Saturday, September 20, 2008
I was reading in Philip Newell's Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation today. Philip was a warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland and conducted the seven-mile weekly pilgrimage. Since I will be going to Iona in ten days, I am interested in knowing more about Celtic spirituality and learned something new this morning: St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century is the first teacher of historical significance in the Celtic Christian world. We think of the Celtic territory as being comprised only of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. But Newell points out that in the ancient world, "the Celts spanned the whole of middle Europe, extending from Turkey in the east to the Atlantic coastline of Spain in the west." Irenaeus teaches that Christ expresses the heart of the first work of God, namely, the work of creation, the deepest and most essential energy of the Creator.
Christ is viewed in the Celtic tradition as coming from the very Heart of God and thus revealing God's Heart to us. The high Celtic crosses speak of the twin love of Christ and creation; sometimes, as is the case with the thousand-year old high-standing cross of Saint Martin on Iona, one side is devoted to Scripture imagery and the other to creation imagery. Both are read in Christ and both are important.