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Listening for The Heartbeat of God, Celtic Christian Spirituality – Part 5

With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan

 

February 27th, 2022

 

Celtic Cross

 

 

 

 

Listening for The Heartbeat of God, Celtic Christian Spirituality – Part 5

 

Opening Prayer for Thursday Morning

 

As the light of dawn awakens earth’s creatures and stirs into song the birds of the morning, 

so may I be brought to life this day.

Rising to see the light, to hear the wind, to smell the fragrance of what grows from the ground,

to taste its fruit and touch its textures, so may my inner senses be awakened to you, 

so may my senses be awakened to you, O God.

  • J. Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction, p. 50.

 

Remember the Key “Threads” in Celtic Christian Spirituality

 

Celtic Christian Spirituality – Creation Emphasis – The Third Day: The Abundance of God

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9-10)

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. 

Out of the elemental swirl of the second day there now emerges [what has been called] “the most beautiful firmness of the earth.” If the second day points to the wild creativity of God in the vast expanses of space, the third day portrays God fashioning the earth in stability and fruitfulness. Fertile land appears out of the fermentation of the waters and brings forth vegetation, “plants yielding seed” says Genesis, and “trees of every kind bearing fruit” (Genesis 1:12). They are “nourished and fattened by the moisture that is in the earth.” The picture is of the abundance of life.

St John says that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1;1). John also says that all things have come into being through the Word. Standing in the mystical tradition of St. John, the Celtic tradition teaches that creation is essentially an utterance of God. It is spoken forth from “the secret recesses of the Father’s substance.” It is “always being born.” Creation has been described as the child of God. All things at heart are a birth or embodiment of God’s Word. This is not to say that everything that we see and hear in creation is a perfect expression of God. We know that life is streaked through with all sorts of distortion and suffering. At the beginning or center of life, however, is the Word. God utters creation forth from the heart of the universe.

St. John describes Christ as the Word “made flesh.” Christ is in that sense the perfect expression of God. He truly reveals the Word that is at the beginning of all things. “The whole lesson of creation is gathered up in Christ.” As the Spirit conceives of the Christ-child in the waters of Mary’s womb, so creation is born of the Spirit in the virgin womb of the universe. Christ reveals the essential truth of the cosmos. It is born of God.

The Genesis account makes special mention of the seeds that are planted in the earth, “plants yielding seed of every kind” and “fruit with the seed in it” [Genesis 1:12]. This is “the seminal force” that is hidden within the earth. The profusion of plants and trees that issue from the ground is a manifestation of this seed force. Their roots reach down to the earth’s “concealed depths” for the waters that sustain them. The moisture that is within the soil of the earth is a symbol of the waters of God that enfold and infuse all things. Everything that is born in the great matrix of life is sustained by roots that reach into the deep mystery of God’s life. 

It all speaks not only to the sheer abundance of the earth’s fertility but also of the essential goodness of what grows from the ground. The Celtic tradition is led to affirm that the goodness of God is at the very heart and inception of all life. “The Divine Goodness summons all things out of not-being into being.” This is not to be naïve to the ways in which creation is blighted and diseased. The people of the Celtic fringe of Britain and Ireland have not been strangers to famine and natural hardship. Despite this, the Celtic tradition has celebrated the goodness that is deeper than evil.

What are we to do with our perception of God’s goodness in the earth, and in the gifts and people of the earth? In part it is given that we may see such goodness as a theophany [a showing of divine presence] of God, a showing forth of the One whose beauty and abundance are within life as well as measurably beyond it. But how is this to affect the way we live, both individually and collectively?

The practice of hospitality is particularly encouraged in the Celtic tradition. In the early beginnings [Pelagius, late fourth to early fifth century] defines the Christian as one “whose door is closed to no one” and “whose food is offered to all.” Centuries later in the Western Isles of Scotland there was a further development of this emphasis, in relation to the identification of Christ with the homeless and the poor. To be committed to welcoming unknown travelers into one’s house, and sharing food and drink with them, was to be open to being visited by Christ himself. The Iona Community of today still uses the ancient poem of hospitality from the Hebrides [Scottish Isles] in welcoming its guests to the Abbey each week:

We saw a stranger yesterday, we put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place,

music in the listening place, 

and with the sacred name of the Triune God, he blessed us and our house, our cattle and our dear ones. As the lark says in her song, Often, often, often goes Christ in the stranger’s guise.

[The Iona Community Worship Book]

Alongside the Celtic belief in the essential goodness of creation is the conviction that we are part of that goodness. “We are like fields with the fertility of God’s life within us. Here, too, ‘crops’ of goodness are to be reaped and shared.” The fallow fields of our souls that have been “long left unplowed” need to be turned over. Then we will see that deeper than any fallowness in us is the abundance of God.

 

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

 

Closing Prayer for Thursday Morning
The vitality of God be mine this day, the vitality of the God of life.

The passion of Christ be mine this day, the passion of the Christ of love.

The wakefulness of the Spirit be mine this day, the wakefulness of the Spirit of justice.

The vitality and passion and wakefulness of God be mine, that I may be fully alive this day,

the vitality and passion and wakefulness of God, that I may be fully alive.

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 & 53.

 

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

 

 

 

Posted by Mark Hamby at 6:00 AM
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