Circles were significant to the Celts. It was felt that a circle with no break was a symbol of eternal life, a complete whole affording no access to the devil. It was a symbol of unity, togetherness and purity.
Celtic crosses are unique in that they incorporated the circle at their heart. Some have suggested that this circle depicts the wreath given to military heroes in Rome showing Christ’s victory over the forces of evil. Others see it as a halo representing the holiness of the one who died there. The circle was a pagan sign depicting the sun or the earth, the natural world. By superimposing the sign on the cross, the Celts expressed their view that the revelation of God comes to us through the natural world and in the person of Jesus Christ. We need both to get the full picture, so the two are bound together with the circle at the intersection of the natural and the spiritual realms (Rodney Newman, 70).
It is for these reasons that we have chosen the circle as the central symbol for our Celtic retreat. We come to create a circle of unity, togetherness and wholeness with God’s creation and with all the peoples of our world past, present and future.
What is Your Response?
Let us sit with our eyes closed for a few minutes and imagine the circle of God’s presence surrounding the creation around us. Extend the forefinger of your right hand and draw an imaginary circle around the place in which you sit. Imagine Christ standing at the centre his arms outstretched as on the Cross, binding together the elements of the natural world and the built world of your city or dwelling, into a sacred circle of wholeness. What stirs in your mind as you do this?
Now open your eyes and draw a circle in your journal that represents the encircling presence of God. Write or draw the images that came to your mind. What is embraced by the circle of God’s wholeness for you? What is still broken and stands outside that circle?
November 2nd is Looking for Circles day but it is a day we can celebrate at any time. Circles are everywhere. Our fingers and the rings that encircle them, the spiral patterns in leaves or a special rock, the wheels of cars, and, of course, the mysterious crop circles are a few examples. Some of the circles around us are perfect, some are in the form of spirals, some are broken. Yet in all the pattern is discernible.
God’s promise of wholeness and the completion of the healing both of creation and of all humankind that the circle represents, is hidden within all our hearts and within all of creation. We rejoice with God’s creation where the circle is ever present and yet often distorted, disfigured or scarred. We rejoice too with those who have borne witness to this dream of wholeness throughout the centuries, living their lives to bring healing, freedom and abundance to the oppressed, the hurting and the abandoned.
We think particularly of Nelson Mandela whose life we celebrate today. We think too of the Celtic saints who stand in the circle with us. They had a powerful sense of the unity of the whole created order and believed that God is always at work making all things whole. We continue to be inspired by their wonderful example.
What is Your Response?
Look around you. Take photos of or make a list of the circles you see. What thoughts and emotions do they invoke? A you do so, ponder the questions: Where do we feel surrounded by the circle of God’s love? Who stands with us in the circle? How is God’s creation bound with us within that circle?
Watch the video below CIRCLE ME By Jeff Johnson, sung here by tenor Ross Hauck. It is one of my favourite circling songs. Are there other images that come to mind as you watch the video? Add these to your circle in your journal. Now write your own simple circling prayer. Use the format: Circle me Lord Keep… out (your fears or concerns), Keep… in (your hopes and aspirations). You can write as many couplets as you like. Print out the prayer to use throughout the week.