A Hymn For Alban Hefin [Summer Solstice]: Revisited

20180530 A HYMN FOR ALBAN HEFIN REVISITEDThe Summer Solstice, known to the Druids of old in the Welsh language as ‘Alban Hefin’ (which means ‘the light of the shore’) is a few weeks away.

The words, based on ancient words, below, can be read as poetry or liturgy at the time of the solstice, or indeed, at any time. They can also be used as a song, which works well to the tune of ‘She moved through the fair’, a wonderful, otherworldly Gaelic, Celtic tune of old.

So, happy Alban Hefin to you and yours, and here is ‘A Hymn For Alban Hefin’ (albeit written by me last year and now repeated for this season).

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Unresting, unheeding
in beauty you shine.
Full of health and vigour
poured out like new wine.
For all humankind
your riches bestow
from heaven above
to the Earth below.

All life you create
in the circle of love.
And we celebrate
your end-less gifts.
Laud and honour
for-ever be,
to you Bless-ed One,
For-ever Three.

Great Light above.
All hail the sun
from whom all life proceeds,
Oh Glorious One.
Unending, unbroken
you traverse the sky.
Turning night to day.
With joy we cry.

Tune: ‘She moved through the fair’. For an instrumental version of that song, to familiarise yourself with the tune and to ‘fit’ the words above, do click on the following link. The first fifty-five seconds of the recording gives an outline tune to verse one and subsequent verses. [Tune link].

Words inspired by: Light’s Abode, Celestial Salem, attributed to Thomas á Kempis

 

 

A CountDown To Alban Hefin: Celebrating The Sun

20180528 COUNTDOWN TO ALBAN HEFIN CELEBRATING THE SUNFor many people today, and certainly in ages past the four compass points were important to daily life and ritual. Those four points represent winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west). Tonight I have the sun, summer, fire, the south in mind as we are in the season of summer and are racing toward the summer solstice.

The summer solstice, Thursday, 21 June 2018 is the time of the longest day of the year, and a time to consider the sun. In Wales that event is lovingly known as Alban Hefin, which means ‘The Light of the Shore’. That event and the shoreline are mystical times and places, liminal, they are ‘thin places’, a meeting of two realms, places and times where things happen.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I seldom see you seldom hear your tune.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister Moon)

Midsummer’s day is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches as a feast day, celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, who was the herald to the (incarnated) Light.

And so, the following then has summer and the sun in mind, in general and might6 be useful to you now, and then over the next couple of weeks more articles will appear with the summer solstice in mind, and with ideas of how to celebrate that time in action and ritual.

On midsummer’s eve many people stayed up all night (or perhaps even more woke up early the following morning) to watch the sun rise on the longest day of the year. Candles were carried, bonfires were lit on hilltops and aromatic herbs were thrown into the fire.

‘This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.’

(Margaret Atwood)

It was thought that if sick cattle or any poorly people passed through the smoke of that bonfire they would be healed, whilst others might chose a ‘tame’ part of the bonfire and jump across it to ward off bad luck and/or to seek an abundance that year in fertility of the land etc.

Don’t worry If you’re not attending a bonfire celebration, a token and just-as-meaningful candle can be lit as a focal point for to think of the summer solstice and to celebrate that time. Ritual ideas, words and ideas will follow over the next week or so.

But, to whet your appetite the amazing words of that mystic, Hildegard of Bingen spring to mind.

’I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond
The beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters,
And I burn in the sun, moon and stars.’

(Hildegard of Bingen)

The summer solstice is a dual celebration: on one hand there is much revelry and enjoyment because it is the longest day of the year and the sun is in its ascendancy, but it is also the time when days start to grow shorter, nights longer and the darkness begins to grow. Yes, the circle turns, and the great cycle continues. Tempus fugit.

Although not the summer solstice tonight, there is nothing to stop us celebrating the sun (especially, but not only, in the season of summer) and giving thanks to That Which Is Greater Than Us for it, and so, tonight, I lit a candle.

In the middle of one of the busiest cities on the planet, in my small city garden (okay, a yard), occasionally interrupted by ambulance sirens,  a small oasis of calm ‘blinked’ into existence for a few minutes. On this occasion I didn’t move in ritual, but I revolved the candle in its arrow-marked ‘saucer’: first ‘aiming’ it at the west and pausing, then slowly turning it to face north, then east, and then slowly, and reverently turning it so that it ended facing the southern compass point; the south, representing fire,  the sun.

I closed my eyes and spent a few minutes in silence, aiming not to produce a thought, but just to revel in that inward solitude as best I could, and in the light that the candle was giving out.

And then, quietly I gave thanks using an adapted prayer of ancient Hebrew origin as a basis for my words. Intentionality is all-important.

‘Praise to you, Oh Source Of All, that the celestial heights, the messengers and other hosts, the sun and moon and shining stars should praise you, and here I am, praising you, too, for everything. Sun of righteousness, thank you’.

(Ancient Hebrew prayer adapted)

I sat there for a few more minutes, in silence, and then extinguished the candle flame. The little flame, creating so much light before was dark was gone, and the darkness closed in.

