Thursday, January 01, 2015

Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope

Author:  Timothy Joyce

First Publication:  March 1998

Publisher:  Orbis Books

Format:  Paper

Source:  loan

From Goodreads:  This fascinating book introduces the mysterious and extraordinary world of Celtic Christianity. Timothy Joyce, a Benedictine monk of Irish descent, evokes the distinctive spirituality that drew on pre-Christian beliefs and culture. He shows how this style of Christianity changed, was subordinated, and gave way to the larger Roman church, and yet how elements endured. Finally, he explores what Celtic spirituality has to offer today to the church as well as spiritual seekers.Celtic spirituality is holistic -- a joyful, mystically-inclined spirituality that affirms the goodness of creation, urges respect for women's gifts, and finds expression in poetry, myth, and song. Joyce recounts the heroic stories of such saints as Patrick, Bridget, Columcille, and Columba. But he goes beyond other treatments to explore how this tradition was gradually subsumed by a more rigid style of "Irish Catholicism, " and he reflects on the centuries of suffering that have left an indelible mark on the Irish consciousness and spirit. Yet ultimately Joyce shows how the recovery of this ancient tradition of Christianity might rejuvenate the church and contribute to spiritual renewal today.

When Pastor Josh brought up Celtic Christianity, I realized that I did not know much about it.  I had heard about it and knew of Saint Patrick but that was the extent of my familiarity.  He loaned me this book to help fill me in on the history of this part of Christian history.  It led to an interesting discussion.

Some of the interesting tidbits I learned were:

  • The Celts embraced Christianity peacefully.
  • Martyrdom is practically unknown in the Celtic church.
  • Emphasized community, relationships, and the equal gifts of all.
  • Believed that all are called to live the life of a monk, even the married.
  • The second most important saint was Bridget (showing the equality between the sexes).
  • Accepted the trinity without debate.
One of the main beliefs is that everything reflects the sacred and the secular.  While they did not worship trees, the Celts believed that God could be seen in the beauty of the tree and everything else in this secular world.

Favorite quote:  "Spirituality is the manner in which we humans face the transcendent in our lives, the particular way we approach the divine and ultimate reality beyond us."

Based on their views on equality(all people are equal), ecology(use but replenish what God has given us), and the way God is reflected in the secular world(how can we not think of God when we look at the oceans or mountains)  we can learn much from studying this branch of Christianity.

Highly recommended.

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