Echoes of-creation-pt4 - saints and pilgrimage

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  • 1. Echoes of Creation Reflections On Celtic Spirituality Part FourSaints and Pilgrimage
  • 2. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 2 Celtic Spirituality Part 4 :- PILGRIMAGE and a Procession of SaintsNOTEThis is the fourth in a series of five presentations on Celtic Spirituality. These notes formpart of a series of workshops with music, song, poetry and experiential exercises, all anessential part of gaining an understanding of Celtic Spirituality. Therefore, these notesneed to be read in this context.However, in the true spirit of Celtic Spirituality we open each session ( and writtenpaper) with Prayer, the bringing of Light, with the lighting of candles, and the reading ofSacred Scripture – part of our heritage of Universal Wisdom OPENING PRAYER Like dew dripping off the leaves in the early light Your Grace and Love continues to pour upon us. It spreads Joy and Love through our whole being. We praise and give thanks to You, both for this Love and Joy and for the urge within to give thanks Continue to be our Companion – our Anam Cara as we Journey on our pilgrimage back to You. Amen PRAYER FOR THE LIGHTING OF CANDLESSimilar to many cultures, the Celts considered light to be so important. For them therewas a constant struggle between Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, this world and theafter life world.We pause now to bring light to our reflections on the procession of saints and pilgrimage( one of the four great Ps ) in Celtic Spirituality.ALL We light these 3 candles in the name of The Father, the Son and the Spirit. May the Grace of the Father, The Love of the Son, The Guidance of the Spirit, Be with us on our pilgrimage back to the Source AMEN©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 3. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 3THE WORD OF GODThe function and task of every disciple is to follow his or her Master. Following a trueMaster is never easy. It demands courage, discipline, compassion, humility and awillingness to walk in the Master’s footsteps.Following a master is a life times journey – a pilgrimage. This is both an inner and outerpilgrimage that leads to great change. In the following reading we read of an exchangebetween Jesus and his disciples. This outlines the true cost of discipleship.Jesus looked and said to his disciples ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter theKingdom of God’. The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again.‘Children how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom ofGod!. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich manto enter the Kingdom of God.The disciples were even more amazed and said to each other.‘Who then can be saved’ ?Jesus looked at them and said..‘With man this is impossible but not with God, all things are possible with God’Peter said to him, ‘We have left everything for you ! ‘‘ I tell you the truth’ Jesus replied., ‘ no one who has left home or brothers orsisters or mothers, children and fields for me and the Gospel will fail to receive ahundred times as much in this present age ( homes , brothers, sisters, mothers,children and fields – and with them , persecutions). And in the age to come,eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first’©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 4. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 4A SONG FOR A PILGRIMThe following is an ancient Irish Hymn about pilgrimage – our theme in this session andshort paper. As usual, participants and readers are encouraged to reflectively read thefollowing words as preparation for this theme of Celtic Spirituality. THE PILGRIM – ancient Irish HymnShall I go, O King of the mysteries, after my fill of cushions and music,To turn my face on the shore and my back on my native land?Shall I be in poverty in the battle through the grave of a King,a King who does not fail., without great honour or a famous chariot,Without silver, without a horse.Without heady drink that intoxicates a throng, without a stout tribe,without retainers to protect me, without a swift shield or any weapon, without cup,ale or drinking horn?Without soft clothes that are pleasant to look at,without cushions which are no friend of any saint,But beech twigs of virtue under a hard quilt for my body?Shall I say a long farewell to the great island of the sons of Mil?Shall I offer myself under Christ’s yokebefore I cross the waters of the Red Sea?Shall I cut my hand with every sort of woundOn the breast of the wave which wrecks boats ?Shall I leave the track of my two knees on the strands by the shore?Shall I take my little black currach over the broad-breasted glorious ocean?O King of the bright kingdom,Shall I go on my own choice upon the sea?Whether I be strong or poor,Or mettlesome so as to be recounted in talesO Christ, will you help meWhen it comes to going upon the wild sea?