When looking for the path to inner peace, we can look to the past for guidance:
"Where is the good way? Ask for the old paths, and you will find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)
Although the Celts lived hundreds of years ago, their religion is a great help to us to deepen our spirituality.
An early teaching of the Celtic Christians was that they could perceive God reflected in every plant and insect, every bird and animal, and every man and woman. They believed in unity and celebrated diversity as a richness in their lives. Men and women were considered equal in all ways and held equal positions in Celtic communities.
The Celts had a profound sense of God in their daily life. God was not set aside to pray to only when they needed help or when they gave thanks for a specific blessing. Their spirituality was down to earth; a sense of God that informs and transforms daily life. It is a question of vision, of seeing nothing too common to be exalted, and nothing is too exalted to be common.
Their ideal was to accept unity without uniformity. They had the ability to hold things together by letting God into every corner of their lives. Every act was infused with the presence of God. When the first fire was lit in the morning, the sticks of wood were laid in a cross with thanks to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. They gave thanks to God, not only for their food, but also for their ability to prepare the food; for every act in daily rituals; for every person they met during the day, for the natural world around them. No part of their life was separate from the presence of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Because the Celtic religion knew God, not only in scripture and liturgy, but also in the details of the natural world, the Celtic cross symbolizes this: A Christian cross with a great "O" of creation imposed on it. The circle of the world and the cross of redemption brought together in one whole.
The Celts were devoted to the psalms, especially psalm 139 that express their beliefs so clearly. The first four lines are as follows:
O Lord, you have searched me out and known me:
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting places.
In the 19th century, Alexander Carmichael traveled throughout the Scotland Highlands to collect the oral Celtic prayers. He published his collection, and as a result, we have prayers that help make praying a central part of life.
The Celtic prayer on a rune.
I saw a stranger yesterday.
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place;
And in the sacred name of the Triune God
He blessed myself and my house
My cattle and my dear ones.
And the lark says often in her song,
Often, often, often.
Goes Christ in the stranger's guise.
Now, more than ever, the Celtic spirituality speaks to our life. We are trying to honor our natural habitat, conserve energy, recycle our goods and accept diversity. The Celtic religion points us in these directions. Celtic prayers help us to become more conscious of our need to have God in every aspect of our daily life.
I will close with a Celtic prayer that expresses the belief of Christ in our every day life:
Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Rhoda Maxwell lives in Ashland and has led Celtic groups and given talks on Celtic saints.