of one of the ancient goddesses, Brigid performed miracles from an early age and was a founder of many monastic communities, the most influential of which was in Kildare (meaning “Church of the Oak”) and was a double monastery for both men and women.
She is known for her extravagant generosity and care for the poor, bringing great dignity to ordinary tasks, a spirit of blessing on the mundane as the place for encounter with the divine. In her fabulous book In the Sanctuary of Women Jan Richardson has a lush and wondrous chapter on Brigid titled “A Habit of the Wildest Bounty” which comes from a description written about the way Brigid ministered to others. Many of her miracles have to do with abundant provisions for daily life and festivities, mirroring the miracles of Christ himself who offered generous sustenance for all.
Brigid’s feast day is celebrated this coming Saturday, February 1st. I am delighted to be going to a Brigid Festival this weekend, to honor her mystery and presence among us still. February 1st is also the Celtic feast of Imbolc which is one of the four cross-quarter days that fall between the solstices and equinoxes.
In Ireland, Imbolc is the first herald of spring’s arrival. It means “stirring in the belly” which refers to the pregnancy of the ewes and the stirring of seeds deep beneath the ground. I have long appreciated the Celtic feast days as further ways to mark the great turning of the year, but living here has deepened my appreciation for them. Living at this latitude there is a marked difference in light between winter and summer, and starting this week I can begin to feel the shift of the earth toward the season of illumination.
This Thursday is the New Moon, and Imbolc heralds new beginnings of spring. Our path as monks in the world is about always being willing to begin again. There is a wise story from the desert monks:
Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?” The old man said, “If he works hard he can lay a new foundation at every moment.”
Even if we made grand commitments at the New Year which have long been forgotten, even if the rush of life has carried us far from our heart’s desire, even if we have neglected our practice of showing up to the stillness each day to hear God’s voice, every moment is the invitation to a new beginning.
And with the confluence of lunar cycles, the Celtic heralding of spring, and the feast of St. Brigid, one of our monastic ancestors, the call to begin anew shimmers even more brightly.
If you have been loving the dancing monk icon series, Marcy is getting prints ready for sale by the middle of February. I will let you know when you can purchase your own copy of Mother Mary, St. Benedict, St. Hildegard, or St. Brigid (with more monks to come!) and part of the proceeds going to support the Earth Monastery Project.
If you sign up for the online Lent retreat before February 1st, you will also receive a free mini-retreat on the theme of stirring in the belly, to support you listening into the deep rumblings of new life burgeoning forth within.
May Brigid bless you with lavish generosity,
With great and growing love,