by Christine Sine
At this season one of the first things I do each day is to light a circle of candles around me. November 2nd is Looking for Circles Day. God creates in circles and going out to search for those circles is an inspiring practice. They are everywhere–from the patterns on our fingerprints, raindrops, snowflakes, petals and flowers, to the orbs of the sun and the moon and the earth itself. Then there are the circles of days and nights, of seasons, and of life too. And in our faith, there is the circle of God’s love embracing us and of God’s presence in us and in all of creation. Then I imagine the circle of all the witnesses whose lives we celebrate on All Saint’s Day standing in an incredible circle of support and love around each and every one of us.
Like the Celts of old, I love circles and circling prayers and often incorporate these in my spiritual practices. At this time of year, I often greet the dawn with the soft glow of the sunrise reflected on the Olympic mountains outside my window, and say goodbye to the day with the even more breathtaking colors of the sunset over the mountains. It makes me feel as though I am indeed surrounded by God’s light. God’s embracing presence gives me strength, comfort and security in the midst of the ongoing trauma of our world.
My interest in circles as an expression of faith came from Celtic Christians who lived between the 5th & 8th centuries. They believed that a circle, with no break, created a complete whole, affording no access to the devil.
Monasteries were often surrounded by a circle of crosses 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.” The Celtic Resource Book Martin Wallace
As I sit in my circle of light, I feel that same sacred presence surrounding and sustaining me. I close my eyes and draw an imaginary circle in front of me as I describe in this exercise adapted from a traditional circling prayer or CAIM. As I did so, I was reminded of a quote by Hermes Trismegistus that I came across recently:
God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
I interpret this to mean that each of us is centered in the presence of God and that God’s presence moves out from us to embrace everyone and everything. There is no boundary to God’s presence or to God’s love. Nothing can extinguish the light of God. It might be hidden as it is presently behind the clouds that cover the sky. It might fade into darkness as the sun fades into night, but it is always there. It is always waiting for the right time to reappear. Wow, what a wonderful thought to begin the day with.
As I reflected on this a few days ago, I was reminded of another time I wrote about the emerging light of God and a saying attributed to an ancient monk:
How do we know when the dawn has come? Is it when we can see the mountains clearly? No. Is it when we can see a dog or a cat nearly in the emerging light? No. It is when we can see in another the face of God. That is when the dawn has surely come.”
As I pondered all of this over the last few days, while I grieved the atrocities of the war in Israel/Palestine, I was reminded of a prayer I wrote a couple of years ago. I plan to use it over the next few weeks as part of my candle lighting ritual each morning. It’s a wonderful way to start the day, aware that not only do I stand at the centre of God’s love, but that I also provide a centre for God’s love out of which others can be touched and embraced with divine light and love. This year as I pray the prayer I find myself wanting to expand the circle further and further so that it doesn’t embrace just me and my family or even the country in which I live, but the whole of God’s world and the entire creation.
Today, we stand in God’s circle of light,
Breathing in, breathing out.
Today we stand in God’s circle of light,
Light before, light behind,
Light on left, light on right,
Light buried deep within.
Today, we stand in God’s circle of light,
With friends and family, neighbours and strangers,
With all the people of the world.
Together we stand in God’s everlasting light.
United into one family,
From every nation and culture and creed.
Let this circle hold us,
Let this circle sustain us,
Let this circle surround us,
With the bright and shiny presence
Of the Eternal One,
Who leads us into light.
© Christine Sine September 2020