Celtic Spirituality in Kentucky

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Another Homily on Love, Celtic Spirituality

At the summons in the wedding ceremony.
Homily on the Mystery of Love.

The mystery of human love calls us out of ourselves into knowing, caring, cherishing and loving another human being. Scripture writers tell us that human love is the metaphor or the poetry of God’s love for us. The best image of the way God loves us is found in human loving. The Song of Songs, Canticle of Canticle in the Bible is about this.

Therefore the mystery of Human love is the most amazing grace of all. We are not born loving. We learn to love by others loving us. We learn generosity, self-giving, caring from our mothers and our fathers. Then, out of our usual and typical self-preoccupation, another person beckons to us. The mysteriousness of human love opens to us, and our own heart opens to the power, the delight, the erotic, the wonder and ecstacy of loving another.

This is the great mystery that ___________ and _______________ are affirming here today, publicly in our presence. This risking for the sake of love, this vulnerability for our hearts, is the greatest risk we take in life, for none of us knows what the future holds.

What is between ___________ and _____________ is already sacred and holy because it is already a sacrament, calling them into MYSTERY, the mystery of God’s love for us. The Spirit of Love, that love which so inspired Jesus life, is already here. And we simply recognize it, acknowledge it. And with you, for you, we CELEBRATE IT. And when we do this we recognize and acknowledge the vocation each of us has, to become LOVERS. . .

When you love, and when you make love to and with the other, you are expressing the same wondrous divine energy that created this magnificent universe, and everything in it. When you are surrendering freely to this loving, you are expressing your deepest, truest nature.

It is not that it is you that has found love. But Love has found you, and Love is your vocation. Not success, but Love. Not prosperity, but Love. You will find the deepest happiness only in this kind of generous loving.

____ and ______ Honor this love between you, nourish it, polish it, never take it for granted. Never keep score on who is giving more. Your heart is called into wondrous generous giving of yourself to this person. You are stepping publicly and solemnly into the the great Mystery of Love. Remember that this Mystery, which some of us believe is the Divine Energy among us, within us, will always ask more of you.

May this love which you have discovered and which has also discovered the two of you, be productive, bounteous and rich beyond your dreams.

Celtic view of Love

I witness some 45 weddings each year, either at our Amazing Grace Chapel, in the great Cathedral of Nature in East Fayette County, about 15-20 minutes from downtown Lexington. Here is a copy of my typical wedding homily in which I celebrate the awesome mystery of love. By the way, the visitor to my other blogs, Poetry of Love and War, Healthy spirituality, Whence the Wind, etc., will find there a Celtic spirituality which embraces the natural and the earthy as the gossamer of the holy, the sacred and the divine.

All the saints, all the prophets,
All the scripture writers and mystics
Tell us one thing:
The nature of god is love.

That god’s love is the central
Or core mystery of the universe.

Today love is not out there
Somewhere in the heavens.
Today this mystery is right here,
Among us.

Between _________ and ___________

Human love is the most amazing grace of all.

It is holy, sacred and awesome not only in
What it is, but what it beckons us toward.
An enjoyment of one another and
An unceasing giving of ourselves,
A surrender to the other.

___________ And _________ today
Pledge that they
Will be faithful to this love
That has found them
And we are here to celebrate
With them
And their families
The joy of this discovery
And this pledging.

What a precious and happy day
This is.

from wedding ritual, Amazing Grace Chapel, Rev. Dr. Paschal Baute, Lexington, Ky.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Concerning your post on Celtic Spirituality

Re: Concerning your post on Celtic Spirituality

Paschal, Getting back to your tapes by John O'Donohue. My plans for Lent include using his set of tapes: Wisdom from the Celtic World. The set includes three topics: 1. The Divine Imagination, On the Wild Presence of the Divine and the Call of Beauty. 2. The Inner Landscape, On Contradiction as Invitation and the Hidden Blessings of Pain and Suffering 3. The Invisible World, On the Beauty of Prayer and Liberation from the Prisons in Which We Choose to Live.

I've used one or the other of these at various times over the years to help me center when I take "retreat" time at home. On a daily routine, however, in addition to the very good books that are available, I use poetry, music, and nature to focus on God's love. Music and personal interaction with living animals evokes a great deal of love from deep within.

