My rule of life and vocation in the Celtic tradition
I grew up with a lot of discipline, which I chafed against. I wanted to choose what to do, whenever I felt like doing it. But as an adult, I began to value routines to keep me clean, fed, and healthy. This meant doing housework, preparing food and exercising, whether I felt like it or not. I’m still learning this in my late 60s! There’s a similar struggle in my spiritual life.
In our Christian journey, spiritual hygiene and nourishment are even more important than physical routines, as our souls prepare for ongoing life with God. St Paul reminds us in one of his letters, ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’ My rule of life helps me discover my vocation – what God is calling me to do, each moment.
This rule of life includes a time of quiet in my upstairs sanctuary, remembering God’s love, with devotional reading, and prayer for my loved ones, myself, and the wider world. I need to do this before my day starts, otherwise it doesn’t happen; a different time may suit others better. A daily walk to the beach is also important for my mental and spiritual health! I try to carry an inspiring thought through the day, and at its end I return to my Upper Room to reflect on where and how I met God, and identify where I have turned away from him, before committing the night into his love.
Other ways of keeping on track are regular church attendance, and studying the Bible and praying with Christian friends – including my prayer partner Wendy (thank you, Mark, for putting us together last year!). I also talk with my spiritual director during a quiet day every few weeks, and take a longer retreat or holiday in a Christian atmosphere each year.
For many years I’ve valued the Celtic way of encountering God through creation – and now I’m living by the sea, it’s becoming more natural. It’s also helping me be more responsible in my use of the earth’s resources, in concern for the environment. I’ve been learning more about Celtic and other forms of spirituality recently, in a two-year course in spiritual direction (the art of ‘holy listening’ to other pilgrims). My home in Swandene, which I’ve named Bethany – the home mentioned in this morning’s reading (John 12:1-8) – is part of the same quest to provide hospitality to visitors. (Hospitality is an important Celtic theme.) I believe we are all called to be a combination of practical Martha, who served Jesus, and Mary, who listened to his teaching and poured out her love. This excerpt from a book of Celtic parables explains why:
Martha being Mary
We need people who search for the truth
and we need people to proclaim it.
We need people who quietly contemplate God’s love,
and we need people to express it.
We need people who devote their lives to prayer,
and we need people to enact those prayers.
We need people who are free from all worldly ties,
and we need people to manage our affairs.
We need both Mary and Martha.
At times every Martha must become Mary,
and evern Mary must become Martha.
(from Celtic Parables by Robert Van de Weyer, SPCK)