loren Eric Swanson: A Celtic Trail

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Celtic Trail

Just got this from Danut--one of our fellow travelers to Ireland and Scotland. He does a great job of capturing the spirit of the trip.

A Celtic Trail
Following on the Footsteps of Patrick, Columba and Aidan[1]
by Danut Manastireanu, PhD

Whatever our deeply held religious beliefs or worldviews, there are different ways to communicate it to others. How we believe is equally important as what we believe. Recently I had the extraordinary opportunity of a study trip on Celtic spirituality. Sharing cherished convictions and practices in a way that honors the others is the true test of our faith and character.

The trail began in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland the origination point of the magnificent story of St. Patrick. In the fifth century, Irish raiders abducted the boy Patrick and made him a slave in Celtic territory. There he had a personal encounter with God that changed his life. After a miraculous escape, Patrick returned to Britain, became a priest, and felt God's call to return to Ireland and become an apostle and prophet among the Celts.

Missions and missionaries do not always have a good name these days. Patrick, however, was a different kind of missionary. He did not have a faith to sell, but a story to tell. And his incredible personal life gave authority to the story. He did not try to uproot the druidic traditions of the Celts, but reconstituted them and incorporated them into a creative, courageous Christian faith. At the end of his life, one chronicler observes, Celtic lands knew a long-lasting peace unprecedented in the history of this most temperamental nation.

From Ireland, we moved to Iona, a tiny island south-west of Scotland, where Columba, a Celtic monk from Ireland landed in 563 AD with twelve of his disciples. Columba’s arrival changed the face of the island. He established a monastery, and taught the community to read and write. They were known as "people of the Book" and brought the Christian faith to the Hebrides and Britain, and to the feared Picts that inhabited Scotland at the time. Columba’s version of Christianity, inspired by the vision of Pelagius was: a rural community, close to nature, democratic, gender balanced, optimistic about the goodness of humanity, poetic and passionate. This community stood in striking contrast to the Roman version of the Christian faith rooted in the vision of Augustine: an urban community, imperial, hierarchical, institutional, pessimistic about the human nature, and somewhat impersonal.

The last leg of the Celtic trail took us to Lindisfarne, the "holy island" in the north of England, where Aidan, a monk from the Iona community, came at the request of Oswald the king of Northumbria and established a Christian mission to the population in that territory in 631 AD. Aidan served the poor and liberated slaves with the riches he received. He established schools, challenged the powerful about their abuses and preached the love of God in Christ to this troubled generation. Not long after Aidan, the Roman version of Christianity became prevalent, and Celtic Christianity faded into the background, surviving only as an undercurrent in a world dominated by Rome.

Who knows what the history of the world could have been if the faith of Patrick, Columba and Aidan had prevailed? Who knows what the future of the world can be if our religions would learn to follow the trails like this one?

Danut Manastireanu (www.perichoresis.ro) lives in Iasi, Romania. He is married to Mihaela and they have two grown up children and five grand children. He was trained as an economist and then as a theologian. He holds a PhD in theology from Brunel University, London and works as Director for Faith & Development for the Middle East & Eastern Europe region of World Vision International (http://meero.worldvision.org).

[1] Written in Sept 4, 2007, at the request of Samir Selmanovic for the website of Faith House Manhattan http://www.faithhousemanhattan.org/.


At Sunday, September 09, 2007 9:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems as if Danut compares the Pelagian vision with the Augustinian vision and implies the Pelagian vision is superior. Let us be thankfull that the views of Pelagius ( which deny the falleness of man and the atoning work of Christ in forgiving our sins) did not prevail. What an impotent Christianity that would have grown into. We would probably all feel good about ourselves and yet would still be lost in our sins.

At Monday, September 10, 2007 8:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pelagius did not deny the fall he just didn't go to seed on it like Augustine. His starting point in his theology was God and man as made in His image. Augustine's theology was tainted by his shame based emotional brokenness due to his sexually explicit past. I for one am tired of those who try to convince me of the greatness of God with a definition of depravity that denies the goodness of God's creation. Heresy is often written by those with great intellect but immature emotions.


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