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Thread: Celtic Christianity and its Ties to the Eastern Christian Heritage

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    Post Celtic Christianity and its Ties to the Eastern Christian Heritage

    I've actaully developed a recent interest in Celtic Christianity; both out of my profound admiration for the Celts, but also for its strong ties to the Eastern Christian heritage(the one my people adhere to). So here are some interesting things I found. Perhaps the Celts here can fill me in.

    http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/christ.html
    Features of Celtic Christianity:
    • love of nature and a passion for the wild and elemental as a reminder of God's gift.
    • love and respect for art and poetry.
    • love and respect for the great stories and "higher learning".
    • sense of God and the saints as a continuing, personal, helpful presence.
      theologically orthodox, yet with heavy emphasis on the Trinity, and a love and respect for Mary, the Incarnation of Christ, and Liturgy.
    • religious practice characterized by a love for tough penitential acts, vigils, self-exile, pilgrimages, and resorting to holy wells, mountains, caves, ancient monastic sites, and other sacred locations.
    • no boundaries between the sacred and the secular
    • unique Church structure:
    • there were originally no towns, just nomadic settlements, hence the church was more monastic rather than diocesan, resulting in quite independent rules and liturgies.
    • also, Ireland was very isolated and it was hard to impose outside central Roman authority.
    • influenced much by middle-eastern and coptic monasticism.
    • they celebrated Easter and Lent according to the ancient calendar system.
    • Irish tonsure shaved the front of the head (like the druids).
    • abbots had more power than the bishops.
    • monasteries often huge theocratic villages often associated with a clan with the same kinship ties, along with their slaves, freemen, with celibate monks, married clergy, professed lay people, men and women living side by side. (Sometimes monasteries "raided" other monasteries, esp. during the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion.)
    • while some monasteries were in isolated places, many more were were at the crossroads of provincial territories.
    • women had more equal footing in ancient Irish law, thus had more equal say in church government. (Did St. Bridget receive Holy Orders and act as an Abbot?)
    • developed the idea of having a "soul friend" (anmchara) to help in spiritual direction.
    • invented personal confession.
    • monks traveled as "Peregrinari Pro Christ" (White Martyrdom).
    • many pagan practices were "Baptized" such as St.Stephen's Day, and the resorting to holy wells, and many monasteries were built on pagan sacred site (as evident in the names Derry, and Durrow).

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    http://www.nctimes.net/~celt/page7.html

    WHAT IS CELTIC CHRISTIANITY?

    By the Rev. Helen C. Harrison, MA

    Imbolg, 1999




    Many people of Celtic descent are not aware there is a form of Christianity that is native to the British Isles. It flourished prior to the ecclesiastical ascendancy of Roman Catholicism, which began to emerge in the 7th century, and the Protestant Reformation, which started in the 16th.

    When describing the Christian faith of Britain and Ireland, it is perhaps best to speak of varieties of Celtic Christianity rather than one monolithic presentation. Ancient Celtic Christianity was certainly a fusion of contemplative theology from the Desert Tradition of the ancient Coptic (Egyptian) Church with indigenous Celtic religious philosophy. But regions demonstrated more (or less) accommodation to the theology of Rome, and much later, Geneva, depending upon the period.

    The Christian faith in Wales during the early centuries was influenced to some degree by Roman thought; in Ireland, it echoed the inspiration of Eastern Orthodoxy, especially the Syrian tradition. This essay represents a deeply Irish and more Orthodox presentation of Celtic Christianity, and does not discount other expressions which mirror a Roman or Protestant outlook. The purpose is to contrast all these forms of Christianity to enlighten the curious.





    A Little History



    The Celtic peoples originated in central eastern Europe around 1200 BCE. By about 150 BCE they had migrated, through military conquest, east to Russia, southeast to Asia Minor, south to Egypt, west to the Iberian Peninsula and north to Ireland. Although divided into many tribes, they were united by culture and language, with each region demonstrating distinct customs.

    Celts were one of the first groups to accept Christianity, as evidenced by Paul's letter to the Galatians - Galatia being a territory of the Galates (a Greek transliteration of the Roman name "Gauls;" "Celt" is the original Greek word) who lived in what is now central Turkey. During the first century, Christian missionaries preached the Gospel to the Celts throughout Europe, establishing the Church in every province, including Gaul proper, which we know as France.

    Although the distant past is veiled in myths and legends, it is believed that Christianity probably came to the British Isles in the first century with traders who were conducting business in southwest Britain - the basis of the story of Joseph of Arimathea traveling to Glastonbury. Other Christians may have arrived with the Roman Legions. Later, refugees from the Diocletian persecution, around 300 AD, and from the barbarian invasions, around 400 AD, settled in Ireland. Despite the presence of Christians, Ireland and Pictland (or Alba; essentially Scotland, but it was not called this at the time) remained largely pre-Christian.

    There had been British missionaries to Ireland, but the most influential was Patrick, who had been captured by Irish raiders as a youth and had spent roughly seven years as a slave, heard in a dream many years later the voice of the Irish saying, "We ask you, boy, come and walk among us once more." Feeling this to be the call of God to evangelize the Irish, Patrick left his home in western Britain, much to his family's sorrow, and began an extremely successful mission in Erin, particularly in the center and north of the country. Even though Patrick was not originally from Ireland, he became so dedicated to the people that he includes himself as one of them when in his biography he says, "We Irish…"

    What Patrick began -- along with other early Irish saints like Brigid and Finian, Ninian and Kentigern in Pictland and David in Britain -- soon flourished into a vibrant Christian faith oriented toward worship, service and mission. Many of the Celtic saints studied under or were influenced by Martin of Tours and John Cassian, abbots of monasteries in Gaul (and possibly Gallic Celts themselves) who had in turn studied with or had been influenced by the Desert Fathers of Egypt: Paul, Anthony and Pachomius.

    As recorded in Thomas Cahill's book How the Irish Saved Civilization and Katharine Scherman's text The Flowering of Ireland, it was primarily the Irish Church that was responsible for the spread of Celtic Christianity in the British Isles (following the withdrawal of the Romans) and the Continent (without forgetting the contributions of many Welsh and Cornish saints). Irish monks and nuns were apparently driven by an incredibly powerful missionary impulse, exemplified by saints such as Columcille in Scotland and Columbanus in Europe.

    Wherever these Irish saints went, they brought their mystical, intuitive and experiential form of Christianity with them, and on the Continent helped revive European culture, which had been decimated by the barbarian invasions. It was a faith that valued not only devotion to the Creator of Life, the Christ of Love and the Spirit of Grace, but also the arts, education, the application of law to matters of justice and ministry to the poor and oppressed.

    Due to incursions by Germanic tribes (Angles, Saxons, Franks, Vikings) from the 5th century through the 9th centuries, the Celts were eventually overwhelmed in Gaul and southern Britain, leaving them to inhabit Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Man, the Isles and Highlands of Scotland, Brittany and Galicia in Spain. From these locations the Celtic culture has spread throughout the world, due in large part to the tragedies of the Irish potato famine and the Scottish clearances.

    There had been a number of confrontations between the Roman and Celtic churches during the centuries when both were active in Britain, but the most famous is the Synod of Whitby in 664 ad, at which King Oswald of Northumbria, for religious and political reasons, ruled in favor of the Roman rite over Celtic practices.

