Monday, March 30, 2009

Celtic Christianity a Historic Overview (Pt.2)

The Council of Whitby

In 597 the Roman mission to Britian under Augustine of Canterbury began to clash with the Celtic mission. There was considerable disagreement between the two communions. At one level the conflicts appeared superficial such as the dating of Easter, or the style of clerical tonsure, but at a deeper level it was due to their radically different ways of seeing.
In 664 a Synod or council was called to be held at Whitby. This council was to decide once and for all which form of christianity would be followed in Great Britian. Representatives of the Celtic mission argued from the authority of St John, who was "especially loved by Jesus". The Roman mission appealed to the authority of St Peter to whom Jesus said "you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church".

Northumbria had been mainly converted by Celtic missionaries and their influence was great. The Roman party, consisted of Queen Eanfled, Bishop Wilfrid, and other influential people. The Celtic party was led by the bishops Colman and Cedd and Abbess Hilda. Wilfrid made Rome's presentation and Colman spoke for the Celtic mission. Eventually King Oswiu decided in favor of Rome because he believed that Rome followed the teaching of St. Peter, the holder of the keys of heaven.

Two accounts of the synod survive. One is in Bede's " History of the English People" and the other in "The life of Wilfrid" by monk Eddi. King Oswiu of Northumbria, as a good Celtic Christian, kept Easter according to the Celtic cycle. His wife, Eanflæd, was the daughter of the King of Kent, and so followed the Kentish (Roman) cycle . Bede explains the dilemma this way: "It is said that the confusion in those days was such that Easter was sometimes kept twice in one year, so that when the King had finished Lent and was keeping Easter, the Queen and her attendants were still fasting and keeping Palm Sunday.

As Melvin Bragg's puts it in his 1996 book Credo, "Conflict between the Roman and Celtic Churches in Britain was inevitable. During its long period of isolation the Celtic Church had developed in complete independence and had diverged considerably from the paths followed by Rome, not merely in the matters of form and ritual, but more fundamentally in its whole organization. Rome could not readily brook the continued existence of what it regarded as schismatic ways and still less could it contemplate so large a Christian community which showed remarkable missionary zeal... But on the other side, the Celtic Church, as some of its members realized, could not afford to ignore the benefits which Rome, representing by far the greater part of Christendom, had to offer."

The tragedy of Whitby was not the affirmation of the way of St Peter, but that the way of St John began to be displaced in the spirituality of the British Church. Celtic monastic communities were replaced by Benedictine monasteries, and strict uniformity to Rome was enforced.

On the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, where the Celtic community had worshiped outside around high standing crosses, or in simple wooden structures, the four stone walls of a Roman church were built. It symbolized the ascendancy of a religious tradition that increasingly was to separate the mystery of God from the mystery of creation. Gradually, the "holy" places came to be identified with the indoor Roman church sanctuary, rather than the outdoor Celtic sanctuary of earth, sea and sky.

complied from a number of sources
Graphic: Synod of Whitby Mural by Juliet MacMichael in the St. Hilda Room St. Hilda's Priory

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Celtic Christianity a Historic Overview (pt 1)


Christianity first came to the Celts in the 2nd century (
possibly earlier,) during the Roman occupation. Likely through individual converts in the army. However, it was not until late in the 4th century that the distinct characteristics of Celtic Christianity began to emerge. After the Romans withdrew from Britain, there was nearly 200 years of significant separation between the Celtic and Roman mission. During this time Celtic flourish and developed a distinct flavor.The most significant development of Celtic Christianity, was its understanding of the Christian gospel independent from what was taught on the mainland. European Christianity was becoming hierarchical, male dominated and rational, with an understanding of governance which was inherited from a dying Roman Empire.

In contrast, the Celtic church celebrated grace and nature as good gifts from God and recognized the sacredness of all creation. It had a love of mysticism and poetry, a deep respect for the feminine, included women in its leadership and allowed clerical marriages. The Celtic understanding of church leadership was rooted in its rural and communal culture. The great Celtic monasteries emerged from this tribal system. Although the abbots were generally not ordained, the leadership and power in the Celtic church, lay with the abbot or abbess of the monastery.

