Celtic spirituality

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Themes


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 Iona Abbey, Scotland

Celtic Christians living in the first centuries after Christ developed a form of spirituality with a very distinctive flavour.

Some of the major themes of this spirituality, including love and respect for creation and the value of human relationships, are briefly explored in this section.

Creation

Celtic Christians saw a universe ablaze with God’s glory, suffused with a presence that calls, nods and beckons – a creation personally united with its Creator in every atom and fibre.
David Adam

There’s no plant in the ground
But is full of his blessing.
There’s no thing in the sea
But is full of his life…
There is nought in the sky
But proclaims his goodness.
Jesu! O Jesu! it’s good to praise thee!
Carmina Gadelica

Ray Simpson writes: St Patrick called Jesus the True Sun. A good way to experience Jesus is to use what I call the Sun Bathing Exercise. Imagine Jesus as the smiling sunshine of God pouring rays of light upon you. Just soak these up, relax and feel better! Celtic Christians see Jesus as the divine light that permeates all creation. So by spending time in nature we can also be spending time with Jesus.

Humanity

The glory of God is seen in a human life lived to the full.
St Irenaeus of Lyons

O Son of God… dear child of Mary, you are the refined molten metal of our forge.
Tadhg Og O Huiginn

Christ is the supreme example of a complete human life. By being united to him, we can learn how to be fully human by finding a body-mind-intuition balance, and by growing in wisdom and, above all, love.

Worship and community

Early Celtic Christians did not go to church, but rather shared their food, money, work, play and worship in little communities which were always open to the people who lived around them. Wherever they lived they saw Christ in their neighbour and made community with them.

Celtic writers talked about worshipping God with the “five stringed harp” – meaning all five senses. The Celtic churches punctuated each day and night with periods of prayer.

The Trinity

Celtic Christians had a strong emphasis on the Holy Trinity. They followed the one God who embraces the world with his two arms of love: the right arm is Christ, the left arm is the Spirit.

I lie down this night with God
And God will lie down with me
I lie down this night with Christ
And Christ will lie down with me
I lie down this night with the Spirit
And the Spirit will lie down with me.
Carmina Gadelica

Being on the edge

Celtic Christians moved out of comfort zones to reach for the edges of life, as did Jesus. Some of them sought out remote places on islands to live alone as hermits, or together in monsatic communities. This tradition continues today as people live in communities or seek for silence and solitude for short, regular periods, and reflect on the edges between earth and heaven.

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About this module

Early Christianity in Celtic lands had a more natural, less imperial feel than it did elsewhere and it’s spirituality is reviving today. Read here about its history, themes, places and prayers.

This has a strong sense of God’s presence in creation and in everyday life, celebrates God through all the senses, releases creativity, respects both women’s and men’s gifts and values contemplation.

Ray Simpson lives and works on Holy Island in Northumbria. He is the author of Exploring Celtic Spirituality and Celtic Blessings. Our thanks go to him for his contribution to this module.

Categories: Spirituality, Experiential,

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Module contents

arrow Introduction to Celtic Christianity

arrow History

arrow Themes

arrow Places

arrow Prayers

arrow Blessings

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