The Wild Waves

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Shall I leave the soft comforts of home, O Lord,
and be without money, power, and honor?
Shall I launch my little boat on the great sparkling ocean,
and go on my own on the deep?

Stand by me, God, when it comes to the wild waves.

– St Brendan

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Prayer: Divine Light

Sunset

Divine Light
O God, you who made the sun,
are the sun of my soul
and I love
your radiance.
I love you, O Light eternal;
grant that I may see you
in the brightness of your glory.

Divine Light, proceeding from
the splendour of the trinity
flood my heart with your love,
my mind and my soul
and every part of me,
till I shall be illumined and one with
the light of Christ within me.

– Brendanus Scotus (quoted in Brendan O’Malley’s Lord of Creation)

God in All Seasons: New Year Blessing

This reflection is a part of our blog series. During the month of December we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of CHRIST WITH US. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

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A blessing from Ray Simpson’s book Celtic Blessings: Prayers for Everyday Life

God bless me to this year

Never vouchsafed to me before.

It is to bless your own presence

that you have given me this moment, O Lord.

Bless to me my eye

And everything it shall see

Bless to me my neighbor

May my neighbor be a blessing to me.

Bless to me my household

and all my dear ones

Bless to me my work and all that belongs

to your provision.

Give to me a clean heart

That I may not need to hide from you

One moment of this new year.

Christ With Us: Celebrating the Incarnation

This reflection is a part of our blog series. During the month of December we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of CHRIST WITH US. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

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An excerpt from Mary C. Earle’s article “A Celtic Christmas: Celebrating the Sacred in All Creation

 

The wonder of the Incarnation is that in Jesus we are told that God and humanity are meant for each other. We discover that God loves bodies, God plays with matter, God speaks to us through quarks and atoms and molecules, through blood and lymph and bone. Through every human race and culture. The Christian story tells us that God chooses to be human, chooses to know human life from the moment of conception to the suffering of death. In Jesus, God knows intimately what it is to be a toddler, to have a stomachache, to feel the rain and wind, to be betrayed and forsaken, to die. Incarnation is about God choosing to be one of us, so that we might become communities of compassion, mercy, courage, justice, care, God’s embodied presence here and now.

Historically, at this time of the year, the peoples of the Celtic lands (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Galicia) marked the natural rhythm as autumn turned to winter. This was a time for watching for the light’s return, even in the midst of darkness. This was a time for pondering endings and beginnings. As Christianity came to these lands, perhaps as early as the first century, there was a ready embracing of the proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God. As far as we can tell, the pre-Christian religious practices of the Celtic peoples were inclined to celebrate the natural world as shot through with divine presence. For them, a faith tradition that celebrated the divine becoming human was plausible, welcome and true. Incarnation was not a stumbling block as it was to the Greeks. This faith that had a central story of a man who came from God and returned to God, a man who was God’s Son, did not seem so far-fetched to the Celtic mind.

The first time I went to Wales in 1994, Patrick Thomas, Welsh author and Anglican priest, told us that in every Welsh nativity scene, a washerwoman accompanies Mary, Joseph and Jesus at the manger. For the Welsh tradition, if Jesus isn’t born daily into the common household, then there’s really no point of celebrating the birth at Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth, singular as it is, also shows us the sacredness of each child, knit together in the mother’s womb by God’s own Spirit. Jesus’ birth reminds us that each household is dear to God.

Christ With Us: Preparing the Way

This reflection is a part of our blog series. During the month of December we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of CHRIST WITH US. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

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An excerpt from Celtic Daily Prayer, produced by the Northumbria Community

Advent is traditionally a time of preparation for Christmas. It is said that the door to the stable where the Christ-child has been born is very low – and only those who kneel find access. Being ready for Christmas should mean that our thoughts are focused not just on letters, cards and presents, but on repentance, humbling and interior ‘housecleaning’. John the Baptist warned his healers to prepare a way for the Lord – to make a clear and level pathway. This involves removing any boulders that stand in the way, and filling in any potholes. The boulders are the things we have done that we should not have done; the potholes are the things we have failed to do which we obviously should have done. The more, as individuals, family or congregation, we are focused in this way, the less we will be overwhelmed by the commercialization of Christmas.

In the run-up to Christmas we remember especially Zacharias and Elizabeth, and the child John who, still in the womb, leapt in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Christ has come; Christ has died and is risen; Christ will come again.

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God in the Ordinary: Grace at Mealtime

This prayer is a part of our blog series. During the month of November we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of THE SACRED PRESENCE IN ORDINARY LIFE. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

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GRACE BEFORE MEALS
As we begin this meal with grace,

Let us become aware of the memory

Carried inside the food before us:

The quiver of the seed

Awakening in the earth,

Unfolding in a trust of roots

And slender stems of growth,

On its voyage towards harvest,

The kiss of rain and surge of sun;

The innocence of animal soul

That never spoke a word,

Nourished by the earth

To become today our food;

The work of all the strangers

Whose hands prepared it,

The privilege of wealth and health

That enables us to feast and celebrate.