©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 5. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 5INTRODUCTION ‘ A boat in a harbour is safe. But that is not what boats are for !’Our ‘Journey’ is like a pilgrimage. Our goal is to return to the Source – from whence wecame- , which is God. The paradox is that we are as close to the Source at thebeginning as we are at the end. The Source never leaves us. What can happen is thatwe can ‘lose’ our sense of contact with God. But God never loses us! This session willexplore the importance of pilgrimage in our lives and how it was also part of the Celticway of life. But before that let us pause to see where this Lenten Journey has taken usso far.We have looked at the twin pillars of Presence and Protection and the sense of thesacredness of Place – the Immanence and Transcendence of God. We also havelooked at the centrality of the Trinity in Celtic Spirituality and their vibrant and intoxicatedsense of God being with them in all things and at all times – hence the variety of prayersfor all occasions. Before we move on, let us reflect on this and particularly on the lastsession where we experienced the CAIM or Lorica and with it the Celtic sense of ever-present Protection.The is a story from the Buddhist Tradition , which Thomas Merton refers to in his book ‘Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander’ .as been chosen because it is a more modernexposition of the importance of the ‘journey’ or pilgrimage of our life.Merton’s story setsthe scene for the Celtic sense of what Pilgrimage is all about. It reflects on the GreatWay – the ultimate pilgrimage. Now this is what Celts called Green Martyrdom Thiswas not an actual martyrdom that involved losing ones physical life. It involved onesetting out on a journey with God, setting out in hope and confidence. For most Celts itmeant leaving Ireland in a boat. Hence the ancient Irish saying All this is reflected in thisCeltic saying ‘‘ A boat in a harbour is safe. But that is not what boats are for !’©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 6. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 6Thus the early Irish Saints had this simple saying about the importance of courage andrenunciation if one was to live life as a pilgrim.Four things you don’t want in a boat;oars, rudder, anchor and a fear of drowning.So that God can take you to where He wants to ’So with these points in mind let us return to Merton and his reflections on the GreatWay. The Great Way – to God’s CapitalA Reflection by Thomas MertonThere is the following Zen Buddhist Story:A monk said to Master Joshu ‘ What is the way?’Joshu replied : ‘ Outside the fence’The monk insisted: ‘ I mean the Great Way? What is the Great Way?’Joshu replied: ‘ The Great Way is the Way that which leads to the Capital’Merton, reflecting on this story goes on ….‘The Great Way is right in the middle of the story, and I should remember it when I getexcited about war and peace. I sometimes think I have an urgent duty to make all kindsof protests and clarifications. – but, above all, the important thing is to be ON the GreatWay and to STAY on it, whether one speaks or not.It is not necessary to run all over the countryside shouting ‘peace, peace!’ But it isessential to stay on the Great Way which leads to the Capital, for ONLY on the GreatWay is there peace. If no one follows the way, there will be no peace in the world, nomatter how much men may preach it.It is easy to know that ‘ there is a way somewhere’ and even perhaps to know thatothers are not on it ( by analogy with one’s own lost ness , wandering far from the way).But this knowledge is useless unless it helps one find the Great Way.’All the above leads us further into our theme of the Celtic procession of Saints andPilgrimage. Because, for Celts, the importance of pilgrimage was considered paramountand thus it became one of the four Great Ps of their approach to God and Spirituality.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 7. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 7Pilgrimage and a Procession of SaintsIt is important to recognise that Celtic Christianity was neither organised nor was it aChurch. For Celts, life was seen as a journey or pilgrimage – from darkness to light.The life here in this world mirrored the ‘interior journey’ (See Theresa of Avila & St Johnof the Cross) back to the Source of all Life – God. Therefore, living ‘mission’ , as wemight call it today, was the norm. Celts were not interested in hierarchical, formal andorganised religion.Monks and nuns and holy men and women lived in community which were often mixedand comprised of married and celibate men and women. These were often led bywomen (St Hilda of Whitby and St Bridget of Kildare are examples). In the earlycenturies of the Celtic Church they did not construct large buildings or churches andedifices and even less did they use stone. Most communities ‘sprung up’ around holymen and women, who often lived as hermits – much like the Desert Fathers andMothers of Egypt. Communal living was an important aspect of Celtic culture. Thismirrored the tribal/clan society which was the norm. People would come and go andwhilst in community would lead lives that were a mixture of activity, prayer and isolation.Note: This lack of concern for formal structures and power systems was to eventuallylead to the destruction of the Celtic way of Christianity and to the dominance of Rome.The variety and content of the Celtic spiritual way of l life is best shown in the words ofthe following poem attributed to one of the three greatest Irish saints, St Colmcille (Doveof the Church), known in Britain as St Columba. This shows a way of life herecommended to his followers. This way a way or rule of life that was freer and lessstructured than the Rule of St Benedict , a rule that was adopted by the WesternChurch.That I might bless the Lord, who orders all;Heaven with its countless bright orders, land, strand and flood,That I might search in all the books that would help my soul;At times kneeling to the Heaven of my heart,At times singing psalms,At times contemplating the King of Heaven, Chief of the Holy Ones.At times at work without compulsion,This would be delightful.At times plucking duilisc from the rocksAt other times fishingAt times distributing food to the poorAt times in hermitage. (attributed to St Colmcille – Columba)©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 8. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 8The Importance of Pilgrimage As previously stated; for Celts Life was a pilgrimage .For them, life was designed to be lived in the Presence of God. Thus a disciple wasalways on a journey, a pilgrimage, with and in the ‘presence’ of the Creator.Now the concept of pilgrimage is universal. In the early Christian Church ,and in thehundreds of years since, ‘pilgrimages’ to Holy Places – particularly ROME andJERUSALEM were common. People thought that going to a Holy Place was ‘special’and thus brought God closer to them. But Celts, although they had their Holy Places,disagreed and felt that it was more important to see life as a Pilgrimage. The danger ofseeing the Holy Place as special is that it can lead to a dualistic approach to spirituality.It can lead to the idea that God can only be found and/or accessed in special places. Inaddition, this can lead to the concept that, not only are certain places exclusive to findingGod’s presence but so too can special people be the exclusive ‘conduit’ to God.The early Celts rejected these dualistic and exclusive ideas. This Irish Celtic saying of7th or 8th Century – re pilgrimage – in this case to Rome, puts it succinctly‘Who to Rome Goes,Much Labour, little profit knowsFor God, on earth, though long you’ve sought himYou’ll miss at Rome unless you’ve brought him.’This is less an anti-Rome poem and more a comment on the failure to recognise theIndwelling Presence and Protection of God at all times and in all places. For Celts , notfully recognising the supremacy of Rome and its system of Episcopal and Priestlypower, warned of the dangers of only seeing God in special places and special people.For Celts, God’s presence was to be found in the everyday life and in the totality ofcreation. So it is important to remember the Celtic concept that , GOD IS WITH YOU AT ALLTIMES AND IN ALL PLACES. They considered that our home IS with God and GOD ISour home and our resting place. Therefore, our life’s journey is a constant pilgrimagewith and towards God. Like Hindu Spirituality, Celts felt that the journey i.e. thepilgrimage , was much more important than the destination. The manner in which wetravel on the pilgrimage and our way of relating with our fellow pilgrims and theenvironment were more important than being fixated on the destination.To keep focused on the journey and its way of life was thus central to Celtic Spiritualityand this was best achieved with support. Like Eastern approaches, Celts reveredwisdom and learning and therefore the importance of finding a wise guide or Guru. Thisleads to the Celtic concept of the Anam Cara.