The Winter is passing by, the dawn of a new Spring is upon us. Now is the time of the agricultural celebration of Imbolc, which means “in the belly”. Imbolc marks the start of Spring where the fecundity of life is about to be made manifest.
As darkness ebbs and light once more flows into our land, Imbolc stands at one of the most powerful times of the year – where life which has been resting in seed, root and trunk, and primal animal instincts stir from their slumber and sing a new, yet very ancient song to their Creator. This cycle of new life, promised creation itself, is revealed afresh in colour, scent and song. It is a powerful time of celebration and thanksgiving for safety over the wintertime. It is a time of longing, planning and dedication.
As we look around for the signs of spring, we often see the snowdrop, one of the first plants to reawaken after the winter, making its first appearance with its bright green blades pushing through from the dark, damp earth. Shielded in its green arms is a beautiful flower of purest white, revealed shortly after the blades burst forth. This tiny, precious gift gladdens the spirits and hearts of those who set eyes upon it. It is a time of rejoicing as flowers appear all over the earth, as tree buds send forth their green payload.
Brigid, Foster Mother of Christ
At this special time, we also remember Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit and other variations). She is a mysterious character of our lands, one who stands across the border between Christian and Pagan communities. Brigid, a young woman who through no fault of her own ended up in a nunnery, became incredibly skilled in smithing, the alchemical work of drawing metal from stone, eventually running her own nunnery. She is known as the “Foster mother of Christ” and is also associated with the hearth – the heart of the home – where the perpetual fire would keep out the cold and with healing.
Mary, the Mother of Christ
In another time and country, a girl called Mary, together with her husband Joseph, brought their Christ Child to the temple as part of his naming and dedication ceremony. Shielded in her arms, she held the most pure, most perfect gift the world has ever known; the One who was be prophesied as a revelatory light to it and whose birth was announced with a celestial light show in the sky. The Light Bearer had come into the world!
There is another celebration at this time of the year, adding yet another dimension to the story of new life and light – Candlemas. Its name comes from the part of that same story of the dedication where the old and wizened prophet Simeon, filled with the Eternal Holy Spirit, took the Divine Child in his arms and spoke the words known as the Nunc Dimittis
“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles…”
After Simeon blessed them, he said to Mary
“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Suddenly, a wizened old lady then appears on the scene – Anna the prophetess – who begins soothsaying over the child things concerning his destiny and the future of Jerusalem bound up in it.
One can only imagine the wonder and puzzlement at the words spoken during what would have been a very special time for those parents.
As the Child grew, he was filled with the sap of life in all its fullness. He became strong and filled with wisdom. The grace of the Eternal One was upon him and the love of his mother encouraged him. As he listened to the teachers around him, he questioned them as they taught and shared his wisdom with them. Many came to hear his teachings, some following closely, some at a distance and all who encountered him were changed.
Both Brigid, Mary and Anna are women of incredible character, all reinforcing the feminine bringing forth, leading and honing to fullness.
- What are the signs of new life that may be welling up from within us?
- How can we discipline and sustain this growth?
- How will we know when we reach its maturity?
- Where can I spur others on in their journeys to achieve their full bloom?
The dedication of Jesus can be found in Luke 2:22-38