    The Synod signaled a long process of assimilation for Celtic Christianity into Roman Catholicism, culminating in the conquest of Ireland by Henry II in 1106, which established the political and religious hegemony of England and the Roman rite over the Celtic nations. In short, just as the Celtic tribes were subdued by invaders, the Celtic church was eventually required to conform to the dictates of Rome, then Canterbury, then the Protestant Reformation, until it became nearly invisible.

    During the 17th through 20th centuries, some scholars made the study of the Celts their passion, but their efforts generally went unnoticed by academia and the world at large. It wasn't until the 1970's, when there was a realization that the native languages were dying, which lead to a challenge of Anglo cultural dominance, that there was a popular resurgence of Celtic pride.

    Historians and linguists took a renewed interest in the heritage of the Celts, translating long-ignored literature and making it available to the general public. What has emerged from these studies is not only a culture of amazing achievement and sophistication, but a faith of tremendous depth and beauty, genuinely Christian but distinct from its Roman Catholic and Protestant cousins.





    The Christian Faith of the Celts



    The central tenets of Celtic Christianity would be familiar to any Christian, Roman, Orthodox or Protestant: faith in the loving Three (the Creator, the Christ, the Spirit) and the incarnation of the pre-existent Son of God in the human we know as Jesus the Nazarene, making him the full, complete, perfect human manifestation of Messiah (Hebrew for the Greek "Christ") in the Jewish mystical sense of the word (this is not a political designation). As with the rest of Christendom of the first millennium, the Irish Church was also episcopal (but not in a diocesan sense), sacramental and liturgical.


    A World Made Holy: The Celtic Theology of Creation

    Its first most important distinction is the belief in the immanent presence (or completely indwelling nearness) of the divine in a good Creation. Building on scriptures like Genesis 1:1-3, Psalms 33, 104 and 145, and Acts 17, Celtic Christians do not see the holy as an isolated essence that exists separate from Creation. Rather, the blessed exists in Creation.

    The old Irish word for this complete incarnation of the divine in nature is "nuirt," which means "power," "force," "strength," "energy," "might," surrounding all and in all. Furthermore, Celtic Christians believe with Genesis 2 that when God declared Creation "good" and "very good," God meant it, a conclusion and condition not changed by the subsequent personal choices of humanity, represented by Adam and Eve.

    This belief in the immanence of the holy in a good Creation (shared by the Eastern Church) is in marked contrast to the point of view of the Western Church, which was strongly influenced by the theologian Augustine (c. 400 AD), whose beliefs are for the most part the basis of Roman Catholic and much of Protestant Christianity.

    In some of the philosophical and religious traditions of the ancient era, there was a contrast between spirit and matter, between divinity and humanity, and the divide was so great between these that there was no overlap or intercourse between the two. In the instance of some forms of Gnosticism, this physical realm was a negative influence on spiritual life, if not an outright evil influence. This division between spirit and matter is known as philosophical "dualism."

    As a man of his culture and era, Augustine accepted without hesitation this division between heaven and earth, between the spiritual realm and the physical realm, between the Creator and Creation. "You have told me with a strong voice within my interior ear, O Lord, that you have made every nature and every substance, things that are not what you are but yet exist" (Confessions 12.11). It is interesting to note that in this passage Augustine states this as true by means of a personal revelation.

    Without commenting on Augustine's theology of Christ, here is another example of his perspective: "You made heaven and earth, not out of yourself, for then they would have been equal to your only-begotten, and through this equal also to you. But in no way was it just that anything which was not of you should be equal to you. There was nothing beyond you from which you might make them, O God…." (Confessions 12.7).

    On the same basis of personal revelation, Augustine states that the human soul, as a part of Creation, is also separate from the Creator: "Again, you have told me with a strong voice within my interior ear that not even that creature is co-eternal with you whose delight you alone are…. From this may the soul, whose pilgrimage has become long, understand… how far above all times you are, the Eternal" (Confessions 12.11).

    It is tempting to speculate that Augustine's personal revelations which underlay his construct of reality is based on the influence of his former Manichaen Gnosticism, his religion prior to his conversion to Catholicism, and not the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. It is critical to understand that this split between the perfect and ideal in heaven (i.e., the spiritual realm, the Creator) and the imperfect and incomplete on earth (i.e., the physical realm, the Creation), and is not native to Celtic or Hebrew thought. Yet in the West we accept it as if it is.

    Augustine went on to argue that a permanent state of imperfection and incompletion exists in Creation as a result of humanity's original sin (represented by Adam and Eve), and that successive generations of humanity are inherently imperfect and incomplete (fallen) because of that sin.

    When a Celt views the results of humanity's choice (again, represented by Adam and Eve) to freely exercise our will and disrupt our relationship with God by ignoring what God intended for us, we do not infer that nature generally or humanity specifically is cursed or fallen. Rather, our relationship with nature is cursed; it is no longer easy for us to live and procreate, but hard and painful. Nature and humanity are as we were originally created, but there is now an incomplete, imperfect relationship between us. What formally existed in union then existed in disunion, in separation.

    So for a Celt, Paul's reference to "death" coming into the world as a result of "Adam's sin" is defined as brokenness, fragmentation between humanity and the Creator, between humanity and nature, and between humans. It is separation that characterizes our existence, not fallenness. What was formerly intrinsic to human experience (a whole and complete three-way relationship between the Creator, nature and humanity) is now extrinsic to human experience. Union between the Creator and nature remains but humanity's participation is incomplete.

    Therefore, in Creation, the natural cycle of life, death and re-birth exhibited in the seasons, in the life of plants and animals (including us human animals), in the formation of stars and galaxies, is not a result of humanity's separation from it, not a result of "the curse," but as the Creator intended. In fact, for the Celt the natural world is considered the "fifth Gospel," for it not only displays but contains divine wisdom and power, from which we learn about God's mind and through which we experience God's life.

    In the most fundamental way, Augustine was attempting the answer the question, "Why is there suffering? Why do people commit evil deeds and cause others harm?" To theorize imperfection and incompletion in Creation and humanity (permanent and inherited or not) is one manner of answering this question. One must keep in mind that Augustine's opinion about how to interpret the biblical and human experiential data is just that: an opinion. Although his position became the dominant point-of-view in the West, this does not mean it is the only opinion.

    Celtic Christianity represents another solution to the question, "Why is there suffering?" We differ with the view of reality that Augustine specifically, and the Western Church in general, assumed was biblical.

    As implied by our interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis, Celts do not believe that there is a division between heaven and earth, between the spiritual realm and the physical realm, between the Creator and Creation. A state of imperfection and incompleteness does not permanently exist in nature. A state of imperfection and incompleteness does not permanently exist in humanity; this state is not inheritable and is not intrinsic to humanity.

    Rather, to a Celt, all humans are created by God, and each human's creation is considered good (as in a good thing) and the energy of the divine dwells in each of us as it does in all of nature (also a good thing). It is not that either a state of "completion" or "fallenness" (perfection or imperfection) are inherent to humanity; rather, it is the possibility of both that is inherent to humanity. Also intrinsic to human nature is our ego-centricism, our self-centeredness, our habit of perpetually seeing the world, and the people and creatures in it, through our own needs and desires and wants. What is intrinsic is our ability to live in a state of separateness.

