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Listening for The Heartbeat of God, Celtic Christian Spirituality – Part 3

With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan

 

February 13th, 2022

 

Celtic Christian Cross

 

 

Opening Prayer for Tuesday Morning

 

In the beginning, O God, when the firm earth emerged from the waters of life you saw that it was good.

The fertile ground was moist, the seed was strong, and the earth’s profusion of color and scent was born.

Awaken my senses this day to the goodness that still stems from Eden.

Awaken my senses to the goodness that can still spring forth in me and in all that has life.

  • J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, p. 26.

 

Some Key “Threads” in Celtic Christian Spirituality

  • Celtic Christian Spirituality is an essential part of our identity as Christians in the Anglican tradition.

  • 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)

 

What has come to be referred to as “the everlasting pattern” in Celtic art, in which one strand is woven together inseparably with another, points to the belief in the interweaving of worlds, of the divine and the human, the angelic and the creaturely, of darkness and light. Never are the spiritual and the physical torn apart. In its depictions of humanity, we find interlacing designs patterned into the very flesh of human figures and at the same time the limbs of great creatures entwined around the lower half of the human body. These art forms recognize the creaturely dimensions of who we are without thereby portraying these as essentially bestial, for also woven through our deepest desires and physical energies are threads of God’s light. Redemption in this tradition is about being re-connected to the presence of this glory deep within us and among us in creation.

 

  • J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, Preface.

 

Celtic Christian Spirituality – Creation Emphasis – The First Day: The Light of God

 

Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

In the Celtic tradition, God is understood as speaking through two books: the Bible and creation. Influenced by the wisdom tradition of the Old Testament and the mysticism of John’s Gospel, Celtic spirituality sees creation not simply as a gift, but as a self-giving of God whose image is to be found deep within all living things. Sin may obscure God’s living presence but never erases it. The divine voice can be heard speaking through all created things.

God is to be found not by stepping aside from the flow of daily life into religious moments and environments, or by looking away from creation to a spiritual realm beyond, but rather by entering attentively the depths of the present moment. There we will find God, wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing. Our times of religious observation and meditative practice are not alternatives to encountering God in the ever-flowing stream of life. Rather, they are moments of preparing ourselves to be

alert to the One who is always and everywhere present, closer to us than we are to ourselves.

The Celtic 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 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. To say that light is created on the first day is to say that light is at the heart of life. It is the beginning of creation in the sense that it is the essence or center from which life proceeds. At the heart of all that has life is the light of God. This is a fundamental belief of the Celtic tradition.

St. John the Evangelist’s way of putting it is to speak of this light as “the light of life” [John 8:12] or “the light that enlightens everyone coming into the world” [John 1:9]. Nothing has life apart from this light. It dapples through the whole of creation. It is within the brilliance of the morning sun and the whiteness of the moon at night. It issues forth in all that grows from the ground and in the life that shines from the eyes of any living creature. This is not to pretend that there is not also terrible darkness deep within us and in the whole of creation. Rather it is to say that the light is deeper still and that it emanates from the love of God.

In the Celtic tradition, redemption is about light being liberated from the heart of creation and from the essence of who we are. It has not been overcome by darkness. Rather, the light is held in terrible bondages within us, waiting to be set free. This is the image powerfully portrayed in the beautiful “Christmas Carol” of the Hebridean [Scottish isles] collection of prayers and poems known as the “Carmina Gadelica” [“the songs and poems of the Gaels”]:

 

This is the long night, . . . It will snow and it will drift, . . . White snow there will be till day, . . .

White moon there will be till morn, . . . This night is the eve of the Great Nativity, . . .

This night is born Mary Virgin’s Son, . . . This night is born Jesus, Son of the King of glory, . . .

This night is born to us the root of our joy, . . . This night gleamed the sun of the mountains high, . . .

This night gleamed sea and shore together, . . . This night was born Christ the King of greatness, . . .

Ere it was heard that the Glory was come, . . . Heard was the wave upon the strand, . . .

Ere ‘twas heard that His foot had reached the earth, . . . Heard was the song of the angels glorious, . . .

This night is the long night, . . . Glowed to Him wood and tree, Glowed to Him mount and sea,

Glowed to Him land and plain, When that His foot was come to earth.

 

When the foot of the redeemer touches the earth, the light within creation glows to him in response. Redemption is not the bringing of light to a creation that is essentially dark, but rather the liberating of light from the heart of life.

  • J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, chapter one.

 

Closing Prayer for Tuesday Morning


I have tasted the fruit of the earth, O God. I have seen autumn trees hang heavily with heaven’s gifts.

I have known people pregnant with your spirit of generosity. Let these be guides to me this day.

And may Mary who knew her womb filled with your goodness teach me the wisdom that is born amidst pain.

May I know that deeper than any fallowness in me is the seed planted in the womb of my soul.

May I know that greater than any barrenness in the world is the harvest to be justly shared.

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 & 29.

 

“Listening for The Heartbeat of God”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.

Posted by Mark Hamby at 6:30 AM
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