Monday, December 3, 2012

Water from an Ancient Well

Much has been written about Celtic Spirituality. I have books of liturgies, prayers, and meditations on my shelf. I love the language, the imagery the idea of entering into a different cultural context than my own in order to try and understand who Christ is.
That’s a great starting place for someone who has been to seminary and work in ministry for over 25 years. If I were just starting out, most of those books would be useless to me. Either they are too different from the Christianity I know, or they have so much churchy language as to be unintelligible. I’m still working on my doctrine(s?) of atonement, for example.
So enter, Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntyre. Drawing on the practices of pre and post Christian Celts, McIntyre gently explains several concepts of Christian faith to the reader, and offers ways to explore major tenets of the faith. Scripture, the Cross, creation, evil are all explored in both everyday language and in reflection on how the Celts wrestled with these concerns. All the people and things one comes to expect from books on the ancient Celtic life are here—Patrick, Brigid, druids, thin places, etc.
This is not a book to read straight through, and not quickly. Start with the introduction and first chapter, but from there choose a chapter that interests you and spend some time with it. You may even read it a few times, pray the prayers located within it, and put the book aside while you ingest the ideas for a few days before choosing your next section to read.
Readers should be aware that they will find things to wrestle with here. For example, one chapter explores the concept of panentheism. Don’t know what panentheism is? Don’t worry; he gives a good explanation before showing how Celtic thought fits in nicely with it. However, you may decide you don’t agree with the concept even after reading. That’s okay too. You will still be exploring what you do believe.
That caution aside, the book is worth your time. If you ever wanted a clear way into Celtic spirituality, this is a good one. A good book for Advent or Lent, I would say—or any time you want to go a little deeper in your spirituality life.

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