8th December


The kingdom of heaven is right here, so turn away from your sins. Mark 1: 15

The safety first mentality which pervades most organised life today, is stifling the frontier mentality which is part of the nature God has given us. As David Adam reminds us in his book Borderlands, we are in danger of becoming safe people who have never been all at sea or experienced ‘the cliffs of fall’ (as the poet Gerard Hopkins described the mind’s mountain of grief). We avoid crossing frontiers in case we are shot at. Yet in reality life is ever taking us into the edge of things. Frontiers are exciting places and everyone should be encouraged to explore them.

Jesus was often in the border lands: between countries, between heaven and earth; he was on the fringes of society, with lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, as well as with top people.

Columbanus described his fellow Irish people as ‘inhabitants of the world’s edge’. Celtic Christians were good at crossing borders, by foot or by coracle. Like St. Brendan, some ventured into the great unknown, and possibly reached America. Others, like Patrick and Aidan, went out to a foreign people and became one with them for the love of God. Missionaries such as Columbanus founded Christian communities in the most unlikely locations, and hermits found their place of resurrection in the wildest of places.

Celtic Christians have also been able to keep an awareness of the ‘other’ more easily than many peoples. This was expressed in a beautifully simple way by a woman from Kerry in the south west of Ireland. When she was asked where heaven was, she replied: ‘about a foot and a half above a person’. Such an awareness has us always treading exciting border lands

Great Spirit, Wild Goose of the Almighty
Be my eye in the dark places
Be my flight in the trapped places
Be my host in the wild places
Be my brood in the barren places
Be my formation in the lost places