George MacLeod (1895-1991) was a remarkable man who among many things,
led the effort to rebuild the ancient Abbey on Iona, where in the sixth
century St. Columba had based his Celtic mission. Reading about his
life in the book Listening for the Heartbeat of God by J. Philip Newell
has been a real inspiration for me. MacLeod had a real vision for
embedding the spiritual life in the context of the whole of life. In
this he practiced a Celtic form of spirituality - "a way of seeing and
listening for God within the whole of life." To MacLeod, "matter
MacLeod described the air of the eternal as 'seeping through the
physical'. The material realm of creation, he believed, is shot
through with spirit. 'What a wonderful world it is,' he said,
'provided you believe in another world. Not over against this world,
but interlaced with it.'
This prayer, one of MacLeod's best known prayers, modeled on the
ancient 'Breastplate' hymn of St. Patrick, is a great example of this
kind of "earthy" spirituality.
Christ above us, Christ beneath us, Christ beside us, Christ within us. Invisible we see you, Christ above us, clouds or sunshine, grey or bright. But with the eye of faith we know you reign, instinct in the sun ray, speaking in the storm, warming and moving all creation, Christ above us ...
Invisible we see you, Christ beneath us stones and dust and dross. ... But with the eyes of faith, we know you uphold. In you all things consist and hang together. The very atom is light energy, the grass is vibrant, the rocks pulsate. All is in flux; turn but a stone and an angel moves. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Unknowable we know you, Christ beneath us.
Inapprehensible we know you, Christ beside us. With earthly eyes we see men and women, exuberant or dull, tall or small. But with the eye of faith, we know you dwell in each. You are imprisoned in the dope fiend and the drunk, dark in the dungeon, but you are there. You are released, resplendent, in the loving mother, the passionate
bride, and in every sacrificial soul. In apprehensible we know you, Christ beside us.
Intangible, we touch you, Christ within us. With earthly eyes we see ourselves, dust of the dust, earth of the earth. But with the eye of faith, we know ourselves all girt about of eternal stuff, our minds capable of Divinity, our bodies groaning, waiting for the revealing, our souls redeemed,
renewed. Intangible we touch you, Christ within us.
Christ above us, beneath us, beside us, within us, what need have we for temples made with hands?