    The challenge of being human is, how do we use our God-given gift of free will, the ability to choose? Do we use it in a way that leads to our completion and perfection, our wholeness as individuals, in our relationships with the Creator, each other and nature? Do we use it to mend our separateness? Or do we use it in a way that leads to our incompletion and imperfection, our brokenness as individuals, in these various relationships? Do we use it to promote our separateness? The direction we take is determined by the degree to which our choices are other-oriented or self-oriented.

    "Fallen" and "badness" are not the permanent status of nature and humanity. Rather, evil acts are given life by humans when we choose, via our free will, to act selfishly, and our selfishness becomes profane and ungodly when we hurt each other and damage the world, when we promote separateness. However, evil has already been conquered by the death and resurrection of Christ, so it is not something of which we should be afraid, but can be overcome by prayer and spiritual renewal.

    Further evidence of the philosophical split between the Creator and Creation in the West is demonstrated by our legal definitions of property and our attitudes toward natural resources. The 18th century English jurist William Blackstone, whose principles of law are still enshrined in the codes of the West, and who as a man of his time also accepted this division without hesitation, wrote that "the Creator gave to man dominion over all the earth," and from this biblical principle concluded "property was an absolute right of every Englishman and the right of ownership given of God."

    Again, Blackstone's interpretation of the biblical and human experiential data is an opinion. Yet Blackstone's understanding of dominion and individual property ownership (which we have extended to mean that it is an absolute right, and have excluded the meaning that property ownership can or should be held by a community, as the Celts did) has become so enshrined in our philosophy of Creation that most of us believe it is the only possible interpretation.

    Yet the real biblical meaning of dominion is not ownership (and the related belief that an absolute right means that one can do absolutely whatever one wants, including exploiting and abusing the earth and its creatures), but stewardship.

    Biblically, we are mandated to manage the earth on behalf of the Creator, to be God's stewards, whom we tend to regard (on our best days, when we are being "other-oriented" and not "self-oriented") as nature's "true owner," so we actually have no absolute right to do anything with it. But even this is not completely correct, although it is closer to the truth.

    The full biblical truth is that all Creation contains the energy of God, is an expression of God's mind, is a place where God's power dwells. So the Creator is not the "owner" of Creation, but Creation is an intimate part of the Creator's revelation of the divine Self. When we say we own the earth, we are in a way saying we own God. When we abuse the earth, we are in a way abusing God. For this very reason the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Bartholomew III, declared in 1997 that mistreatment of the environment is a sin.

    Celtic Christians know that humans are part of the divine, immersed in it while living in the material world. We see then, through spiritual eyes, the holiness of all nature around us, and we take seriously our role as stewards of the planet; not merely as managers of resources (and especially not as exploiters), but as individuals who are concerned about the well-being of a dear friend.

    Empirical science has contributed to our perception of a division between the
    Creator and Creation by studying Creation as if it is only the random activity of atoms and molecules. In the West we are now awakening to the spiritual, emotional and environmental harm we have caused as a result of having unnaturally split the Creator from Creation. Hopefully it is not be too late for us to rectify the damage we are causing, both to ourselves and the planet.


    Our High Chief: The Celtic Conception of a Friendly Creator

    A second distinction of Celtic Christianity is its conception of the Creator. In philosophy a debate has raged between perceiving the divine as transcendent, meaning that God is distant and far away from or above Creation, or as immanent, meaning God is close and near to or a part of Creation; as a third option, God is in some way both.

    As stated in the previous section, Celtic Christianity perceives the holy as immanent. Relying heavily on the theology of John, both in the gospel and the letters, this divine immanence is not an impersonal force or energy. Rather, it has the attributes of personhood: love, wisdom, virtue (light). The desire of this God is union, to be one with us in love and wisdom and virtue.

    Christ describes his perfect (as in complete and whole) union with the Creator by referring to the Creator with the intimate and familial title "Father." According to the Celts, Christ teaches all of humanity to regard God as "Father" so that we, too, would desire and seek to achieve union with God in love, wisdom and virtue, reversing the effects of separation. Furthermore, our sense of union with the divine is to expand so that we experience union with each other and all of nature, for, as previously stated, union already exists between the Creator and Creation. Eastern Orthodoxy calls this process of union with the divine "deification" or "glorification."

    For those who object to the sexual or gender connotations to the title "Father," it is helpful to remember that the emphasis is on the nature of the relationship: intimate, familial union. It is not important to distinguish between the masculine role of "father" or the feminine role of "mother" as we know them and insist that God is one or the other, for God is a spiritual being and has no physical gender. If using one over the other is preferable to you, then by all means do so. The Celts used both. Referring to the Creator as "Mother" is perfectly acceptable, for it even more strongly conveys the concept that the divine gave birth to, created, all that exists. Perhaps you may enjoy using both.

    The view of God developed by Augustine is quite different from the one that emerged among the Celts and can be described as "imperial." It is this imperial God which has reigned in the philosophy of the West since the fourth century. As described by T. Kermit Scott in his book Augustine: His Thought in Context, "God is the absolute emperor of the universe, limitless in both power and goodness, who demands from his creatures total obedience and love; who aids and rewards those who [obey and] love him purely with an unspeakable happiness; and who tempers the just punishment of the unfaithful with an inscrutable 'noblesse oblige' that lifts up some who would otherwise be lost" (pg. 142). This God is completely transcendent from nature and humanity and relates to humanity as a judge. Furthermore, Augustine's conception of God was highly anthropomorphic, like a all-powerful Roman emperor, only bigger!

    The Celts' preferred model to describe their relationships with the Creator is that of a tribal king or clan chief. When we think of the word "king" the image of a medieval feudal monarch comes to our mind, much as a Roman emperor came to Augustine's; one whose word is law and for whom the economic and political structures exist. To disobey the law was a personal affront to the king and warranted punishment. But the Celts' social structure was sufficiently different to give "king" a distinct meaning.

    The Celtic tribes owned property in common and members were assigned or elected to administer an aspect of the tribe's resources on its behalf. One leader might be in charge of the community's hospital, another responsible for roads. The activities of the tribe were regulated by a strict code of law, which existed for the purpose of protecting the tribe's resources. The chief or king, and/or sometimes queen, was elected to his or her role as tribal leader like everyone else, and was responsible to the law like everyone else. Lawbreakers were subject to fines and punishment imposed by the community.

    The chief or king's role was to the lead the tribe in times of war, and was the most important representative of the tribe to outsiders; the chief's ability to be a gracious host was a direct reflection on the hospitality of the entire tribe. Since the Celtic social structure was based around the tribe, everyone was related to the chief, whose functions was both protective and nurturing, and not legally authoritative.

    When the Celts refer to the Creator as the High King of heaven, or to Christ as the Chief of chiefs (similar to the concept of "king of kings" describing Christ's authority over earthly powers), the Celts are emphasizing familial intimacy in our relationships with them. A Celtic chief is a protective father and a nurturing mother in a way a medieval monarch or Roman emperor never could be. Most important to the Celtic concept of king is the understanding that the chief's role is not to punish according to the law.

    Therefore, the Creator is not viewed by a Celt in the model of a transcendent medieval monarch or an ancient imperial ruler whose purpose is to assess the legality of our behavior and punish whoever has broken divine law (sins). (In Augustine's world view, law breakers [sinners] can't help but break the law [sin] because they are inherently law breakers, therefore automatically deserving of punishment, an unfair catch-22 understood by and objected to by Pelagius.)

