With The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Listening for The Heartbeat of God, Celtic Christian Spirituality – Part 9
Opening Prayer for Monday Morning
In the silence of the morning, we are alive to the new day’s light,
alert to the early stirrings of the wind and the first sounds of the creatures.
In the silence of our heart, we hear the yearnings that are in us and the fears,
the hopes that rise from within, and the doubts that trouble our soul.
In the beginnings of this day, O God, before night’s stillness is lost to the day’s busyness,
open to us the treasure of our inner being that in the midst of this day’s busyness we may draw on wisdom.
Assure us again of our origins in you, assure us again that our true depths are of you.
- J. Philip Newell, Sounds of the Eternal – A Celtic Psalter, p. 14.
Remember the Key “Threads” in Celtic Christian Spirituality
Celtic Christian Spirituality – Creation Emphasis – The Sixth Day: The Image of God – Part II
“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.
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.
Celtic spiritual tradition develops the Celtic love of unity in the trinity when it describes humanity as
being formed in “the image and likeness of the creative Trinity.” The whole of our being reflects the image
of the Father, the image of the Son, and the image of the Holy Spirit. In other words, there is no part of our
being that is not rooted in the creating, redeeming, and inspiring mystery of God. There are particular
dimensions of who we are, however, that specifically reflect one face of the trinity more than another. The
essence of our being reflects the first person of the Trinity, the universal Father or Mother in whom all things
have their origin. The expression of our being reflects the Child of God who is the utterance of Love. And the
operation of our being and our capacity for creativity and new beginnings reflect the Spirit who in the
beginning stirred forth life from the darkness of the waters. To speak of the trinity of our nature is not to
suggest that we can define our being in doctrines or formulas. Rather, it is to say that the mystery of the
Trinity is the ground of our own mystery, both individually and collectively.
The Genesis account moves swiftly from the creation of Adam and Eve towards what has come to be
known as “the Fall.” Humanity sins and thereby loses its innocence and is forced to leave the garden of
Eden. Let us be very clear, however, that by “loss of innocence” the Celtic tradition does not mean an
erasing or destroying of the holy image. The divine likeness within us may be hidden or forgotten. It may be
held in terrible bondage by wrong-doing, but the image of God remains at the heart of who we are, even
though we may live at what seems an infinite distance from it. We have distorted the image, but not erased
it. The failures of our lives and the falseness of what we have become do not have the power to undo what
God has woven into the very fabric of our nature.
Redemption in this model of spirituality is about recovering the treasure that is buried deep in the
field of our own lives. Even when it lies largely obscured, the image of God, which by its very nature is
immortal and indestructible, can be glimpsed within us and among us. Pelagius argued that this alone
accounts for the goodness and wisdom that we have known and experienced in the lives of those who make
no claim to be recipients of Christ’s grace. Pelagius also points to the knowledge of good and evil that is
planted within every human being. Why is it, he asks, that people blush or feel guilty when they have
There is, says Pelagius, a type of natural sanctity within us that knows when we have done what is
good and when we have done what is wrong. He compares this to St. Paul’s reference in Romans to those
outside Judaism who instinctively do what the law commands. “They show that what the law requires is
written in their hearts”, says Paul. (Romans 2:15) This instinctive knowledge is part of the image of God in
us. It has not been erased by our disobedience, but rather obscured or dulled.
The garden of God in which we have been created has not been destroyed. Nor has it been
abandoned. We may live in a state of exile from it, but God forever dwells in that place and seeks our
company. The Book of Genesis describes God “as walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze”
and calling out “Where are you? (Genesis 3:8-9) The garden according to Celtic spiritual tradition is our
“human nature that was made in the image of God.” God still walks in the garden of our souls searching for
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.
[to be continued]
- J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation, chapter six.
Closing Prayer for Monday Morning
Like an infant’s open-eyed wonder and the insights of a wise grandmother,
like a young man’s vision for justice and the vitality that shines in a girl’s face,
like tears that flow in a friend bereaved and laughter in a lover’s eyes,
you have given us ways of seeing, O God, you have endowed us with sight like your own.
Let these be alive in us today, let these be alive in 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. 17.
“Listening for The Heartbeat of God”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.
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