Well ~ Fancy that, I am now a scholar!
I have completed the third of three summer conferences for the School of Celtic Consciousness, taught by John Philip Newell, at Mercy by the Sea Retreat and Conference Center. They gave us certificates, printed on the back of this photo of Sunrise on Iona. And they called us “scholars”.
On the third night of moon rises, I watched and waited from my screened porch, but the moon never rose over the tree tops at the water’s edge on the Long Island Sound, in the place where it had been the night before, when it rose up in perfect fullness right in front of me.
So I roused myself from the rocking chair to investigate, and there, far to the northern end of the shore, a slightly waning moon, so heavy with sacred fire that it labored long to lift above the horizon, round and Red-Orange as the interior flesh of a tree ripened peach.
Oh my God. To worship the beauty of Holiness!
Mercy by the Sea. This Mercy by the Sea. A perfect place for being schooled in Celtic Consciousness, because “Celtic Consciousness” is a matter of being aware that all creation is sacred, and letting that awareness change your life. Celtic Consciousness is keeping a spiritual practice of paying attention to the presence of God in all things, and listening.
Sea breeze and bird wing,
Earth in sand and shell, stacked stone and round rock,
salt water lapping a lullaby, and rain in deluge,
fire by day, moon by night,
all for our listening for the heartbeat of God.
Mercy by the Sea is a “Finis-terra” kind of place where land meets sea and it seems you are at the end of the earth where God says, as he did to Isaiah, “Listen! O Coastlands!”
In the School of Celtic Consciousness, we practice the listening. Daring to hear the voice of God because God is in all of it. God is as accessible as the ground under your feet and the air in your lungs. Each day, the teachings were punctuated with the spiritual practice of listening and sometimes visioning.
So, for the first morning’s practice, I sat by a butterfly bush because the purple clusters reminded me of Pennsylvania lilacs. I tried listening to the butterfly, and the bush that was not a lilac.
It was kind of funny that it spoke the words back to me that were my own, from my Easter sermon, when I quoted my son’s scientific poetry about the gigantic Promethea moth in his observation box, when he told me it was “unfurling his wings to fly at dusk”.
The great silk moth, waits there clinging for a time. Waiting for wings to un-wrinkle, and the venation system of the wings to harden, to give them their structure for flight.
A step-by-step primer on resurrection.
Letting go of the former structure of the chrysalis that no longer contains or protects or guards the life within, Jesus hung around the grave for a bit, waiting for his wings to unfurl. Mary walked up on him when he was still wrinkled and damp from the effects of having been dead, and the wrapping of linen and spice bound around his lifeless body for three days, and thought that with such earthiness, surely, he was the gardener.
And there at the bush that was not a lilac flitted a happy little orange and black butterfly, clinging on to nothing, flying for the sheer pleasure of flight on a light filled summer day in Connecticut.
Just for the joy of it. This life-over-death kind of resurrection joy.
It was God’s voice in creation inviting me to trust that my own wings have indeed unfurled, already. An invitation to trust my experience of Resurrection and to claim it for myself. My own resurrection and the brave waiting, clinging to chrysalis, and the process of emergence, and the even braver practice of taking flight, for the delight of resurrection. Simply, for joy.
This life-over-death kind of joy ~ is in the wings.
Cheers to Creation’s voice and God’s mercies which, as the Psalmist sings and the sun confesses, are new every morning. Here’s to God’s voice in all things, in creation and in my practice of listening.
I like that they decided to call us ‘scholars’ rather than graduates. It’s an ongoing thing when you’re a scholar. We celebrate with graduates because they have finished something and move on to other things. A scholar goes deep, and deeper still, into knowing, listening, practicing, and loving.
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.