    Rather, from a Celtic perspective, law is instituted by God for our personal and communal benefit; it exists to maintain the harmony, the union, of the community. When we break the law we do not offend God; rather, we create brokenness in our relationships with God, each other and nature. The Celts find commonality here with Christ's attitude toward law in his assessment of the Sabbath: "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." The Creator's nurturing and protecting role does not change because we break the law. By breaking the law we perpetuate our spiritual separateness from the Creator and nature, and it is this separateness that causes God sorrow.

    This is not to say that there is no aspect of "judging" in our relationship with God, but the sense is more "evaluation" or "assessment," the point being that awareness of our shortcomings (how we've contributed to brokenness in our relationships) will point us toward improvement. It is always appropriate to confess one's faults and seek God's forgiveness for the ways in which we wound our relationship with God, just as we should seek to mend the harm we cause each other and nature. On an editorial note, we are somewhat able to mend our relationships with humans, but we have been terrible about mending the harm we have done to nature.

    The concept of the "tuathe" (Irish, pronounced "too-ah," meaning "tribe") best embodies the Celtic perception of these relationships. The awesome Creator of the universe is our protecting and nurturing High Chief; who is ever desirous of intimacy with us and who draws us close to the divine presence until we are completely in loving union with the Creator, each other and nature. Every creature in Creation is a member of the Creator's clan, so we are required to protect and nurture each other, whether we be strangers or friends, humans or animals or plants.

    The Creator has embedded laws in Creation, by which nature operates, and given humans the concept of law, which we use to guide us so that the well-being of the tribe is protected. Every member of the clan is responsible for a specific task, for which they have been gifted, and which must be fulfilled if the tribe is to survive and prosper. The rights of every clan member are guaranteed by the law (including the rights of nature), and it is the tribe who must ensure that the rights of the clan members are upheld and law breakers are disciplined and reformed.


    Full of the Goodness of God: The Celtic Conception of Grace

    A third major distinction of Celtic Christianity is the concept of Grace. Since divine power is immanent in Creation, and God's nature is characterized by attributes of love, wisdom and righteousness, and God's desire is to be near and close to us, rather than distant and far away, Grace is essentially, then, the goodness of God, and that goodness is everywhere all the time. Every corner of the universe and every corner of each human's heart experiences the powerful intimacy of God's loving, wise and virtuous nature. Grace is therefore intrinsic to Creation and to human experience.

    This is similar to the Eastern Church's concept of Grace as the "uncreated energies of God." This position is different from a Western Church point of view that regards Grace as God's "unmerited favor," which is extrinsic to Creation and human experience, and is something God "grants" to humanity.

    It was Augustine's failure to understand this Celtic concept of Grace that caused him and a majority of the Western Church (but not all of it, by any means) to wrongly label the teachings of Pelagius (Morgan in Welsh) as heresy. Augustine believed Pelagius taught that humans could be saved "by their own efforts" because Augustine assumed that Grace was external to Creation and human experience.

    Pelagius believed God's Grace is present with every human being all the time, nudging all of us through our conscience toward good and loving behavior, and that all of us are responsible before God to act good and loving even when not part of a church; in fact, even if we are not "Christians." For Pelagius, the conscience is the vehicle in humans through which God's Grace operates; it is how people understand their shortcomings and what is good and loving, as a careful reading of his writings indicates.

    If one presupposes, as Augustine, that humanity is fallen and separate from the Creator, then it would be impossible for Grace to be experienced directly by humans through the conscience; humanity in fact would have no inherent capacity to assess moral behavior, thus Grace and knowledge of what is good and loving would have to be "granted" by God externally from human experience.

    Sadly, many Christians continue to vilify Pelagius, repeating old condemnations and uncritically labeling his thought as heresy without understanding the cultural context of his philosophy, or the dualistic philosophical presupposition and imperial political bias that compelled Augustine to challenge him.

    Certainly Augustine and Pelagius defined Grace and a human's capacity to benefit from it differently, but just because the definitions are different does not mean Pelagius is a heretic any more than Origen, Cassian, Cranmer, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli or Wesley are heretics. Nor does it mean any expression of Pelagius' theology, ancient or modern, is heretical. What the difference does reveal is the power of history's winners, be they religious, civil or social forces, to label history's losers as defective.

    Perceiving God's Grace as a force extrinsic or intrinsic to human experience is the central point distinguishing some Roman Catholic theology (I say "some" because Roman Catholicism is a big movement and allows a great deal of variation within its organization. Many Roman Catholics hold a theology that is closer to Orthodoxy rather than Augustine) and Protestantism from Celtic Christianity. When the Creator is split from Creation, when Grace is extrinsic to human experience rather than intrinsic to human experience, then the relationship between humanity and God can be controlled. There can be a spicket on Grace, so to speak, and there can be a determination of who experiences it and who does not or cannot experience it.

    The Celtic Church's opinion, past and present, is radically and unapologetically universalistic: God's Grace (and remember the Celtic definition) is not controlled by anybody nor reserved for anybody according to some prescribed formula: it is unequivocally freely experienced by all.

    Anybody can experience the powerful intimacy of God's love, wisdom and virtue, no matter what their religious label may be, if they seek a state of spiritual union with God, each other and nature. At the same time, people who regard themselves as believers in God or refer to themselves by a religious title, even Christians, can be separated from God. Anybody who is not behaving in a loving, wise and virtuous manner toward God, their fellow human beings and every creature in the community of Creation, is in a state of separation.


    You Must Be Born Again: Salvation as Transformation

    The fourth distinction rises naturally out of the first three: if humans are not permanently separated from God, are not intrinsically fallen, and are capable through Grace of experiencing a relationship with God and being moral people, then what is salvation? For the Celts (as for the Eastern Church), salvation begins with a process of transformation in the present, a journey that takes us from separateness to union.

    Conversion is not a one-time event, as usually portrayed in evangelical Protestantism. Rather, life is a long series of conversions in which bit by bit, in every area of our life, we put aside our self-centered choices and replace them with other-centered choices, choices that reflect loving, wise and virtuous behavior, which bring us closer to a state of complete union with God, other people and nature. It is a continual process of "dying to ourselves" and "being raised to new life."

    We are not born again one time in a single act of faith; we are born again many times in multiple acts of trust. The Christian Testament calls this transformation "sanctification," the process of being made holy. When we are completely transformed, when we are in whole and perfect union with God, then we will be truly saved. This process of personal transformation isn't limited to an individual's relationship with God, but extends to include the relationships every human has with nature and with each other.

    For a Celt, the attitude we are to have while we are being made holy is one of friendship. True friendship requires a certain standard of behavior: honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, compassion, commitment, loving service without regard for personal cost. It is through the attitude of friendship that union is achieved. Engaging in righteous and charitable behavior, friendly behavior, demonstrates our commitment to being other-centered, which is what enables us to die to ourselves and be raised anew. We are not just to avoid the bad, to avoid sinning, but to take on the work of friendship in the world.

    First, with God, we are to do what any committed friend in a relationship would do. We honestly talk over our feelings and thoughts, we ask for guidance and direction, trusting that we will receive it. This relationship isn't limited to a specific time or activity. It's at this moment, now and always.

    Second, we are to regard and treat each other as friends, companions journeying together toward union with God. Hospitality, generosity, kindness, are all social values that are highly esteemed by Celts. This welcoming Celtic Christian attitude is aptly reflected in the modern aphorism, "There are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet."

