With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Opening Prayer for Monday Morning
For the morning light and its irresistible dawning,
for your untamable utterances of life in boundless stretches of space and the strength of the waves of the sea I give you thanks, O God.
Release in me the power of your Spirit that my soul may be free and my spirit strong.
Release in me the freedom of your Spirit that I may be bridled by nothing but love
that I may be bridled only by love.
J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, p. 14.
Some Key “Threads” in Celtic Christian Spirituality
Celtic Christian Spirituality is an essential part of our identity as Christians in the Anglican tradition. “There has always been the third element, the energy and the spirit of this Celtic expression of Christianity which flourished on the British Isles, before the Catholics and long before the Protestants ever arrived. It is part of our DNA. I think of this Celtic tradition as something like a recessive gene, but it is definitely part of our DNA. And like a recessive gene, it may be dormant for a time but then it suddenly emerges.”
“There are two major features of the Celtic tradition that distinguish it from what in contrast can be called ‘the Mediterranean tradition’ [Roman]. Celtic spirituality is marked by the belief that what is deepest in us is the image of God. The second major characteristic of the Celtic tradition is a belief in the essential goodness of creation.”
“Celtic Spirituality is a spirituality of deep and rich perspective, with origins in the mystical traditions of the Old and New Testaments.”
Celtic Tradition of Spirituality (cont’d)
There has always been a great love of Scripture in the Celtic stream of spirituality. This is reflected in its most enduring artistic expressions over the centuries. The high-standing crosses include both Scripture imagery and creation imagery. Similarly, a passion for Scripture is seen in the magnificent illuminations of psalms and gospel texts in the Celtic manuscripts. The Psalms and the Gospels in fact occupy a special place in Celtic artwork and teachings, most notably the Gospel according to St. John, whom it is said Jesus “especially loved.” He was remembered as having leaned against Jesus at the last supper [John 13]. Celtic legend thereby came to refer to him as the one who had heard the heartbeat of God. He became a symbol of the meditative practice of listening for the Word of Love at the heart of life, the Word that is deeper than any fears and sufferings that we will also hear within us when we listen.
The oldest forms of meditative prayer in Christian practice consist simply of a repetition of words from Scripture in the silence of the heart. In Celtic spirituality, this discipline of silent meditation is viewed as opening the eyes of the heart in order to see God in all things.
J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, Preface.
Celtic Christian Spirituality – Creation Emphasis
“The feature of Celtic spirituality that is probably most widely recognized, both within and outside the Church, is its creation emphasis. It was certainly this that first drew my attention. Like most children, I had grown up with a sense of awe at creation. Our earliest memories are generally of wonder in relation to the elements. Do we not carry within us, for instance, something of the memory of first listening to the waters of a river or to rainfall, or lying in the grass, feeling and smelling it and seeing its brilliant green, or watching sunlight dappling through leaves? Connected to these moments will be recollections of experiencing at the deepest of levels a type of communion with God in nature, but there will usually have been very little in our religious traditions to encourage us to do much more than simply thank God for creation. The preconception behind this is that God is separate from creation. How many of us were taught actually to look for God within creation and to recognize the world as a place of revelation and the whole life as sacramental? Were we not for the most part led to think that spirituality is about looking away from life so that the Church is distanced from the world and spirit is almost entirely divorced from the matter of our bodies, our lives, and the world?” (J. Philip Newell, Listening for The Heartbeat of God, p. 3.)
“How do we account for Christianity’s reverence for nature’s creatures? Ian Bradley suggests that the Celtic love for nature sprang from three ‘roots.’ First, love for God’s creation is Biblical. Genesis declares the goodness and preciousness of God’s creation, the Psalms are filled with a sense of creation’s wonder, and Jesus taught that the birds and animals, and even the plants, matter to God. Second, from the Druid nature mysticism that preceded Christianity’s introduction, the ‘pagan’ Celts already respected and revered nature. Third, Celtic Christians lived in natural settings, so their experience informed their love of nature. To be sure, the Celts’ orientation toward nature changed with their Christianization. On the one hand, the Christian faith enhanced the Celts’ love for nature while also arming them with God’s providence as they faced nature’s threats. On the other hand, it changed the way they viewed nature as a source for knowing the Divine. They moved from Pantheism, gods in nature, to a Christian Panentheism [“all in God”], the transcendent God, who is revealed in the history of Israel and in Christ and can also be known through nature. They now knew that the history recorded in scripture was God’s primary mode of revelation, while nature was the ‘second book’ of God.” (George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism – How Christianity Can Reach the West. . . Again, p. 87.
Closing Prayer for Monday Morning
In the beginning, O God, your Spirit swept over the chaotic deep like a wild wind, and creation was born.
In the turbulence of my own life and the unsettled waters of the world, today let there be new birthings of your Spirit.
In the currents of my own heart and the upheavals of the world, today let there be new birthings of your mighty Spirit.
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, Celtic Benediction, p. 5 & 17.
“Listening for The Heartbeat of God”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.
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