I sat there in the darkness, with the occasional ambulance siren wailing in the distance, a helicopter flying quickly overhead, and despite the busy-ness of others, it was awesome. This oasis of quietness and light slowly, and very slowly,  ‘folded up’, and it was gone (or was it?). And yet, in darkness that surrounds me now, the sun’s light yet blesses someone else with its vitality and abundance.

’Brother Sun and Sister Moon
I now do see you, I can hear your tune
So much in love with all that I survey.’

(Donovan: Brother Sun, Sister moon)

 

Blessed Dawn: Book Of The Hours

20170720 BLESSED DAWN BOOK OF THE HOURSIt’s almost sunrise. To the east, from here in Capel Curig, sunrise will appear over some of the most scenic of north Welsh mountains of Carnedd y Cribau in a few moments. It’s almost the start of a new day. Nearly, but not quite yet. There’s a hush in the air. A sense of anticipation. All is still.

The sun’s rising is recounted in ancient Celtic and Druid stories of Lugh – dont forget the celebration of Lughnasadh, harvest celebration in about two weeks. Lugh, representing the sun would ‘die’ each evening some say, only to be ‘reborn’ each morning at sunrise. A quotidien resurrection. An opportunity to start afresh. A brand new day to do something positive, to change things, and to enjoy the moment.

There is something ‘magical’ about the dawn. It is a time when the night gives way to the oncoming new day, darkness gives way to light, and secrets and potential are ‘cracked’ open to reveal the glory and majesty of yet another day to enjoy. It’s easy to ‘roll over’ and miss sunrise, it’s possible to be so caught up in the fast pace of our society that we miss the new opportunities given to us each day, and probable that the pressures of the day will ‘crowd out’ this wonder time of spiritual encounter.

Today, the ‘slate is wiped clean’. ‘Seize the day’. Plattitudes? Yes, but nevertheless still ever-so true.

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you;
don’t go back to sleep.

(Rumi)

And then the sun rises. Bright and new, yellow and fresh, dawn’s light floods into my eyes. A fresh start. A new beginning. Each sunrise is a call to our own daily resurrection. We rise in anticipation, and yet wonder what the day will unveil. For some it will be a happy day, for others a tough day, and for others a sad day – a mixture of these, and more. But, it will be a day like no other. Unique in ever way. Joyous? Joy is an attitude of mind they say, and so, at each sunrise choose joy, regardless of circumstances. The sun has risen.

And, then the day begins.
The son of Hyperion rises on the horizon
in all his brilliance, and
pierces the mist,
and heralds the start of a new day.
The Sun appears.
I find myself standing in awe, in praise of the Sun of righteousness.
Orans.

(Tadhg. Part of the poem: Gökotta [Revisited). Full poem can be viewed here).

Dawn provides us with ‘new’ time to do new things. At each dawn we can:

  • give praise out loud for the beauty of nature, for life itself
  • marvel at the fact that we are the consciousness of the Universe, able to look back on itself
  • revel in the love of That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves
  • desire to make this as good a day as possible whether in praising others, working well, relaxing, listening to others, or experiencing loss, and keening
  • praise and mature by ‘going deep’ and entering silence, or with ritual etc

Ancient sacred text is says: Walk in wisdom…making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5 part. The Book). Truly words of wisdom. It is easy to ‘kill time’, to get so caught up on dwelling in the past, over-planning for the future, and the hustle-and-bustle of daily ‘pressures’ that we miss the present moment, are oblivious to current opportunities, and before we know it dusk approaches fast. No, use the time we have, and use it wisely.

‘Dawn is ever the hope of men’ (J R R Tolkien).

Dawn is a time of celebration, a time to greet the new day. The following poem or liturgy, depending how you use it, is so approriate, and has been used by me on many ocassions as verbal liturgy or an unspsoken prayer.

Slowly comes the morning,
softly comes the dawn
slowly and softly – softly and slowly.
Dear gift of Dawn, you come with rays of light.
I call forth my joy to greet the dawn.
In the marrow of my bones, I rejoice.
From the centre of my soul I rejoice.
In my heart of hearts, I rejoice.
From the home of my body, I rejoice.
With all my being, I rejoice.
Dear Gift of Dawn, I rejoice.

(Macrina Wiederkehr)

And, as I gaze eastward the sun is well and truly risen. The sun and all of creation are in a state of praise. Indeed as other ancient text recorded: we shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: and the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into joyous singing, and all the trees of the field, with their branches raised heavenward, will clap their hands…and, yes, stones, even stones and rocks will sing. What better way to greet the sun and the dawn of new hope than with praise by humankind. And so, do mark a sunrise whenever you can, and mark that time with verbal praise, liturgy, a poem or ritual…or with the silent witness of your soul. Sunrises are beautiful, ‘magical’, God-given times. Draw near.

But, there’s more. Remember Rumi’s wise words: Your light is more magnificent than that of sunrise or sunset.’ Now, there’s something to ponder on.