Not unlike Native Americans or the indigenous people of Africa or Australia, Celtic people had little concept of land ownership or taxes and had little liking for cities. ll of these were latter introduced into the Celtic lands by the Romans and further established by the Normans.
The Celtic approach to evangelism was a very organic and natural. Christianity was spread in the Celtic countries by converted Celtic Christians, who were usually monks. Martyrdom for the Christian faith was virtually unknown.

Graphic: St. Illtud's Cross and the Houlet Cross: The west church at Llanwit Major stands on one of the oldest Celtic Christian sites in Britain. The cross in the foreground is St. Illtud's or Samson's Cross, which may have once been capped by a wheel cross. It was found buried in the grounds to the north of the church, and when it was dug up two skeletons were found buried beneath it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blessing for the Children

We have had a season of Birth again, in our famliy and faith community...

Blessing for the Children

O Thou, to whom to love and be are one,
Hear my cry for them who are more
Thine than mine.
Give each what is best for each.
I cannot tell what that is,
But Thou knowest.
I only ask Thee to love and keep them
With the loving and keeping
Thou didst show to Mary's Son and Thine.

for more info about the gorgeous Pic go to

an Irish Blessing for more blessings like this one

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Anunciation (1)

In Christianity, the Annunciation (Ευαγγελισμός της Θεοτόκου, Evangelismós tēs Theotókou in Greek) is the revelation to Mary, the mother of Jesus, by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.
Some Christianchurches celebrate this with the Feast of Annunciation on March 25, which as the Incarnation is nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Jesus, or Christmas.
The date of the Annunciation also marked the New Year in many places, including England (where it is called Lady Day).
Both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths hold that the Annunciation took place in the desert of Nazareth, but differ as to where exactly. The Catholic Church of the Annunciation marks the site preferred by the former, while the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation marks that of the latter.
The annunciation has also been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

the image:the Annunciation icon from Ohrid.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oscar Romero (1917 – 1980)

Oscar Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, a small town in El Salvador . From a very young age he felt called to be a priest.
Ordained in Rome in 1942. Appointed in 1967 as Secretary General of the National Bishops’ Conference, his ecclesiastical career was on track. In the twenty-five years of his priesthood Vatican II (1962-65), with its plea for aggiornamento (renewal), had not impressed him. He supported the arrangement whereby the Church kept the masses docile while the aristocracy exploited them and the military enforced it all.

In 1968 at the Council of Latin American Bishops in Medellin ( Columbia ),the Jesuits declared their “option for the poor”. They articulated a cogent theology that voiced their vision. They believed their theology to arise from confidence in the apostles’ witness that the Kingdom of God has come and needs to be leant visibility. A teaching order, the Jesuits schooled their students convincingly as Romero equivocated, apparently supporting “liberating education” while declaiming against “demagoguery and Marxism.”

In 1975 the National Guard raided Tres Calles, a village in Romero’s diocese. (By now he was bishop of Santiago de Maria.) In the early-morning attack hacked people apart with machetes as it rampaged from house to house, ostensibly searching for concealed weapons. The event catalyzed Romero. At the funeral for the victims Romero’s sermon condemned the violation of human rights. Privately he wrote the president of El Salvador , naively thinking that a major clergyman’s objection would carry weight.

When Romero was promoted as Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital city, the ruling alliance intensified its opposition. Six priests were arrested and deported to Guatemala . One of them remarked that the church finally was where it was supposed to be: with the people, surrounded by the wolves. Romero’s first task as archbishop was grim: he had to bury dozens whom soldiers had machine-gunned when 50,000 protesters demonstrated against rigged elections.

By now Romero had turned the corner.” Summoning priests to his residence (he had moved out of the Episcopal palace and was bunking in a hospital for indigents) he told them he required no further evidence and he knew what the gospel required of church leaders in the face of the people’s misery. All priests were to afford sanctuary to those threatened by government death squads.

Immediately a message was sent to Romero, Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit friend who had struggled to implement Vatican II reforms, was gunned down in his jeep along with two others. Undeterred, Romero prayed publicly at length beside his friend’s remains, and then buried all three corpses without first securing government permission – a criminal offence. Next he did the unthinkable: he excommunicated the murderers. In a dramatic gesture he cancelled all services the following Sunday except for a single mass in front of the cathedral, conducted outdoors before 100,000 people. Rightwing groups were leafleting the nation, “Be a patriot: kill a priest.”

