|Pen and Ink Reflections||
It is one of those lovely quiz questions, isn’t it – what do Barbados, Romania, the Ukraine and Scotland have in common? The answer is St Andrew of course, as their shared patron saint. In this COVID-19 year, that is something for which it is particularly important to wonder and give thanks. For in recent months we have, as a world together, been both divided by border closures, and united in suffering. On this Advent Sunday therefore, it is good to be reminded of our even greater connections in the immense hope to which St Andrew responded and shared with others. For Andrew’s witness is not least to the central importance of relationships, with God in Jesus Christ, with one another, and with the wider world. Today, as we celebrate the feast of St Andrew, and Advent hope, it is into such mission into which we too are called, and the joy which lies in such relational hope, beyond all the divisions and sufferings of our lives and world. Thus St Andrew should empower us to trust, and find new life, across our human borders and in the borderlands of suffering and joy, despair and hope…
a reflection for Midsumma (Melbourne LGBTI+) Festival, on the feast of Brigid & Darlughdach
First of all, may I thank you for the invitation to speak today, and, as an incomer, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land: the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging. Our struggles and joys are bound together.
A ‘queer’ saint?
Is Brigid a queer saint, do you think? I don’t just mean as a likely LGBTI+ sacred forebear, but in the sense of being a figure who challenges and transforms our conceptions and ideas of holiness. Of course the word ‘queer’ is highly contested, and also disliked, for good reasons, among some sexually and gender diverse people. Yet among the broad range of its meaning, ‘queer’ does, I think, have its value. As we meet on the feast of Saint Brigid, it is certainly one way into reflecting on what she has to say to us as we celebrate Midsumma Festival, and the lives and contributions of sexually and gender diverse people. For, on the most obvious level, it is certainly apposite to remark on Brigid and her relationship with her intimate companion Darlughdach, with whom she shares this saint’s day, as she shared so much of her life, including her bed. Whilst so much about Brigid is cast about with legend, it seems reasonable to me therefore to place her, and Darlughdach, high in the pantheon of LGBTI+ Christian saints. Even if some might contest that however, Brigid undoubtedly offers us distinctive, transgressive, and mysterious paths into life and God: vital and vibrant queer ways, into holiness and transformation…
‘There was an ancient music on the earth before humans ever came here. Imagine what the first music of the wind was like when the earth was born out of nothing. Imagine the wind being released for the first time, and finding itself running into silver mountains, dark mountains, skimming over boiling oceans. And if you enter into the dream which brought you here, and awaken its beauty in you, then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you.’
- so begins the introduction to the film ‘Celtic Pilgrimage’ which shares much of John O’Donohue’s life and work. And, in a way, like many of his sayings, those gorgeously fashioned few words alone might really be enough for us to ponder tonight. For the heart of much of his insight and encouragement to live is contained in them: the vitality of creation and the landscape; the call to imagination and to enter into the dreams of our life; and the centrality of beauty and of wonder. John O’Donohue’s life and work was an invitation and example of how to attend to such presence and to travel as adventurous pilgrims into them…