Jun 10 2012

The Grace of Seeing

In recent days I have continued reading books related to Celtic Spirituality.  One book that I have enjoyed and profited from is called Celtic Benediction.  It is a small book put together by J. Philip Newell containing morning and night prayers, along with various selections of Scripture.  The book’s content is enhanced by illustrations of Celtic art taken from the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Early in the book there is a prayer that has become special to me.  It reads: “I watch this morning for the light that the darkness has not overcome.  I watch for the fire that was in the beginning and that burns still in the brilliance of the rising sun.  I watch for the glow of life that gleams in the growing earth and glistens in the sea and sky.  I watch for your light, O God, in the eyes of every living creature and in the ever-living flame of my own soul.  If the grace of seeing were mine this day I would glimpse you in all that lives.  Grant me the grace of seeing this day.  Grant me the grace of seeing.”

The connection of Christ and Creation is obvious throughout this prayer.  This is one of the hallmarks of Celtic Spirituality.  In my opinion it should be a hallmark of all forms of Christian Spirituality.  I have trouble comprehending how so many people miss this vital connection.  There is certainly no shortage of biblical passages to affirm its validity.

The prayer that I have shared is one I keep turning back to.  I want to make this my prayer as well.  I want to glimpse God “in all that lives.”  But as Newell intimates in the prayer, “the grace of seeing” does not come naturally.  It is a gift of God.  As such, we must ask for it.  And once given, this gift must be nurtured and developed.  This may sound like a lot of work but if the outcome is experiencing and seeing God in all of Creation, wouldn’t it be worth it?  Needless to say, it would be well worth it!  I encourage you to copy the prayer I’ve shared with you today on a card and make this your morning prayer in the days to come.  Don’t be surprised if you start seeing far more than you’re used to…

–Chuck

(I took the pictures illustrating today’s blog entry a couple of days ago at Roan Mountain State Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.)


May 20 2012

Our Furred and Feathered Neighbors

“Every creature is a divine word because it proclaims God.” –Saint Bonaventure

Lately I’ve been reading a delightful book by Kenneth McIntosh called Water From An Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life.  In one of the chapters the author talks about the role pets play in our lives.  He says here, “The Celtic saints understood that God uses the Earth’s living creatures to carry Divine love to humans.  These little brothers and sisters of ours often have a deeper, wordless wisdom we humans lack, one that points the way to the living streams where we all must drink.”  McIntosh goes on to say, “Ancient Celtic Christians perceived their relations with animals as signs of the Kingdom of God.”  He believes we would be wise to perceive them in the same way.  At the end of the chapter McIntosh offers this challenge: “So pay attention when your fellow creatures share their lives with you.  Watch closely.  Listen carefully.  Open your heart.  Let God speak to you through these furred and feathered neighbors.”

In recent days I’ve been thinking a lot about the important role pets play in our lives.  In part this thinking has been brought on by things I’ve seen posted on Facebook.  One longtime friend posted this message: We lost our dear sweet cat Princess this afternoon to cancer. It’s amazing how attached you get to your pets. She was 16 and well loved.”  Over the weekend members of my church posted several messages stating their beloved dog was missing.  They were desperately seeking help finding “Butter.”  Thankfully, Butter was found and returned safely home.

My heart went out to the owners of both Princess and Butter when I read their notes because I am a pet lover myself.  I have had pets my entire life.  My family had pet dogs when I was growing up (Tippy and Lucky).   I also had hamsters from time to time (one was named “TJ” after Thomas Jefferson).  My wife and I have been married almost 31 years.  During that time we have had three dogs.  Our first dog, Mandy, had a disease and did not live long.  Our second dog, Mert, (named after Thomas Merton) lived with us 18 years.  She lost a leg to cancer and was basically blind and deaf when she died in my arms.  Our current dog is named Sierra.  She is a “rescue dog.”  She was found abused and abandoned.  We consider her, like we did Mandy and Mert, part of the family.

Having had the pets I have over the years I can understand how the Celtic saints believed God uses animals “to carry Divine love to humans.”  I have certainly experienced that love through my pets.  There have been times when I’ve felt my dogs represented God’s love far better than me.  Over the years I have also benefitted from my pets’ “deeper, wordless wisdom.”  I really have learned a lot from them.

If you have a pet I hope you recognize it to be the divine gift he or she is.  I would also challenge you, as Kenneth McIntosh did, to “Watch closely.  Listen carefully.  Open your heart.  Let God speak to you through these furred and feathered neighbors.” If you will do these things, your life will be so much richer and full of love.  I cannot help but believe that’s just the way God planned it from the beginning.

–Chuck

(The two images posted above show our beloved “Sierra.”)

 

 


May 13 2012

Mirrors of Life

When I was much younger I remember there being a song by Jim Stafford in which he declared “I don’t like spiders and snakes…”  I have a feeling that there are many who feel the same way about these creatures.  For some reason a lot of people hate spiders and snakes.   I will confess that at one time I did too.  I disliked them because I was afraid of them.  Part of this fear was instilled in me by others while I was a child.  Watching horror movies that featured spiders and snakes probably didn’t help either.  I suspect the biggest reason I feared and disliked them was I did not understand them.

In Rob’s last blog on this site he wrote about Death Valley’s pup fish and noted that they are good and valuable, if for no other reason, because God made them and declared them to be good.  The same thing can be said for spiders and snakes, along with any other creature we may deem detestable or unlikeable.  Every creature that exists on the earth is here because the Creator chose to make it.  From this truth we can discern that every creature that exists also has a purpose.  If we would only take the time to learn about those creatures we don’t like we would discover that each one has a beneficial role to play in their respective ecosystem.   We might also be forced to admit they are beneficial to us.

It would help all of us to remember that everything that God has created manifests His glory.  I have been reading a lot lately about Celtic Spirituality.  Last night I came across a Celtic hymn in Carmina Gadelica that included these words: “There is no plant in the ground but is full of His virtue; there is no form in the strand but is full of His blessing.  Jesu!  Jesu!  Jesu!  Jesu! Meet it were to praise Him.  There is no life in the sea; there is no creature in the river, there is naught in the firmament, but proclaims His goodness.  Jesu!  Jesu!  Jesu!  Jesu! Meet it were to praise Him.  There is no bird in the wing, there is no star in the sky, there is nothing beneath the sun, but proclaims His goodness.  Jesu!  Jesu!  Jesu!  Jesu!  Meet it were to praise Him.”

Each of our lives would be enriched if we could come to recognize that everything God made, including spiders and snakes, proclaims His goodness and can lead us to offer praise to Jesus.  With that in mind, I encourage you to pray the prayer Thomas a’Kempis prayed long ago: “Lord God, make my heart straight in your sight, so that every creature will be to me a mirror of life, and a book of holy doctrine, for there is no creature so small or insignificant that it does not show forth and represent the goodness of God.”

–Chuck

(I took the spider, snake and wasp images shown above last week in Big Bend National Park.)

 


Jul 1 2009

Celtic Praise

bad-branch-falls-051If you know anything at all about Celtic spirituality you already know that there is much there that I find appealing.  In my office at home I have a Celtic cross hanging next to my computer.  For those who may not know, a Celtic cross is a circle imposed on a cross.   The symbolism is clear—the circle represents the world and the cross the redemption of it made possible by Jesus Christ. 

Central to Celtic spirituality is the interconnection of redemption and creation.  As Esther De Waal points out in her book Every Earthly Blessing, “Celtic spirituality is deeply incarnational.  It is through his world, in its totality, however mundane and down to earth, that God reveals himself.  So the Celtic way of seeing the world is infused with the sense of the all-pervading presence of God.  This is God’s world, a world to be claimed, affirmed and honored.”

The close connection between God and nature is evident in many of the ancient Celtic prayers.  Below is one example found in the Carmina Gadelica:

There’s no plant in the ground

But is full of His blessing.

There’s no thing in the sea

But is full of His life.

There is nought in the sky

But proclaims His goodness.

Jesu! O Jesu!  It’s good to praise thee!

 

The ancient Celts have much to teach us about “seeing Creation” and worshipping God.  If you would like learn more about Celtic spirituality let me know and I’ll be glad to recommend some excellent resources for you.

 

–Chuck Summers

 

*The picture above was one I recently took of Bad Branch Falls in southeastern Kentucky.