Echoes of-creation-pt2- holiness of place

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Echoes of-creation-pt2- holiness of place

  1. 1. Echoes of Creation Reflections On Celtic Spirituality Part Two Holiness of Place
  2. 2. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 2 Celtic Spirituality Part 2 :- The Holiness of PlaceBefore we begin to look at the importance of ‘Place’ in Celtic Spirituality weneed to remember the importance of prayer for the Celts. Prayer was anever-present part of all of Celtic life. It marked the constant awareness ofthe ‘Presence’ of God in all things. It was the cornerstone, the bedrock of thespiritual relationship between the created and the Creator.Like much of Eastern Spirituality, Celtic Spirituality avoided dualism. Unlikemany of the western approaches, that see prayer as separate, somethingthat has to be formal, for Celts all that was, is and could be, was imbuedwith the ‘presence of the Creator. Therefore ‘prayer’ was part of all.Our theme in this short paper is the holiness of place – those ‘thin places’where Celts believe that the veil between the Creator and Creation issomehow ‘thin’. These places exist and as such were considered ‘sacred’. Thefollowing is a short, typical prayer in the Celtic Tradition that recognises thesacredness of place. O God, you who are the Source of all wisdom May this be a place of reflection and awareness, Of knowledge and understanding. May the Light of Your Son Reveal to us the sacredness of this place. May the Grace of the Spirit. Show itself lest we go about in ignorance. Reveal to us the Truth of your Presence Father , Son and Spirit. In this place . AmenThis concept of a sacred place is common in many traditions. Hindus revereseveral places, but especially the source of Mata Ganga( MotherGanges),Muslims revere Mecca, Aboriginal Australian revere Ayers Rock andCelts found hilltops, forests and wells as especially holy. In Judaism, there isthe famous encounter that Moses had on Mount Horeb – the burning bush.We will return to this concept of ‘sacred place’ later but let us now readabout Moses and the burning bush.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  3. 3. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 3THE WORD OF GODNow Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest ofMidian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb,the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to Him in flamesof fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire theflames did not consume it. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see thisstrange sight – why the bush does not burn up’.When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him fromwithin the bush, ’Moses, Moses’ And Moses said ‘Here I am’ And God said‘Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you arestanding is holy ground’And God said ‘Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the placewhere you are standing is holy ground’ Then He said , ‘I AM the God of yourfather, the God of Abraham, The God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid and in awe oflooking at God. Exodus 3: Vs 1- 6©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  4. 4. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 4INTRODUCTION and RESUMEIn Part 1 of this series , we began to explore Celtic Spirituality andparticularly how deeply Celts recognised and were aware of the ‘Presence’ ofboth the Transcendent and Immanent God and how the earth and creationwere echoes of this ‘Presence’It also stressed that the meaning of the Cross for Celts was slightly differentthan its meaning for mainstream Western Christianity. Unlike other WesternChristians, both Roman Catholics and Protestant , who saw the Cross as aransoming or saving of evil people from their sins, Celts saw Christ’s AT-ONE-MENT ( atonement) as a victory in the struggle between evil and good.People were basically good and Christ had won a victory over the forces ofevil , thus making us AT ONE with God. The Cross is a Mystery that points tolife coming out of death.In addition, we looked at how the Celts saw God as the God of the entireCosmos ( more on this later) and that they felt that every blade of grass, theflowers the sun, moon and stars and people themselves were imbued withGod’s ‘presence’. An excellent example of this can be found in St Patrick’s‘Credal Statement’. He is reputed to have uttered on the sacred Hill of Tara.He was challenged by the High King’s daughters to tell them where the‘Great God’ of his lived.This has some similarity with the episode of Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings18). The King’s daughters were supporters of some druids who were againstPatrick and the ‘new religion’. Patrick opposed the druids and, speaking ofthe power of his God he affirmed his faith with his own wonderful creed.Now , although many of the stories told about Patrick are clearly myth andfables, this is not that important. Because we need to recognise that so muchof Celtic Culture is based on story, metaphor and fables. Stories are used topoint to great truths, to values that underpin Celtic Culture. So Patrick’screedal statement ( if it was made) would have delighted the Druids andchieftains of the Celtic Tribes. It is an excellent example of the power andimagination and wonder of the Celtic culture of story and its telling .