|Cross at St Non's chapel, Pembrokeshire|
I was delighted to be asked to offer a reflective workshop in the Grove at Greenbelt this year (12-1pm Saturday 24th Aug '13!) and have been having a good time planning it out. Yesterday I was out on a local field with lots of rope, forming a large Celtic Cross and pacing it out, labyrinth-like - to the bemusement of at least one dog-walker!
I took some pains to align the cross to the four directions. In Christianity, East has always held great significance. Being the direction the sun rises each morning, it is equated symbolically with the risen Christ who appeared to the women in the early morning of the first Easter. Traditional churches honour the East, the congregation faces this way, towards the altar.
Moving with the sun, in a southerly position at midday, we hear about Saul's blinding midday encounter with Christ, which challenges him to the core.
As evening draws on and the sun begins to set in the west, we can reflect on the story of the first people, who knew God to walk in the garden in the cool of the evening (Genesis 3:8). The north is equated with night time, rest, meditation and waiting in hope for the return of the sun.
So, we measure our days, our months, our years, our lives with the cycling of the sun, moon and earth. The church year too, falls into the pattern, interweaving holy days and seasons with natural and agricultural events, helping us to locate ourselves and live meaningfully.
But the cross allows us to return to the centre, it allows us to look back, to dream of a future, to focus on the heart, the hub of this great wheel. In the Christian faith, wherever the path leads, wherever we go, whatever our time of life, Christ is at the centre, at the heart, and Christ is encircling us.
The Celtic church had a tradition of the 'caim', a prayer of protection, recited while rotating in a circle, drawing an imaginary ring around oneself with a finger. There are plenty to choose from; here is one on the theme of a garment, from my Wild Goose Chase book (page 98), which I have drawn on for the workshop:
O God of goodness,
my form to surround,
my being to hold close
in the wrap of your loving.
We will chant from the Psalms, as we tread our way around the circle:
You made the moon to mark the seasons
and the sun knows when to go down ...'
And we will sing a verse from Jeremiah, as we contemplate the cross at the centre:
Stand at the crossroads and look,
and ask for the ancient paths;
ask where the good way lies and walk in it,
and so find rest for your souls.