Somehow, I've come to hear God in music, and see God in living creatures. I'm only recently feeling an inner spiritual reaction to art. Living in the woods is a big help to me, after my youth in NYC. In the city I found God, in the very Celtic spirituality that I found in my family's focus upon FAMILY relationships and sacred hospitality, more than having access to natural beauty.

As I age, and with the experience now of living in a rural setting, I have come to see not only the value, but the spiritual and religious obligation of caring for our Earth and environment--much more than I ever thought about in my youth. Not just as preserving the gift of the Earth for it's beauty, but for the Love with which it's been given to us by God... so by caring for environment personally, and through any products I support or purchase, I am loving my daughter and her children and grandchildren, etc.

It all returns to loving. Thus it affects all I buy, all I support socially and politically, and each choice I make. This is my intent. I am not as conscious all the time and I want to be and try to be. God's not finished with me yet, as the saying goes. For me that is what living the Faith MUST do in my life--refocus me on Love in every choice. Celtic spirituality actually makes it easy I believe because of the emphasis on creation and relationships. . . . still learning

--A woman priest of the Celtic Christian Church, ordained in the orthodox independent Catholic tradition.

Celtic Spiritual and the Indigenous Spirit: several books

Brief reviews of several books:
1. Newell on Celtic Spirituality and
2. Martin Prechtel on the indigenous soul.

1. Celtic Spirituality: Listening to the Heartbeat of God
by J. Philip Newell, Paulist, 1997, 112 pp. ISBN 0-8091-3795-3
A few notes by Paschal Baute with a mention of other books by Martin Prechtel.

N. emphasizes in this little book the essential goodness of creation and humanity, that is to say, that God’s Presence is to be found in the whole of human life, in Nature, in all creation, in human love, instead of almost exclusively in Church and its traditions. All of the world is God's dwelling place. Nature is not opposed to spirituality, but also sources of revelation. Matter or flesh is not opposed to Spirit, but its hidden source.

How many of us were taught to recognize the whole of human life and all of creation as sacramental? Or encouraged to find this mystery we call God within?

The Celtic view is that the presence of God is within all people. Creation itself is the Living Word of God. Rather than look to the organized church, Pelagius Delatinus taught we should look for a friend of the soul, one to whom the inner self can be opened, to know and explore what is in one’s heart.

Pelagius saw God as Present within all of life, but ran into trouble by teaching
1) women to read Scripture;
2) that every child was conceived and born in the image of God. He did not deny evil and its power but implied that at the heart of humanity was the image and goodness of God.

Since God is at the very heart of life itself, we should look within our hearts to find the Living Word of God. The more deeply we look into matter and nature the closer we will come to God. John Scotus in the 9 th century proposed not looking away from life but more deeply into it. He was convinced of the essential good ness of everything: if we deny our humanity via religiosity, we are not releasing our Truest Selves.

My further review of this book got sidetracked by other pressing projects.
Highly Recommended.

2. Until one can immerse oneself into one of the indigenous cultures of the world, we cannot understand how N’s view of Celtic Spirituality was true across many native cultures--how spirituality was part and parcel of everyday life and how everything was sacramental.

We cannot realize either how devastating was the effect of the Christian missionaries in destroying the ancient traditions of many of those cultures.

So much are we enculturated by our own dominant culture, that it is difficult to grasp the power of this without actually living in a different culture, or reading a book that describes the indigenous soul well, from the inside.

Such is the writing of Martin Prechtel, whose two books, recently finished, I can highly recommend for this purpose. They are Secrets of the Talking Jaguar,
Long Life, Honey in the Heart, Tarcher, Putnam, Penguin.

Prechtel was a westerner raised on an American Indian reservation, lost, heart-broken, and in
desperate need of a place to belong when he first arrived in the Guatemalan village of Santiago Atitlan. He was not only allowed inside the secret world of the village’s Tzutujil Mayan culture, but embraced as a member of the tribe, and later became a highly respected village chief.

He dedicates his book to the "youth of the world who are continually refused initiation and to all indigenous peoples who have had to watch their cultures dismantled, attacked from within and without, by other unfortunate peoples whose conscientiousness has been scrambled by infinite dynasties of greed-sanctioned violence and territorialism, and to the memory of all his teachers and mentors....

" Subtitle is "A story of initiation and eloquence from te shores of a Mayan lake."

Prechtel’s writing, unlike that of Newell, is written from inside the culture by one who has become immersed in it, and who lives it passionately and not always wisely. For an unforgettable lesson in how far our own culture in the USA (and organized religion) has come to deny the sacramentality of everyday life and the richness possible in the view that God is Present Everywhere in life as Newell explains, and to see it from the inside, P would be preferred to N. if one had to make a choice. If your interest is Celtic, read both.

Paschal Baute
December 16, 2002
First published in newsletter of the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky.

Rethinking Theology and Spirituality

Prepared for a online colloquim of the Wayne Oates Center, Louisville, Ky.,
“Finding a Common Language.”
Paschal Baute, November 11, 2001.

Abstract. Our spiritual journey is interpreting the precious meaning of this unique life given to us and, now aware, recognizing and living this present Oneness, brought to us in many forms by the great teacher, Life itself, relationships, nature, in all its various crises and transitions. No belief concepts of any Wisdom tradition are adequate to explain this individual journey for us, nor suffering or evil, at least for the thinking person.

Preface: We can’t see anything until we have the right metaphor to perceive it (Robert Shaw) but the problem right now is that we are between stories (Thomas Berry). What this means is that all current concepts of God, and even every Wisdom tradition’s view of divine reality is too limited, too parochial, too closed, too small.

1. Reality, both scientific and theological may be one hundred fold, or even 1000 fold more vast and complex than our concepts of today. Experts studying the expansion of information estimate the total information now doubles about every three years. This means that in 30 years, the information will be one thousand fold more, and in 60 years, humans will possess a million times as much information. The challenge is for us to increase the spiritual information and wisdom to deal with this development.

2. Does this mean that our vaunted current understanding of science after an accelerated five centuries of progress is yet one millionth of what the future holds for us? Does this mean that in fact that we are not at some peak of progress, but are discovering still how vastly ignorant we are? As the cell biologist, Lewis Thomas has said, “The greatest of all discoveries of twentieth century science has been the discovery of human ignorance.”

3. There is a fundamental unity to our universe, transcending all the divisions and distinctions developed by the human mind, both on the micro and the macro scale. Cosmology, not theology with its patriarchal props, categories, creeds, labels and certainties, is inviting us to encounter the relational G*d at the heart of a relational universe. Theology is invited to give up its supposed supremacy and parochialism, to outgrow all human constructs, and pursue ultimacy with the skills and discernments of a multi-disciplinary imagination (Quantum Theology, p.202). The entire scientific enterprise can be characterized as the development of sensitivities and ideas necessary to become more fully aware of what is happening all around us. (Brian Swimme). We would add also the theological enterprise and our understanding of spirituality.

4. The mystery of life is fundamentally open-ended. Revelation is ongoing, and cannot be subsumed in any religion or Wisdom tradition or cultural system. “Let us not be among the number so dwarfed, so limited, so bigoted as to think that the infinite God has revealed himself to one little handful of his children, in one little quarter of the globe, and at one particular period of time. (Ralph Waldo Trine). No one source of knowledge is sufficient to provide a complete description of reality.

5. If we pursue a humble way to these mysteries, we will be open to the possibility that god is the only reality–all else being fleeting shadow and imagination, limited mostly to expressions of our five senses, eight, measure and number, acting on our tiny brains. The awesome mystery may be that we are already inside this reality which is one and complex.

6. In this case, spirituality is defined differently: not as an aspect of being human, but the very core of being human. Spirituality would be living one's life from the realization that the body/mind/ego personality we have been taught to identify with is just the tip of our iceberg, our little head sticking through the window of the senses into this world, whereas our true body is the universe. We could recognize that most of our perceived world is an illusion, a shared dream we are sto;; asleep in. The goal of life is to awake to our real Self which is vast and multidimensional--already intimately connected with all of creation, with a twin shadow self that is already scripted, mostly primitive, and hidden from us. This whole Self is already One with this mystery we call God/dess whose essence can hardly be understood, but to which we give names as Eternal Wisdom, Ultimate Reality, Birther of all Life, S/he Who Is, etc. The very first task is simply to become aware of the mystery inside which we dwell.

