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A Deacon’s Reflection: Reconnecting with the Earth – Celtic Christian Wisdom and Spirituality for Today

By The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan

 

We often hear it said that summer is a great time to energize our souls in nature. An opportune
time to take a break from technology and go for a walk or hike. A chance to hit the pause
button and sit quietly in a serene environment that will help bring clarity to our lives. And all of
this is certainly true. But is there something more, something that invites us to go deeper?
Something that will address the longing that people are experiencing throughout, at least, the
Western world “for a wholeness that will hold together their spirituality with their love of
creation”?

 

Hiking


In this Deacon’s Reflection, I invite you today to connect, or perhaps better expressed, to
reconnect with Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality and remember the earth as sacred.
As Celtic scholar John Philip Newell notes, “every tree and bush, every flower and creature,
every hill and mountain is on fire with the divine. The life within all life is holy. What we do to
the body of the earth is what we do to God.”


Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality are an ancient way of seeing and being that is part of
our Anglican heritage. An ancient way of seeing 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.


As I have mentioned in a previous reflection, one of the major features of the Celtic spiritual
tradition is a belief in the essential goodness of creation. Not only is creation viewed as a
blessing, it is regarded in essence as an expression of God. Thus, the great Celtic teachers refer
to it as “the book of creation” in which we may read the mystery of God. The “seven days” of
creation in the Book of Genesis are not a chronological account of the making of the earth.
Rather the “seven days” are a meditation on the ever-present mystery of creation. Celtic
Christian wisdom and spirituality do not separate the mystery of God from the matter of
creation. Where do we look to learn of God? We do not look away from ourselves and away
from creation, but we look deep within all that has life.


In the Celtic spiritual tradition, God is understood as speaking through two books: The Bible and
creation. Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality see creation not simply as a gift, but as a self-
giving of God whose image is to be found deep within all living things. The Celtic spiritual
tradition starts with the experience of life as a blessing and develops a creation-centered
spirituality. Sin may obscure God’s living presence but never erases it. The divine voice can be
heard speaking through all created things. The Celtic spiritual tradition invites us to look with
the inner eye. In all people, in all places, in every created thing the light of God is shining. It may
lie buried and forgotten under layers of darkness and distortion, but it is there waiting to be
recovered.

 

“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.”


Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality remind us that all life is Sacred, not just the life of our
family or our race or our nation, and that every species, not just the human species is Sacred.
Being part of creation, and as members of the Church, of the living communion of saints, are
two aspects of the one mystery. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was a scientist and Jesuit
priest, and one of the twentieth century’s great Christian mystics who spent his life trying to
bring science and religion together, saw, for instance, that when the priest raises his hands in
consecration over the bread and wine at the church’s altar, he is declaring all matter, all life, to
be Christ’s body and blood.


What if the Church found new ways to continually demonstrate the core message of the
incarnation of God in Jesus is that the Sacred is here, in us, and in all of creation? What if the
Church found ways to reawaken people to the truth that the real cathedral of God is the whole
of creation?


Celtic scholar John Philip Newell writes that “too often in the past our approach to truth has
been to assume that we have it and others do not. Consequently, we have thought that our role
is to tell people what to believe. We are being invited instead into a new humility, to serve the
holy wisdom that is already stirring in the hearts of people everywhere, the growing awareness
of earth’s interrelatedness and sacredness. An essential feature of rebirthing within the
Christian household will be to remember that the well of truth is not ours. It is deep within the
earth and deep within the heart of humanity. Our role is to be a servant at that well.”


“Thomas Berry, a priest in the Passionist order who called himself a ‘geologian’ for his love of
and study of the earth and its systems, said that we are living in a moment of grace. By that he
meant that we are living in the midst of an awareness of earth’s oneness, the likes of which
humanity has never known before. We are experiencing a way of seeing that is vital to the
healing of the earth. The question is whether we will translate this seeing into action, whether
we will apply this awareness to the holy work of transformation. But as Thomas Berry went on
to say, moments of grace are transient. They are passing. In other words, will we meet this
moment or will we miss it?”


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. 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.


Awake, O my soul, and know that you are born of the earth.

Awake to your love for her, sown like a seed in the womb of your beginnings.
Honor her, protect her, cherish and adore her.
Awake, O my soul, and know that you are born of the earth.
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.


Coming next: Reconnecting with Love.


References
- J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, 1999.
- J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, 2000.
- 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.

Posted by Mark Hamby at 6:00 AM
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