As we move through Lent, I suggest that Celtic spirituality can be a superb catalyst for renewing and strengthening our relationship with God. As we explore our inner terrain during these six weeks of returning ourselves back to the Holy One, we can use these Celtic aspects as stepping stones for our spiritual growth.
The Doorty Cross, Kilfinora, 12th Century Highcross
Every aspect of Celtic life was approached as an opportunity for union with the divine. The Celts believed that God permeated every part of their life, and they sensed this presence everywhere. Their faith assured them that God was lovingly concerned about each of their daily moments, no matter how ordinary or mundane. There is evidence of this especially in the Carmina Gadelica, a marvelous resource of prayers and blessings that Alexander Carmichael collected in the 19th century during his 60 years of travel among Celtic people in the western Scottish islands. These prayers are filled with the Celts' ordinary moments. They sang and prayed while they were working at outdoor tasks such as fishing, herding sheep, and milking cows or indoors with the household duties of kindling the hearth, weaving cloth, cooking, and cleaning. From rising to sleeping, from birth to death, they embraced God in their lives
. We can do the same. The setting for our prayer is different from that of the Celts, but, like them, we are immersed in ordinary events and God is still in our midst. Our Celtic praying today can be abou tsuch things as sitting at computers, traveling on expressways, going to the supermarket, watching football games, or caring for children.
I recently suggested to a young father that he bless his three small children each day. He looked surprised and said, "Can I do that? I thought only priests could bless. How would I do it?" I described how the Celts easily extended blessings and assured him that each of us can and ought to also entrust our loved ones to God each day. I explained that all his blessing needed was the loving touch of his hand on his children and a brief "May God and the angels guide, guard, and protect you this day (or this night)."
Continued at top of next column.
Lenten practice: Choose one thing that you do everyday such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, turning on your computer, eating, rising from bed in the morning, or going to sleep in the evening. As you do this action, pause to remember that God is with you. Do this every day for the entire six weeks. Or choose to bless your children each morning and evening.
The Celts were deeply wedded to nature. It was through creation that divinity was most manifest for them. They experienced a oneness with God in hills, stones, springs of water, caves, and many other parts of creation. In a manner reminiscent of the Hebrew psalms, cosmic elements such as the stars, sun, and moon are threaded through Celtic prayers of petition, praise, and blessing. They call out to the "son of the dawn, son of the clouds"; they behold the "lightener of the stars" and celebrate "thou bright white moon of the seasons." Many of us today live within the walls of home, work, and recreation, rarely venturing far into the world of creation unless it is a special outing to the beach, park, or a sporting event. Even those who work outdoors or spend time there recreationally often fail to give attention to the sacredness of the created world. Yet creation offers a wonderful opportunity to enter into oneness with the Creator. All it takes is a deliberate turning of the heart and a desire to be present to the wonders inherent in nature.
Lenten practice: Make a deliberate effort to listen to the created world each day. Pause to look at a plant or gaze at the moon. Pay attention to the falling snow or the first new buds on a branch. Notice the clouds or the shape of a flower. Listen to the sea or the sound of the wind. Receive the deeper messages hidden in these gifts of creation.
Esther deWaal emphasizes that we cannot just look at the creation-centered aspect of Celtic Christianity. We also have to include the cross because it was so central to their lives. It is not surprising that the cross held great significance because these people lived in times of struggle, in a climate that was often harsh and dark. Suffering was never far from their doorstep. It was the cross of Christ that gave them courage to endure their trials and difficulties.
I remember the day I stopped at an ancient cemetery in Ireland to view the old stone high crosses with their full circles. I looked with
Continued on next page.