With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Listening for The Heartbeat of God, Celtic Christian Spirituality – Part 10
Opening Prayer for Tuesday Morning
As daylight breaks the darkness of night, as the first movements of morning pierce the night’s stillness,
so a new waking to life dawns within us, so a fresh beginning opens.
In the early light of this day, in the first actions of the morning, let us be awake to life.
In our soul and in our seeing, let us be alive to the gift of this new day, let us be fully alive.
J. Philip Newell, Sounds of the Eternal – A Celtic Psalter, p. 26.
Remember the Key “Threads” in Celtic Christian Spirituality
Celtic Christian Spirituality – Creation Emphasis – The Sixth Day: The Image of God – Part III
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
In the Celtic tradition, the “seven days” of creation in the Book of Genesis are not a chronological account of the making of the earth. Rather, it is a meditation on the ever-present mystery of creation.
Although the Celtic tradition emphasizes that the image of God in us is everlasting and therefore cannot be erased, it is not thereby naïve to the deeply destructive implications of sin. The foundations of our being may not have been destroyed by sin but they have been shaken at the deepest level. So extreme is the departure from our true selves that we forget more and more the image in which we have been made. This has often been called the “soul’s forgetfulness.”
Forgetful of who we are, we live out of ignorance instead of wisdom, fear instead of love, and fantasy instead of reality. The more we forget that the image of God is the deepest reality within us, the less we delve into those inner depths for the gifts of God. The less we make use of the spiritual resources implanted at the heart of our being the more we come to believe that they are not there. And the less we believe that such riches are within us the more we treat ourselves and one another with a lack of respect.
Christ restores our memory of what is truly natural. He is “our epiphany.” Christ shows us our true selves. In order to break free from the falseness with which we have clothed ourselves, or the failings with which we have defined ourselves in terms of, we need to see what the true face of our soul is. And so, in Christ, we are shown that we are born of God, bearers of the eternal wisdom and beauty that were conceived with us in our mother’s womb.
Christ leads us to the heart of humanity, not into a type of separation from it. In the nineteenth century when Western Christianity was not only fragmenting into more and more denominations but generally regarding itself as over and against the rest of humanity, the Celtic tradition called for a new sense of unity that is at the heart of all people. Instead of being called “Roman” Catholics or “Anglo” Catholics, by which we define ourselves in terms of separateness from the rest of humanity, let us be called “Human” Catholics, said Alexander Scott, for Christ, reveals the truth of what is at the heart of humanity. We have been given the gospel not to tell us that there are flaws and spots in our humanity, for we more or less know that about ourselves. Rather, we have been given the gospel to tell us what we do not know about ourselves, or what our souls have forgotten. Deeper than the failings of our lives is the blessing of our nature. It is to that blessedness that we are called to be reconnected.
Pelagius speaks about being “instructed by the grace of Christ.” Christ reveals that the love and eternal wisdom of God are deep within our human nature, even when they have not been consciously detected or visibly manifested in our lives. (over)
The Celtic tradition emphasizes the revelatory nature of Christ’s work. He liberates us by showing us God’s Self and our true self. This is significantly different than the models of substitutionary atonement that have prevailed in the Western tradition’s understanding of Christ. It is important to note that, while the Celtic tradition accentuates the revelatory rather than the substitutionary nature of Christ’s redemptive work, there is no less emphasis on the cost of sacrifice. The ultimate revelation of God’s love is shown in the self-giving of Christ on the cross. His death is not thereby viewed as any less costly or redemptive.
Part of receiving Christ’s grace of revelation is an experience of judgment, for in the light of the truth we see the falseness of what we have become. The Celtic tradition understands judgment not in an external sense but as our conscience being illumined by the light of God.
The inner experience of truth has the power to set us free, for it reveals not only the falseness that is within us but the beauty and goodness that are deeper still. It moves us, says Pelagius, “to be restored by repentance.” In repenting we turn around, not to become someone other than ourselves but to become truly ourselves.
The repentance that accompanies the gift of grace restores us to the well-being of our human nature. That includes a recollection of the desires that have been planted within us, the deepest of which is the desire for God. We may not be conscious of it, and our search for satisfaction may lead us into all sorts of confused and destructive behavior. The desire for God, however, has not been erased. Even in the midst of our most terrible “sins and perversities”, we are longing for God while at the same time not knowing what it is we long for. The desire is for Love, the Love that is at the beginning and heart of all life. The redemptive hope in the Celtic tradition is being reawakened to that desire.
J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, chapter six.
Closing Prayer for Tuesday Morning
The strength of the rising sun, the strength of the swelling sea, the strength of the high mountains,
the strength of the fertile plains, the strength of the everlasting river flowing in us and through us this day,
the strength of the river of God flowing in us and through us this day.
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.
J. Philip Newell, Sounds of the Eternal – A Celtic Psalter, p. 29.
“Listening for The Heartbeat of God”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.
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