Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mary of the Gaels

May, of course, is the month of Mary. But when we came to Clonard Parish, the home of the House of Brigid, we had another surprise waiting for us: the parochial staff had planned a special celebration, Naomh Bhríde, Mary of the Gaels, a fusion of Irish imagery, traditional music, history and prayers, all associated with the saint from Kildare.

It is safe to say that we've never experienced a liturgy quite like this before: the combination of God's forces of nature — the air, water, earth and flame — all woven together with ancient stories of St. Brigid; these, intermingled with the songs and psalms we've researched and performed over the years, gave us all a deep and true insight into what is really the taproot of "Celtic spirituality".

Some people throw around this term, Celtic spirituality, in a loose and reckless way, and what they are really hinting at is a watered-down, secular, new-age brand of piety, something that has no deep regard for the Gospels or for Christian sacrifice. But working in tandem with the Irish priests, musicians and lay people that we do, we are not about to be lured into such a compromise. The liturgy we experienced last night was rich in Christian imagery: the primal baptismal waters, the honoring with incense, the ancient songs that endured centuries of persecution. The Brigid celebration caught us up in this breathtaking amalgam of story, song and Scripture; in short, it was creative Irish Catholic devotion at its very best.

For who could resist being brought into the blessing of the hearth, the praises of poetry and scholars, the thanksgiving for the beauty and bounty of the earth? All this, woven around the yearning, lyrical, soulful melodies of the Irish people.

Often over these last few days, it's been hard to sort out the giving and the receiving: for all we offer by way of song, the Irish give back, with open doors and warm embraces and laughter and their own ingenious expressions. The Bhríde celebration was just one more instance of how, as pilgrims with gifts to bring, we found those very gifts laid before our own feet.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Clonard, County Wexford, Ireland

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