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 9. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 9The Importance of an Anam Cara( Anam Chairde) An Aman Cara is a ‘soulfriend’ ( coming from the Gaelic word Anam meaning ‘soul ‘ and Cara or Chairdemeaning ‘Friend’ ) and this was and still is an important aspect of Celtic Spirituality. Itcame from the pre-Christian era where the wisdom and guidance of the Druids werevalued. To travel safely on a journey requires a good guide or soul friend and preferablya guide one has journeyed ‘ up on the mountain towards god’ .In Celtic Society this role of the wise Anam Cara was very often provided by lay people,both men and women. These men and women provided wise counsel to one whojourneyed on the path towards God. An Anam Cara was a mixture of Spiritual Friend,Advisor, Director and Counsellor. In Celtic Society it was more important to obey (orlisten to the counsel of) your Anam Cara than any rules of the Church. A saying,attributed to St Brigid (amongst others) is ‘A person without an Anam Cara is like a bodywithout a head’.Celtic Communities Communities were involved in all aspects of life. There wasno separation between ‘holy’ and ‘secular’. They valued learning, music, arts, work,prayer ( in all) house, field, hospital and university. These communities were very oftenmixed with celibate and married men and women. So it was from these ‘centres’ ofspirituality, learning and ‘God Intoxication’ that men and women set out to live out andshare the Gospel.White (sometimes referred to as green) martyrdom was the stuff of these men andwomen i.e. abandoning everything – including home, family and very often country, forthe love of God and in God’s service. In other words not dying for the Faith butjourneying in faith and through lived example show God to others.There is an ancient Irish saying ‘ May your feet take you to where your heart is’ Thiswas a guiding light for a procession of saints who spread the Gospel from Ireland as farnorth as Iceland , throughout Scotland and North England and to the continent – as fareast as Kiev , north to Poland and south almost to the gates of Rome. Thesemissionaries saw it more as a joyful duty to live amongst people (like St Paul), sharetheir culture and live the Good News. They incorporated people and their culture into theBody of Christ. (It took another 1000 years before Western Christianity , at Vatican 2 ,re-awoke to this simple and powerful message of enculturation). This is something elsewe can learn from the Celts in this post-Christian world.But let us now briefly examine two of the greatest ‘missionaries’ of the Celtic Church. StColmcille ( Columba) and St Columbanus – both , in their own way Celtic examples whohad many of the attributes of St Paul. Both men were great travellers who took theirmessage to far flung places.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 10. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 10COLMCILLE - Dove of the ChurchColmcille – known in Britain as Columba, along with Patrick and Bridgid, forms the 3Major Irish Saints.Colmcille came from Royal Lineage, he founded a community at Derry in NorthernIreland. This became a great centre of learning and of written works. He then gotinvolved in a ‘COPYRIGHT DISPUTE’ . Colmcille loved books and writing and copied aPSALTER belonging to Finnian without permission. The High King ruled against him butColmcille – a man of passion disagreed and attacked the King. Many died in the ensuingbattle. In great penitence he consulted his Anam Cara ( a HERMIT) who told him, that inorder to make true repentance, he ( Colmcille) had to make as many souls for Christ ashad been killed.So Colmcille set out with 12 disciples in a small boat. He left Ireland and landed on Iona– far enough away so that he could not see his beloved land. From this base , Colmcilleand his followers set out in twos,as Christ’s disciples did, and converted Scotland andNorthern England to Christianity. From Iona the great Saint Aidan set out forNorthumberland and Lindisfarne. It was one of Aidan’s successors ,St Chad – a lovingdisciple of Aidan, who became the 1st Bishop of Lichfield in the Midlands of England.Almost 1500 later, the spirit of Colmcille lives on in Iona & LindisfarneST COLUMBANUS Born 543 , Columbanus became the 1st and most influential of theCeltic Missionaries on the continent. It is reputed that he was a very handsome manwho broke women’s