Living Water from Enchanted Lands: a book review

Water From an Ancient Well: Celtic Sprituality For Modern Life by Kenneth McIntosh
Water From an Ancient Well: Celtic Sprituality For Modern Life by Kenneth McIntosh

Not too many years ago Celtic Spirituality was all the rage. It was, we are told, the Celts who preserved the best of ancient wisdom in carefully copied manuscripts. The Celts also  bequeathed a life affirming, creation-friendly spirituality which promised to make us better pray-ers, better evangelists and more holistic  Christians. Celtic Christianity also gave us a model of Spiritual Direction which was less hierarchical than the classic Latin confessor. The Celts had Soul Friends (Anamchara) who would walk with you on your journey of faith.

For all the beauty and wonder  of Celtic spirituality, its appeal is often its other worldly mystique. The Celts inhabited an enchanted universe full of magic and life. They saw the world–including their natural surroundings–as interconnected. There was not a square inch of the world where God was not present. They practiced strict asceticism because belief in God was not mere intellectual ascent, but required the whole person. They cultivated routines–reading, praying, community life which enabled them to see where God was at work. They looked for Christ in nature and expected to see him work his miracles in their enchanted lands.

In Water From An Anceint Well, Kenneth McIntosh weaves story, history, folklore and theological musings to showcase the ancient Celts and their relevance for today. In a series of chapters McIntosh discusses how the Celts related to God–a  sacred romance which involves daily routines and a keen eye to where God is at work in nature. He also discusses the value the Celts put on Solitude, Creation, Scripture, Art, Community and the Spiritual Disciplines. One major insights of the Celts is their affirmation of the supernatural. The Celts did not have our modern materialist suspicion of miracles. They believed in the reality of angels and demons and had a Christus Victor understanding of the atonement. They challenge our naturalistic assumptions.

I found this book beautifully written and really appreciated the level of engagement with the Celts from MacIntosh. This is a good read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Prayers for Easter

Today marks the high day of the Christian calender. Jesus is risen, He is risen Indeed! Here are some prayers that help mark the wonder of Easter, and the newness it brings. The first is from Lent & Easter Readings from Iona, a prayer of blessing from Kate Mcllhagga. She names the reality of new life which we experience this time of year (Northern Hemisphere, and relates it to Christ’s resurrection:

Easter Blessing

How beautiful is the blossom
spilling from the tree,
the hidden primrose
and the bluebell
ringing out the news
He is risen
he is alive
we shall live
for evermore.
The dark winter is past,
the slow, cold, foggy days are over.
May the warmth of your resurrection
touch our hearts and minds
as the warmth of the sun
blesses our bodies.

The next prayer comes from Walter Brueggemann’s Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. Easter confounds the wise and troubles the strong. Brueggemann does a good job of challenging those of us who are safe and smug move beyond our pontificating into wonder:

We are baffled

Christ is Risen
He is risen indeed!
We are baffled by the very Easter claim we voice.
Your new life fits none of our categories.
We wonder and stew and argue,
and add clarifying adjectives like “spiritual” and “physical.”
But we remain baffled, seeking clarity and explanation,
we who are prosperous, and full and safe and tenured.
We are baffled and want explanations.

But there are those not baffled, but stunned by the news,
stunned while at minimum wage jobs;
stunned while the body wastes in cancer;
stunned while the fabric of life rots away in fatigue and despair;
stunned while unproperouus and unfull
and unsafe and untenured . . .
Waiting only for you in your Easter outfit,
waiting for you to say, “Fear not, it is I.”
Deliver us from our bafflement and our many explanations.
Push us over into stunned need and show yourself to us lively.
Easter us in honesty,
Easter us in fear;
Easter us in joy,
and let us be Eastered. Amen.

Finally this prayer comes from St. John Damascene, 8th Century, excerpted from the Prayer Book of the Early Christians. What I like about this prayer is that it names the whole arc of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and resurrection:

Hymn to the Life-Giving Cross

O Christ our God,
Ceaselessly we bow
Before your cross
That gives us life;
And glorify your Resurrection,
Most powerful Lord,
When on that third day
You made anew
The failing nature of mankind,
Showing us revealed
the path to heaven above;
For you alone are good,
The Lover of the Human Race.