Katie Snipes Lancaster
If then there is any encouragement in Christ,
any consolation from love,
any sharing in the Spirit,
any compassion and sympathy,
make my joy complete:
be of the same mind,
having the same love,
being in full accord and of one mind.
A Look at Joy
During our years on Iona, we had a dog named Jo, which in Gaelic means “spark of life.” And he was exactly that, a spark from the heart of life. Jo was a border collie, and he was true to his deepest instincts the whole of his life. He lived and breathed to round up, and if he was not allowed to round up sheep, he would try to round up children or tractors or even birds in the yard! His favorite day of the week on Iona was Wednesday, pilgrimage day, when sometimes with up to a hundred people we would walk the seven-mile route around the island reflecting on the journey of our lives and world together and praying for peace.
Jo was excited from the beginning of the day. He knew it was Wednesday long before I took the shepherd’s crook in hand to lead the walk. He was in an ecstasy of delight, rounding up pilgrims all day, at times almost berserk with joy as he circled endlessly in the heather. But it was not frenetic running. His instinct was fine-tuned. It had a purpose, a goal that he was sensitive to. It was to hold us together. So as we approached in silence the hermit’s cell at the heart of the island, now no more than a circular stone reunion from an ancient beehive hut used by Celtic monks in solitude, Jo quieted down, still attentive to anyone who might be straying or falling behind but intently quiet in his work.
And when we finally gathered in the circle of the hermit’s cell for prayer, Jo would enter the cell, lie down at its center, and sleep. As someone who knows border collies said to me recently, “Of course he lay down. His work was finished. He had brought you together in a circle.” Jo’s deepest instinct was to bring us into unity. It is an instinct that has been bred particularly into border collies, but it is an instinct that comes from the Heart of Life, from the One from whom all things come.
There is a longing within the whole of creation to form a circle again. It is a sacred longing. And I often think of Jo as a memory of that longing. The pain and betrayals of our lives may lead us to distrust or forget that holy instinct, but it is at the core of all that has being. And it is waiting to be reawakened in us, in the most intimate relationships of our lives and in the vast relationships of the earth’s community.
(J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation, Jossey-Bass: 2008).
O Spark of Life,
O Unity Between,
Round us up and make us whole.