Scripture Text: John 1: 1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)
In the 4th century, there was a sixteen year old boy named Maewyn Succat in Roman Britain who was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. He lived there in fear for six years before escaping and returning to his family. One day, as the story is told, he heard a voice saying “your ship is ready” and fled his master, traveled to a port two hundred miles away, found a ship, and sailed home. He later returned to Ireland, his place of captivity, the place of his fear, as a missionary. By the eighth century, he had become one of the patron saints of Ireland. You probably know him as St. Patrick.
Patrick’s life, like his Celtic tradition, is based on a pilgrimage through the wilderness. Life in this tradition is about growing and moving and change and not “pitching our tent” in one place too long. It is about connecting to all of Creation, about honoring and revering all as sacred. It is about treating all of life sacramentally, embracing it as a gift from God and a way to God. Embracing the Celtic spirit means going on a journey, open to moving from one place to another, one thought to another, one way of seeing to another. In the midst of this journey, Celtic spirituality recognizes the importance of crossing places, seeing them as thresholds of growth. These places are truly looked upon as sacred spaces.
I love the Celtic tradition. It has fed me spiritually for some time. It’s probably a little wilder than that to which most of us are accustomed. Rather than rejecting the pagan belief that they inherited and being fearful of it, they brought Christianity into it, letting the two traditions enter a holy conversation. So, their version of the Christian tradition was “broadened” a bit beyond the traditional claims. See, history tells us that the Roman Empire never made it to Ireland, leaving the Green Isle just beyond the control of both the emperor and the authorities of early Christianity as most of us know it. So, Ireland and the other islands that claimed this Celtic strain of belief, birthed a Christian experience somewhat removed both geographically and theologically from mainland Europe. It is Christianity mingled with, but not compromised by, the finest aspects of pagan Celtism, those that found resonance with Christian symbols and understanding. For Celtic Christians the experience of vision is a tangible way of seeing what God has done and then seeing it through God’s creative eyes, followed by seeing the life-giving possibilities God sees. The Celtic Way is instead expressed through the beauty of art and symbols, the richness of prayers and poetry, and an understanding of the sacredness of all of Creation.
What would our faith look like if we understood all Creation as sacred? What would our beliefs be if we allowed them to grow beyond what tradition has handed us? What would our lives look like if we saw everything as “of God”, as a way that God is perhaps speaking to us, maybe leading us down a different path rather than fearing it? What would our wilderness journey be if we became connected to more than what we know, more than what we see? What would it mean to live our lives in liminality (“betwixt and between”), as the Celts would have called it, on a threshold between what we know and what we don’t, between what we see and what has yet to be revealed to us, between what is true and what is Truth?
In this season of Lent, we are called to open our thoughts, open our hearts to the way that God is leading us. We are called not just to see what is obvious but to let God be our Vision, our way of seeing, to enter the Sacred with new eyes and a new heart. Maybe we will find that the way out of this wilderness is not by exiting it but by beginning to see it differently, as a way filled with sacredness and wonder, as a Way of God. Maybe that’s how we’re called to change. Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
I live my life in ever-widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Grace and Peace,