De Waal: Trinity Connected

De Waal: Trinity Connected

“If I am estranged from myself, then I am also estranged from others too. It is only as I am connected to my own core that I am connected to others.” —Esther de Waal in Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality (Morehouse, 1997).

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Esther de Waal’s writings make accessible to us the Celtic way of life. It is a life in which we learn about ourselves in relationships to others, in relationships to ourselves, in relationship to nature and to daily life in the world outside. This life calls for almost constant prayer and connection to God and awareness of each precious moment. De Waal reminds us how easy it is to walk or drive rushing from one task to another, without any awareness of the people we pass by in our paths. All too often, instead of silently sending love to them, we make snap judgments and label them by their appearance or the clothes they wear.

I am indebted to de Waal for one more book on Celtic spirituality, The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination. Today I am rereading her chapter on Celtic prayers about the Trinity as we prepare for Trinity Sunday. She reminds us of the Celtic tradition of placing three drops of water on an infant’s forehead immediately after birth to remind us that the Trinity is now indwelling in the infant.

In the Celtic tradition, the Trinity is a natural part of the daily songs and prayers at work, and is praised through the changes in the seasons. The day of the Celtic life begins with splashing three handfuls of water on the face in the name of the Trinity. The day ends as the embers of the household fire are spread evenly on the hearth in a circle divided into three equal sections, with a square of peat laid between each. This is called the Hearth of the Three. A woman then closes her eyes, stretches out her hand and softly sings this prayer:

The sacred Three

“To save,

To shield,

To surround,

The hearth,

The household,

This eve,

This night,

Oh! this eve,

This night,

And every night,

Each single night.


—Carmina Gadelica I, “The Trinity” in The Celtic Way of Prayer (Doubleday, 1997).

De Waal describes what she has learned from the Celtic Trinitarian tradition: “It allows me to be at ease with a mystery that no longer threatens but supports, refreshes, and strengthens me.”

The Threeness and connectedness of the Trinity also remind me of a prayer that is anonymous, and sometimes attributed to William Blake—but sounds so Celtic:

“I sought my God;

My God I could not see.

I sought my soul

My soul eluded me.

I sought my brother

And I found all three.”