by Christine Sine
We have just returned from our annual Celtic retreat on Camano Island a wonderful gathering of friends and associates from the U.S. and Canada. Over the next few days we will post reflections, litanies and meditation tool we hope you will find useful starting with this litany from our Saturday morning session. We hope that it will help you enter into the spirit of this weekend and the rich encounter with God that it brought to participants.
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 symbol of our day together. 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. We come to celebrate God’s wholeness and all who have and continue to move towards its completion.
As we start let us close our eyes and imagine the circle of God’s presence surrounding the creation in which we stand. Extend the forefinger of your right hand and draw an imaginary circle around this place. Imagine Christ standing at the centre his arms outstretched as on the Cross, binding together the elements of the natural world into a sacred circle of wholeness.
let us pray:
God our creator, maker of all life,
mender of all the broken pieces of the universe.
You reveal yourself through your beautiful creation all around.
In the person of Jesus Christ,
you bind it together into a circle of wholeness.
Through him you place the gospel
at the centre of this sacred circle.
All things are held together by him,
and in him all creation finds its true purpose.
Close your eyes again and use your forefinger to draw a second imaginary circle within the circle of creation. This time extend it around the people who are gathered here, then imagine it embracing your family and friends, your neighbors and strangers, in fact all God’s people past, present and future. Once again imagine Christ at the center arms outstretched binding together the people your circle surrounds.
Today we stand in the circle of God’s presence
United with those who have gone before.
We stand with Christ and the disciples who led the way.
Peter, James, John, Matthew, Thomas, Mary, Martha, Phoebe,
We stand in the company of the Celtic saints
whose words and wanderings inspire us,
Columba, Brigit, Patrick, Hilda, Brendan, Beatrice, Kevin,
We stand with our friends and family who have gone before us,
And hold hands with those whose names are known to God alone.
Together we celebrate the forming of a sacred circle of healing and wholeness
that embraces all humanity and all creation.
Instructions for Preparing the Altar
Now it is time to prepare an altar for our worship. November 2nd is Looking for Circles day but we want to celebrate it today. Circles are everywhere. The shape of this gathering place, the round seeds in blackberries, the spiral patterns in leaves or a special rock, wheels of cars, bubbles in the bathroom, and of course the mysterious crop circles are a few examples.
So as we go out let us gather items to place on the altar that speak of God’s wholeness, As we do consider 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?
Circle us lamb of God
abide within our hearts.
Circle us word of God
speak through our lips.
Circle us dove of God
grant peace along our pathway.
Circle us with your witnesses.
Circle us with your wholeness.
Circle us with your love.
Let’s Take Time to Listen: – An Introduction to Lectio Divina
God’s promise of wholeness and the completion of the healing both of creation and of all humankind is hidden within all our hearts. We rejoice 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 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 celebrate their legacy and continue to be inspired by their wonderful example.
We stand with Patrick who did not turn his back on those who had enslaved him and as a result brought gospel freedom to Ireland. We celebrate with Columba who as a young man fought violence with violence, and must have struggled with his own need for repentance and inner restoration. His sacred calling as a monk taught him the power of peace and reconciliation, the spirit of which still impacts our lives today. We remember the generous spirit of Brigit whose radical hospitality fed thousands and whose example inspired the Celtic commitment to hospitality. And we sit with Kevin who like so many of the Celtic saints believed all creation was inspired by God and infused with the glory of God.
We stand in the circle too with those for whom the celebration of wholeness is still little more than a dream. We think of the witnesses today whose voices are raised to remind us of the violence, pain and injustice that still permeates our world. We stand with those who have suffered violence, oppression and pain. We remember those who fight against the destruction of creation and the extinction of species.
God today we stand in the circle of wholeness you are creating.
We are surrounded by a cloud,
Faithful witnesses who have gone before.
Those who have loved where we would have hated.
Those who have healed where we would have hurt.
Those who have spoken out when we remained silent.
God may we walk in their footsteps,
Learning courage from their sacrifice,
Gaining strength from their faithfulness.
Help us learn to give so that others may receive.
Teach us to love so that others may be set free.
Encourage us to die to self so that others might live.
God may we join that cloud of faithful witnesses,
Treading paths of loving obedience,
Leaving footprints for others to walk in.
God may we too lead kingdom lives, and walk into your ways.
Come into God’s presence and listen for God’s wisdom in the silence of your heart as we read through the scripture and apply the practice of Lectio Divina to it. Ask God what you can do to help complete the circle of wholeness and healing God is working towards. Listen, not just to the response of your own spirit and its need for wholeness, but also for the pain that has created the violence and destructiveness within our world. Are there ways in which our actions or inactions have contributed to the lack of healing and prevented God from completing the circle of wholeness? Listen to the witnesses around us and to the song of creation crying out for completion and wholeness.
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:1-13 (NLT)
Scripture reading is followed by personal time for reflection. Make sure you do not rush through this process but allow ample time for God to speak to each individual.
Monasteries were often built with a circle of crosses surrounding them declaring that the space within was sacred and different – dedicated to God and claimed as a place where God met people who were offered sanctuary and hospitality. Our prayer is that this property too will become known as a place of healing, hospitality and wholeness. May God give us the wisdom to build and the discernment to form the type of community that can have the same influence that the Celtic saints did.
Let us go out for a second time of reflection and contemplation, with our eyes open to God’s desire for healing and wholeness. You might like to walk around the new circle prayer trail which encompasses the central circle of our property. Use the cross in your program as a template and journal page. Draw in it and color it as you walk. Around the circle write the names of those who celebrate with you in the circle of wholeness and healing. Add the names of those for whom the celebration still seems a distant dream. Reflect on what you have written and write down what God brings to your mind.
Christ circles us going before, behind, below, above, at our side and also inside. In this place where we join the circle of friends, are surrounded by the circle of nature, and accompanied by the circle of those who have gone before let us celebrate the completion of this.
Draw your circle Lord,
around us like a cloak.
with life and love and laughter.
with light and joy and presence.
with smiles and hugs and friendship.
Draw your circle Lord,
Let it radiate light where there has been darkness.
Let it birth joy where there has been despair.
Let it preserve life where there has been death.
Draw your circle Lord,
over all the creatures of your world.
Let it bring wholeness and peace and unity.