Friday, 6 October 2017

Novena for the Fallen Through ~ our second prayer for the people of Grenfell

Here is the second of our Novenas for the Fallen Through, which for this month are devoted to Brigid and to seeking justice and healing for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. If you would like to read more about this work please have a little look here and here.
Today, we turn to fire itself. Saint & goddess Brigid, whose name is sometimes said to have roots in the Sankrit word ‘breo-saigit’, or ‘fiery arrow’ (perfect for the intentions of our prayer), is guardian of the triple fires of poetry, healing, and smithcraft.
She was said to have been born at the exact moment of daybreak, just as the sun broke over the horizon. As she was delivered, a radiant light burst out around her forehead filling the house with a golden glow. Later, her parents decided that she should be sent to a nunnery, as she had given her father’s jewel-encrusted sword to a beggar and they feared that she would give all her belongings away to the poor. A Bishop came to interview her to assess her suitability for Holy Orders and she was called from the fields. As she entered the room where he was waiting, sunbeams surrounded her head like a halo of flames. She hung up her cloak and sat down to speak with him and it was only later that he noticed that her cloak was hanging on a sunbeam! As an older woman she founded a convent and it’s said that a perpetual fire was kept burning there tended by nineteen nuns, or priestesses. The fire continued to burn until it was extinguished at the time of Henry VIII’s Reformation. It is no wonder perhaps that Vatican II, having found little evidence that she ever existed, decided that she should be de-canonised, although not many took any notice, so loved was she. Indeed, her flame was relit at Candlemas 1993 by Sister Mary Theresa Cullen, a Brigidine nun who is now a member of Solas Bhride, a Christian Spirituality Centre in the Celtic tradition in Co. Kildare, Ireland. The fire of Brigid still burns brightly!
It came to me some time ago, whilst I was living on a small boat and spending much time collecting wood, carrying coal, and stoking our woodburner every morning and evening, that we have very much lost our relationship with fire. I remember the story of an old woman, I think in the Scottish islands, who had clung to life on her croft for many years despite much hardship and increasing frailty. One day she suddenly decided that she would leave and moved into a modern flat. When asked why she had made the decision after so many years of stubborn refusal, she just said, “because the fire had gone out”. She knew that fire is at the heart of everything; at the heart of our homes, at the heart of our planet, at the holy centre. I wonder now how many of us never see a naked flame, other than to light a cigarette. It is a loss and it means that we have lost the sense of fire as holy, and we have in so many ways lost our respect for the destruction that it can cause, so cut off are we from its wild heat. It was perhaps this loss of respect, of connection, that enabled those who made the decision to fit cladding to Grenfell Tower that was less fire resistant than it might have been to choose as they did when for only a few thousand pounds more they could have made people safe. No one burns, not anymore...

Novena for the Fallen Through ~

Justice, healing, and wholeness for the people of Grenfell, and for us all. 

Brighid, excellent woman, sudden flame,
may the bright fiery sun take us into the lasting kingdom (1).

This prayer begins with fire.

Blessed Brigid, 
Holy Woman,  
Saint and Goddess, 
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap, 
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

Woman of the Perpetual Flame,
Bright One.
We thank you for your blessed fire.

Fire in the forge that
shapes and tempers.

Fire of the hearth that
nourishes and heals.

Fire in the head that
incites and inspires (2).

Brigid of the keening song,
We come before you in sorrow that we have not respected your Holy Flame;
that for generations we have stolen fuel for our fire
from the underworld; the bones and breath of the dead (3),
the ancestral memory of fallen trees.

Brigid of the peat heap,
we come to you in sorrow
that for generations we have stripped peat, 
which once burned in the hearths of the people of the land,
and the hearths of the poor,
warmed their stew and their hearts, warmed their dreaming and their prayer, 
that we have taken the skin of the peatlands, the bog, 
and the moor to make our gardens grow,
leaving desolation, a landscape laid bare, a holy hearth cold.

That we take what cannot be returned.

We come to you in sorrow that the lives
of the people of Grenfell were not respected by those in power, 
who chose to risk fire for the sake of greed,
who did not think of light in darkened stairwells,
or of lives turned to ashes.

Blessed Brigid, 
Holy Woman, 
Saint and Goddess, 
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

Woman of the Perpetual Flame,
Bright One.
We thank you for your blessed Fire.

We ask to learn right relationship with your Fire,
to truly value its beauty, its heat, its usefulness, its spirit,
as a sacred gift and a responsibility.

We ask for those in power to know that their power 
can never hold back fire, must not risk the flame.
We ask that they remember how small they are,
how small we all are in the face of fire.

We ask this in memory of Mohammed Neda, Ali Yawar Jafari,
Karen Bernard, Lucas James, Rania Ibrahim and her daughters,
Fathia and Hania, Stefan Anthony Mills, Ligaya Moore.

We ask this in memory of Zainab Dean and her son, Jeremiah,
Khadija Saye and her mother, Mary Mendy, Gary Maunders,
Mohammad Alhajali, Hesham Rahman, Tony Disson, Sheila Smith.

We ask this in memory of Mariem Elgwahry and her mother, Suhar,
Jessica Urbano Ramirez, Deborah Lamprell, Steve Power,
Dennis Murphy, Amal Ahmedin and Amaya Tuccu, of Isaac Paulos.

We ask this in memory of Marco Gottardi, and Gloria Trevisan,
Mohammed Nurdu, Fouzia el-Wahabi, her husband, Abdul Aziz,
Nur Huda and Mehdi, Yasin.

We ask this in memory of Nadia Loureda, Maria Del Pilar Burton,
Berkti Haftom and her son, Biruk, Nura Jamal, her husband, Hashim,
their children, Yahya, Firdaws, Yaqub, and of Kamru Miah.

We ask this in memory of Fatima Afrasehabi, her sister, Sakina,
Nadia Choucair, her husband, Baseem Choukair,
their children, Mierna, Fatima, Zainab,
their grandmother, Sirria, of Raymond Bernard.

We ask this in memory of Majorie Vital and her son, Ernie,
Joseph Daniels, Logan Gomes, Khadija Khalloufi, Abdeslam Sebbar,
Fathia Ahmed and her son, Abufars Ibrahim. Of Omar Belkadi,
Farah Hamdan, Malak, Leena, and Tamzin who lived.
Of Mohamednur Tuccu, Husna and Rebaya Begum,
Mohammed Hanif, Mohammed Hamid, Vincent Chiejina, Hamid Kani,
a ‘woman’ unnamed, all the unnamed, the disappeared.

Blessed Brigid, 
Holy Woman, 
Saint and Goddess, 
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

Woman of the Perpetual Flame,
Bright One.
We thank you for your blessed Fire.

We ask that the dead of Grenfell become as sunlight
suffusing the lives of their grieving loved ones 
with a prayer of beauty.

We ask that those who seek justice carry their memory
as a good fire that does not burn but gives fuel for the journey.

We ask that the fire of your forge transforms 
our society into one that cares for all,
knowing that we are all joined through our feet
to the liquid fire that flows at the heart of our blessed earth.

This prayer ends with fire. Let it be the fire of respect.

For this we pray.
Aho mitake oyasin, amen, blessed be. Inshallah.

(Esther Remmington Art)

References, and with thanks to:
1) Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations from the Gaelic, Alexander Carmichael.
3) Inspired by 'Introductions' by Lorna Smithers in 'Gods And Radicals; a Beautiful Resistance' Spring 2016, 'The Fire is Here'.

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