Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Cealidh

They cut me down, but I leap up high!
I am the light that will never, ever die.
I live in you, and you live in me:
"I am the Lord of the Dance," said he.

Dance, then! Wherever you may be!
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.
-Sydney Carter

And so it began to come to a close, this amazing pilgrimage of fifty-three college students, and its closing took the form of that most sacred and mystical liturgy: a dance. And not just any dance! It was a dance that was, like our Scottish hosts, a generous, joyful, spirited, energetic, vivacious celebration of life! – it was a Cealidh, one of those rare combinations of traditional dance tunes and the movements of an entire community.

They taught us the steps of many dances. They interlocked their hands and arms in ours. Their laughter became our laughter, and our laughter became theirs again. And as with any litany of movement, any sacred and holy activity, the laughter and the steps and the song and the festivities piled higher and higher, until there was barely any room left in anyone's heart. And then, like overflowing chalices, the laughter and the song and the steps brimmed over into our laps and we started in once more.

Food kept appearing, and drink to quench the thirst of all who threw themselves, again and again, into the bliss of the dance.

Heaven must be like this, I think: abundance upon abundance, joy that simply cannot be expressed in words, but needs an entire body to exult in the proper way. Heaven must be like this: the simple but profound dance of an entire village, caught up in some sacred choreography that heals the wounds of the day and acts like a sentinel against dark forces of this world that would rob us of our joy.
And tonight, little St. Kentigern's Parish opened up the gates of heaven to us, in that most miraculous of ways. For they not only taught us how to dance. They also taught us how to live a bit better as well.

I doubt that anyone in this choir will ever forget these past few hours of dancing with our Scottish friends. And to say such a thing – that an action is forever etched into the soul of a person – means that the ground we walked was holy ground. For if something is unforgettable, it is a reflection of the eternal... a taste of what it is that comes from our Creator, and what is promised in the hereafter as well.

Toward the end of the night, the caelidh band found out that we were a choir, and they asked us to do a number. So we joined in a great circle and belted out these words, words that took on even deeper meaning given the context of the night:
Heaven's doors are open wide!
Guest and stranger bound by love.
Every nation, come inside,
Held in hope by God above.

Now, we prepare to depart. But we have experienced the Dance. And our lives will never, ever be quite the same.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:St. Kentigern's Parish Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland

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