©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  5. 5. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 5 St Patrick’s Creed Our God is the God of all men The God of Heaven and earth Of sea and river, of sun and moon and stars. Of the lofty mountains and the low valleys The God above Heaven The God under Heaven The God in Heaven He has his dwelling around Heaven And earth and sea and all that is in them. He inspires all, He quickens all, He dominates all, He sustains all. He lights the light of the sun. He furnishes the light of light. He has put springs in the dry land. And has set stars to minister to the greater lights. This is our God. ( From HJ Massingham, The Tree of Life - London 1943)When we consider these words and how much in tune they are withAmergin’s poem, (see paper 1) we can imagine how Patrick’s description ofhis God must have impressed the Celtic Princesses and Druids and theothers present.For this was a God that was in tune with them, their culture and this sacredplace, the Hill of Tara. For this was a familiar and wonderful God, a God whowas not just ‘up there’ but a God who was both inside them (Indwelling) andall around them. This session/paper will especially look at the Celtic conceptof the ‘Holiness’ of Place.HOLY GROUND – THOSE THIN PLACESCelts knew that God’s ‘presence’ was all around and within them. However,in common with many cultures the Celts felt that there were ‘special’ placeswhich seemed more in tune with this ‘presence’ of God. Examples of theseplaces for Celts are: high ground, wells, water sources, woods andwilderness. These ‘special places were ‘thin places’ where it was felt that theveil between us and God was almost transparent or permeable. These wereplaces (or situations) where God’s ‘Presence’ could be more readily felt byhumans.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  6. 6. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 6The concept of thin places is universal and human. Even in our everyday life,we can all have favourite places in our homes or in other places. These areplaces where we feel more relaxed and at home and at one with ourselves.Examples of these are many but some of the more popular ones are; afavourite chair or corner or a place with a view, often near water or trees oron a mountain. In such places we can all feel more in tune with ourselves,nature and God. These places are truly holy places and are often referred toas ‘Holy Ground’The idea of Holy Ground is common to many cultures. In the reading, Moseswas commanded to take off his shoes because the Presence of God made theplace and ground sacred. This is a sentiment both understandable and dearto the hearts of Celts. It is also one shared by many of the worlds FaithTraditions, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims to name but a few. OurMuslim brothers and sisters make any place of prayer sacred. They do thisby merely by removing their shoes, placing their prayer mat facing towardsMecca and praying five times a day.Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists, remove their shoes and wash their feet beforeentering a ‘holy place’. Celtic culture is permeated with prayers for everysituation, place and time and all designed to keep us constantly aware ofboth the ‘Presence’ and the sacredness of ‘place’. We , in the West, have somuch to learn from other cultures and their reverence for place. CelticSpirituality is a spirituality for the environment.One of the many unanswered questions of Celtic Christianity concerns thespeed of its spread in Ireland. How come a great culture, with its love oflearning, its deep spirituality and its sense of community, so readily‘converted’ to Christianity – followers of a crucified Christ? One possibility isthe pre-Christian importance of the Celtic Cross and its deep significance fortheir view of life, creation and the Creator.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  7. 7. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 7THE CELTIC CROSSCelts often marked out these holy or ‘thin’ places in a special way. One of themost sacred symbols in Celtic Christianity is the Celtic cross and this wasused to mark out special thin places. Its origins pre-date Christianity but itssymbolism is in itself a deep statement of Faith. Celtic crosses dominated allsacred spaces in the Celtic Realm and an understanding of their symbolism isimportant. In short, the Celtic cross explains the whole story of the savinggrace of God and the Christian Faith. They are in fact an icon.PRE – CHRISTIAN AND CHRISTIAN CELTIC CROSSTo understand how the Celts seamlessly ‘adopted’ Christianity is tounderstand much of the symbolism and importance of the Cross to Celts.Ancient man experienced himself as part of nature and creation. For earlyman this was governed by the two lights – the Sun and the Moon. Times,seasons and the rhythm of life