Centuries ago, a clue (often spelled ‘clew’) was a ball of yarn used for weaving or knitting. The phrase, “get a clue” spoke originally of holding on to a slowly unwinding clew as you threaded your way through a maze or a thick forest. Over time, this “clew” word broadened to anything helpful in solving a problem.(1)
Celtic Christians of the middle ages understood both clews and clues. As they wandered and worked, they were on an emphatic search for God each day, looking for his movement and guidance on every trail and in every task. They believed in a personal God who had laid a path–unwound a clew–just for them. As in the prayer from the Outer Hebrides:
My walk this day with God,
My walk this day with Christ,
My walk this day with the Spirit,
Ho! Ho! Ho! All Three-fold all-kindly.
The presence of the Trinity was then (and remains now) almost physically woven through the lives of the Celts. Jesus encircled them, upheld and encompassed them. He was amazing, glorious and all-powerful, yet he was also a companion on the road, a guest at their meals, a physical presence in their lives. A Celtic Christian of North Umbria, James Clarence Mangan, wrote one of my favorite poems:
Christ, as a light,
Illumine and guide me!
Christ, as a shield, overshadow and cover me!
Christ be under me! Christ be over me!
Christ be beside me
On left hand and right!
Christ be before me, behind me, about me!
Christ this day be within and without me!
Christ, the lowly and meek,
Christ, the All-powerful, be
In the heart of each to whom I speak,
In the mouth of each who speaks to me!
In all who draw near me,
Or see me or hear me!
Because Christ is with us, Celtic Christians believe his power and love are available, breaking through when we are at our best or at our weakest. St. Paul writes to remind faithful beleivers that “in Christ all things hold together.” (Col. 1:18). All that is in existence is held in the life of the Trinity, held in an eternal movement of love. In other words, the whole universe is in Christ. The whole universe is with Christ. And it includes us. Paul speaks to those who are searching for God in Athens in Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and have our being.”
Do you believe that there is a God? That he exists everywhere in the universe? That he is good and available to people who seek him? Then the logic follows: Even when you can’t see or feel him, Jesus is constantly with you, in every moment, and in every detail. Ask him to show you the way. He will. Ask him to show you the truth. He will. Ask him to show you the fullness of life. He will. Ask him to teach you love. He will. Ask him to show himself to you. He will.
The world may be a maze, but Christ himself is both our clew and our clue.
(1) Anne Curzan, “20 Words that Once Meant Something Very Different,” Ideas Ted.com