    Third, we are to befriend nature, to deal with every creature we encounter with the respect and dignity a friend deserves. Because of our tendency to view nature as property with a status inferior to our own, or as a lifeless collection of randomly acting molecules and atoms, we rarely reflect on the dignity of nature and our responsibility to relate to it with respect. Yet the suffering of animals is as real to God as our own suffering. The ill-health of plants is as much of a concern to God as our own illnesses. In fact, Christ used God's care of the sparrow and lily to illustrate God's care for us.

    Celts believe this process of spiritual growth and the quality of soul obtained by it is what is meant by the Synoptic Gospel's phrase "inheriting the kingdom of God (or heaven)" and John's "having eternal life," and is the meaning of the word "salvation."


    Making All Things Holy: The Power of Blessing

    Whatever one does out of friendship to promote union bestows blessing on others. Whatever one does out of selfishness that promotes separateness bestows a curse on others. In the West we often have the conception that "sin" means failing to meet some rule, law or mark, for which one deserves punishment and should seek forgiveness. However, to a Celt, sin is anything, consciously or unconsciously, committed or omitted, that does not bestow blessing. Therefore, one's entire life should be about bestowing blessings.

    The bestowal of blessing by all Christians is generally unfamiliar to the Western mind. In Catholic and Orthodox tradition the bestowal of blessing is restricted to an ordained authority, always male. Protestant tradition, which broke away from Roman Catholic belief and practice, has tended to downplay the power of blessing so that it is more like a pleasant good wish.

    Yet for a Celt the bestowal of blessing is a powerful, real act. It is based once again on the immanent energy of the divine in a good Creation, including in us. When one speaks a word of blessing or acts in a blessed, friendly manner, one is actually creating powerful spiritual conditions that contribute to others' growth, causing beautiful, healing things to occur. When one speaks a word of cursing or acts in a cursed, unfriendly manner, one is still creating powerful spiritual conditions, but these contribute to others' ill-health, causing ugly, painful things to occur. We have forgotten the power our words and actions carry power, and we toss off curses, especially verbal ones, as if they are of no consequence.

    There is an historic tradition in Celtic Christianity of blessings that were performed by the laity (and yes, even a few curses to defend oneself from the curses of others; in a tribal society with a complex web of alliances and enmities, this was an eminently practical precaution). We possess a collection of these prayers; it is called the Carmina Gadelica and was recorded by Alexander Carmichael in the 19th century in the Scottish Highlands and Isles. Blessings were given over every aspect of life -- one's activities, animals, crops, family - so that all these endeavors and individuals would be empowered by the divine to fulfill their purpose in life in a whole, complete manner. Every activity was to be done in the strength of the holy.

    This is a sacramental view of life; all things, all activities, all people, are to be made blessed, to be brought into union with the divine through friendship. For a Celt there is no such thing as secular. Work is as much a spiritual activity as worship. Enjoying a song or dance is as much a spiritual activity as prayer. The topic or the activity need not be overtly religious; it only needs to bestow blessing on others.

    A Celtic Christian would agree that there are prayers that are used only by ordained clergy because they have a specific sacramental function in the life of a Christian community, but this does not bar lay people from using a whole host of blessings for all other aspects of life. An excellent resource for this purpose is Brendan O'Malley's "Celtic Prayers and Blessings: Making All Things Sacred.


    Christ: the Chief of the Clan of Humanity and our Great Anamchara (Soul Friend)

    When learning about Celtic Christianity specifically, or orthodox theology in general, many Westerns Christians are startled to discover that in this point of view the role of Christ is not to guarantee a place in heaven for the believer. The immanent presence of the divine in a good Creation and the universal availability of Grace make this unnecessary. This is not to say that Christ is unnecessary. He most certainly is essential, but his life and death have a meaning other than as a ticket to paradise.

    First and foremost, we understand how to be friends through the teachings and
    example that Christ gave us. Without his prayers we wouldn't know that God desires to be our loving Father (or Mother). Without his lessons we wouldn't know how important it is to befriend our neighbor. Without the example of his life -- teaching, healing, feeding the hungry, serving the poor, bringing life to a withered fig tree -- we wouldn't know how to set aside our self-serving interests so that we can experience union.

    Second, in the Western Church, Christ is typically viewed as an intermediary in a legal transaction; his death is a sacrifice which acts as the bond that keeps (saves) humanity from punishment by God (usually portrayed as being sent to hell). We've already discussed, from a Celtic perspective, why God is not a judge who punishes us for breaking the law. Yet we know from the Christian Testament that Christ's death is sacrificial. If not to save us from punishment, how is his sacrifice meaningful?

    Christ's sacrifice is meaningful because it is a vehicle to flood the world with God's renewing power. The energy of the pre-existent, eternal Christ (Messiah), who is the Archetype of Perfect Humanity and the Image of God, the divine Mediator between humanity and divinity, enters the world each time the liturgy of the Eucharist is performed. The priest offers the bread and wine, which represent the self-sacrifice of the congregants, and the offering is consecrated by the words of institution with the life and nature of the cosmic Christ. Transformed into the heavenly Christ's Body and Blood, the congregants physically and spiritually commune with the Messianic stream of divine consciousness, renewing and changing them body and soul.

    Before continuing, it would be helpful to make an observation about sacrificial systems in ancient religion. Speaking of Christ as a sacrifice to obtain a spiritual outcome has become strange to the Western mind; in fact, it is now repugnant to many of us. With a horror born of the modern age, we cannot conceive how a good God would even desire the sacrifice of any human being. The reaction is completely understandable and in a way absolutely true.

    We are able to have that reaction in the 20th century precisely because the theology of the death of Christ eliminated the requirement for a religious system to include continual human sacrifice, a fact we take for granted 2,000 years later. The list of ancient nations using human sacrifice at various times in history, as given in the work Indo-Aryans by Rajendralala Mitra, includes Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Celts, Scythians, Greeks, Trojans, Romans, Cyclops, Lamiae, Sestrygons, Syrens, Cretans, Cyprians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Aztecs, Khonds, Toltecs, Tezcaucans, Sucas, Peruvians, Africans, Yucatans, Hindus. Mitra adds, "The Persians were, perhaps, the only nation of ancient times that did not indulge in human sacrifice."

    We have the privilege of believing human sacrifice is unnecessary in part because Paul's mission to the Gentiles was so effective. If our Western mindset now makes this concept less useful to us, then we can be grateful. There are still societies for whom sacrificial systems (animals, or even humans, perhaps) are important, and this concept may be relevant to them. To the ancient Celts, who did perform human and animal sacrifices, it was quite relevant; it was freeing, in fact.

    However, a modern Celtic Christian would agree with the modern sentiment: God is good and does not require a sacrifice of a human or animal to show acceptance or love to Creation, nor is sacrifice required to obtain a specific favor or blessing. The Christian sacrifice is a means to obtain transformative power, not forgiveness. The sacrament of baptism is the assurance of God's forgiveness for our sins as we die to ourselves and commit ourselves to a new life in the power of the cosmic Christ, with the sacrament of reconciliation to assist us along the journey after baptism.