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GRACE AFTER MEALS

We end this meal with grace

For the joy and nourishment of food,

The slowed time away from the world

To come into presence with each other

And sense the subtle lives behind our faces,

The different colours of our voices,

The edges of hungers we keep private,

The circle of love that unites us.

We pray the wise spirit who keeps us

To change the structures that make others hunger

And that after such grace we might now go forth

And impart dignity wherever we partake.

– from John O’Donohue’s Benedictus: A Book of Blessings
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God in the Ordinary: A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Rising

This prayer is a part of our blog series. During the month of November we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of THE SACRED PRESENCE IN ORDINARY LIFE. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

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THANKSGIVING FOR RISING

Thanks to you, O God, that I have risen today,

To the rising of life itself;

May it be to your own glory,

O God of every gift,

And to the glory of my soul likewise.

O great God, aid my soul

With the aiding of your own mercy;

Even as I clothe my body with wool,

Cover my soul with the shadow of your wing.

Help me to avoid every sin,

And the source of every sin to forsake;

And as the mist scatters

on the crest of the hills,

May each ill haze clear from my soul, O God.

 
– adapted from Carmina Gadelica 
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God in the Ordinary: A Sleeping Prayer

This prayer is a part of our blog series. During the month of November we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of THE SACRED PRESENCE IN ORDINARY LIFE. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

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SLEEPING PRAYER

I am placing my soul and my body

On Thy sanctuary this night, O God,

On Thy sanctuary, O Jesus Christ,

On Thy sanctuary, O Spirit of perfect truth;

The Three who would defend my cause,

Nor turn Their backs upon me.

Thou, Father, who art kind and just,

Thou, Son, who didst overcome death,

Thou, Holy Spirit of power,

Be keeping me this night from harm;

The Three who would justify me

Keeping me this night and always.

– from Carmina Gadelica

Creation: God’s Other Book

This entry, by pastor and nature photographer Dr. Chuck Summers, is a part of our blog series. During the month of October we will be looking at reflections and prayers with the theme of CREATION. To learn more about this year’s series, click here

In John Denver’s classic song, “Rocky Mountain High,” he speaks of one “coming home to a place he’d never been before.”  In some ways that home for me has been Celtic Spirituality.  It has only been a few short years since I was introduced to the Celtic way of seeing the world, life and God.  Still, what I have found there seems like home.  It has changed, and continues to change, how I live my life.

I have found particularly appealing the close correlation found in Celtic Spirituality between God and nature.  This is something that is missing in much of contemporary American spirituality.  For some strange reason many Christians here view anything related to nature or the environment to be “New Age” and therefore alien to authentic Christianity.  The legacy of Celtic Christianity is that God and Creation cannot be separated.  In nature one finds God’s other Book.

Just as certainly as God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures God has done the same in or through His Creation.  It is interesting how God’s two books are placed together in Psalm 19.  In the first six verses the Psalmist speaks of the Book of Creation and how “the heavens declare the glory of God.”  Beginning in verse 7 the focus changes to the Scriptures, or “the law of the Lord,” which is said to be “perfect, refreshing the soul.”  Centuries later the apostle Paul would likewise speak of God’s other Book in Romans 1:20.  Here he wrote: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” 

It was encouraging to discover that Celtic Spirituality has long understood and maintained the need for both Books of God.  For the longest time I felt or sensed that God was revealing Himself through all that He had made.  How comforting it was to discover that as far back as the ninth century the Irish teacher, John Scotus Eriugena, was declaring “every visible and invisible creature can be called a theophany.”

As both a pastor and a professional nature photographer I have been both moved and inspired by the teachings of Celtic Spirituality.  I have sought to share lessons from the Celts with members of my congregation and even led studies on Celtic Spirituality.  I often draw from the wisdom of the Celts when writing my bi-weekly blog “Seeing Creation.”  The wisdom of the Celts also influences how I see the world and this, in turn, affects how I now photograph nature.

In her book, Every Earthly Blessing, Esther DeWaal says Celtic Spirituality is “deeply incarnational.”  She goes on to add, “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 honoured.”  I could not agree more.

The Celtic way of viewing the world is desperately needed today.  We need the wisdom found there to help us have a fuller and richer experience of God. How sad that so many Christians never bother to read or pay attention to God’s other Book!  We also need the wisdom of Celtic Spirituality to help us address the many environmental challenges we are facing.  I fear that unless Christians can come to understand nature as a revelation and manifestation of God that they will do little to help protect and preserve God’s Creation.  The environmental crisis is not just a threat to our physical well-being, it endangers our spiritual well-being as well.

I am very thankful for the living tradition known as Celtic Spirituality and look forward to learning more about it in the days to come.  As I am discovering every day, I owe to it a huge debt.

–Dr. Chuck Summers

Dr. Chuck Summers is pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pikeville, KY.  His photography business is called Contemplative Images and people can view more of his work at www.agpix.com/csummers.  His blog, “Seeing Creation” can be found at www.seeingcreation.com