Monday, June 21, 2010

Of light and darkness on a midsummer's day

What is this place where we are meeting? Only a house, the earth its floor...
Yet it becomes a body that lives when we are gathered here, and know our God is near.

Glendalough, the valley of the two lakes, is known for its early Medieval monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the sixth century. A simply gorgeous location, Glendalough became our home for a day of retreat with Father Michael Rodgers.

On midsummer's day, the meeting of light and darkness, we gathered to celebrate the light and shadows in our own lives. We began by walking a labyrinth and recognizing that our lives are not straight journeys but filled with many unexpected turns. But all of the steps of our lives, said Father Michael, lead us toward home.

At the lower lake, we learned that St. Kevin met a monster, but instead of running away, Kevin befriended it. We all have monsters to tame, said Father Michael, and we need to name and bless our shadows.

He told us that the contemplative heart is a compassionate heart. It is important for us to sit and be silent and listen for the God who is within us. "Compassion is the only way to God and Christ is buried there," Father Michael told us.

St. Kevin came to the valley of the lakes to find solitude and lived here in a cave in the hills that surround the two lakes. Later, he came back with a small group of monks to found a monastery. A number of the buildings from this monastery city still remain today.

Like St. Kevin, we are each called to this cycle of solitude and community. We need individual space to be close to God, but we are always called back to community, to love this world more fully.

We are people of God and we care for each other. As a small part of the two billion Christians in this world, we have a great potential to be a powerful force for good. The spirit of Jesus lives within us.

We sang, up on the hill on our pilgrimage around the lakes and then again later in the afternoon inside the roofless walls of a monastery church. These roofless walls may only be a house, then and now, but we are definitely a body and God is definitely near.

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