Several years ago my personal formational spiritual journey and regularly seeking a more solid grounding for ministry (those two categories had better not be mutually exclusive!), led me to discover Celtic spirituality. I was grasped by its beauty, depth, and soul-shaping language and rhythms. This genre of spirituality has an earthiness about it, a relationship to nature, the seasons, the wonder of the heavens; it also hails the holiness of the daily, the ordinary, family and friends, hearth and home, work and rest. It is Trinitarian, God-drenched and Jesus-centered.
Its lineage can be traced back to the third century desert fathers and mothers, migrating through southern Europe up through France and then on to the British Isles, especially Ireland. As all spiritual expressions do, it took on local traits and adopted regional traditions as it developed and spread.
The essence of Celtic spirituality is captured in the title of J. Philip Newell's book, Listening for the Heartbeat of God. Newell is the former director of the Iona Community in Scotland, a site for the renewal of Celtic spirituality in the 20th century. The heartbeat of God throbs when we listen to creation, to the imagination, to the rhythms of life and the events around us, and very importantly, when we live and act in the spirit of that holiness which saturates all things.
Years ago, a friend's wise mother used a phrase that has stayed with me. Mrs. Gisolo warned against "being so heavenly-minded, that we are no earthly good!" That, too captures what was expressed more than a millennium earlier by Irish monks in their rule of life: "In this lies the heart of the rule: to love Christ and to be gentle to all people…The love of God embraces the whole world…The service of the Lord is light, wonderful, and pleasant."
We are living in a time of quarantine and fear-- an invisible virus has invaded the world and we can see only its devastating results. The human toll, death, economic distress, uncertainty and isolation fill us with anxiety and doubt. All that was clear is now opaque; what and whom we took for granted have become precious. Yet, we have also seen the heroic; self-sacrifice (sometimes literally); institutions acting decisively; and changes and innovations that we saw as future possibilities now have us turning on a dime. All this is happening in our still God-drenched world.
The book in the accompanying photo was a gift from my friend, mentor, and teaching ministry colleague, Dr. Jerry Flora. These Celtic prayers, litanies, readings, and meditations have nurtured my spirit for more than a decade. Its spiritual richness and cadences massage my soul. When I sense a distancing of myself from God, I read these words and transcribe them on my heart. My prayer, beloved, is that they will be etched on yours, too:
"You fill me altogether…there is no particle of my body that You do not fill, and around me You are nearer than the air in which I move. How I am blessed! What happiness to be united so completely to perfection itself; to live it, to possess it living in myself! My God , You who are in me, in whom I am, let me know my happiness."
In You, by You, and for You. Amen.
Faithfully, in love, Pastor Tom+