St. Kevin Holds Open His Hand and Radical Hospitality ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

St. Kevin Holds Open His Hand

Imagine being like Kevin.
Your grasping fist softens,
fingers uncurl and
palms open, rest upward,
and the blackbird
weaves twigs and straw and bits of string
in the bowl of your hand,
you feel the delicate weight of
speckled blue orbs descend,
and her feathered warmth
settling in.

How many days can you stay,
open,
waiting
for the shell
to fissure and crack,
awaiting the slow emergence
of tiny gaping mouths
and slick wings
that need time to strengthen?

Are you willing to wait and watch?
Not to withdraw your
affections too soon?
Can you fall in love with the
exquisite ache in your arms
knowing the hatching it holds?

Can you stay not knowing
how broad those wings will
become, or how they will fly
awkwardly at first,
then soar above you

until you have become the sky
and all that remains is
your tiny shadow
swooping across the earth.

Dearest monks and artists,

The story of Kevin and the Blackbird is one of my favorite of all the Celtic saint and animal stories.  The story tells us St. Kevin would pray every day in a small hut with arms outstretched. The hut was so small though that one arm reached out the window. One day, a blackbird landed in his palm, and slowly built a nest there. Kevin realized what was happening and knew that he could not pull his hand back with this new life being hatched there. So he spent however many weeks it took for the eggs to be laid, the tiny birds to hatch, and for them to ready themselves to fly away.

I love this story because it is such an image of yielding, of surrendering to something that was not in the “plans,” but instead, receiving it as gift. Instead of sitting there in agony trying to figure out how to move the bird, he enters into this moment with great love and hospitality.

How many times in our lives do we reach out our hands for a particular purpose, and something else arrives? Something that may cause discomfort, something we may want to pull away from, but in our wiser moments we know that this is a holy gift we are invited to receive.

Hospitality is the heart of our work as monks in the world– creating a safe space where we can begin welcoming back in the stranger both outside and within and in the process discover the hidden wholeness of which Thomas Merton wrote. This kind of radical hospitality is also an act of great love. Over the years, I have come to realize, that more than anything else I do, this work of healing is most essential. Abbey of the Arts strives to be a safe place where a diversity of people with a wide range of beliefs and convictions can gather.

This radical hospitality is a lifelong journey. We are always discovering new aspects of our inner world which we reject or resist and need love and care. And in the process of welcoming them in, we perhaps begin to discover that others don't annoy us quite so much. As we grow more intimate with our own places of exile and woundedness, we discover a deep well of compassion for the strangeness of others. As we come to know our own compulsions and places of grasping, we can offer more love to those in our lives struggling with addictions and other places where freedom has been lost.

What would it be like to welcome in that lonely part of yourself and to love him, to trust that she has a place in you? Maybe there is self-judgment and criticism that you try to push away. What would it be like to make space to sit with these difficult parts with compassion and listen to what they really want to tell you? This would be a generous act of loving.

We share this week the audio podcasts for Morning & Evening prayer of Day 2 of our Monk in the World Prayer Cycle which is on the theme of hospitality. Make some time this week to let these prayers carry you to a place of radical welcome within yourself and see how this impacts your hospitality to others. Special thanks as always to Simon de Voil for putting such care into creating these audio resources for us.

With great and growing love,

Christine

Video credit: Poetry Video by Morgan Creative

You might also enjoy