 

The Art Of Perception: Celtic Thought

20170612 THE ART OF PERCEPTION 1There is a particular time in the Spring at Ty Gwyn where I live, near Capel Curig, back home in Wales, when the sunrise on the lawn is just right to ‘play’ upon the dew on the grass and light it up like a carpet of deep gold. It’s almost as if the grass is ablaze, alight like an electric fire as the sunlight grazes of the dew. And then a few minutes later, it’s gone. When my grandchildren visit I encourage patience in them to look out for it, and it’s worth it, it truly is – well, at least I think so. I’m not too sure about them.

‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it’, says Shug Avery, one of the wise women in Alice Walker’s book, The Colour Purple.

Drygrange Bridge over the River Tweed in Scotland is a place where I have to stop and pay attention. The Scottish border is some 40km behind me, at that point, as I drive north, but for me Scotland starts at Drygrange Bridge. The scenary there opens up, vast and wild, and when driving north, there is the exquisite River Tweed below, and to the left an awesome valley and the beautiful Leaderfoot Viaduct. Whenever I can, I stop the car, and spend a few minutes gazing at the scenery in awe. Words are not needed here. Indeed, they would be useless in that moment. At that moment the invisible has become visible. Do you think there is a connection between journeying, new places and perception? The unfamiliar enthrals us?

Ofcourse, the art of paying attention requires an unhurried attitude, and that’s even more difficult in our fast-paced world, today. But, it’s worth cultivating. It requires a different timescale, and a commitment to deeper perception.

Find an awesome scene and just gaze at it. Fumble for the camera, draw an outline sketch or speak into a vioce recorder about it, and the moment has gone. It’s happened to me when I’ve reached for the camera and adjusted the settings. Missed it. And what’s more, I’ve relegated myself to that of a mere observer, when I should have just gazed and basked in the glory of the event, and so would have been part of it. I-thou became I-it, sadly. Distanced!

‘…seek, and you will find…’, Matthew 7.7b

Deep perception can be practiced. It’s an acknowledgement of the other, and a surrendering, too, of analytical thought. It is about entering into the moment not as one subservient, and not as master of the moment, but as co-participant.

Paying attention is reward in itself.

As regards paying attention, the author Barbara Brown Taylor writes: ‘From behind the veils of my dark [sunglass] lenses, I study the particular human beings sitting around me [ on the subway train]: the girl with the fussy baby, the guy with the house paint all over his jeans, the couple holding hands, the teenager keeping time with both knees while he listens to music so loud it leaks from his headphones. Every one of these people had come from somewhere and is going somewhere, the same way I am. While I am sitting here thinking I am at the centre of this subway scene and they are on the edges, they are sitting there at the centre of their own scenes with me on their edges’. From her book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith.

If a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual happening, then many events can rightly be regarded as a sacrament, in the widest sense of the word. What we see, the food we eat and savour – we do take our time and savour it, right? Ofcourse, we need reminding as the world’s pace closes in and we gobble our food, or eat on the way to work. I know there are occassions when that might be necessary, but do – and I’m reminding myself, too – do find the time to savour food, delight in scenary, works of art and music, and to slow down and appreciate those wonderful and yet mundane (as if anything is really mundane) moments that we might miss, otherwise, and pass them right by.

In paying attention the inivisble and spiritual realm is glimpsed in this realm, at least for those that look.

‘The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.’ Marcel Proust

FIREFALL 2017: A POEM/HYMN/LITURGY FOR THIS TIME

20170601 FIREFALL 2017 22This Sunday it is fifty days since Easter and in the calendar of some people that makes it Pentecost. To others, it’s about three weeks to the summer solstice (and the time when I shall be joining my Christian/Celtic-Druidic Brethren and Druids (and others) at Stonehenge) and a time of preparation and looking forward.

Respecting others’ traditions, it struck me that fire is the common thread here. Fire, blessing, newness, understanding, outpouring, gratitude, regardless of our many and splendid, varied and awesome traditions and interpretations it is a time of remembrance and celebration.

This commonality ‘lifts’ us out of the mundane-only way of thinking and propels us to a higher plane, an objective way of understanding and perceiving, a new way of looking at the world around us in all its splendour. Spiritual experience, regardless of our spiritual pedigree, takes us higher and higher, and as we look around the dross that is burned off – one usefulness of fire – we see  what is left behind, and  what really matters – and for all of us that can, and should be, surprising.

We need that fire, today. Pentecost and/or the summer solstice are wonderful events to give gratitude and to seek (another, or further, or greater awareness of) infilling.

Oh, Sun of Righteousness for All
as on that ancient day
when you looked upon us,
you smiled on humankind
and let your fire fall.

Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall on us, today.

Oh, Benevolent Sharer of All
shine your light and understanding now,
newness in mind, and body,
and in spirit, too.
Whisper long-sought words of wisdom to all.

Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall on us, today.

Oh, Power Behind It All
may we know the heat of pure desire.
To be, to do, to act in love, authentically,
May our hearts and minds be open
to hear your enlightened call.

Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall
Let your fire fall on us, today.

In a world of long shadows,
grant us, yet another fire-fall.