A striking feature of Celtic spirituality is the presence of High Crosses all over the landscape, pre-12th Century, primarily placed in sites thought to be as sacred. Not only are they tall and dense, many of them like this one from Monasterboice in Ireland have a circle connecting the arms of the cross close to the top and have scenes of Christian salvation history carved into them, a visual sacred journey review for all to remember. Joyce Rupp suggests that it become a template for this next week’s Lenten practice.
She suggests that as a Lenten practice, I draw a high cross, and then fill it in with pictures or with words that represent the story of my life. Two features call my attention. The first is to look at the “cruciform” shape of my life, places shaped by suffering and joy together, represented in the vertical and horizontal beams of the cross. The other is to look at the connection of heaven and earth, represented by the circle between the beams in the Celtic crosses. What events tell the story of my sacred journey? How would people understand my memoir were they to encounter my “high cross?”
I begin this third week by naming significant time periods or happenings in the sequence of eras in my life. Which are the ones in which I was conscious, either then or now, that this was a sacred encounter or happening? How was each one a “thin place” where God was surely there, even when I did not know it? And in which ones did the Light and darkness, suffering and hope coexist, juxtapose each other in a way that deepened my awareness that the ground I inhabited was holy?
Each day I will try to focus on a few to identify the scenes I would want to include in this review. Some of them will be obvious–childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, first career–teaching; marriage, second career–child rearing; graduate school–twice; third career–ordained ministry in the parish, seminary faculty and spiritual direction; retirement. Other areas will be more amorphous–growing a sense of self, re-imagining the role of women in the Church and in the culture, finding a rhythm for all the adult roles to which I was called–mother, pastor, custodial parent, wife, friend. (It is becoming clear that this practice may take more than a week!) Also, the ongoing wrestling with theologies that are Reformed, but always in need of being reformed. In addition, the sea-changes going on the the Church and the World. And more.
I set out on this week’s practice gingerly, knowing that the intention of the practice is to lead me more deeply into the Mystery, in which suffering and joy are not mutually exclusive, because the Holy One is present in both. I also want to notice the “thin places” in which for brief shining moments I am very mindful that God is present, around and through me, above and below me, within and outside me. I want to place my story into that cruciform space, as an express intention to acknowledge that all of my life is sacred and that it is evident in the concrete details of the journey I take.
Holy Spirit, be my companion.