Reprisals intensified. In one village anyone found possessing a bible or hymnbook was arrested, later to be shot or dismembered. Four foreign Jesuits were tortured, their ravaged bodies dumped in neighbouring Guatemala . Thousands of people disappeared without trace. In all of this Romero never backed down:

Knowing himself to be on the government’s “hit list,” he went to the hills to prepare himself for his final confrontation with evil. He telephoned his farewell message to Exclesior , Mexico ’s premier newspaper, insisting that like the Good Shepherd, a pastor must give his life for those he loves.

Romero was shot while conducting mass at the funeral of a friend’s mother. His assassin escaped in the hubbub and has never been found. 250,000 thronged the Cathedral Square for his funeral. A bomb exploded. Panic-stricken people stampeded. Forty died. In the next two years 35,000 Salvadorans perished. Fifteen per cent of the population was driven into exile. Two thousand simply “disappeared.”
compiled from several soruces

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick (389-460 AD) : Letter to Croticus

In Patrick's Letter to Coroticus he speaks out against Croticus a British slave trader whose soliders were raiding along the Irish coast slaughtering men and taking women and children back to England to be sold as slaves.

Though Patrick wasn't the first missionary to Ireland, (Palladius, preceded him) he was the first who met with success. This made the celtic mission the first outside the Roman Empire.
The Roman Christians, largely gentiles looked down on Patrick's non-Roman Christians as second class. St. Patrick's defense of the Irish Christians is similar to St. Paul's defense of gentiles in the early Church as being fully worthy of the Kingdom of God by grace.

The Letter is an especially important document because it shows St. Patrick as the first to speak out against slavery and in defense of women. As one who had been enslaved himself, Patrick proclaims his authority as a Bishop and speaks out against the kidnapping and murder perpetrated by his Roman countrymen.

Below are excerpts from Patrick's letter to Coroticus:
With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) - the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people - I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them.

Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. ..

I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture says: "Weep with them that weep;" and again: "If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it." Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves...

Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief- O you fair and beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written, one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor?...

Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes — for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.

graphic: a page from Patrick's Confessio

compiled from several sources

check out Living Water thumb nail of Patrick

living water William Wilberforce bio 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Useing the Ceilidh Model

Ceilidhs are a wonderful celtic tradition, a blast, a good time and a great way to connect with folks, your friends, family and neighbours. They're a wonderful way to bring worlds together, blending cultures and building appreciation for the other. We've been hosting them for some time.

Another thing we've been experimenting with over the last few years is using the cielidh model for our faith communties gatherings. 'One brings a word one brings a song one brings a hymn..." In our present culture most people are used to observing not participating. By it's very nature the ceilidh is inclusive and interactive encouraging participation.

Many people particularly, expect christian culture to be pretty . I come you speak i listen.

When we explore the dynamic of the early church there seems tobe strong indication of what could be refered to as body ministry. The ceiligh model helps to facilitate an every body gets to play atmosphere.

Everyone can particpate, everyone has space to interact. Everyone is encouraged to bring a word a song a hyman a story.. etc. The trick is in the facilitating. This is a great challenge and some times it's a little more work than others.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the Ceilidh

Ceilidh (prounced "kay-lee" is the Gaelic word for "visit", or an "informal gathering" ).
In the Irish and Scottish tradition a ceilidh is social a gathering with traditional music, storytelling or often dancing. It could be as simple as a gathering of people at someones home, or a gathering in a town hall. Everyone brings a little food, some libation and most importantly a couple songs or a story to share if they wish. In Cape Breton and in other parts of Nova Scotia these ceilidhs representing good food, drink, dancing, friends, and family are often refered to as kitchen parties.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Patrick, David Connection

The following story is taken from Rhygyvarch's "Life St David".

