Celtic Spiritual Poetry (23)
Treading the paths of the gospel; singing Psalms at every hour;
an end of talking and long stories; constant bending of the knees.
May my Creator visit me, my Lord, my King;
may my spirit seek Him in the everlasting kingdom where He dwells.
- Anonymous, “All Alone in My Little Cell,” Irish, 9th century
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
- Psalm 46.10
In the monasteries of Ireland during the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800), each monk had a cell of his own where, besides taking his nightly rest, he would retire for times of solitude and seeking the Lord. In such times of concentrating on the Lord, man might become more continuously aware of the Lord’s Presence, more confident in His promises, and more skilled in accessing His power for a life of witness.
Surely it is one of the great comforts of every Christian to know that Jesus has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28.20). He never leaves us alone, never abandons us even to our stupidest choices or dumbest moves, never fails to hold on to us, no matter where we are (cf. Ps. 139.1-12).
He is with us, and we can know His Presence more acutely as we meditate on His Word, contemplate Him upholding all of creation, listen for and submit to His indwelling Spirit, and appeal to His continuous intercessions. We are never out of His sight; He watches diligently over us, our Good Shepherd, Lord, Savior, and King. He will never fail us nor forsake us.
He is Immanuel, the With Us God, always, everywhere, and without fail.
The great comfort we know from clinging to this truth is, however, only half the comfort the Lord intends for us. For the other side of the coin of His Presence with us where we are, is to be discovered in our being with Him where He is.
Paul says we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places, and he commands us to set our minds there, where Jesus is enthroned in glory at the right hand of God (Eph. 2.6; Col. 3.1-3). Take a seat with Jesus. Look around at the glory and beauty of that heavenly venue. Observe saints and angels, robed in white, and join them in singing the praises of our triune God. Soak it in. Relax. Sink into this glorious vision. Like a hermit in his hut, set aside every distraction, and let your soul rise into the heavenlies. Here, in the very throne room of our King, amid saints and angels endlessly praising our God and Savior – a place filled with splendor, majesty, sweet music, heavenly smells, and joyous shouts of “Glory!” – here we are called to seek the Lord where He is, and to be with Him there.
Now this is a demanding work of sanctified imagination. It’s not that heaven and the throne room of Christ aren’t real; it’s that it’s really hardfor us to break free of our mundane distractions to open the eye of our heart onto that vista, or to envision ourselves seated with Jesus, looking down on our lives from His vantage point. We’ll need, like the hermit in his hut, to make time for such contemplations, apart from our normal daily routines.
Hardly one believer in a hundred have I met who has even the remotest idea of what I’m talking about. Yet Jesus reigns in a glorified body, in a place accessible to us by the eye of faith, the contemplation of which is a source of glory to sustain and transform us (Eph. 1.18; 2 Cor. 4.6).
What is required for us to seek Him where He is? “Be still.” Gather your thoughts around the glimpses of Jesus exalted, which are revealed to us in Scripture. Seek Him in the everlasting Kingdom where He dwells, as you engage every glory-filled portrait in all the galleries of Scripture of this One Who, exalted in glory, cares for you where you are, and invites your fellowship with Him, where He is. Tread the gospels; sing the psalms; kneel in prayer; observe the Word of God in the many wonders of creation. Reflect on Him in the stillness.
Rest there. Bask there. Do not be in a hurry to return from there, for, in a very real sense, you remain there with Jesus, even when you’re not thinking about it. But the more you think about and contemplate it, the more you’ll realize His Presence with you always, the source of unspeakable pleasure and joy (Ps. 16.8-11) and unfailing power to live as His witness.
Like that monk in his lonely cell, we should, from time to time, retreat into the stillness and Presence of the Lord where He reigns in glory, and focus all the energies of our sanctified imaginations on seeing Him there.
Questions for Reflection
1. What role does contemplating Jesus, exalted in glory, have in your walk with and work for the Lord?
2. How might you make such times of solitude and meditation more a part of your relationship with Jesus?
Psalm 16.5, 6, 11, 8-10 (All to Christ: Jesus Paid It All)
My portion and my cup are You, my Savior dear;
You help and hold me up, and ever keep me near.
Make me know life’s way! Pleasures fill Your hand;
Fill my life with joy each day! Before Your face I stand.
You are ever with me, Lord; in You I shall not fall.
But rejoicing in Your Word, I abide within Your call.
Soon Your glory I shall see, for as Jesus rose again,
You will come to gather me to my home with You in heav’n.
Give me grace, Lord Jesus, to make the time to seek You in the stillness, so that I…
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All psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Davies, p. 261.