Today is the confluence of Celtic Advent and the shortener version of Advent practiced by many across the globe. (And please join us via livestream tonight for an Advent meditation with @Jeremy Frye, Prior). Traditionally, the candle that is lit today is the candle of Hope. Many think of hope as wishful thinking. Some think of hope as a form of desperation. Others think of hope as expectation—a kind of future certainty. I find hope to be scrappier and more slippery to define than that. Sometimes hope sustains and sometimes hope angers. Sometimes hope feels life-giving and others life-draining. Hope is complicated. Hope is allowing news to come from a stranger—someone you normally wouldn't listen to. Hope is lingering in a place that once felt like death, even a tomb. The story today in Celtic Advent is the arrival of the magi. We can discern from some sections of the Jewish Talmud that the Jews understood 'magi' to be Zoroastrian priests from Persia, roughly modern-day Iraq and Iran, east of the Holy Land. The term 'magi' is also used in some of the "Lives" of the Celtic saints when referring to the Druids. For example, Columba had travelled from Iona to the furthest northern-most end of Loch Ness to take the gospel to the stronghold of King Brude. As he and those with him began to sing spiritual songs for Vespers, 'certain Magi [Druids] approaching them did everything they could to prevent the sound of divine praise.' In his notes to this passage, Wentworth Huyshe states that 'the word "Magi" is always used in the acts of the Irish saints to mean the Druids.' Kenneth R. McIntosh notes that the historian Muirchú, who wrote the (earliest known) life of St. Patrick, also refers to magi. In the section when King Lóegaire met Patrick, he notes that Lóegaire was not surprised by Patrick's arrival 'because magi had advised him of Patrick's coming.' He goes on to say that 'Muirchú used the word magi to show God at work in his Druid ancestors.' In his explanation of Muirchú's life of Patrick in "Celtic Theology," Thomas O'Loughlin suggests that Muirchú uses the same term as the Bible uses to bring a connection between the two stories, and also to show that the Christian mission of Patrick to Ireland was 'not a case of Christianity walking into a voice into a place where God is not, where religion is not, culture is not—nor into a place where the Spirit has not been at work'—but that God was at work in Ireland already. It seems, perhaps, like Matthew when he wrote his gospel, that early Irish writers suggested that God was at work through those who others many not class as 'Christians', or God-fearing people. In the passage about the magi, the gospel writer seems to strongly suggest that God can, and does, speak through those who are from other faiths. It seems to me that these stories are strongly tied by a hope that defies our definitions. Consider the passage in Matthew 2:1-12. Who do you believe God can work in and through? Do you believe that God only works in and through those who believe like you do (however that is)? Or even just those who call themselves 'Christian'? Or can God work in and through anyone, no matter what they believe, or even if they say they believe in nothing? If a stranger came to you with a word of hope, would you listen? #celticadvent #2022

Posted by Tara Owens, Abbess at 2022-11-27 17:28:43 UTC