Then Patrick, polished with Roman learning and teeming with excellences, having been made a bishop, sought the people from whom he had lived in exile, among whom he might by unwearied toil replenish the lamp of fruitful endeavor by a double portion of the oil of charity, unwilling to place the same under a bushel, but on a stand that it might shine on all to the glory of the universal Father. He came to the country of the people of Ceredigion, wherein he sojourned a little while. He enters Demetica rura, the country of Dyved, and there wandering about arrived at length at the place which was named Vallis Rosina; and perceiving that the place was pleasant, he vowed to serve God faithfully there. But when he was revolving these things in his mind, an angel of the Lord appeared to him. "God," said he, "has not disposed this place for you, but for a son who is not yet born, nor will he be born until thirty years are past." On hearing these words Saint Patrick grieved and was confounded, and in anger he exclaimed, "Why has the Lord despised his servant who has served him from his infancy with fear and love? Why has he chosen another not yet born into this light nor will be born for thirty years?" And he prepared to fly, and to abandon his Lord, Jesus Christ, saying, "Inasmuch as my labour is reduced to nothing in the sight of my Lord, and one is preferred before me, who is not yet born, I will go and submit no longer to such toil." But the Lord loved Patrick much, and sent to him his angel to coax him with kindly words, saying to him, "Rejoice, Patrick, for the Lord hath sent me to you that I may show you the whole of the island of Ireland from the seat which is in Vallis Rosina," which now is named "the Seat of Patrick." And the angel says to him, "Exult, Patrick, for you shall be the apostle of the whole of that island which you see, and you shall suffer many things in it for the name of the Lord your God, but the Lord will be with you in all things which you shall do, for as yet it has not received the word of life; and there you ought to do good; there the Lord has prepared a seat for you; there you shall shine in signs and miracles, and you shall subdue the whole people to God. Let this be to you for a sign. I will show you the whole island. Let the mountains be bent; the sea shall be made smooth; the eye bearing forth across all things, looking out from [this] place, shall behold the promise." At these words he raised his eyes from the place in which he was standing, which now is called "the Seat of Patrick," and beheld the whole island. At length the mind of Patrick was appeased, and he cheerfully quitted the sacred spot for holy David; and preparing a ship in Porth Mawr, he raised from the dead a certain old man, Criumther by name, who for twelve years had lain buried by that shore; and Patrick sailed for Ireland, taking with him the man he had just raised from the dead, who afterwards was made a bishop.
Graphic: Glendalouch Celtic Cross

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chad of Mercia (635-651)

Most of our information about the life of Chad of Mercia comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede. He obtained his information from the monks of Lastingham where both Chad and his brother Cedd were abbots. Bede attributes the general pattern of Chad's ministry to the example Aidan and his own brother. Both were student's of St. Aidan.

Chad worked tirelessly with his brother Cedd. Together they established the monastery of Laestingaeu, now Lastingham in Yorkshire. Upon the death of his brother Cedd in 664, Chad succeeded him as abbot.

One Wilfrid was chosen to become bishop of Lindisfarne. He travelled to Gaul for consecration and remained so absent such a long time that King Oswiu (ruler of Northumbria) demanded a bishop be chosen in Wilfreds stead. Having learned of the missionary exploits and great humility of Chad, the King called for his election as Bishop of York.

Chad was hesitant to accept, but ultimately yeilded. As bishop of York he was greatly loved by his flock. He traveled great distances to care for his "little sheep." When Wilfrid returned to York Chad now bishop he made no objection and retired to a monastery.

In the year 668, Theodore of Tarsus became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was sent by the Pope to bring the Celtic church in line with Rome. While travelling to York he discovered that Wilfrid was not the bishop of York. He questioned Chad's placement by Oswiu.

Theodore decided that Chad must give up the Bishopric to Wilfrid. Chad in astounding humility responded, "If you decide that I have not rightly received the episcopal character, I willingly lay down the office; for I have never thought myself worthy of it, but under obedience, I, though unworthy, consented to undertake it." Seeing in him a man of such humble and godly character, Theodore pleaded with Chad to continue in his ministry.

Chad carried out his missionary and pastoral work with zeal. The kingdom of Mercia was huge. In accordance with what he learned from Adian, Chad choose to travel on foot . Theodore insisted that Chad use a horse for long journeys. Chad, unwilling to do anything he felt would put him above the common man, refused, but Theodore, Bede tells us, "lifted Chad bodily onto the horse himself."

After two and a half years at Lichfield a plague broke out which ‘freed many members of the reverend bishop’s church from the burden of the flesh’.

