Celtic Spirituality

The Christian life is one of continuous conversions and crises as we deepen our faith. Throughout our life, we undergo a number of conversions with regard to our relationship with God. Spirituality is the process of allowing ourselves to grow in Christ through these conversions and ultimately, it allows us to grow in love by reflecting the divine. Spirituality focusses on how we live out our lives as Christians – it is something that cannot be seen as separate from our everyday lives. As Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words”. In other words, spirituality is a way of life.

Celtic Spirituality focusses on living out the Gospel values. Celtic clergy said ‘Do as I do’ and hoped to be followed. It is particularly significant to remember that God became incarnate through Jesus Christ and therefore became part of creation. As we move through our spiritual journeys, from the purgative way and aim for the unitive way, we are to follow Jesus’ model of self-sacrificing love. When we read the Gospels, we are reminded that it was not only Jesus’ words that we are encouraged to follow, but also His everyday interactions and His treatment of others. Similarly, Celtic Spirituality encourages us to model how God wishes us to behave and interact with others.

One key element of Celtic Spirituality is that of pilgrimage – going to spiritual and significant places in order to develop our relationship with God so that we can better live out the Gospel values in everyday life. The Celts believed in ‘thin places’ – places where the spiritual world and the physical world were closest.

However, the Celtic tradition also teaches us that our lives are a perpetual pilgrimage for Christ. The notion of pilgrimage in the Celtic tradition is also that we are Hospites Mundi – guests in the world. Therefore, our life pilgrimages should reflect our love of creation and love of neighbour – centring around our stewardship of the earth.

In the media, we are constantly reminded of the destruction that we are causing to our planet. The Celtic tradition, with its strong emphasis on the value of creation, calls us to heed our duty to protect our planet. This also links to our lives being a perpetual pilgrimage and the fact that it is the way that we live our lives that should reflect the Gospel values. The Celtic tradition teaches us that we can see and encounter God in everyday activities – as everything comes from Him to sustain our life on earth. Perhaps this focus on the significance of nature as reflecting the divine is more important than ever given the destruction that we are causing to the planet.

Another key tenet of Celtic Spirituality is that of hospitality, that is, caring for the poor and those in need. The tradition focusses strongly on community – as indicated through the monastic tradition. It is vital that we move out of the Churches and small communities and help those in need. Therefore, the tradition also focuses strongly on ecumenism – unifying and supporting all of God’s people regardless of labels and judgements. We are reminded that Jesus was not prejudiced against groups of people in the bible, and the Celtic spiritual tradition encourages us to support those in need. We are to help others every day of our lives.

The Celtic tradition also focusses strongly on the concept of the ‘soul friend’ (anamchara). St. Brigid commented “anyone without an anamchara is like a body without a head.” The spiritual journey is a very challenging one, and the support of the anamchara provides help and support to the individual as they move to a deeper spiritual understanding through their periods of crisis and conversions. The anamchara guides individuals on their way to living out the truth and reminds them that they are not alone in unchartered waters through their spiritual journeys.

In the modern world, we have become slaves to money and consumerism. In the bible, we hear of the false worshiping of the golden calf (Exodus 32), and in the modern day, we can still stray away from seeing the presence of God in the natural world and worship our metaphorical ‘golden calf’ – money. Our desire for consumer goods is also having a significant effect on our world in terms of global warming. Celtic Spirituality encourages us to focus on the natural world as a sign of God’s presence and reminds us that as we are Hospites Mundi, we have a duty to protect the world around us, which includes protecting the most vulnerable in society.

Celtic Spirituality’s emphasis on hospitality is something particularly vital in the modern day. We are reminded in Matthew 25:45 that, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me”. In our lives, we have a duty to care for and support one another. Not only because it is what Jesus calls us to do as in the above verse, but also because everybody is part of God’s perfect creation. The above verse also reminds us that every action that we do is an act for God – our lives, as spiritual pilgrimages, should reflect the way that He wishes us to behave and interact with each other.

I believe that Celtic Spirituality is especially important as it reminds us that we have a duty to protect our earth as it is a gift from God, and through this gift, we can also become closer to God by recognising Him in nature. In addition, I believe that the values of hospitality and community are also vital in modern society. Too often we do not help those in need because we are distracted by our personal needs and desires. This model of spirituality reminds us that we have the opportunity to grow in our relationship with God every day through our interactions not only with others, but also with the world around us.

Tom D

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