7. Our spiritual journey is interpreting the precious meaning of this unique life given to us and, hopefully, recognizing and living this present Oneness, brought to us in many forms by the great teacher, Life itself, relationships, nature, in all its various crises and transitions. No belief concepts of any Wisdom tradition are adequate to explain either suffering or evil, at least for the thinking person.

Evil, like love, suffering, joy, passion, fear and hope, are all mysteries. They are irrational aspects of human existence. Our post-Enlightenment left brain dominant need to rationalize and commodify
mystery and wrap it up in discursive concepts. Wisdom traditions can help us on this journey, but the constant danger is to use them for comfort rather than summons to transformation.

8. Maybe it would help to realize that we are so made as humans that we need and yearn for the ultimate in our lives, the Tremendum Mysterium. If we don't find it in this mystery we call God/dess, we are bound to create it by worshiping some thing in our exterior, material worlds, such as our comforts or way of life, or even some idea (=ideology) or, possibly, ideas about God.

9. Many are of such orientation and persuasion that this Divine Entity needs to be definitive, nailed down, with all parameters set and explained. Some end up worshiping their way to God, rather than this mystery we call "God", and as a result, judging all others by their way to God, thereby judging others as further from God than they. Someone said that we must leave "religion" to find God. This is mostly true: I must leave all my preconceived ideas about God to find God. I prefer to think of this Mystery not as a noun but as a verb, always new: the possibility of each new moment. It is the Birther of all Life, Ultimate Reality, Eternal Wisdom, Unconditional Love.

10. The problem is that many end up worshiping their own CERTAINTY, or the singularity of their belief system, not the unfathomable Mysterium. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century said it well: "Concepts create idols, only wonder understands anything." Religion is about certainty, spirituality is about wonder. Many escape into religion in order not to be challenged by God. Christians may have made Jesus into the only Son of God in order not be confronted with his prophetical challenges to a vast new way of living and who he was as a human being. Jesus Before Christianity (before the Christians got hold of him) by Albert Nolan (Maryknoll, Orbis) is
an excellent start. Because we do not want to have to continually rethink things, most of us prefer our illusions and private idols to reality and mystery and challenge."Church" is only one of the messes we've made out of "Jesus." It is unlikely that he meant to establish any of what we have today as "church."

11. Religion attracts those of a Guardian type personality--needing certainty. Spirituality attracts those of a more Pilgrim type of personality--more open to learning, wonder, mystery. These "types" are more bearings on a dimension rather than a dichotomy. Wholeness means having both, integrated, but ever new, never fully "arrived." More becoming, as a verb. Jesus invited us to the journey, not to "church", certainly not to organized religion--which he seems to have opposed. He gave the Reign of God back to ordinary folk without the need for official intermediaries.

12. A metaphor. What if what we are part of is a vast and complex symphony, in which each note is already intensely alive? Each note would feel itself in relation to others, and feeling its place in the whole, as well as the whole. The symphony as a whole is what sustains the lives of the notes. There is a deeper locus of awareness than the lives of the notes, in the life of the entire symphony from remote beginnings. This is a living symphony, sparkling with the awareness of its own beauty both from the perspective of the whole and from the multiplied perspective of each part–the single beauty is intensified through the multiple awarenesses merged into the unified awareness of the whole.

Every listener, whether sentient or non-sentient, is a participant in the symphony, adding new notes. The symphony is everlasting, ever deepening, ever intensifying, ever developing,–infinite, inexhaustible wondrous beauty. Perhaps this metaphor is but a small glimpse of a process notion of God, infinitely relating to the entire cosmos, bringing that universe to resurrection life within the divine nature, unifying it within the divine experience. The reality of this mystery we call God could be something like this, though even this metaphor is insufficient to describe the amazement of God. (Marjorie Suchocki: God, Christ, Church)

Therefore, our challenge is to come home to this mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. We are already home. We simply need to awaken to the fact of the Mystery within us and all around us and in all our relationships.

Namaste! (=The Divine Mystery in me welcomes and salutes the Divine Mystery
in You. )
Paschal Baute

Celtic Spirituality
Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology
Marjorie Suchocki. God, Christ, Church
Joseph Campbell. The Inner Reaches of Outer Space.
Brian Swimme, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos.
Sir John Templeton. Possibilities for Ove One Hundred Fold More Spiritual Formation.
Cross Currents: The Fiftieth Anniversary Issue: Wisdom of the Heart and the Life of the Mind,.