A Celtic Christian Worldview (10)
From this it is shown that after those spiritual regions, whatever they are like, where dwell the spiritual orders we have mentioned and which the prophet calls the heaven of heavens, those waters were established as the beginning of the physical realm…they were positioned between each of the heavens, that is lower than the spiritual heavens and higher than the corporeal heavens…
- The Book of the Order of Creatures III.3, 4
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which wereunder the firmament from the waters which wereabove the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
- Genesis 1.6-8
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!
- Psalm 148.4
Before we turn from the spiritual creation to the physical world, I have to comment on that phrase, “whatever they are like.” The writer has just provided an overview of the angelic hosts, which, he explains, inhabit “the heaven of heavens.” He makes no attempt to describe this realm, where God dwells in glory, reigning on His glorious throne among all His adoring hosts of angels and saints.
The Scriptures give us glimpses and snapshots of this realm, but it’s hard to know how to think about the landscape of unseen things. Are there really thrones? Does a sea of glass really exist, and a rainbow, and strange creatures? And bowls and vials and trumpets and wheels and whatnot? Or are all these things, mentioned in various places of Scriptures, merely metaphors to provoke us to wonder about this realm? God may well want us to think in such physical terms, but does that mean this is actually what it’s like in the heaven of heavens?
The writer of the Liber wasn’t sure, and, frankly, neither am I, although I am inclined to believe that all these material referents are intended primarily to heighten our spiritual understanding of this most glorious realm, and not to describe it as it actually is.
The writer explained that water exists throughout the heavens and even above them – between the heavens and the heaven of heavens (the physical heavens and the spiritual realm). He could not have known this by observation; he had to take it as a matter of faith.
As it turns out, the Bible is right about this. As Matt Bradford wrote in a recent NASA report, “water is pervasive throughout the universe.” Much of it is below the surface of certain moons and exoplanets; and more exists in the form of ice crystals of various sizes. But water is everywhere throughout the cosmos, and the writer of the Liber speculated on the reason for this. He offered two suggestions.
First, he explained that God was storing up certain waters for the flood in Genesis 6-8, when the heavens would be opened, and the waters stored there would accomplish God’s purpose in judging the world. Those waters “were kept back by God’s foreknowledge for the cleansing of the world in the flood.”
Second, he speculates that “the rest [of the waters]…were placed above the firmament for the purpose of moderating the fiery heat that burns in the luminaries and the stars so that in Summer they do not scorch the lower regions more than is sufficient.” I tried to verify that observation, but a search of several articles online could not corroborate the claim. It makes sense, though (but I wouldn’t bank on it as a question in Jeopardy).
The people of ancient Ireland were very familiar with water. They revered their lakes, lochs, rivers, and streams, and they stood in awe of the ocean. Pre-Christian Celts attached spiritual significance to water as a kind of boundary or entry way to the spiritual realm. So to be taught that God created all the water, throughout all the vast cosmos, would have had the effect of increasing their wonder, adoration, worship of, and stewardship toward God.
The Scriptures do not acknowledge any separation between matters earthly, physical, and heavenly and spiritual. They are all one seamless creation, made by God, ruled by God, and entrusted to human beings for the purpose of bringing God’s goodness to light in the land of the living. God placed the waters throughout the cosmos according to His inscrutable purposes. The water He has placed here, however, is both a reminder of His many blessings and a resource to be used for the good of all creatures. Yet how easy it is to take water for granted. Each drop of water is a reminder of the infinite love and wisdom of God, and of His continuous care for us and attention to our needs.
Let the waters of creation lead us, like the writer of Psalm 148, to praise God for His great love and infinite power, and to remind us of the stewardship He has entrusted to us over all He has made (Heb. 2.5-9).
Questions for Reflection
1. What are some ways that water can help you to be more consistent in praying without ceasing?
2. The worldview of the Bible should guide all our endeavors, including the work of science. Why?
Psalm 148.1-4 (Hendon: Take My Life and Let It Be)
Praise the Lord, from heaven praise! To the heights His goodness raise!
Angels, all you heav’nly hosts, let of Him be all your boasts,
let of Him be all your boasts!
Praise Him, sun, moon, shining lights, brilliant stars that light the nights!
Praise Him, heav’ns for all His love, and you waters far above,
and you waters far above!
Looking for a place to begin in the deeper and more delightful contemplation of Jesus. Write to me, and I’ll send you our free PDF, Glorious Vision: 28 Days in the Throne Room of the Lord, so you can ruminate in the lush meadows of Psalm 45 and its beautiful images of Jesus.
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Davies, p. 5