    Clearly a belief in the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice is central to Paul's thought (and in the Pauline theology of the Gospels), but the other letters of the Christian Testament emphasize different aspects of the revelation of the Messiah: Christ's role as high priest (Hebrews), the value of his resurrection (Acts, Peter) and the moral requirements of faith (James). In Western Christianity we have a tendency to exclude or downplay these other aspects in favor of Paul.

    Now, returning to our discussion. Belief to a Celt, however, isn't defined by an intellectual consent to Jesus as the earthly incarnation of the Eternal Messiah (Christ) and then proceeding to do whatever one wants. Believing in Christ means believing in what Christ taught, did and stood for, and patterning one's life in the same manner. One may not be consciously aware that one is a "Christian" per se, or may in fact reject the label due to other meanings the word may have for us, but if this attitude of loving self-sacrifice is how one is striving to live, then that one is certainly following Christ as far as a Celt is concerned.

    Remember, God's Grace is available to everyone to help us achieve this. That is because an image of the perfect, heavenly Christ, who is the Image of God, dwells in every single human being. This individual Christ-image may be obscured by years of suffering and pain. But God's Grace is available through the power of God, especially available through the Eucharist, to heal these pains and activate the manifestation of the Christ-image in us, allowing us to grow in love and friendship.

    Third, it was Christ's willingness to sacrifice himself that brought him to the resurrection; without his death, in fact, there would have been be no resurrection. Therefore, Christ's life, death and resurrection become the model for how we achieve union. When we willingly lay aside our self-serving interests, our ego-centricism, God gives us the desire and ability by the Spirit to live in friendship with God, each other and nature. Every time we sacrifice ourselves, we are resurrected into a new human being. Our goal is to achieve complete physical and spiritual union with the Eternal Christ, the Image of God, and becoming christs (anointed ones) or saints (holy ones) ourselves.

    By participating in this process of life, death and resurrection, the same path that Christ trod, we are transformed. The process requires reflection on our shortcomings and making efforts to improve; confession of our sins (the ways in which we have failed to act as a friend or bestow blessing) and reception of God's forgiveness so that we might be whole; prayer and meditation; study and worship; and service to our brothers and sisters in the human and natural world. All these make up the spiritual journey toward complete, perfect union.

    Fourth and last, Christ is our advocate, not before God, but before the power of evil, both as it is demonstrated by forces outside of us, and by the consequences of our actions when we behave in profane and ungodly ways. John calls this advocacy the work of the Spirit, so that we are not left comfortless, but have the strength to resist the influence of evil in all forms; forces beyond us and temptations within us.

    In Celtic tradition this advocacy role is reflected in the function of an individual known as the "anamchara," which is Irish for "soul friend." A soul friend is a lifelong counselor who walks with you on the course of your spiritual journey. The anamchara can be a man or woman, lay person or ordained, young or old, but is always someone whose counsel and insight you respect and trust, whose prayers you can depend on when you're in need, whose help you can count on when you're in trouble. Every Celtic Christian was and is required to have a soul friend, for the Celts understood then and now that there is strength in community, especially when trying to defend oneself against evil. Jesus, for the Celt, is our most perfect advocate, our Great Anamchara, and all of us are to be soul friends to each other as he is to us.


    So Where is Heaven and How Do We Get There?

    Because this process of personal transformation is what Celts believe Christ means when he says through John "whoever believes in me will have eternal life," we do not believe the purpose of conversion is to secure a spot in heaven. We do not associate heaven with reward for faith in Christ and hell as punishment for lack of faith in Christ. We do not feel that making a statement of belief in Jesus Christ as Master and Messiah automatically qualifies someone for heaven, and failing to make a statement of belief in Jesus Christ as Master and Messiah automatically disqualifies someone for heaven.

    In the West the words "heaven" and "hell" have become burdened with connotations of reward and punishment. Medieval Roman Catholicism developed the concept of purgatory to address the issue of a forced choice between the two. The Roman Church's theology reflects the belief that souls are not in a static position after leaving earth, but can continue being transformed toward perfection so that they can receive the reward of entering God's presence, purgatory being the place where this occurs. Although the goal of this doctrine is admirable it is a concept Orthodoxy and Protestantism reject.

    Very conservative Protestants believe is that unless one comes to faith in Christ in this life he or she will go to hell, even if the individual is a good and moral person. More liberal forms of Protestantism believe that God is gracious in a way we don't understand, and would not dare to pronounce this conclusion about anybody, as that would be usurping the prerogatives of God. Yet it leaves the possibility that God would punish souls by sending them to hell.

    Because of these connotations, "heaven" and "hell" do not effectively portray, for a Celt, what happens to us after our life in this dimension. We prefer to use language and concepts from our own culture: This World and the Other World.

    Celts believe that the spiritual realm exists all around us here on earth and in the cosmos, and is simultaneous with the physical realm - remember, the divine is immanent. The spiritual world and the physical world intermingle, interpenetrate, co-exist in the same space and time, but in different dimensions. What we experience here is This World, this dimension of space-time. When we die we cross over to the Other World we experience that dimension of space-time, but still here on earth and in the cosmos.

    We believe this explains why humans are able to see spirits or ghosts. Some people in This World have the ability to visit the Other World, and sometimes souls or angels from the Other World visit us. It is the reason why the ancient Celtic Christians enthusiastically embraced and rejoiced in the concept of the communion of saints - the saints literally surround us.

    Because physical reality is not a barrier to spiritual experience, and souls living in the Other World are still on a journey toward union with God, Celts have a profound belief in praying for those whom we call the dead, although they're not dead at all. They are our brothers and sisters whose ultimate aim is the same as our own, and as we are all members of God's tribe, it is our privilege and duty to pray for them, just as they pray for us, a belief held in common with the Roman and Eastern Churches.

    How does this relate to faith in God? God desires friendship with everyone. We choose to be friends or not. If we choose to be God's friends in this world, then eternity shall take care of itself. If we choose not to be God's friends in this world, then eternity will still take care of itself. What kind of friend you are in This World will be the kind of friend you are in the Other World.

    If you are a bitter, angry, resentful, fearful soul in a state of brokenness and separation, you will continue being a bitter, angry, resentful, fearful soul in a state of brokenness and separation. That will be your hell. If you are a good and loving and joyful soul in spiritual union with God, that will be your heaven.

    Spirits passing from This World into the Other World in a broken, separated state exist in sadness and sorrow, the reason all of us who call ourselves Christians should be proclaiming the restoring power of Christ in This World; we do not want them to undergo any pain and suffering. We should also be personally interceding with and for any of them who are in a broken and separated state in the Other World -- those whom we call ghosts who haunt This World - so that they will be healed by the love of God and seek union with God.

    For a Celt, wherever God is present, that is heaven, and heaven is here in This World because that's where God is. Upon death, we will continue being in God's presence in the Other World because God is already present with us now, and Grace is always working in us to make our transforming journey possible.

    The difference is the quality of our soul; we can be dictated either by selfish impulses, from which we choose via free will to act profanely or ungodly, or we can be motivated by loving friendship. If our soul is profane and ungodly, then we won't enjoy being in God's presence very much in the Other World because we probably don't enjoy being in God's presence now in This World. But God loves us and will still love us, and we have eternity in This World and the Other World to open up to that love. Why not get started on that friendship right now?

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    Are there any Celtic Christian forums? I would to discuss this there.
    Last edited by Taras Bulba; Monday, August 9th, 2004 at 08:10 PM.

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    Yes there is, yahoo has a group called celticorthodoxy.

    I wouldnt trust Helen Harrison's info, however. Much of that list has more to do with the modern Episcopalian derived Celtic Christianity which has little to no relation to the historic kind. I understand the University of Wales has an academic program in the subject at one of their campuses. From what I've studied, its just a local form of the wider Latin Christianity.

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    Quote Originally Posted by Frontiersman
    Yes there is, yahoo has a group called celticorthodoxy.
    Ok, but Im looking more forums like this as opposed to mailing lists. I f*cking hate mailing lists!

    I wouldnt trust Helen Harrison's info, however. Much of that list has more to do with the modern Episcopalian derived Celtic Christianity which has little to no relation to the historic kind.
    Well understand Im new to this topic. I do know that the topic of Celtic Christianity has been infiltrated by New Ages types who try to force their own agenda onto what it historically was. Plus many have used Celtic Christianity as an assault on traditional Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism. Or that Celtic Christianity was nothing more than Druidism with a pinch of Christianity. In fact Ive found Celtic Christians that insist true Celtic Christianity has nothing to do with the New Age, Druids, etc and it was a geniune form of Christianity, not some patched up paganism. Usually the more geniune sites actually give much credit and/or even quote largely from Eastern Christian fathers and relate that to how Celtic Christians thought, thus proving that Celtic Christianity was a true form of Christianity.

    In fact Im just reading Jenkins book exposing the New Age myths about "alternative Christianities".

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    Check your pm. Maybe I should just post a bibliography.

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    I just purchased Ted Olsen's Christianity and the Celts and I must say its a very good book. It mostly addresses the historical context of Celtic Christianity rather than dealing with its actual teachings. One good thing about this book is that it refutes many of the New Age myths about it and even exposes how many people who glorify Celtic Christianity are not even Celtic! Apparently many have tried to literally de-Christianize Celtic Christianity.

    This is what he had to say about that.

    "Romanticists were quick to assert that Celtic Christianity has much in common with pre-Christian Celtic beliefs. This belief actually began with the assertion that Celtic pagans 'had a religion so extremely like Christianity that in effect it differed from it only in this: they believe in a Messiah who was to come into the world, as we believe in him that is to come'. Modelled on Christian priests, the druids became described as the white-robed peacemongers so recognizable today.

    By the end of the 1800's, the Romanticists had switched the order - Christianity was a mere gloss on Celtic paganism. In a movement that WB Yeats called the "Celtic Twilight", writers emphasized the Celts' love of nature over their love of Christ. Pantheism, not Christianity, was the true Celtic creed. Bradley notes that when George Russell wrote of Ireland 'long ago known as the sacred isle', he was not referring to the works of Patrick but to the fact that 'the gods lived there'....The Celtic Twilight movement influenced the world's view of Celtic Christianity, but not everybody bought into its pantheistic views. What stuck were notions that the Celts had been ecologically minded, gentle, and at least friendly to the pagans they encountered....The Celtic Twilight movement's pro-pagan and syncretistic attitues never set. Instead, many of today's books on the Celts - even ones focusing on Celtic spirituality after the acceptance of Christianity - can be found in the neo-pagan, mythology, or New Age sections of bookstores. It it rarely these books have been wrongly shelved. 'Far from rejecting their old religion, the Christian Celts continuned to hold it in the deepest respect, absorbing many of its ideals and attitudes, symbols and rituals, into their new faith', wrote Anglican priest Robert Van de Weyer in Celtic Fire....De-emphasizing the Christianity of Christian Celts has allowed these recent writers, like so many of their past revivalists, to emphasize their own agendas."
    --pg.173;178


    So, yes as we have already established in this debate; much discussion about Celtic Christianity is nonsense and often guided by Neo-Pagans with an agenda. Indeed, this is not only true for Celtic Christianity but European Christianity in general. Neo-Pagans(and we have seen this argument here plenty of times) try to de-emphasize the Christianity of our ancestors and try to protray it merely as a gloss for the "secret paganism" that Europeans truely adhered to. Yes many elements of paganism were carried over into the Christian era, but I think this fact is highly overblowned by neo-pagans. THIS DID NOT MAKE THEM PAGANS OR "SECRET" PAGANS! They were Christians who followed a Europeanized Christianity. Most of what Christianity absorbed from paganism was more cultural than theological when one looks at it closely.

    So this attempt at de-emphasizing Christianity really doesnt go far when one looks at the facts. Indeed Olsen talks about how the syncretistic viewpoint has been overemphasized in recent years in order to show Celtic Christianity as pratically pagan(although this certainly applies to European Christianity in general). Now Olsen does mention that yes indeed Christianity and paganism did co-exist at times and even mentions of many temples/churches were statues of Christ and Mary stood next to those of pagan deities; but he makes clear this fact has been highly overblowned by New Agers/Neo-Pagans with an agenda for de-emphasizing the Christian faith of the Celts(or Europeans in general).

    Anyways, despite all the New Age BS there is hope for the revival of Celtic Christianity.

    "Theologically conservative Christians began reclaiming the Celtic saints as their own in the early 1990s. Leaders of the Church of England's charaismatic movement were among the first to counter the neo-pagan and syncretistic approaches of their contempories and to encourage their evengelical comrades in drawing inspiration from the Celtic Christians....As interest in Celtic Christianity grew, Christians also began creating works 'in the Celtic tradition'."
    --inbid pg.178

    So the neo-pagan/new age stranglehold on Celtic Christianity may soon pass as Christians begin to assert their positions. Already now the New Age monopoly on Celtic "spritual music" is already being challanged by overt Christian Celtic bands.

    Another that is good about this book, it totally debunks the notion that Celtic Christianity was a tradition distinct from the continent.

    "'Far from being different, Celtic Christianity was very much like the faith of the church elsewhere', says Dominican friar and scholar Gilbert Markus: There were differences in detail between the Celtic Christians and their continental neighbors: church architecture, Easter dates, inheritance laws, and local traditions. But almost all the main features of early Celtic Christianity could be found anywhere in Catholic Europe, where every tribe and tongue and nation made the gospel their own. The Celts found their own way of retelling the old story all the while sharing one recognizable faith."
    --inbid pp.182-3

    And as Peter Brown in his Rise of Western Christendom states that the Celts were not alone in adapting Christianity to their local traditions; this was widespread throughout the Christian world during the early Middle Ages(aka 'Dark Ages'). We see signs of this in Ireland, Spain, Syria, Egypt, etc. Bronw even coins the term 'micro-Christendom' to describe these local cultural-religious entities within the wider universal Christendom.

    So yes, anybody interested in Celtic Christianity mainly in its historical context should read this book.
    Last edited by Taras Bulba; Sunday, September 26th, 2004 at 07:39 PM.

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    Tired Re: Celtic Christianity

    This is most interesting. My husband verslingen would like this what was the link again?


    mere_des_soudures aka Mrs. Verslingen

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    Post Re: Celtic Christianity

    Link to what? If you look at the messages in this thread, all the links are posted.

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    Post intesting article about Celtic Christianity

    http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/...fm?recnum=1025

    The Celtic Spirits

    Patrick would roll in his grave if he could see the current craze over Celtic spirituality. After all, he's the man who Christianized the Celts.

    He might enjoy the revival of music and dance. But Patrick would know something that the public does not: namely, that some music and dance are more authentic and some less. The same caveat must be writ large with respect to "Celtic spirituality." Some of the stuff is about as Celtic as a border collie.

    Something for Everyone?

    One book publicist put it with amazing frankness: "At a time when many people are seeking out the comforts of traditional beliefs, but remain wary of overly confining disciplines, Celtic spirituality offers something for almost everyone." That's certainly true in the case of one exponent of things Celtic, the pantheistic nature-mystic Matthew Fox.

    It's true the ancient Celtic prayers show an appreciative sense of the divine penetration of nature. But so does Catholicism anywhere. It's true that ancient Irish society had a greater respect for women than the Protestant tradition dominant since the 16th century—but so did every Catholic culture. It's true the concept of spiritual friendships, evidently brought to ancient Ireland by the Desert Fathers of Egypt, reached new heights with the Irish monks. But the concept has not been forgotten since the Norman invasion. So the idea of "something for everyone" translates to "something for everyone who doesn't want a connection with Catholicism."

    Case in point: "The Road Wet, The Wind Close," by James Charles Roy (Dufour Editions), is a journey through ancient locations of pre-Christian and Christian significance, with comment that links archeology, architecture, travel and history with fine black-and-white photographs to substantiate the points. It's a pleasant read. But when a discussion of the perpetual virginity of Mary takes a snide tone, one begins to wonder. "The growth of Mary into a perpetual rather than temporary virgin came later during the second, third and fourth centuries," he says. And then: "The logical culmination to this entire sequence was the doctrine of Immaculate Conception."

    First of all, there was no recorded challenge to Mary's perpetual virginity until the 5th century. And any Catholic knows that the Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the perpetual virginity. One can only hope the author knows more about archeology than he does about the history of dogma.

    Other authors, who are outright pagans, make no pretense of scholarship, I chose two books at random from the "New Age and Occult" section of a chain bookstore: "Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition and Celtic Myth" and "Magick: Harnessing the Power of the Gods and Goddesses," both published by Llewellyn Publications. In the latter book, the author opines: "One of the most attractive things about paganism is that it does not require enslavement to a dogma."

    That's what she thinks. We may hope St. Patrick is praying that she and her followers will be delivered from their delusion before they become enslaved to the very real person who rules the smoking section.

    The Primary Sources

    Indisputably good are the primary sources. The most primary has been recently republished. "The Confession of Saint Patrick," translated by John Skinner (Doubleday Image), includes the breathtaking "Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus." Both are in a free-verse format, which has the advantage of making the reader slow down. No doubt the good saint — who was always embarrassed because his Latin wasn't as good as he felt it should have been — would approve of anything that renders his own words better appreciated.

    Doubleday Image has also issued some excerpts from the four volumes of the Carmina Gadelica, a century-old collection of the prayers, songs and poetry of native Gaelic speakers. The new mini-version is called "Celtic Prayers."

    The Carmina, both in Gaelic and in English, is also now a website (www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhiig/cor-pus/Carmina), as are the Book of Kells (www.tcd.ie/kellsl.git) and the Lindisfarne Gospels (www.bl.uk), all worth visiting.

    Almost as good, for young readers, are a few by George Otto Simms, former Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh. "The Real Story of Patrick" is a narrative based on the "Confessions." In the same series is one on St. Brendan and an appreciation of the Book of Kells.

    Next come some serious appreciations. "The World of Columcille, also known as Columba," by Mairead Ashe Fitzgerald, not only does justice to a personality who has been legendary for 14 centuries, but also gives background on Irish monasticism and the pilgrims sent from Ireland to preserve faith and learning throughout Europe. Simms and Fitzgerald are published in Ireland, but are readily available in the United States through the recently organized Irish American Book Company (phone: 800-452-7115). The IABC is refreshingly lacking in pop titles.

    Two Good Ones

    After the original sources come two not to be missed by anyone who really wants to learn more about authentic Celtic spirituality.

    "The Music of What Happens," by John J. O. Riordain, C.Ss.R. (St. Mary's Press), is a sensible exploration of what is unique in the Irish approach to God. O. Riordain, a priest in Ireland, grew up living the Irish way — before the fad existed. He knows the old ladies who have daily conversations with the saints, and who have their occasional tiffs with "Himself above.

    This familiarity goes back to the way the ancient Celts lived. They didn't live in town; they lived in tuaths, rural communities organized around kinship ties. The ard-ri (translated as high king) ruled over a clan; he was everyone's cousin, and blood was what mattered. The lowliest child could speak to the king as freely as the fiercest warrior could. In Europe, however, kings were something different: mighty, powerful, distant, frightening. Prayers addressed to God as King meant one thing to an Irishman who grew up sitting on his own king's lap, and quite another to a Frenchman who grew up in terror of his king. Hence the familiarity of Irish Christianity with God and His saints.

    Hence, also, some of the historical tragedies. Because Ireland didn't have a city worth the name, the Roman system of bishops (who had to have cities as their sees) was a long time settling in. Every tuath had its own monastery, and the abbot was the powerful cleric around, not the bishop. And because there was no communication with Europe after the fall of Rome, Ireland heard only rumors when the date of Easter was changed, and so kept to the way they'd always done it, and kept on tonsuring monks the way they always had. Both of which became the pretext, then, for Pope Adrian IV to give newly installed King Henry II of England permission to conquer Ireland in 1154: to bring it into conformity with the practice of the Church of Rome. How bitter an irony, considering that England would not have been Christian if it hadn't been for the efforts of St. Columcille a few centuries earlier.

    An interesting side-effect of this history is that, today, people with grievances against Rome are looking to pre-12th-century Irish Christianity to show them how to be Catholic without the pope. This is evident among some of the more, um, "progressive" so-called Catholics as well as among other Christians.

    The Celtic Way of Prayer

    I have saved the best for last. Esther de Waal was a history professor who retired to raise her children. She moved into an old house that had been part of a medieval monastery. That coincidence was the beginning of her interest in Benedictine and Celtic spiritual traditions. "The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination" (Doubleday) is a serious masterpiece. Here are no fairies or sentimental whimsies: "The Celtic way of prayer was learned from monasteries; it was from its religious communities that people learned to pray. As a result, they learned that there was no separation of praying and living; praying and working flow into each other, so that life is to be punctuated by prayer, become prayer." Since the people lived among stone and tree, dependent upon sun and rain, stone and tree and sun and rain entered into the prayer. Daily life depended very much on God, and nobody was sophisticated enough (or silly enough) to pretend otherwise. Gratitude was abundant. Prayer was the undercurrent of everything they did — and is that not the essence of mental prayer?

    De Waal does a thorough analysis of the style of ancient Celtic prayers. Her analysis shows how they work, wherein lies their charm and their uniqueness.

    But knowing about Celtic prayers is only the first step. Knowing them must come from praying them.

    Pray I this day my prayer to Thee, O God,
    Voice I this day as voices the voice of Thy mouth,
    Keep I this day as keep the people of heaven,
    Spend I this day as spend Thine own household.

    Each thing I have received from Thee it came,
    Each thing for which I hope, from Thy love it will come,
    Each thing I enjoy, it is of Thy bounty,
    Each thing I ask, comes of Thy disposing,

    And grant Thou to me. Father beloved,
    From Whom each thing that is freely flows,
    That no tie over-strict, no tie over-dear
    May be between myself and this world below. •

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