Saint Brigid’s Day

Feb 1st, 2006 | By | Category: Spirituality

Searching for inspiration for Saint Brigid’s Day, I found this poem by a young lady called Emma Finnegan of Scoil Phádraig Naofa, a rural school on the east coast of Ireland between Dundalk and Newry:

Brigid wove a cross of rushes
by a dying chieftain’s bed”
“Brigid what is that you’re making
From the rushes there?”, he said.

Brigid said,”A cross I’m weaving,
like the cross where Jesus died.”
“Who was Jesus?” asked the chieftain,
“Why was this man crucified?”

Brigid told the gospel story
to a dying pagan King.
Lying silently he listened,
Never saying anything.

Then he kissed the cross of rushes
Saying ,”Brigid, thanks to you,
I have come to love this Jesus,
I will follow his way too!”

The poem, for me, captures the essence of Brigid and early Irish Christian spirituality.

There is a sense of God in the ordinary.In the everyday things—sitting with a sick man– Brigid’s mind is on the things of God.There was a sense in early Irish Church that life was lived in presence of God and life was lived for God– there were prayers for every occasion, even at the lighting of a fire in the morning.The whole of life was sacred for them; God was never excluded.

Like her other Irish contemporaries, Brigid meets directly with the hostile world outside and responds to it with love– she follows directly Jesus’ example of meeting those who are different and caring for them.The chieftain wanted to know who Jesus was because not because of anything she said, but because of what he saw in Brigid– faith for Brigid is lived, not just talked about.

Brigid has a firm understanding of her faith that she can share; she doesn’t shy away at telling the Gospel story.She lived in times of anarchy and violence across Europe.The Roman Empire in western Europe collapsed in the Fifth Century and much of Europe descended into the Dark Ages.The Irish monks who went out as missionaries were a light in the darkness at this time.There was a devotion to study and learning.One of the most beautiful of the ancient Irish hymns expresses the thought that zealous study was part of the soul’s dearest desire.

It were my soul’s desire
To see the face of God;
It were my soul’s desire
To rest in His abode.

It were my soul’s desire
To study zealously;
This, too, my soul’s desire,
A clear rule set for me.

It were my soul’s desire
A spirit free from gloom;
It were my soul’s desire
New life beyond the Doom.

It were my soul’s desire
To shun the chills of hell:
It were my soul’s desire
Within His house to dwell.

It were my soul’s desire
To imitate my King,
It were my soul’s desire
His ceaseless praise to sing.

It were my soul’s desire
When heaven’s gate is won,
To find my soul’s desire
Clear shining like the sun.

Grant, Lord, my soul’s desire,
Deep waves of cleansing sighs;
Grant, Lord, my soul’s desire
From earthly cares to rise.

This still my soul’s desire—
Whatever life afford—
To gain my soul’s desire
And see Thy face, O Lord.

In living in faith, in living out faith, in learning faith, Brigid has a lot to teach.

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