The Holy Messiness of Matter

dunnforest 0001John Scotus Eriugena, the ninth-century Celtic teacher, in reflecting on the ‘seven days’ of creation in the Book of Genesis, taught that it is not a chronological account of the making of the earth. Rather, it is a meditation on the ever-present mystery of creation….and this is the desire that countless numbers of people in the Western world are becoming aware of: the desire to reintegrate our lives and our spirituality with the mystery of creation.” – J. Philip Newell, The Book of Creation: the practice of Celtic Spirituality

I remember an evening a decade ago, driving through the Van Duzer corridor in the Coast Range. I felt lost and alone. God spoke to me, saying, “Child, look around you. See the trees? See the night sky? Wrap the rich cloak of creation around you and feel my love. Anytime you feel cold and lonely, wrap yourself in the warmth of my world and know that you are loved.

From that moment, I knew I was connected to tree and hill, stone and star via the M-brane of God, which is Spirit. To say that either I or the world around me was subject to original sin (i.e., imperfect at conception) would be to say that Spirit itself was fallen or failed.

Clear back in the ninth century, Eriugena understood this. He taught that Genesis was written to bring us into the mystery of creation, not to dictate its parameters. He saw Genesis as a parable that showed our inextricable link to creation through God’s presence which permeates all. For a millenium, Celtic spirituality (of which he was a part) embraced the holy messiness of matter – and of spirit – instead of trying to sanitize one or both by denying the innate holiness of the corporeal.

I think that’s why certain liturgical churches are seeing an upsurge in attendance by younger people. The teachings of these churches harken back to Celtic thought, embracing the earth and eschew separatism. That’s good news to a generation that wants connection with the world around it.