It is no wonder that the ancient celtic seekers of God’s truth, love & beauty settled & searched for the spiritual in stunning places like the surrounds of Killone lake and Abbey in the parish of Clarecastle-Ballyea.
Saints & Scenic locations
Taking a quick scan of some of the similar locations in these islands:
- St Patrick & the breath taking views from Croagh Patrick in Mayo.
- Fionán & the ascetic monks of Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast.
- Enda & Caomhán of the rugged landscape of the Aran Islands.
- Kevin of the more classical & beautiful surroundings of Glendalough.
- Ciarán of the aquatic surroundings of Clonmacnoise on the banks of the Shannon.
- Colmcille in his peregrinatio to the gorgeous Island of Iona in neighbouring Caledonia!
At a more Local level in our own diocese of Killaloe the story is very similar:
- Senan of Inish Cathaigh and Scattery Island
- Ruadhán of Lorrha
- Columba of Terryglass
- St Colum and Caimin of Inis Cealtra – Holy Island
- Clare Abbey & the first cousin location of this Nunnery with the Canons Regular on Canon Island in the Shannon Estuary.
There is something special that opens up our senses to the presence of God in such locations. They in return are hallowed & made all the more special by the presence of the ruins of ancient abbeys & places of worship.
During this special annual pilgrimage here in Killone Abbey we soak up the “spirituality of natural beauty” & “the beauty of natural spirituality”.
In Search of Peace & Serenity
In coming here we hope to experience some of the peace & calm & serenity that all of this natural beauty exudes & we hope to return to our homes & places of work renewed, refreshed, re-juvinated & having our spiritual batteries recharged.
St John the Baptist
At the heart of the spirituality of this Pilgrimage is the celebration of the message of St John the Baptist with St John’s Well & Shrine here.
The two main occasions in the liturgical calendar of the Church that we focus on St John is the Summer & Winter solstice.
Winter Solstice – Short Days – Darkness
During the short days of Winter solstice in those December days we focus on the preparation for the birth of Jesus in the Season of Advent.
Summer Solstice – Long Days – Brightness
During these magnificent days of Summer Solstice we focus on the birth of John the Baptist in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
Celebrating St John the Baptist
The raison d’etre of St John was not in any way seeking attention for himself but totally pointing towards the coming of the Lord!
Great & all as he was – he claimed he was not fit to undo the strap of the sandal of Jesus, the true Messiah he was preparing the way for.
It was he that knew and recognized the Lord as the Lamb of God!
Despite the fact that he was rapidly gaining followers and some thought he was the long awaited Messiah – he was totally self effacing.
“He must increase, I must decrease”. In his own words.
With St John the era of the old testament winds to a close.
With Jesus, his cousin the new age of the new testament heralds in.
Darkness gives way to brightness.
Winter nights to bright Summer days.
Winter Solstice to Summer long days.
Lazy hazy days of Summer. Summer time and the living is easy as the song says.
The cold and darkness of Winter seem but a distant memory.
“He must increase. I must decrease.”
In the Irish tradition we light bonfires to mark & celebrate this light filled hope we celebrate at the heart of our faith. The great mystic St. Augustine was one of the first to link the contrasts of the solstice seasons and greatness of Jesus and diminution of John.
Healing waters of St. John’s Well
Because St. John is associated with the dispelling of darkness and heralding the coming of the true light of the world – is it any wonder that the healing waters of St. John’s well here are associated with healing for sight and vision for the eyes. We pray as we gather around this Holy Well not only for better physical vision and clarity but for a curing of blindness that effects our vision of faith, hope and love!
So all these things –
the beauty of the stunning nature of Killone lake,
the sense of ageless worship coming from ancient Canons Regular nunnery or Abbey,
the well of St John the Baptist with the healing quality for sight –
all these things prepare in the beauty that captivates us – for the even more magnificent beauty of the coming of Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate this evening.
The Messiah and Lord & Saviour that we receive at Mass this evening is the very same Lord that was encountered by John the Baptist over 2,000 years ago, the very same Lord encountered by the sisters of the Canons regular in medieval times, the very same Lord that sustained & nourished the souls of our ancestors through penal times, times of famine, civil war, world wars of the 20th century & right to this present day.
He must increase… I must decrease
From darkness to Brightness
From Winter coldness to Summer Sunshine
What we receive in the Eucharist is a foretaste of the Summer days of heavenly hope.
The same Eucharist is the medicine of immortality to use the famous phrase of one of the ancient Fathers of the Church!
Today as we leave this sacred & beautiful place under the Patronage of St John the Baptist we pray that we might return to our places of work & dwelling refreshed & renewed, enlightened by this sacred Summer celebration of immersion into the beauty of the Sacrament of the stunning beauty here and the beauty of the Sacred Sacrament of the Eucharist we are about to receive!