Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims
Lughnasa (pronounced Loo-nassah) is one of the ancient Celtic feasts celebrated on August 1st marking the time of the beginning of the harvest and the gathering in. It is said to honor the Celtic sun-god Lugh who was an ally to the farmer in the struggle for food. With the Summer Solstice six weeks before, you can start to really feel the shortening of the days in August in Ireland. There is a subtle shift in the light and the air that leans towards autumn’s crispness and cooler days. The energy in the world is changing.
Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons so I love this time of just beginning to really feel the darkness growing. The doorway to mystery is beginning to open. In the mystical tradition of Christianity, darkness is seen as a rich time of incubation and rest. The fullness of summer’s growth has reached its peak and is now starting to wane and you can begin to see the signs of nature moving toward her own storing up of energies for the journey inward which the seasons ahead will invite.
Lughnasa is a time to gather in and to reap what has been sown. The other side of the wheel from Lughnasa is Imbolc, February 1st (which is being celebrated in the southern hemisphere now), when the very first signs of spring started to rumble awake on the earth. In these last six months, we have seen a cycle of flourishing and fecundity, both around us and perhaps also within our hearts as well. What are you gathering in? What have been the fruits of your labor these last months?
At Abbey of the Arts we tend to work and think in academic years rather than calendar years. Summer is a time of both rest as well as dreaming into and planning for the new year beginning in August and September. We have a wonderful harvest to share with you. We are piling the banquet tables high with the sweet fruits of opportunity to gather together in contemplative prayer or on retreat. We adore being on a pilgrimage of the heart with you, deepening always into the possibilities transformation offers to us, and by extension our world.
We will be continuing our monthly yoga classes with Melinda (starting again later this month), as well as our monthly contemplative prayer services (which will return in October) and we are adding a new Taize-inspired sacred chant service led by Simon de Voil (also starting in October).
On August 20th, Wisdom Council member Jamie Marich is leading a mini-retreat on healing the wounds of spiritual abuse and Wisdom Council member Polly Paton-Brown is leading a retreat on poppet-making September 10th.
We are very excited to be offering a new monthly program of mini-retreats on the Christian mystics called The Mystical Heart: Love as a Creative Force. You can register for all 10 retreats (September through June) or you can sign up for individual retreats. This series was inspired by the challenging events of our times and a desire to help root us in love as a foundational reality and creative force in the world for transformation.
We hope you might consider joining our Sustainers Circle. We offer many programs at no cost to this community as well as scholarships to help support participation in what we do for all who desire. This past spring we released the third week of our Prayer Cycle series audio podcasts on the theme of Mary and the sacred feminine. During this coming year we will be working on the video podcasts for that as well as the fourth week of our Prayer Cycle on the theme of honoring angels, saints, and ancestors. We are in the process of gathering a collection of songs for a curated album of beautiful music and will then write the prayers to create the morning and evening services. The Sustainers Circle has four different levels and is wonderful for those of you who have a regular commitment to what we do and love to participate in our various programs. If you have the financial ability to support us in this way, know of our deepest gratitude for sharing your abundance with us so we can share freely with others regardless of ability to pay.
As we enter this season of harvest in the northern hemisphere, I invite you to consider what fruits you are gathering in your own life. What have been the experiences in the last few months that have left a sweetness, a sense of holy direction?
We hope you will consider gathering with us to pray and retreat together, to celebrate the beauty that radiates through this aching and luminous world.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Christine Valters Paintner