Artwork by Br.Mickey McGrath. Available on many items through https://www.trinitystores.com. I just love this image!
February 1 marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring in the Celtic Calendar. The figure most associated with this time of year is Brigid, the Celtic goddess and the Irish saint. Often, at this time of year, I reflect on Brigid the Goddess but this year, I thought I would post a 10th century poem attributed to St. Brigid herself, a poem about beer!
I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.
I’d love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I’d love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I’d give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer
To every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men contented for their own sake.
I’d like Jesus to love me too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.
How wonderful it would indeed be to drink good health forever and every drop a prayer, with a special place for women and mercy, joy and even suffering offered as needed.
There are many stories about Saint Brigid and beer. Once, she converted water into beer for people in a leper colony, when she was asked for beer by the lepers. Back then, beer was the daily drink of the people, both because water was often polluted and additionally, beer provided some extra nourishment.
… the venerable Brigid was asked by some lepers for beer, but had none. She noticed water that had been prepared for baths. She blessed it, in the goodness of her abiding faith, and transformed it into the best beer, which she drew copiously for the thirsty. (Cogitosus’ Life of St. Brigid the Virgin, pg 211 in St. Patrick’s World: The Christian Culture of Ireland’s Apostolic Age by Louis de Paor)
She is also reputed to have supplied beer brewed from just a peck of barley, to eighteen churches, over the Easter season.
“Against Easter the sacred virgin made beer of one onely measure or pecke of malt, sending part thereof to eighteen Churches that were round about, and besides during all the octave, that small quantity sufficed aboundantly, and served to satisfy all those who would, and were desirous to taste thereof”. see the version of Cogitosus on http://cbladey.com/brigid/saintale.html
So perhaps this year, we can reflect on the joyfulness of community, on how we can offer “white cups of love” and “sweet pitchers of mercy,” on dancing and singing, and of the afterworld/ otherworld as a “cheerful spot.”