Sermon: Anam Ċara & the Divine Echo

by Rev. “Twinkle” Marie Porter-Manning (VIDEO)

Consider with me this:
There is a divine echo that whispers within every heart.

Indeed, that every soul carries with it the echo of a intrinsic intimacy.

An original echo that is brought fourth through time from original source.

A primal source where we are all One.

Where love has no limit
and freedom has no barrier.

And we carry the essence of this original echo
as a talisman of our divinity
and a reminder of the vast belonging we are part of.

Because it is who we are.

We Belong to each other.

Consider that this divine echo,
the one I carry,
the ones you each carry,
are in constant recognition of each other.

When we are harmonious with each other, the recognition alights us
with positive, light, joyful, peaceful feelings.

The negative, sad, fearful or angry emotions we feel about each other
are a result of the echo noticing
the disharmony with Oneness.

The Celtic Spiritual Tradition has a phrase that identifies this sense of Oneness.

It is called Anam Ċara. Soul Friends.

More than words, it is a concept imbued with deep meaning. Derived from the understanding of the Soul as a divine echo.

Consider that each of our Souls have a signature resonance that radiates throughout and around our physical bodies.

And that when we come in contact with others, especially our Anam Ċara,
an awakening takes place.

An awareness of the connection.

In our modern day, some romanticize this feeling and create limits around
its capacity.

Suggesting only one other person on this entire planet could be your Anam Ċara.

A soul mate. Singular.

But the embodiment of Anam Ċara is much more far-reaching than that.

Anam Ċara is a blessing we all have access to and can share with each other.

When you have found the most sacred place of belonging, where your inner light recognizes
and is recognized by
those in your company,

you have found home. hmmm 🙂

When you have found the most sacred place of belonging,
where your inner light recognizes
and is recognized by

those in your company, you have found Home.

And it is there that Anam Ċara resides.
It is there that Anam Ċara can be explored.

It is also there that Anam Ċara can be challenged. And will be.

For it is within our most intimate relationships that our deep bonds are formed.

And to experience intimacy, one must be vulnerable.

And to be vulnerable in the midst of others who are as imperfectly perfect as we are,
we risk being hurt.

But we also open to being nurtured and healed.

I ask you to consider
that while we may know things about each other, it does not mean
we know each other.

Yes, while we may know things about each other, it does not mean we know each other.

Opening to Anam Ċara gives us the opportunity to know each other.

Anam Ċara. Soul Friends.

Consider that this Divine Echo is our touchstone;
Our reminder that we are Anam Ċara.
And our promise that we are blessings to each other.

My friend and colleague Rev. Ian White Mayer tells us that when you bless someone,
everything in your life changes.

Some here may be familiar with the words of philosopher and poet John O’Donohue in his Friendship Blessing where he says:

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your Anam Ċara.

Throughout time many have spoken about the priceless value of friendship, and of friendship’s complexities.

Our Unitarian forefather, Ralph Waldo Emerson asserted: “I do not wish to treat friendships daintily,
but with roughest courage.
When they are real,

they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know.”

Aristotle spoke of the highest kind of friendship being one of virtue.

The kind of friendship where you are friends with someone because of the kind of person he or she is; that is, because of his or her virtues.

In Aristotle’s day “virtues” would have meant ethics.

Within the realm of our Unitarian Universalist faith tradition, we would be speaking of our shared values and how we live into them.

Aristotle spoke too of the partnership of friendships, the idea of the virtuous friend as “another self.” (Joined as in the echo of divinity)
Friends holding mirrors up to one another

so they have access to see themselves, and each other,
more fully.

And in doing so,
improve the quality of the people they are.

And in doing that,
enhance the quality of the friendships they share.

Helen Schucman in relaying A Course in Miracles

also refers to the mirror of friendships.

She says:

“Your (sibling) is the mirror
in which you see the image of yourself.”

She urges us to seek to recognize our spiritual siblings, both as a means for salvation
and as a mechanism of
blessing and being blessed.

She affirms:

“You will not see the light until you offer it to your (sibling)s. As they take it from your hands,
so will you recognize it as your own”

She declares that when we meet anyone to remember it is a holy encounter.

“As you see them (your sibling) you will see yourself. As you treat them you will treat yourself.
As you think of them you will think of yourself.

Never forget this, for in them you will find yourself or lose yourself.”

She continues by explaining:

“Whenever two (Children) of God meet they are given another chance at salvation.”

She says:

“Do not leave anyone without giving salvation to (them) and receiving it yourself.

In other words, your Anam Ċara is always there with you,

in remembrance of you.

Poet and Author David Whyte takes this theme to an even deeper level, suggesting:

Friendship is not only a mirror to presence but a testament to forgiveness.

He says:

“Friendship not only helps us see ourselves
through another’s eyes,
but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses
as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn.

A friend knows our difficulties and shadows

and remains in sight,

a companion to our vulnerabilities
more than our triumphs,
when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them.

