With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Listening for The Heartbeat of God, Celtic Christian Spirituality – Part 8
Opening Prayer for Sunday Morning
You are above us, O God, you are within.
You are in all things yet contained by no thing.
Teach us to seek you in all that has life that we may see you as the Light of life.
Teach us to search for you in our own depths that we may find you in every living soul.
J. Philip Newell, Sounds of the Eternal – A Celtic Psalter, p. 2.
Remember the Key “Threads” in Celtic Christian Spirituality
Celtic Christian Spirituality – Creation Emphasis – The Sixth Day: The Image of God – Part I
“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.
Out of the waters of God’s life comes the creatures of earth and sea and sky. They are “endowed with the five senses.” With the birth of the creatures there is the emergence of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. The light of the sun and the whiteness of the moon can now be seen. The wind blowing through the leaves of the trees and the crashing of ocean waves can be heard. The early morning fragrance of the earth can be smelled. Its fruit can be tasted, and its textures touched.
This, of course, is not just about the birth of the creatures but about the gift of our creatureliness and thus the creatureliness of the image in which we have been made. [Celtic spiritual tradition] says that every creature “can be called a theophany [a showing of divine presence].” It is “the manifestation of the hidden”, or the “visibility of the invisible.” This is not to say that what is shown in a creature is the essence of God, for God is essentially unknowable. Rather, what is manifested is an expression of God’s essence. Nothing in creation exists in and by itself. The soul of every creature is derived from the one Soul. God, therefore, is not simply in every creature but is the essence of every creature. At heart, creation – including our creatureliness – is a showing forth of the mystery of God.
[ Spiritual Exercise]
On the sixth day humanity is born, in the “image” and “likeness” of God [Genesis 1:26]. The emergence of man and woman brings creation to the fullness of birth, for humanity contains within itself the mystery of all that has been created. The creatureliness of the fifth day and the masculinity and femininity of the sun and moon have a place in humanity. Similarly, the earth’s beautiful firmness, the swirling elemental movements of creativity, and the light of the first day all find expression in the creation of humanity.
We are created, writes George MacDonald, “not out of nothing, but out of God’s own endless glory.” This is one of the points at which the Celtic spiritual tradition significantly diverges from the Western tradition at large. We are created out of the essence of God, not out of nothing. So essential is the Being of God to our being that if God’s life were somehow extracted from our life we would cease to exist. Alexander Scott compared this interweaving of the divine in the human to the thread that was woven through royal garments in the nineteenth century. It could not be removed without the cloth being entirely destroyed. So it is in the being of humanity. There is woven through us a fiber of “royal nature”, said Scott, the removal of which would be our total disintegration.
To say that we are made in the image of the divine is to say that what is deepest in us is of God. At the heart of who we are is the love of God, the wisdom of God, the creativity, imagination, and wildness of God. “What is most human,” says Scott, is “the most divine: what is most divine, the most human.” God is not present “beside the human merely, but in the human.” “The Infinite,” he says, is “consubstantiated [coexists] with the human.” The extent to which we fail to reflect the image of God in our lives is the extent to which we have become less than truly human.
To believe that we are born in God’s likeness is to believe that what is deepest in us is mystery. Just as the essence of God is “invisible and incomprehensible and passes all understanding,” so it is with humanity created in God’s image. What cannot be known about us is greater by far than what can be known. The deeper we delve into the mystery of our being the more we become aware of its limitless depths. This is not to preclude a scientific study and investigation of the human. Rather, it is to say that the heart of who we are always surpasses knowledge. We can be “contained within no definition.” This perspective in the Celtic spiritual tradition leads to a reverencing of human nature. No one is to be regarded merely as an object, for at heart each woman and man is a holy mystery.
One of the ways in which the Celtic tradition points to the mystery that is deep within us is to speak of “the trinity of our nature.” Even in the pre-Christian Celtic world, there had been a love of triads. The sacred number three was “baptized” by the Celtic mission into the heart of its teachings concerning the mystery of God and humanity. There is the legend of St. Patrick using the three-fold clover to suggest the threefold mystery of the unity of God.
[to be continued]
J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, chapters five and six.
Closing Prayer for Sunday Morning
Before us in the planned shape of this day we look for unexpected surgings of new life.
Around us in the people whom we know and love we look for unopened gifts of promise.
Within us in the familiar sanctuary of our own soul we look for the shinings of the everlasting light.
Before us, around us, within us we look for your life-giving mystery O God, before us, around us, within us.
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. 5.
“Listening for The Heartbeat of God”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.
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