A certain monk named Owini was working alone in the fields near Chad’s house when he heard the sound of singing apparently descending from the sky to the oratory where Chad was praying. Owini listened with rapt attention. The voices could be heard for about half an hour before returning heavenwards. Chad then summoned his monks and, after urging them to live good Christian lives and to continue in keeping the rules of monastic discipline, announced that he was soon to die.

When the other brothers had gone away, Owini returned to Chad and begged to know what the singing had been that he had heard. Chad replied that he had been visited by angelic spirits summoning him to heaven and that these spirits would return in seven days and take him with them. He then commanded Owini to tell nobody of this until after his death.

Chad quickly took ill and on the seventh day. Bede goes on to tell us that he was called "saint" immediately after his death and that miracles and cures of all ailments followed his death.

primary source Bede's history

graphic: St Chad (fresco at Shrewsbury school chapel) by Aidan Hart

Sunday, March 1, 2009

David of Wales (500-589) March 1

Around 1090 Rhygyvarch (sometimes spelled Rhygyfarch) (1056–1099) wrote a Life of Saint David. All the surviving manuscripts of The Life of David of Wales may be traced to Rhygyvarch's text as their ultimate source.
Rhygyvarch was in a unique and ideal position to write David's Life. As the son of a bishop of the Bishop who occupied David's monestary, he had free access to the texts that survived the many ninth and tenth century Viking raids along the Welsh coast. Rhygyvarch says he wrote his account from the text of "very old writings" he found.
The narrative is a simple, well ordered text and a masterful hagiography in which miracles abound and historical details are ever subordinated to them.
Below are two excerpts from Rhygyvarch's life of David:

When the solemnities of Easter were over, the holy father, Saint David, goes to the refectory to a meal with the brethren. There met him his former disciple, Scutinus, who told him all the things which had been done against him and what the angel had enjoined concerning him. They joyfully recline together in the refectory, giving thanks to God. When prayer was ended, up rose the deacon, who had been wont to minister to the father, and placed on the table the bread prepared with poison, the cellarer and the prior consenting to the same. Scutinus, who has also another name, Scolanus, stood up and said, "Today, brother, you will perform no service to the father, for I myself will do it." The deacon withdrew in confusion, being conscious of the crime, and rigid with astonishment. And holy David took the poisoned bread, and dividing it into three parts, gave one to a little dog which stood outside by the door, and as soon as it had tasted the bit it died a wretched death, for in the twinkling of an eye all its hair fell off, so that its entrails burst forth, its skin splitting all over; and all the brethren who saw it were astonished. And holy David threw the second part to a raven, which was in its next in an ash, which was between the refectory and the river on the south side, and as soon as it touched it with its beak, it fell lifeless from the tree. But the third part holy David held in his hand, and blessed, and ate it with giving of thanks, and all the brethren looked at him, amazed with wonder, for about three hours. He dauntless preserved his life intact, no sign of the deadly poison appearing. And holy David told his brethren everything which had been done by the three men aforesaid. And all the brethren stood up and lamented aloud, and cursed those treasonous men, to wit, the prior, the cellarer, and the deacon, and damned them and their successors, declaring with one voice that they should never have a part in the heavenly kingdom throughout eternity.

As his merits increased, his offices of honour increased also. For one night an angel visited him, and said to him, "Tomorrow you will gird yourself. Put on your shoes. Start to go to Jerusalem. Undertake the desired journey. But two others will I call also to be your companions on the way, to wit Eiludd," who is now commonly called Teilo, who formerly was a monk in his monastery, "and Padarn," whose life and miracles are contained in his history. The holy father, wondering at the word of command, said, "How shall this be, for the comrades whom you promise are at a distance of three days, or s many more, from us and from themselves? By no means, therefore, shall we come together tomorrow." The angel informs him, "I will go this night to each of them, and they shall assemble at the place appointed, which I now show." Saint David, making no delay, settled what was necessary for the monastery, received the blessing of the brethren, and started on his way early in the morning. He arrives at the appointed place, finds there the promised brethren, and together they enter on the journey. Their pilgrimage is on terms of equality, for none in mind is prior to another, each of them being servant, each being master. They persevere in prayer, and water the way with tears. The further the foot proceeded, the reward increased, they being one as to their mind, one in joy, one in sorrow.

graphic: statue of st David

for more see Living water from an ancient well thumb nail life of David of Wales