Communion of Saints
The Circle of Eternity
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
I once shared a happy dinner with the beloved Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue (1956–2008). He passed away far too soon at the age of 52, and I imagine he was immediately welcomed into the communion of saints, living in the “circle of eternity” he describes in this passage:
The Celtic Irish tradition recognizes that the eternal and the transient worlds are woven in and through each other. Very often at death, the inhabitants of the eternal world come out toward the visible world. . . . Your friends who now live in the eternal world come to meet you, to bring you home. Usually, for people who are dying to see their own friends gives them great strength, support, and encouragement. . . .
Here we are caught in linear time. . . . Time must be totally different for the dead because they live now within a circle of eternity. . . . The Celtic mind never liked the line but always loved the shape of the circle. . . . I imagine that in the eternal world time has become the circle of eternity. Maybe when a person goes into that world, he or she can look back at what we call past time here. That person may also see all of future time. For the dead, present time is total presence. This suggests that our friends among the dead know us better than they can ever have known us in life. . . .
I believe that our friends among the dead really mind us and look out for us. Often there might be a big boulder of misery over your path about to fall on you, but your friends among the dead hold it back until you have passed by. One of the exciting developments that may happen in evolution and in human consciousness in the next several hundred years is a whole new relationship with the invisible, eternal world. We might begin to link up in a very creative way with our friends in the invisible world. . . . They are now in a place where there is no more shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation, or pain. They are home. They are with God from whom they came. They have returned to the nest of their identity within the great circle of God. God is the greatest circle of all, the largest embrace in the universe, which holds visible and invisible, temporal and eternal, as one. . . .
In the eternal world, all is one. In spiritual space there is no distance. In eternal time there is no segmentation into today, yesterday, or tomorrow. In eternal time all is now; time is presence. I believe that this is what eternal life means: it is a life where all that we seek—goodness, unity, beauty, truth, and love—are no longer distant from us but are now completely present with us.
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (HarperCollins: 1997), 211, 227–228, 229.
Story from Our Community:
I’d always struggled with a sense that there was something so deeply unworthy about me that even God had rejected me. Then my first and only daughter died during birth. It was then that reality began to dawn on me: If I, a mere human, could see this child as infinitely precious and irreplaceable, how much more was I, and every human being, in the eyes of God! For the first time I felt this love, not only for myself, but also shining on every person. —Wanda W.