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Summarizing Ian Bradley, Following the Celtic Way

This is a summary and commentary on Ian Bradley’s recently published book, Following the Celtic Way: A New Assessment of Celtic Christianity.

Part 2: Exploring the Way

21 themes, all P:

Marks of the Church

Attributes of God

Appropriate Human Responses

Ways to Follow

Marks of the Church and Expressions of Faith

  1. Prayerful. “Monastic life is prayer-soaked.” “While the monks were called to undertake three labors – prayer, manual work and reading – there was a clear sense in which prayer dominated and also permeated the others.” Prayer arose spontaneously and included a prolific folk culture.
  2. Psalm-centered. Irish monks chanted the psalms more ofte than Benedictine monks. Psalms show up in the classic texts.Communal chanting.Nature imagery.
  3. Poetic.  From exposure to the psalms,  but matching nature imagery.  Also consider the druids and bards, and bardic culture.  Strong Welsh influence.
  4. Puritanical perfectionism.  Some of this is hagiography.  Note that these sources are coming from monastic documents, not folk. But desert spirituality influenced the desire for asceticism.
  5. Physical. Physically ascetic prayer. Physical elements of nature. physical locality, to tribe, king, neighbor.  Overlap between spiritual (warfare) and physical.  Physical landscape.
  6. Provisionality (this life is fleeting).  Provisionality in the building structure of the church. Temporariness rather than legacy. Journey and “pilgriamge” but really peregrination
  7. Patterned (spirals and knots, but).. rhythm of life, rhythm of prayer.  Diamond lozenge. Ringed with purple and gold; majesty.

Attributes of God

Appropriate Human Responses

Ways to Follow

  1. Pastoral presence.
  2. Peace making.
  3. Pilgrimage (but really peregrinatio).

A Christian Society

I recently ran into this quote from one of Thomas Merton’s lesser-known books:

“A Christian society? Such a society is not one that is run by priests, not even necessarily one in which everybody has to go to Church: it is one in which work is for production and not for profit, and production is not for its own sake, not merely for the sake of those who own the means of production, but for all who contribute in a constructive way to the process of production. A Christian society is one in which men give their share of labor and intelligence and receive their share of the fruits of the labor of all, and in which all this is seen in relation to a transcendental purpose, the “history of salvation,” the Kingdom of God, a society centered upon the divine truth and the divine mercy.”
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

What Merton seems to be saying to his readers, and to us some 50 years later (published first in 1968) is that a Christian society, a Christian Nation, is not one in which the Right Party is in rulership, or the legal system is in alignment with Right Theology.. but one in which everybody participates AND receives the benefits of their participation, for the benefit of each other.  Not for the benefit of the priests, the rulers, the businesses… but for the benefit of each other.

This is worth fighting for, and being an active activist for.