By The Rev. Deacon Joe Dzugan
Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul - Celtic Christian Wisdom & Spirituality for the Here and Now – Part 1
September 18th, 2022
[Audio capture of discussion was lost]
O God of light, from whom all life flows,
may we glimpse the shinings of your presence in all things.
In the darkness of our world, in places of fear and terrible wrong,
and in the darknesses of our own lives, in times of confusion and doubt,
may we glimpse the shinings of your life-giving presence.
Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul – Introductory Thoughts
Celtic scholar John Philip Newell writes that “we know things in the core of our being that we have not necessarily been taught, and some of the deep knowing may actually be at odds with what our society or religion has tried to teach us. [Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul] is about reawakening to what we know in the depths of our being, that earth is sacred and that this sacredness is at the heart of every human being and life-form. To awaken again to this deep knowing is to be transformed in the ways we choose to live and act.”
“The problem is that we keep going back to sleep, or otherwise live in ways that neglect this deep knowing. Thus, the crises that we are in the midst of today, whether ecological, political, or societal, stem from the fact that we treat the earth and one another as less than sacred. All these critical issues are interrelated. The way we have wronged the earth is the way we have dishonored the feminine or belittled the ‘other’, whether that is the ‘other’ nation, religion, race, or sexual orientation. We have fallen out of alignment with the deepest truths within us. How are we to awaken again to the sacredness at the heart of all life, the sacredness that is also at the heart of our own being?”
“The Celtic spiritual tradition is one that has long emphasized an awareness of the sacred essence of all things. This tradition is in fact part of our Western Christian inheritance, although it has been largely forgotten and at times suppressed. [It is a lost stream of wisdom.] It is a way of seeing, a path of awareness, that can be traced through the centuries, forever unfolding, evolving, emerging, again and again, to serve a consciousness of the sacred at the heart of all life.”
“What is unique about the Celtic [spiritual] tradition compared to most other Western traditions is that it cannot be reduced to a set of doctrines or beliefs; instead, at its core is the conviction that we need to keep listening to what our soul already knows either in the particular circumstances of our lives or in matters more universal. We need this awareness among us today, urgently.”
“This way of seeing and hearing has a particular lineage. It can be traced historically to the Celtic world, but this is not to say that it is bound to Celtic ethnicity and culture. It goes by other names in other places and times. It is not only for those who wear kilts and play bagpipes, for instance or those who claim to have an Irish granny. Nor is it bound religiously. It resonates with the deep spiritual wisdom of other great religious traditions as well.”
[This way of seeing] “can be accessed by anyone, regardless of ethnic origin or religious background, for it is a way of seeing that is based on what the soul already deeply knows, that both the earth and every human being are sacred. And we can apply this way of seeing to the most pressing issues of humanity and the earth today – [to the here and now].”
“In the Celtic tradition, it was said that we suffer from soul-forgetfulness. We have forgotten who we are and have fallen out of true relationship with the earth and with one another. Thus, the path to well-being is not about becoming something other than ourselves or about acquiring a spiritual knowledge that is essentially foreign to us. It is about waking up to a knowledge that is deep in the very fabric of our being, and it is about living in relation to this wisdom.”
“Sacred is the right word to convey this Celtic way of seeing because it is a word that is not bound by religion. Inside the walls of religious practice, we speak of sacred scripture or sacred music, for instance, but way beyond those walls we also speak of the sacred universe or sacred moments. The word points with reverence to the divine essence of life and the true nature of relationship.”
“In Celtic wisdom [and spirituality] the sacred is as present on earth as it is in heaven, as immanent as it is transcendent, as human as it is divine, as physical as it is spiritual. The sacred can be breathed in, tasted, touched, heard, and seen as much in the body of the earth and the body of another living being as in the body of religion. It is the true essence of all life.”
Words of Awareness and Wisdom – A Story for Reflection
John Philip Newell recounts the time that he was giving a talk in Ottawa on some of these themes. Newell writes, “I began the presentation by using a phrase from the prologue to St. John’s Gospel, ‘The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world’ (John 1:9). [Remember John the Evangelist or John the Beloved is a highly cherished figure in Celtic Christian wisdom and spirituality.] I spoke of the way the Celtic tradition invites us to look for this light in one another and in everything that has being.
Attending the talk that evening was a young Mohawk elder who had been invited to be there specifically to make observations at the end of my talk about the resonances between Celtic and Native wisdom. The Mohawk elder stood with tears in his eyes as he spoke. He said, ‘As I have been listening to these themes, I have been wondering where I would be tonight, I have been wondering where my people would be tonight, and I have been wondering where we would be as a Western world tonight if the mission that had come to us from Europe centuries ago had come expecting to find light in us.’”
Source: John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul, Introduction.
An invitation to our virtual participants: Discussion and comments are very much encouraged and
welcomed. Online discussions can be held in the comments section in the upcoming post on Facebook for this week’s Deacon’s Reflection which is part of adult formation at St. Francis Episcopal Church.
Awake, O my soul, and know the Sacred dignity of your being.
Awake to it in every living soul this day.
Honor it, defend it, in heart and mind, in word and deed.
Awake O my soul, and know the sacred dignity of your being.
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. Amen.
John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul, p. 43.
“Sacred Earth; Sacred Soul”, Deacon Joe Dzugan, St. Francis Episcopal Church, 2022.