We were in St. Brigid’s home place, Kildare, on the first day we left Dublin last summer. It is a beautiful, green, country town where people go to see the horse races. But there is definitely a sense of spiritual mystery about the place, whose name means “the church of the oak.” When Brigid became a Christian in the 400’s the ancient earth-religion had a watch-fire keeping spring alive on the special hill and a feeling for the spirit in the oak tree. Brigid claimed it all for Jesus and identified the fire’s true source. 1600 years later I could still feel her influence.
I am happy to honor the memory of a great leader among the faithful today — especially because she is a woman. I have three reasons.
1) Some flame keepers will be in my dining room in a little while planning the women’s retreat. Circle of Hope is blessed with some strong leaders who, like Brigid, don’t mind taking responsibility for their gifts.
2) At our spectacular Love Feast last night (265 attending! 30 making a covenant!), I had to murmur a bit when “Holy Holy Holy” had us sing “though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see.” I tried to get “sinful ones” in the archive a long time ago, and the original keeps getting back in. This is not the most egregious example of patriarchal language, since it obviously means “humankind,” and it might be just as well to sing “sinful men” if you were a woman. Nevertheless, I think not making the women (and men) who are sensitive to language-that-doesn’t-include-everyone sing things that leave people out is the leader’s responsibility (and it is just the right thing to do).
3) The prayer book I use (Celtic Daily Prayer) included a great poem about Brigid, today, which matches the spirit of our own great feast, last night. Perhaps we should have acknowledged her as our spiritual host when we met, since she was so famous for her hospitality and it was St. Brigid’s Eve!
I should like a great lake of the finest ale
for the King of Kings.
I should like a table of the choicest food
for the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith
and the food be forgiving love.
I should welcome the poor to my feast
for they are God’s children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast
for they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus in the highest place
and the sick dance with the angels.
God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
God bless the human race.
God bless our food,
God bless our drink;
All homes, O God, embrace.
(Yes, I know it is Superbowl Sunday, too. Please do not kick me out of mankind).