hearts. His Anam Cara – a woman Hermit – advised him to enter acommunity , under Finnian ( see the notes on Colmcille above) .After some time with Finnian , he decided to set out on pilgrimage to spread the Gospelin Eastern Europe. So he set out with 12 disciples for the Continent, and foundedcommunities along the Rhine, Lake Constance and finally, his most famous at Bobbio inNorthern Italy. He. died aged 73 at Bobbio in 615. His monks spread the Gospelthroughout, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, parts of France and later on east to Kiev.Almost 600 years later, a young Italian Nobleman, named Francis, grew up in Bobbio.He became a great Saint and founded the Franciscan Order. Francis is often referred toas the Saint of Nature and the Environment. Arguably St Francis was influenced by theCeltic concept of Presence in Nature which was spread to Bobbio by Columbanuscenturies before.Both Columba and Columbanus demonstrate the ability of people who canTranscend their frailties providing they focus on a greater calling – a calling that listensto God’s inner call in the ‘Cave of the Heart’ , as Hindus refer to it; a call of innerawakening.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 11. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 11Some Final CommentsThis has been a very brief resume of the importance of pilgrimage in Celtic Spirituality. Ithas outlined some of the more important points and looked briefly at two of the ‘giants’from the pantheon of Celtic Missionaries – who over a period of two to three hundredyears spread the Good News across much of Europe and who played a large part insaving both Christianity and its culture from the ravages of what historians call ‘ TheDark Ages’. Celts very much practiced the ‘ Presence of God’. St Columbanus told hisdisciples ‘ Live in Christ, that Christ may live in you’So for Celts, either at home (on life’s inner pilgrimage) or travelling on pilgrimage , aconstant theme or mantra for them was that ‘ Our God is a God of Intimacy, a God ofImmediacy , A God of ‘felt Presence’. To paraphrase George McLeod (founder of the re-vitalised Iona Community in the mid 20th Century ) ‘ Ours is a God of WHOLESALVATION not just SOUL SALVATION’. This succinctly summarises the Celtic conceptof God, the Journey of Pilgrimage and the need to be constantly aware of God’sPresence.Final Prayer Father, bless to me my body Jesus, bless to me my soul Spirit, bless to me my life. Father, Son and Spirit Bless to me my Faith AMEN ( Adapted from A Carmichael)NoteThe final presentation and notes will summarise all four themes and point to waysthat Celtic Spirituality might be relevant to the challenges facing WesternChristianity in the new millennium.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 12. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 12BIBLIOGRAPHYThe following are some of the main sources which support all chapters/short papersin this series on Celtic Spirituality. Other sources are quoted in the text as theyoccur. In addition, many of the opening and closing prayers have been adaptedand/or compiled or written by the author (Peter Creagh) in the ‘style’ of CelticSpirituality.Adam, David,(1987) The Cry of the Deer , London, Triangle/SPCKAdam, David,(1985) The Edge of, London, Triangle/SPCKGlory Backhouse,H & Pipe,R ( Eds)( 1987) Revelations of Divine Love – Mother Julian ofNorwich , London, Hodder & StoughtonBamford, C & Marsh,WP (1986) Celtic Christianity – Ecology and Holiness, Edinburgh, FlorisBradley,I (2003) The Celtic Way, London , Darton-Longman-ToddCahill,T (1995) How the Irish Saved Civilization - New York, DoubledayBeresford-Ellis,P (1992) Celtic Inheritance – London, ConstablLleelyn,R (1990) The Dart of Longing Love – Daily Readings from the Cloud of Unknowing,London, Darton-Longman-ToddMatthews,J & C (1993) The little Book of Celtic Wisdom, Dorset, ElementMatthews,C (1994) The little Book of Celtic Blessings, Dorset, ElementMatthews,C (1989) THe Celtic Tradition , Dorset, ElementMcKinney,D ( 2004) Walking the Mist- Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century, London ,Hodder& StoughtonO Fiannachta,P (1988) Saltair – Prayers from the Irish Tradition , Dublin, Columba PressO Malley,B ( 1998) Celtic Blessings , Norwich, Canterbury PressO Malley,B ( 2002) A Celtic Primer , Norwich, Canterbury PressStreit, Jakob (1977) Sun and Cross, Edinburgh, Floris PressTobin, G (1999), The Wisdom of St Patrick, New Yourk, BallantineToulson, S (1993) The Celtic Year, Dorset, ElementVardey,L (1996) God In All Worlds, New York, Vintage Books©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections