By The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Franciscan Richard Rohr reminds us that “people who know God well – mystics, hermits, those
who risk everything to find God – always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found as an
abusive father or a tyrannical mother; God is always a lover greater than we dared hope for.
How different from the ‘account manager’ most people seem to worship. God is the lover who
receives and forgives everything.”
In this Deacon’s Reflection, I invite you today to connect, or perhaps better expressed, to
reconnect with Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality and in doing so to reconnect with Love,
for Love is the greatest expression of our depths. John the Beloved, a central symbol in Celtic
Christian spirituality offers us the briefest, yet probably the most profound description of Love
when John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
Celtic scholar John Philip Newell writes about the “need to reclaim some of the features of
ancient Christianity in the Celtic world as lost treasure for today. Part of that treasure is the
much-cherished image of John the Evangelist, also known as John the Beloved, leaning against
Jesus at the Last Supper (John chapter 13). Celtic tradition holds that by doing this [John] heard
the heartbeat of God. He became a symbol of the practice of listening – listening deep within
ourselves, within one another, and within the body of the earth for the beat of the Sacred
Presence.” John became a symbol “of listening for the Word of Love at the heart of life, the
Word [of Love], that is deeper than any of our fears and sufferings, that we will also hear within
us when we listen.”
As I have mentioned in previous reflections, Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality are an
ancient way of seeing, hearing, and being that are part of our Anglican heritage. An ancient way
of seeing, hearing, and being that is an essential part of our identity as Christians in the Anglican
tradition. A wisdom and spirituality of deep and rich perspective, with origins in the mystical
traditions of the Old and New Testaments.
“In Celtic wisdom and spirituality, the Sacred is as present on earth as it is in heaven, as
immanent as it is transcendent, as human as it is divine, as physical as it is spiritual. The Sacred
can be breathed in, tasted, touched, heard, and seen as much in the body of the earth and the
body of another living being as in the body of religion. It is the true essence of life.”
Again, Celtic scholar John Philip Newell writes that “Celtic [Christian] prophets are calling us to
wake up to what is deepest in all things, the sacredness of the divine, and to remember that
deep within this sacredness is Love. This is the Love that we can offer one another and the
earth. This is the Love that we can receive from one another and the earth. When we love, we
are most truly alive. When we love, we are must fully awake to the heart of the other, made of
The question is whether we will live what we truly are – Love.
In Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality, to adore the divine is to reverence the human, to
adore heaven is to cherish the earth and to celebrate spirit is to honor matter. And it is to do
all these things with Love. Since the spiritual is found in the physical and heaven is to be served
in the material needs of humanity and the earth, Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality takes
the form of caring for the earth and for all those struggling throughout the world.
It has been said that the cross is the “Christian totality symbol.” The cross is a symbol of Love, a
symbol of the unexplainable. The cross is a symbol of the mystery at the heart of Christianity’s
greatest gift to the world – the belief that Love can reconcile all things.
One of the distinct features of the Celtic cross is its conjoining of symbols. There is the cross
symbol – pointing to the way of Christ, to Love that can bear all things – and there is the circle
symbol – pointing to the oneness and interrelatedness of all things. One of the significant
features of the Celtic cross is that the cross symbol and the circle symbol share the same
center. They emerge from the same point. So, the Celtic cross celebrates that Christ and
creation come from the same Source. They both emerge from the heart of God. They both
emerge from Love. The deeper we move in the Christ mystery, the closer we come to the One
who is the origin of creation. The deeper we move in the mystery of creation, the deeper we
come to the presence of Christ. Deepest in both, and deepest in us, is Love.
Again, I invite you to see the Sacred and to listen for the beat of the Sacred within yourselves
and within the body of the earth and to reconnect with Love. To reconnect with an ancient way
of seeing and hearing and being “that will equip all of us to move forward into new beginnings
we may not yet even be able to imagine.”
Let us pray.
You have shown us love, O Christ. You have shown us God.
Show us also our true face and the true face of every human being.
Show us the desire for love and the strength to give ourselves in love
that are woven into the fabric of our being.
For we are made in the image of love, O Christ. We are made in the image of God.
May the light of God illumine the heart of my soul.
May the flame of Christ kindle me to love.
May the fire of the Spirit free me to live this day, tonight, and forever. Amen.
- J. Philip Newell, Listening for the Heartbeat of God, 1997.
- J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, 2000.
- J. Philip Newell, Celtic Treasure, 2005.
- John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God, 2015.
- John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul, 2021
“A Deacon’s Reflection”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, Greensboro NC, 2022.
Church Office Hours (In-Person):
M-Th | 9:00am - 3:00pm
Day School Hours:
M-F 9:00 am - 1:00 pm