Dyffryn Clwyd - another journey through Lent
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
This past year has been marred by an absence of human contact and touch and it means we can not mark our foreheads with Ash as we would normally do. But marking the beginning of our journey through Lent is an essential part of our faith, a day of obligation for all Christians to mark. So how will we do it this year? This year I am inviting you to join me in making a St Brigid Cross. This is a simple cross which we can weave. Traditionally it is made of reeds, but you can use anything you have to hand. If you haven’t got any reeds or similarly pliable plants in the garden then cut some strips of paper, or like me, you can use pipe cleaners. You’ll need 20 or so 20-30cm long lengths. To make the cross you can follow the steps below or watch the video:
1. Hold one of the reeds vertically. Fold a second reed in half as in the diagram.
2. Place the first vertical reed in the centre of the folded second reed.
3. Hold the centre overlap tightly between thumb and forefinger.
4. Turn the two rushes held together 90 degrees anti-clockwise so that the open ends of the second reed are pointing vertically upwards.
5. Fold a third reed in half and over both parts of the second reed to lie horizontally from left to right against the first straw. Hold tight.
6. Holding the centre tightly, turn the three reeds 90 degrees anti-clockwise so that the open ends of the third reed are pointing upwards.
7. Fold a new reed in half over and across all the rushes pointing upwards.
8. Repeat the process of rotating all the rushes 90 degrees anti-clockwise, adding a new folded reed each time until all rushes have been used up to make the cross.
9. Secure the arms of the cross with elastic bands. Trim the ends to make them all the same length.
The St Bridget’s Cross is now ready.
As you weave the cross try to clear your mind of distractions, reflect on your journey over the last year, think of how you’ve changed and been changed by your experiences and your encounters and prepare to enter the story afresh as we turn, with Jesus our faces to Jerusalem. From Dust thou Came... ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John 12:24) Once you’ve made your Brigid cross it’s possible to place seeds within the weaves. I’m using sweet pea seeds as something that is easy to grow but any seeds you like will do. You can put it in your garden (you might need to find a small stick to peg to the ground). These seeds will germinate and grow (hopefully!) throughout our Lenten journey and at Easter we should have gardens full of flowers growing from our crosses.
This is symbol of our mortality, our death and resurrection, but also a symbol of our journey. We let our old ways fall to the ground and die and from this we find God growing within us, changing and shaping us to bring beauty and colour to those around us and our world. Food for the journey... Once you’ve planted your cross you can come and visit it once a week during our journey through lent and spend a few minutes in prayer and meditation talking to God about our journey with Christ.
One such meditation is something called the ‘Examen’ which has been used by faithful Christian’s for centuries to talk to God about their lives and ask His help and guidance. As we journey through Lent you might like to use this as a way of reflecting upon your journey, marking your progress and working towards growing closer to God as you journey with him through this season. The following Examen ask us about whether we are free or"unfree." We are spiritually free when our spiritual and emotional state of being is healthy, when we are desirous of being faithful, hopeful and loving. We are spiritually "unfree" when our negative emotions and temptations have got the better of us. When we are too angry, sad, tempted or scared to think straight.
As you approach your planted Brigid Cross each week, spend a few moments making yourself aware of your surroundings, let God make his presence known in all that surrounds you and within you. Spend a few moments thinking of the past week since you were last here. Thank God for one or two of the blessing, big or small, that you have received in that time. Now, focusing on one arm of the Brigid Cross, look back on the week that’s been. Ask God “What was my most "un free moment?”. That is, at what moment was I being carried away by my own fears, resentments, cravings, addictions, anxieties or despairing thoughts? In you prayerful imagination, return to that specific moment. Imagine God and yourself watching that moment together, side by side. God and you watch as your heart fills to the brim with the negative emotion that wept you away.
Focusing on the second arm of the Brigid Cross, speak to God. Speak to him about what you saw, ask God for his forgiveness, or maybe for healing. Allow God to show you his perspective of the situation. Is there anything that you sense God is trying to tell you about this? Talk with him about it and acknowledge your deepest emotions about it.
As you focus on the 3rd arm of the Brigid Cross, look back again at the week. Ask “What was my most spiritually free moment?. In which moment did I feel and act free from negativity, low and earthly thoughts and emotions? At what point did I feel most alive and most in sync with God?
Focusing on the 4 and final arm of the Brigid Cross, imagine yourself with God watching that grace-filled moment. Replay the moment in you prayerful imagination. Observe not only what happened, but also what was gong on deep in your heart. Speak to God about this and allow Him to show you his perspective. Talk about it with God for a while, celebrate that moment with Him. As you turn your focus to those seeds planted in the weave of the Cross, look with God to the week ahead of you. How can you journey into this next week and live out of that freedom that you felt in last weeks grace filled moment? What attitudes and behaviours will you need to adopt to avoid the pull of the "unfree" moment? What is God calling you to do to live in spiritual freedom? Make whatever commitments you feel called to make. Ask for God’s help to keep those commitments. Bring your Examen to an end as you widen your focus to encompass God’s presence all around you and within you and say the Diocesan Lent Prayer. Sovereign Lord, all our beginnings and endings are encompassed by you. Help us to follow in the footsteps of Christ And seek your Kingdom with all our hearts. In Jesus, may we find firm footing for our feet And clear direction to our travels. With his life and love breathed into our witness, May we stand with him, Who, for the joy that we set before him, Endured the Cross. Amen.