The Celts valued the realm of the other-world and believed it to be their true home. It was considered to be the greatest source of their wisdom and the place where great deeds were done. They experienced their lives enfolded in mystery and moved easily between their internal and external worlds. It was a wonderful sphere, unbounded by time and space, where all was possible.
In Celtic myths and legends many "wonder voyages" over the western sea took them to the otherworld. Boats, bridges, mists, birds, darkness, and special sites such as circular mounds of earth were common sources of entry and travel to this realm of mystery. These sources were often referred to as the "thin places."
The deep connection and easy accessibility to this hidden realm greatly influenced the faith of Celtic Christians. This is most evident in their invocations to the saints and angels who were approached as accessible and present guardians, ready to guide and to give assistance.
Lenten practice: Choose a saint whose virtues you admire; pray to this saint during Lent and try to develop his or her key virtues in your life.
There are many other characteristics of Celtic spirituality that could enrich your Lenten experience this year, such as:
A devotion to the Trinity (Lenten practice: Be more aware of the indwelling Presence when making the sign of the cross); spiritual friendship (talk with a spiritual guide or trusted friend or restore a broken relationship with a soul friend); hospitality, a spirit of joy, and a deep sense of community (visit the lonely, welcome the unwanted); adventure and exploration of new frontiers (become more aware of the people of your world, especially those who need systems changed in order to provide for their physical and social needs).
As you pray with a Celtic spirit this Lent, choose one or more of the above as your spiritual practice. As with every Lent, you'll need to decide which suggestions are most pertinent for you. May you discover the power for spiritual growth in the gift of Celtic spirituality this Lent.
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In recent years, a flood of books has been published on the Celtic spirit-some fine scholarly ones, some overly romanticized and not very Celtic at all, and others that relate well the true spirit of Celtic wisdom while also connecting it authentically to our current life situations. Here are some recommendations from the latter group:
The Celtic Tradition, by Caitlin Matthews (Element). A small, more scholarly book, packed with essential facts about the history, mythology, and spiritual traditions of the Cells.
Praying with the Celtic Saints, by Mary C. Earle and Sylvia Maddox (St Mary's). A lovely resource with specific suggestions on how to relate Celtic spirituality to one's own life. Includes brief essays on the qualities of each saint, scriptural references, questions for reflection, and prayers.