Sunday, March 11, 2007

Celtic Christianity

In honor of Rebecca, here is an excerpt from a Celtic Historical site Celtic Life that highlights bits of Celtic Christian history and practices.

Features of Celtic Christianity:

-love of nature and a passion for the wild and elemental as a reminder of God's gift.
-love and respect for art and poetry.
-love and respect for the great stories and "higher learning".
-sense of God and the saints as a continuing, personal, helpful presence.
-theologically orthodox, yet with heavy emphasis on the Trinity, and a love and respect for Mary, the Incarnation of Christ, and Liturgy.
-religious practice characterized by a love for tough penitential acts, vigils, self-exile, pilgrimages, and resorting to holy wells, mountains, caves, ancient monastic sites, and other sacred locations.
-no boundaries between the sacred and the secular
-unique Church structure:
-there were originally no towns, just nomadic settlements, hence the church was more monastic rather than diocesan, resulting in quite independent rules and liturgies.
-also, Ireland was very isolated and it was hard to impose outside central Roman authority.
-influenced much by middle-eastern and coptic monasticism.
-they celebrated Easter and Lent according to the ancient calendar system.
-Irish tonsure shaved the front of the head (like the druids).
-abbots had more power than the bishops.
-monasteries often huge theocratic villages often associated with a clan with the same kinship ties, along with their slaves, freemen, with celibate monks, married clergy, professed lay people, men and women living side by side. (Sometimes monasteries "raided" other monasteries, esp. during the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion.)
-while some monasteries were in isolated places, many more were were at the crossroads of provincial territories.
-women had more equal footing in ancient Irish law, thus had more equal say in church government. (Did St. Bridget receive Holy Orders and act as an Abbot?)
-developed the idea of having a "soul friend" (anmchara) to help in spiritual direction.
-invented personal confession.
-monks traveled as "Peregrinari Pro Christ" (White Martyrdom).
-many pagan practices were "Baptized" such as St.Stephen's Day, and the resorting to holy wells, and many monasteries were built on pagan sacred site (as evident in the names Derry, and Durrow).


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