Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Feast of Brigid

Bridget (aka Brigid, Bride, or Bridey) of Kildare was born around 450 into a Druid family, and was the daughter of Dubhthach, the official poet to the king, a position of considerable social importance and political influence.

At an early age, inspired by the sermons of St. Padraic [or Patrick], she decided to become a Christian and eventually took vows as a nun. With a group of like-minded women, she established a convent at Kildare. Bridget was later joined by a community of monks, as pre-Roman Celtic Christian evangelism [there's that word, again] was based on coeducational monastic houses. [Celtic monks and nuns did not include chastity as one of their holy vows and, as such, were permitted to live together in community, marry, and procreate. Roman Christianity, which would become the standard in the British Isles a century of so after the death of Bridget, would forbid such normal and sacramental relations between ascetic men and women.]

Kildare was a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was perpetually burning, and Bridget and her nuns, instead of extinguishing the fire, maintained it with a Christian interpretation. This was the evangelical practice of the era as Druidism gave way to Christianity with rare opposition, as the Druids understood their religion was of a transient nature, recognizing Christianity to be its natural replacement and the completion of their beliefs.

As an abbess, Bridget participated in several Irish councils, and her influence on the policies of the Church in Ireland was immeasurable. She is thought to have died in the year 525. On the Irish calendar, this is the first day of spring, thus this date was assigned as her feast since her name, in both the druidic and Christian traditions, represents new beginnings.

Above is a cross made of rushes, called a "Bridget's cross", as she once wove such a devotional for a dying man.

I find her official Episcopal Church collect to be prosaic, but here it is:

Everliving God, we rejoice today in the fellowship of your blessed servant Brigid, and give you thanks for her life of devoted service. Inspire us with life and light, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.