Celtic Spirituality: Celtic sacred life of hospitality in community
“I sought my God;
My God I could not see.
I sought my soul
My soul eluded me.
I sought my brother
And I found all three.”
In the tradition of Celtic hospitality, God is not only present in Nature but also in our neighbor, in ourselves, and especially in the stranger. This is a sacredness in relationships. I am told there is no word in the Irish language for private property. Faith is lived in community with a combination of periodic seclusion and community and mission. Anamchara or soul friends or spiritual friends or spiritual directors are important relationships. Women are regarded as equals and communities are not hierarchical. Monasteries rather than parishes are the basis of the church. The Celts value education, art and music.
We made a trip to Iona off the western coast of Scotland twice and would go back again in a heartbeat. You really do have to want to go there, though, going by ferry, down a one lane winding road, and finally walking over on a ferry onto the small, three-mile-long island in the Inner Hebrides where Columba brought Celtic Christianity to England in 563. This is where the breathtaking illuminated manuscripts of The Book of Kells are believed to have begun to be written at the end of the 8th century. Iona is believed to be an especially “thin” space where the membrane between the spiritual and the secular is extremely thin. This was our experience as well. You walk a lot, eat good food, worship outdoors and in the ancient abbey and in a decaying nunnery, listen to the wind and waves, study high crosses, wear warm clothing and watch the sea change the color of the 2,000 million-year-old rocks by the shoreline.
I often meet with spiritual friends who describe what is Celtic Spirituality when they have no name for it. This seems to be a sign of the universality of this type of spirituality.
Philip Newell, Celtic Benediction
John Miriam Jones, With an Eagle’s Eye