God within creation

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Daily Reading for August 26 • The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The feature of Celtic spirituality that is probably most widely recognized, both within and outside the Church, is its creation emphasis. Like most children, I had grown up with a sense of awe at creation. Our earliest memories are generally of wonder in relation to the elements. Connected to these moments will be recollections of experiencing at the deepest levels a type of communion with God in nature, but there will usually have been very little in our religious traditions to encourage us to do much more than simply thank God for creation. The preconception behind this is that God is separate from creation. How many of us were taught actually to look for God within creation and to recognize the world as the place of revelation and the whole of life as sacramental? Were we not for the most part led to think that spirituality is about looking away from life, so that the Church is distanced from the world and spirit is almost entirely divorced from the matter of our bodies, our lives and the world?

I had discovered characteristics of the old Celtic Church in the prayers of the Western Isles, but where was the original source of this spiritual tradition? When I explored the earliest manifestations of Celtic Christianity, in the fourth-century writings of Pelagius, for example, I found a similar emphasis on the life of God within creation. This much-maligned early British Christian stressed not only the essential goodness of creation—and our capacity to glimpse what he called ‘the shafts of divine light’ that penetrate the thin veil dividing heaven and earth—but the essential goodness of humanity. It was a spirituality characterized by a listening within all things for the life of God.

From Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by J. Philip Newell (Paulist Press, 1997).

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