Saturday, March 17, 2007

Compass Point #6 Celtic Spirituality Features of Celtic Christianity

At a meeting of our Presbytery today, I heard a man give thanks for his dear departed mother, who was an O'Toole he told us. Later in the day, he assured us, he would celebrate her life properly in the Irish fashion. I thought, to myself, now that's a fine way to give thanks for a saint!

Not to feel left out, I'm grateful that I was invited to celebrate St. Patrick's Day later in the evening, in another venue with some good friends. Come with an Irish blessing, I was told!

In some of my reading in recent years, I've been drawn to features of Celtic spirituality that offer strong appeal for many today, and not just the Irish.

One observer of Celtic Spirituality ("spiritualities" to be more accurate), Richard J. Woods in his book The Spirituality of the Celtic Saints, writes that spirituality is best traced to the biblical view of "spirit" in ancient Hebrew culture as the "breath of life" which is a direct gift of God - spirit is "ruach" in Hebrew. "Spirit" is that virtue by which a person is open to and transmits the life of God. We breath out and we breath in and in so doing, the very breath of God is in us. It is the capacity to respond to God and the gift of life in all its dimensions.

Richard Woods believes that spirituality is best understood as "the story of our life as a whole as we have directed it toward the realization of our deepest longings and highest aspirations."
But all life is most authentically shared in community. We all share the same air on earth; the same life-giving oxygen circulates and re-circulates in us all. A private spirituality would be no spirituality at all, as it would mean closing ourselves off from the "Spirit" of God who animates all living things.

And so, I give thanks for the following elements of Celtic spirituality, which are not exclusive to that tradition, but seem to have received deep emphasis in this tradition of faith and spirit:

Ø Shared faith and life are not just one aspect of faith, but the chief feature of this understanding of the Christian journey


Ø Life is seen as a journey.
Ø Certain places are very significant; they are “thin” places, where we feel the closeness of God in a deep way.
Ø Just as Jesus was drawn to mountain and deserts; these thin places
become landmarks in life; a place of new beginnings; or of fresh resolve

Soul Friends:

Ø If life is a journey, it can be a lonely one
Ø We all need friends along the way.
Ø We all need a mature, experienced Christian; who will walk the road
With us, modeling the life of Jesus.
Ø The Celts referred to such a person as a soul friend
Ø They help us develop a more Christ-like life, and help us with the many choices along life’s way.
Ø Their aim is a more general means of support, to encourage us to wholeness of life and faith

Rhythms of life and faith:
Ø The Celtic Christians lived closer to nature, and saw and experienced the change of seasons in life.
Ø They felt closer to God in the experience of nature and of God’s presence in the whole of the world and life.
Ø Celebrated rites of passage

Ø Took seriously the scripture to “pray without ceasing”
Ø Prayed for all experiences: getting up, going to bed, prayers for the house, for work and leisure music, starting fires, Prayers of protection: they knew they lived in a dangerous world

So, on this St. Patrick's Day, I wish you god-speed as you explore further these elements of the
spirit that bring life and sometimes a "second breath".



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