An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy.

All friendships of length are based on
a continued, mutual
Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.”

David Whyte says:

“Friendship is a merited grace,
one that requires of us the unrelenting commitment of being present with
and bearing witness to
one another, over and over.”

It is within the sacred space of this deep dynamic of friendship that we not only know things about each other
But where we really know each other.

Ian White Mayer, whose words I shared already in this sermon revealing to us that when we bless someone everything in our life changes.
He also talks about our deep need for Empathetic Witness.

The kind of seeing, and being seen, that only happens in the close circles
of family, of community, of relationships.

That’s right, in our Anam Ċara friendships.

In the Buddhist tradition, this kind of friendship is called the “Noble Friend.”

Kalyana-mitra/Noble Friends have no pretense between them.

They witness in empathy and in action,
with clear communication
and by gentle strength confronting each other with our blind spots.

Friendships at this level are able to navigate challenges and heal wounds
for they are willing to negotiate beyond the awkwardness and uncertainties that are paramount

when our vulnerabilities are exposed.

It requires humility as well to be open to seeing through another’s experience
what we are unable to perceive on our own.

It requires grace to accept this sight without defensiveness. It requires grace to offer this sight without judgement.

To be present with each other in this way is a testament of trust
and the embodiment of faith.

And faith is certainly needed when we shine
the gentle light of the Soul on our wounds.

We are indeed a wounded gift to each other, but a beloved gift nonetheless.

David Whyte speaks about the benefit of this depth of friendship in saying:

“The ultimate touchstone of friendship is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone
and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another,

to have walked with them
and to have believed in them,
just to have accompanied them
on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

For some believe it is the hard times that make us stronger….I don’t believe that so much… I believe it is the good we are wrapped up in
while facing hard times
that help us carry our broken pieces:

the love of our family, our friends, our community, these are what make us stronger,
keep us whole,
keep us moving forward.

This good is the beloved community we all seek to belong to.

As a faith community, how do we become accessible to facilitating the nurturing of that kind of friendships?

Author Anne Lamott has some advice for us where we could see ourselves as a Lighthouse. She points out that:

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats
to save; they just stand there, shining.”

Every day that this congregation opens its doors, it stands as a lighthouse,
beckoning those who would be saved

from the heartaches of the world
into our loving embrace.
Beckoning our Siblings, our Anam Ċara, Home.

Lamott, in her book Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, has a chapter containing her essay about The Book of Welcome.

Her essay could well be the outline for a liturgical Midrash that attempts to fill in the spaces left blank in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In “The Book of Welcome,” Lamott imagines a Bible book that was never written.

She speaks of scriptures that would provide
a set of guidances
and assurances and principles
that would create a sense of security and belonging for Earth’s residents.

She writes:
“The welcome book would have taught us that power and signs of status can’t save us,
that welcome
— both offering and receiving —

is our source of safety.

Various chapters and verses of this book would remind us that we are wanted and even occasionally delighted in, despite the unfortunate truth that we are

greedy-grabby, self-referential, indulgent, overly judgmental, and often hysterical.”

In her version, we would be accepted for our gifts and our apparent flaws.

We are welcome because we Belong to each other.

Lamott asserts that
Somehow that book “went missing”…

Perhaps “when the editorial board of bishops pored over the canonical lists from Jerusalem and Alexandria, they arbitrarily nixed the book the states unequivocally
that you are wanted,

even rejoiced in.”

She says
“We have to write that book ourselves.”

And I say,

we have to write that book together.

And we do write that book together with every encounter of Welcome we share.

We write The Book of Welcome every time we acknowledge the echo of divinity in our hearts and in our Anam Ċara.

We write The Book of Welcome every time we gather together in response to our members’ needs, hopes and dreams.

We write The Book of Welcome every time we answer the call to invite and greet new ones into our spiritual family.

We write The Book of Welcome every time we
unite in the name of this congregation and our UU Faith tradition and evangelize in response to the calls of
and justice
and being on the side of love.

We write The Book of Welcome together every time we open the doors to this fellowship and invite in those peaceably seeking spiritual sanctuary.

A Blessing for Our Congregation

May this house of worship be blessed.
May this congregation be loving to each other.

May your doors remain open to welcome the stranger seeking spiritual solace and inspiration.

May you deepen your friendships in trust and in faith.

May you find peace and create peaceableness as you live into our shared values.

May you be joy-full and thoughtful, and
May you be a light of grace and a beacon of welcome to the world, and
May you remember that we
Belong to each other.

This sermon, Anam Ċara & the Divine Echo, was originally delivered May 28th, 2017  at the UU Church in Sangerville, Maine. The video of this sermon was recorded at Starr King UU Fellowship in Plymouth, NH on October 6th, 2019 – just two weeks after Twinkle’s son died tragically. The sentiment of this sermon is timeless and relevant to any moment when ones are experiencing deep grief, and as a reminder of why we need to build the beloved community.