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Celtic Crossovers:

May the
Lent of the Irish
be with you

Celtic crosses at sunset

Heading - The Origins of Celtic Spirituality

    The term Celtic is often considered synonymous with Irish, but it is considerably larger than that Historically, the Celts originated as tribal groups as early as 3,000 B.C Many epics and legends describe the Celts as barbarians who invaded and conquered peoples and lands, overtaking a large portion of Europe and beyond. Some of these early Celtic tribes were always on the move, while others eventually settled and became an agricultural and seafaring people.

     Most of these Celts were from the British Isles and kept their spiritual customs and traditions alive much longer than continental Europe. They were a hospitable, rural people who lived a simple life in communion with earth, sea, sun, and moon. It is from these Celts that the current movement of "Celtic Christian spirituality" has emerged.

     Early Christian Celtic spirituality evolved gradually, beginning around the fifth centuty. This transition brought with it some spiritual traditions of earlier Celtic life that Christians kept and developed into their own beliefs and practices. Among these were the keen bond between creation and divinity; women's equality with men; the power of protection, which later formed the Celtic breastplate prayer; the symbol of the triad and the circle, an influence for a strong devotion to the Trinity; the presence of mentors and healers; the use of music, stoiytelling, dance, and art as expressions of life; appreciation for the beauty and power of the sea; symbols such as light and darkness; relationship with trees, fire, stones, and other elements of nature; and an ability to move back and forth between this world and an "otherworld," later reflected particularly in the devotion of Celtic Christians to their saints.

     An example of the intertwining of pre-Christian and Christian practice is described by Esther deWaal in The Celtic Vision (St Bede's). She tells of a Christian ceremony atthe birth of a child where the child was "handed across the fire three times and then carried sunwise three times around the fire." After this there was a blessing in the name of the Trinity.

                                                                                 -Joyce Rupp

 

Irish field with mountains in background
                                                           Faye Williamsen


This artile is published in the March 2001 issue
of the U. S. Catholic magazine. It is reprinted
here with permission of the U. S. Catholic magazine. (http://www/uscatholic.com)

Joyce Rupp suggests seven
ways to let Celtic spirituality
be your guide this Lent
.

 I shy away from many popular spiritual movements, which seem to come and go like feathers in the breeze. But Celtic spirituality is not one of these. Celtic spirituality is solid and deeply rooted in a spiritual heritage. I have been deeply drawn to Celtic spiritualiy with its creation-centered orientation. It has been a "coming home" for me because I have always felt a strong bond with creation.

     From the time I was a small child on an Iowa farm, I have often felt God's nearness when I have been with the created world. I thought of this as I stood on a snowy Kansas hillside on New Year's Eve. I was on a silent retreat, heading back to my room for the night. I paused to look at the dark, cloudy sky, and there I saw a single star shining brilliantly through a small opening. Immediately I sensed a truth awaiting me in the night sky. I stood for many chilly minutes in sacred communion, gazing at that radiant star until I saw it as all the "strong stars" of comfort that I'd been given in the previous year when grief had consumed my spirit. I finally walked on, assured that God would guide me well as I walked into the future. (Click here to go to the poem written that night.)

     The sacredness of all of life is one of the most basic tenents of Celtic spirituality, and it is this aspect that most speaks to my relationship with God, although there are other Celtic dimensions that also enrich and enhance my spiritual journey.

Continued on next page.


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