Celtic Spirituality – What is the Attraction?


Celtic cross

Celtic cross Iona Scotland

As I get ready for our Celtic retreat now just over a week away, I have been revising the list of the characteristics of Celtic spirituality.  We talked about these too at our Celtic curriculum meeting last night which is developing the programme for the SEED semester that will begin September next year.  I know that I have shared some of these in the past but they so resonate with who I am and where I am at spiritually that I thought I would share them again today.  I know that there is a lot of confusion about this stream of Christianity because so much pagan imagery has come from similar roots.  However this is an authentic and vibrant form of Christian faith and one that is attractive to a growing number of people.  A faith that embraces all of life, including creation and sees the sacredness of every encounter is so necessary in our world today.

By the way there is still time to sign up for the retreat.  It is my favourite event each year

Distinctives of Celtic Christian Spirituality

  1. Central to Celtic spirituality is incarnation and an intense sense of the presence of God.  The Celt was very much a God-intoxicated person whose life was embraced on all sides by the divine Being.
    1. The presence of Christ was almost physically woven around their lives
    2. God was treated with awe, reverence and wonder but was essentially seen as a  human figure intimately involved in all creation and engaged in a dynamic relationship with it.
    3. Christ is our “walking companion”.  He is our guide, our protector, and we pray with him and can trust him always wherever we go.
    4. The Trinity is part of God’s eternal family to which we also belong.  Each family unit, clan or community was seen as an icon of the Trinity.
    5. All creation responds to God’s creative presence and sustaining love. God not only encircles and protects creation but also enlivens, activates and inspires it.
  2. A belief in the thinness of the veil between this world and the next.  Heaven and earth are interconnected and interacting.
    1. Celtic Christians believed that the “cloud of witnesses” is always with us.  They prayed consciously as members of the great company of hosts – the persons of the Trinity, angels and archangels as well as all who have gone before us were all seen as close companions on their journey.
    2. Through this same host of witnesses God protected them from evil forces and enemies.
  3. Importance of little things – no task is too trivial to be sanctified by prayer and blessing 
    1. All work is holy – Even mundane little task like washing dishes, milking the cow and sowing crops have sacred significance
    2. This is parallelled in their identification with the little people, the marginalized & the oppressed.  All persons represented God and might be heavenly visitors in disguise.
    3. Extending hospitality opened a door to the kingdom of God and welcomed Jesus into their midst.  It was an important expression of love both toward God and neighbour
  4. According to Celtic theology, the body is essentially good.  Sinful action was seen as wrong, but the body is a gift in all its capacities.
  5. A strong sense of sin and the presence of evil forces in the world resulted in a strong recognition of the need for penitence which often led to austerely ascetic lives.  Celtic spirituality holds that sin deforms the person we are called to be in Christ.  It enslaves, and the goal therefore is freedom from slavery.  Some Celtic saints became perpetual pilgrims or lived as hermits to avoid the comforts and temptations of a settled existence in which evil might flourish.
  6. All of life flows to a rhythm of ebb and flow reflected in the natural world.  This is reflected in the monastic rhythm that flowed between prayer and study, work and rest, community and solitude.
  7. Celtic Christians adapted well to the culture in which they operated.  They are sometimes accused of syncretism because of their use of pre-Christian symbols which they transformed into the symbols of faith.

 

2 Responses

  1. […] Celtic Spirituality – What is the Attraction? « Godspace […]

  2. This speaks to me! I desire a closeness with God. I desire joy and meaning in the mundane tasks of the daily grind. And I desire more intentionality in my prayer and relationship to God and to his Kingdom. Your description of Celtic Christianity is beautiful. I want that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: