The sun and the light it bestows are especially honored in the Celtic world. Bard and theologian John O’Donohue informs us that among the Celts the most venerated among the ancient gods was Lugh, the god of light and giftedness. He was called “The Shining One.” *
Says O’Donohue, “The Celtic mind adored the light.” We desperately need today, “a new and gentle light where the soul can shelter and reveal its ancient belonging.”
When we lost a cosmos, as the West did in the modern era, we lost an ancient sense of belonging. Loneliness takes over the soul. Psyche or soul is starved because it is cut off from the whole, cut off from its great connection to the cosmos, cut off from its history and its roots.
O’Donohue calls light
…the mother of life. Where there is no light there can be no life. If the angle of the sun were to turn away from the earth, all human, animal, and vegetative life, as we know it, would disappear. Ice would freeze the earth again. Light is the sacred presence of the divine. It keeps life awake.
In “The Deer’s Cry” poem, the poet attributes his arising in the morning to the
Strength of heaven,
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire.
Hildegard of Bingen, raised and educated in a Celtic monastery in Germany, also celebrates light. She says that light or fire is the “first” of the four elements. She calls the Holy Spirit, “radiant life, worthy of all praise.” She says, “the sun is lit with life” and “the moon, when waning, is again rekindled by the sun, waxing with life once more.”
We see in Hildegard’s consciousness the deep Celtic wonder at the cosmos and its light from which all life derives. As she puts it,
The stars shine,
Radiating with life-light.
All creation is gifted with the ecstasy of God’s light.
Light is an ecstasy, a divine ecstasy, a gift from God that permeates “all creation.” Hildegard’s theology and psychology are profoundly cosmic and creation centered. Thus, profoundly Celtic.
For Hildegard, God is light, a “true light that gives light to all lights” and God “lives in every created thing.” It is all the Cosmic Christ at work, the Word is “the light of all lights, and it gives light of itself.” Indeed, “we are flooded with light itself in the same way as the light of day illuminates the world.”
God is the one “from whom all light is enkindled” and Christ is the true Light that gives light to all lights. The Cosmic Christ or word is “the Light of all lights, and it gives light of itself.” She herself encounters a “living light” on many occasions that dictates teachings and revelations to her.
This parallels O’Donohue’s teaching that “in the Celtic tradition, thought has often been compared to light. In its luminosity, the intellect was deemed to be the place of the divine within us.” Another take on “enlightenment.”
*John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (NY: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 100. Subsequent citations from pp. 4f., 3f., 56.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 56f.
Also from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint For Our Times, pp. 27-30.
Banner Image: Golden Sunrise. Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
What is your relationship to light? Do you sometimes feel yourself “flooded with light”?
One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.
Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.
Join Rabbi Rami Shapiro and Rev. Matthew Fox for a 1.5-day Virtual Teach-in on “Cosmic Wisdom and the Divine Feminine: Lost Insights for an Emerging World.” Friday, June 25, 4:00 PM to Saturday, June 26, 2:30 PM Pacific (GMT/UTC-7). Enroll HERE.