As the month of May comes to an end, the whole countryside is adorned with the white blossoms of the hawthorn tree. It is that time of year again when the words of the poet Elizabeth Browning captures the scene so well. “Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.”
Hawthorns are connected to ancient beliefs and traditions more than almost every other tree. It is known above all as the fairy tree and it is often found growing around old forts which were homesteads inhabited by people in the ancient and more recent past. The fairies were believed to be people from the otherworld whose spirits inhabited those old forts. People did not cut the fairy tree in case they upset the spirits who could bring them bad luck and misfortune if they were disturbed. The hawthorn is a thorny tree which can hurt if it is damaged but looks really beautiful when it is in the full flow of new life and growth. Everything and everyone has these opposing spirits dwelling within.
In the church the great feasts of Pentecost and The Holy Trinity have now been celebrated. Both of these feasts refer powerfully to the Spirit. The Spirit of God is dark unknowing and absolute mystery expressed in the creativity that forms new life and in activity that encourages and sustains the best that life can be. This powerful Spirit is at the heart of every life and is expressed in a multitude of diverse and beautiful gifts.
We all have our time of budding and flowering which leads to producing fruit after a time of growth and development. This is a time of renewal when all of nature and every person who is part of it feels impelled to grow in new and exciting ways. St. Irenaeus, a teacher and guide of the 2nd century church in France is the source of this memorable saying: “Gloria Dei est vivens homo” The glory of God is living man/woman.
I arise today with a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness and confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)