Guest Blogger: Kayla Cole
*This is the second in a series of posts on Lenten Prayer Practices.
I found the following in a Celtic worship resource:
God is Breath, for the breath of the wind is shared by all, goes everywhere; nothing shuts it in, nothing holds it prisoner.
–Maximus the Confessor, a seventh century Christian monk
I also found last week’s progressive breath prayer to be as beneficial as I had hoped. I always inhale a sizeable breath before I get in the van to pick up the kids from school, but that breath has new meaning now. When they return home, I usually have a hard time living in the moment. (Strange, I know.) First, it’s almost impossible to define and separate a singular moment. Second, I’m prone to managing peace by anticipating the next moments. But through this prayerful practice, those moments slow down and allow me refocus on what actually matters.
Three or four quieter occasions stuck out among others, where I repeated the lines over and over, really grappling with the words and letting my thought process evolve with the progression. The longer I lingered in this prayer, the more peaceful and centered I felt at its completion. I actually felt my muscles relax, a clear indication of how tense I had been at the outset, with or without a known reason.
Survey says: that practice will be permanently joining my repertoire.
On to the next practice!
Irish missionary Saint Columbanus, or Columbán, said this at the turn of the seventh century: If you want to understand the Creator, seek to understand created things.
I LOVE that. So much to appreciate in ancient theology…
Did you know that Saint Patrick was actually born in England (sometime in the early fifth century) and sold into slavery by the Irish pirates who kidnapped him?! And that after enduring six years of slavery he returned to Ireland, voluntarily, as a missionary? I’d say that’s enough to make him a saint.
He is credited with being the single most accomplished missionary in Christendom, having converted nearly the entire country of Ireland before his death. Legend also claims he used Ireland’s most iconic national symbol, the shamrock clover, to explain the Trinity.
Although irrelevant, it is interesting to note that up until the 1970s it was illegal for any pub in Ireland to operate on St. Patrick’s Day, which commemorates his death. Makes me cringe a bit, knowing how frivolous our Americanized festivities can be.
Incidentally, it was on St. Patrick’s Day—also Mike’s birthday—that my proud Irish husband and I decided to book a tour of Ireland for our 10th anniversary. Coincidentally, this time of year makes us particularly homesick.
If you want to understand the Creator, seek to understand created things.
Like every country abroad, Ireland is a whole other world, a melting pot of language and culture, and a true wonder to behold—if not a slightly bipolar experience. But that means you pray automatically, wherever you are: Packed like sardines, avoiding pedestrian collisions along tiny city streets, praying that you and all the bicycles weaving through traffic will make it out of Dublin alive…or that the lift (elevator) can safely handle you and all these people with no concept of personal space…or that your tour bus driver is actually aware of the size and maneuverability of his vehicle. Or, you’re all but lost in a vast wilderness, so lush and green in sacred history that they trace back to creation, and you can’t help but breathe it all in and believe everything.
The Breath that is God never ceases in Ireland. It’s always windy. It’s always on your skin and in your hair. You cannot escape it. Sometimes it is so consuming that it chills you to the bone, and other times it makes the hairs on your neck stand alert. But sometimes, it feels so warm and wonderful that you forget any other place exists. And you just want to stay there, standing in that place, breathing it in for as long as you can.
So, what is the “Irish Way” of prayer? Finding poetry in creation, I think. Take another look at those simple, ancient words.
I’m going to leave you with a few verses to lighten your step, and the challenge to see the divine poetry all around you, peeking out from beneath this horrid frozen white with Michigan’s warmer nature. To feel the Breath that is God always brushing your skin.
Then, give it words. Find a journal. Open a blank document. Breathe. Write. Repeat.
Rune of St Patrick
At Tara today in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along the path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.
Traditional Celtic Prayer
O Son of God, change my heart,
Your spirit composes the songs of the birds and buzz of the bees.
I ask of you only one more miracle:
Beautify my soul.
A Prayer of St Columba
Be O Lord,
a guiding star above me,
a smooth path below me,
a kindly shepherd behind me
and a bright flame before me;
today, tonight and forever.