"Send out Your light and Your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Psalm 43:3

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In Gratitude for the Celtic Christian Tradition

Currently, I'm reading at least four books of the daily reading, devotional type, and I have several more that I'm waiting to get to.  So, when our most recent excursion to Eighth Day Books resulted in my wife picking up a copy of Daily Readings from Prayers and Praises in the Celtic Tradition (part of The Daily Reading Series from Templegate Publishers), I told myself I wasn't going to start reading it at this time.  But, it's March, and the Scots-Irish river is running high, as it always is this time of year.  Incidentally, stop by our place anytime if you want to get your Celtic fix.  The folk music is always playing, and we keep the kitchen well stocked with cabbage and potatoes, and plenty of good, strong stout, of course.  All of which goes to say that I did't hold out very long.  So, here's a snippet from the introduction, by editors Esther de Waal and the late A. M. Allchin .  It also strikes an appropriate tone for Lent.
We are grateful for a tradition which rejoices in creation and we owe much to the seeing eye of the eighth-century Irish hermit, whose sight, washed clean by contemplation, views the world with extraordinary clarity.  But we are even more grateful for a tradition which will not let us enjoy a theology of creation without also presenting us with a theology of redemption and reminding us of the cross.  We cannot have the light without the darkness.  For, ultimately, we do not even want to evade the cost of discipleship by being allowed to escape into some sort of easygoing religion which glosses over the reality of sin and the need for repentance.
But to discover a tradition just because we need it can be a dangerous undertaking.  It is vital to be strictly honest here and not to lapse into any sentimentality or romanticism which will merely find in the Celtic world material to feed contemporary needs and longings, and thus to remake the past in our own image.  What follows should be allowed to speak for itself, with all its strangeness and complexity. 
I think the warning against "sentimentality or romanticism" is well placed today, when all things Celtic (or so called) are in vogue.  It's an interesting reversal of fortunes for Celtic culture as regards popular sentiment. Not withstanding my own deep appreciation for the complexity of history and the Christian tradition, such sentimentalism is something I know I must guard against.  Only then will I draw from the deep well-springs of this tradition, which is indeed one for which "we are grateful".


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