were governed by these and to a lesserextent by the stars – the cosmos. So all over the ancient world, from NorthAmerica , throughout Europe and Asia , we find the importance of the circleand the cross . These were revered and gradually grew in significance asMan’s understanding of the environment; the seasons and the cosmos grew.So how did the Celtic cross develop? The following series of diagramsattempt to show thisThe Circle This was and is seen as the perfect figure. It has nobeginning or end and has come to represent the sun, the cosmos andperfection. It represents the endless cycle of creation. In addition Celts sawthe circle as a symbol of ‘the devil chasing his own tail’. In other words theendless cycle and perfection of the circle frustrated the powers of evil anddarkness.The Cross Again, in pre- Christian times this was seen to represent thehuman being.So combining both gives the symbol of ‘Man in the Cosmos’. Thusit represents a sacred symbol which represents creation,perfection and people. The Universal and Cosmic Christ.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  8. 8. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 8This came to be seen both as ‘The Universal Cross’ and the ‘Sun Cross’ Thelight of the sun was seen as a central spiritual source- it gave rise to life andto growth. In addition, the four quadrants of the sun cross symbolised thefour seasons, which in Christian times came to be associated with the fourEvangelists. So the next stage in the evolution of the Cross can now be seenand understood.THE CHRISTIAN ( CELTIC )CROSSThe Celts had a great love of creation and the seasons. Their year began ATTHE END OF October with the coming of darkness and went anti –clockwisetowards summer and autumn. So the four evangelists came to represent alimb of the cross. This is shown below. Summer ( Beltane) JOHN Spring ( Imbolc) MARK LUKE Autumn ( Lammas) MATTHEW Winter ( Samhain)MORE POINTS ABOUT THE CELTIC CROSSThe following are some important points about the Celtic Cross. 1. WINTER: The Thin veil between the worlds – Samhain – The Gospel of Matthew the Symbol of Man’ Humanity. 2. Celts celebrated death and mourned birth. Death meant a soul had entered the ‘Other World’ the land of eternal youth and happiness 3. SPRING : The Coming of Light & Stormy Seasons – Imbolc – Mark The Lion and his Gospel©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  9. 9. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 9 4. SUMMER: The Love of God & Light – Beltane – John The Eagle of Love & a favourite Gospel ( along with the psalms) of Celts. 5. AUTUMN: The Season of Harvest : Luke’s Gospel – ‘The Winged Cow’ and God’s Bounty 6. The importance of the circle- often shown as a serpent swallowing its own tail. Thus the devil gets tired and frustrated of chasing his tail! 7. The endless nature of Celtic spirals & knots 8. The significance of THREE and THREE times THREE,(9 ) a very Sacred Number) therefore the importance of the Trinity and why prayers often have a three times three structure. 9. The Celtic Cross in its fullness – can be summed up by these words from TS Elliot ( The 4 Quartets) ‘What we call the beginning Is often the end To make an end Is to make a beginning.’ We shall not cease from explanations And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.This poem of TS Elliot brings us directly to the Celtic concept of ‘Thin Places’and particularly between this world and the next!©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  10. 10. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 10HOLY AND THIN PLACESCeltic Christianity emphasises that everything is Holy. We know that someplaces possess a special feel and therefore the veil between God and manseems thinner. Nevertheless, the Indwelling Presence is always present andtherefore ALL places can be thin places. Our task in this life of the body-psyche, is to remain awake and present to the Indwelling God. This can behelped by developing our awareness of creation, time and place andremembering the words ‘ Stay Awake – pray at all times’.The next phase in our brief examination of Celtic Spirituality is that of thePower of Protection and Prayer. This will be examined in greater detail in ourthird Session and in Part 3 of this series .Let us conclude this short outline of the Sacredness of ‘place with a typicalCeltic Prayer. This is a prayer used to bless any place and thereby assist inmaking it a ‘Thin Place’.For those meeting together in this session we will end with a short period ofquiet prayer, a prayer of the ‘Awareness of Presence and the PresentMoment’Prayer to Bless Any Place God the Source of all wisdom May this be a place of reflection and awareness, Of knowledge and understanding. Reveal Your Presence to us, Lest we go about in ignorance of that constant Presence, Reveal Yourself to us, For in You we know the Incarnate Word. Amen.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  11. 11. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 11BIBLIOGRAPHYThe 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

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