Over the last few years there has been a re-kindling of interest in Celtic Spirituality within the Christian Church. Cd's and books have been produced in abundance, but are we simply trying to purchase a more holistic spirituality by adding to our music collection, or is there a real attempt to engage with the issues that Celtic Christianity raises for us?
The term `Celtic Church’ is used to describe almost the earliest native form of Christianity in the islands of Britain and Ireland, it dates from around 400. The Celtic Church established itself as the most successful evangelistic movement Britain has ever seen with people like Ninian, the first known evangelist in Scotland, David, who had such an influence on Wales, Patrick, a Scot who evangelised Ireland, Columba, an Irishman who led many in Scotland to Christ.
Some folk say that the picture of Celtic Christianity we are given today is soft and rather romantic, it is in fact a pseudo spirituality that never really existed. I am not going to argue that here, rather I am going to ask you to look carefully at the following claims for Celtic Spirituality and ask whether or not they could encourage us to build bridges for dialogue with the Pagan/ neo Pagan communities which are on the increase in the West.
Are we ready to follow the Wild Goose?
In the Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit is represented as a bird, but not the peaceful and serene dove landing on Jesus at his baptism. For their symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Celtic church people chose the Wild Goose, ( An Geadh-Glas)
Why did the Wild Goose speak to those ancient Celtic Christians? To begin with, wild geese aren't’t controllable. You can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will. They’re raucous and loud. Unlike the sweet and calming cooing of a dove, a goose’s honk is strong, challenging, strident and unnerving – and just a bit scary.
In much the same way the Spirit of God can be, demanding and unsettling. Think about the story of Pentecost, and the impression the disciples made on the crowd. People thought they were drunk and disorderly!
Its one thing for a gentle dove to descend peacefully on Jesus – it’s something all together different when the Spirit descends like a wild, noisy goose!
Celtic Christians see life as a pilgrimage, use earthy yet poetic prayers, and have a vivid sense of saints, angels and the unseen world. They believe that what is deepest in us is the image of God. Sin has distorted but not erased it. However, the struggle against evil in the human and the spirit world is real. Memorising Scripture, praying daily following the natural rhythm of the sun and the seasons, and working with a soul friend to overcome destructive passions are a means to this.
The early Celtic churches were communities of work, prayer and hospitality at the heart of local life, and those with a Celtic vision seek to restore these features to church life today.The Celtic way of mission is to plant the experience of Christ within the natural patterns of the people, to be friendly towards all people of good will and respect other faiths. Many people today see Celtic spirituality as a way to weave together again the separated strands of Christianity, and to heal a fragmented world.
Because the Celtic Church had not been infected with a dualistic outlook on creation, they did not see matter as evil, nor the spiritual world as divorced from the material. Thus, they looked on Creation around them as one great hymn of praise to its Creator, reflecting His nature and character, whilst not actually being God itself.
The Celtic believers lived in a rural world, life was lived in rhythm with creation and was made up of work, worship and rest, with everything cloaked in prayer. Thus, many Celtic prayers are associated with simple events such as rising in the morning, lying down at night, cleaning a hearth or baking bread. They saw the creatures around them as fellow servants of God. So, on one occasion, Cuthbert chided a young companion for not sharing a fish with an eagle who had just miraculously presented it to them for food.
On another, Columba instructed a brother on Iona to give shelter to an injured bird which had fallen on the shore on its flight across the water, as an expression of God’s love for His creatures, there is the famous story of Cuthbert being warmed at Coldingham by sea-otters after he had come out of the cold North Sea where he had been singing psalms during the night.
Creation is therefore seen as an outward expression of God’s nature and character, sustained by His upholding Word, and declaring His visible glory. It is not seen as a decaying, disposable utility to be exploited by man, which came with the later dualistic thinking.
How then can a re-awakened sense of God's presence in creation serve to encourage Christians to build bridges to their Pagan "friends"? For we should seek to be friends.... For too long we have simply swallowed and accepted a dualistic mindset without question, separating the spiritual and physical worlds, often in an unconscious way, we have simply compartmentalised our lives.
I wonder then what type of dialogue might be struck if we were to celebrate the passing of the seasons ( with more than increasingly meaningless Harvest festivals)? If we were to develop liturgies to recognise solstice and equinox, choosing to see the ebb and flow of the seasons as Gods good gift to us?
I wonder if healing might flow if we were to recognise the possibility that "thin places" and ley lines look at the world in similar ways? Our task is to make connections rather than raise barriers, and to tear down old barriers in order to move forward to a more positive place.
You can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will.....In much the same way the Spirit of God can be, demanding and unsettling.
Are we ready to follow the Wild Goose?
Other Synchrobloggers include;
Matthew Stone at Journeys in Between
Christianity, Paganism, and Literature at Notes from the Underground
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Heathens and Pagans and Witches ... oh my! at Calacirian
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith
Chasing the Wild Goose at Eternal Echoes
Visigoths Ahoy! at Mike's Musings
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
Undefined Desire at Igneous Quill
A Walk on the Wild Side at Out of the Cocoon
Observations on Magic in Western Religion at My Contemplations
Tim Abbott at Tim Abbott
Spirituality and the Zodiac: Stories in the Cosmos at Be the Revolution
Rejection, Redemption, and Roots at One Hand Clapping