“to love and to cherish” by Ian Evans-Boiten (Photo by Willem Wilstra)
On the Feast of Pentecost 2019 I (Irene) was privileged to take part in the dedication service of a Christian retreat in the south of France, Colomba le Roc. Located a few kilometers from the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Colomba le Roc is run by Rev Joanne Evans-Boiten and her husband, Ian. Here Joanne shares some reflections on the word “embrace”.
A few years ago I was asked to do a talk about my experiences as a pilgrim on the way to Santiago.
No talk nowadays is complete without plenty of pictures and so I chose some photographs taken on my journey. However, I missed a suitable illustration to express the welcome I had felt at times, particularly in moments of difficulty. So I looked on the web and googled “welcome, pilgrim”.
One photograph in particular stood out. It was of a man, arms wide open and a big smile on his face. The picture did not just say “welcome”. It said “Welcome. I am so glad you are here – I have been waiting for you.”
To me, that is what the word “embrace” is about in the first place: arms wide open as a sign of welcome. A welcome that is as non-judgmental, as loving, as that of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32)
But these same arms are also cherishing arms that protect; arms like the wings of a mother hen who covers her chicks when they are in danger and who is willing to give her life so that they may live.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Celtic Christians used circling prayers as reminders of God’s protecting embrace. This prayer by David Adam from his book, Tides and Seasons, was written in that tradition:
This day I bind around me
The power of the Sacred Three:
The hand to hold,
The heart to love,
The eye to see,
The Presence of the Trinity.
I wrap around my mortal frame
The power of the Creator’s name:
The Father’s might, His holy arm,
To shield this day and keep from harm
I cover myself from above
With the great Redeemer’s love.
The Son’s bright light to shine upon me,
To protect this day to eternity
I pull around me with morning light
The knowledge of the Spirit’s sight.
The Strengthener’s eye to keep guard,
Covering my path when it is hard.
This day I bind around me
The power of the Sacred Three
by David Adam, from Tides and Seasons: Modern prayers in the Celtic tradition, p. 11
May God’s embrace empower us too to welcome and protect those who need it most.
From the blog
Circle me, Lord
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints
Up to us
Welcome ~ embrace