The Manger and the Cross

St Brigit’s cross

I post this on February 1st, the day the Church celebrates
St Brigit of Kildare (or Brigid or as she is also known Mary of the Gaels).

She is regarded as one of the patron saints of Ireland (with St. Patrick). She was founder and Abbess of a double monastery (for men and women) at Cill Dare (Church of the Oak).

Central to Brigit’s prayer and ministry was her belief that:
It was Christ and his Twelve Apostles who proclaimed the Gospel to the peoples of the world and it is in their name that I look after the poor, for Christ is to be found in the person of every faithful poor person.

She believed it was her duty as Christ’s servant to lead people over the dangerous bridge of this life to the gleaming country of heaven.
This was at the heart of her mission and of who she was.

She was a bridge between this world and the Kingdom of Heaven. As such it is fitting that she occupies that point in the Christian Calendar which turns our thoughts and prayers from Christmas to Easter – from the wonderful joy of God coming to be amongst us in the Incarnation, saving us and the world from within to the completion of that salvation in the Glory of the Cross and through the Crucifixion. Those two events form a bridge taking us from birth to resurrection.

An illustration of this bridging of the world by Manger and Cross, is through the Cross that is called after her – St. Brigit’s Cross.

It is said that it first came about because a pagan chief from the neighbourhood of Kildare lay dying.
He sent for Brigit come and to talk to him about Jesus.
By the time she got there, he was delirious and raving with fever. It was impossible to talk to him nor
could she instruct him about Christ.
Instead, she sat by his bed and began consoling him.
As was usual, the floor was strewn with rushes for warmth and cleanliness.
Brigit picked some of the rushes up and began to weave them into a cross as she talked.
His delirium quietened and he was able to ask her what she was doing. As she talked, she gently explained about Jesus, his Cross and the salvation he brought.
In that quiet moment, handing him the little cross she moved him gently from earth to heaven as she baptized him at the point of his death.

She had taken symbolically, some strands of the Manger and turned it into the sign of the Cross – the Saving Sign.
In this way God used the devoted and faithful Brigit to help him claim another soul for heaven.

She gave us an important sign too. In her woven cross she combined the straw of the Manger and the wood of the Cross and it takes us to the heart of Brigit’s understanding about God. Her spirituality is woven into the simplicity of the link between these two waymarks of our pilgrimage of faith.

[Mr G]

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