A Celtic dreaming

milky way.jpg

“To hear never-heard sounds,
To see never-seen colors and shapes,
To try to understand the imperceptible
Power pervading the world;
To fly and find pure ethereal substances
That are not of matter
But of that invisible soul pervading reality.
To hear another soul and to whisper to another soul;
To be a lantern in the darkness
Or an umbrella in a stormy day;
To feel much more than know.
To be the eyes of an eagle, slope of a mountain;
To be a wave understanding the influence of the moon;
To be a tree and read the memory of the leaves;
To be an insignificant pedestrian on the streets
Of crazy cities watching, watching, and watching.
To be a smile on the face of a woman
And shine in her memory
As a moment saved without planning.”
Dejan Stojanovic

Pic from Ebor Benson Photography:”Last nights milky way on the rise, battled against the moonlight to capture this.” 30th March 2016


St Columba: Celtic environmentalist


St Columba  (Colm Cille, ‘dove of the church’) ;was the sixth century Irish missionary  credited with spreading Christianity in  what we now call Scotland. Importantly, he also founded  Iona, which became a dominant spiritual centre for centuries to come. He is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Around 563, as the picture indicates,  he and his twelve companions crossed from Ireland to Dunaverty near Southend, Argyll in Kintyre before settling in Iona in Scotland, then part of the Irish kingdom of Dál Riata, where they founded a new abbey as a base for spreading Christianity among the pagan picts.

Here’s a lovely clip of some early medieval Latin hymns which are often attributed to him.


And environmentalist?  He is credited with the statement:  “He who tramples on the world tramples on himself” which resonates (with me at least!) of the need of our society to heed the Celtic call to rediscover both the real value of self and the real value of our lovely planet, within the framework of an awareness of the Divine.

Wild Geese

wild geese

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Mary Oliver


Beannacht / Blessing

glencar waterfall

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

The photo is Glencar Waterfall, Co.Sligo (Mary Rooney)


For the Traveler

ben-bulben Emer O Shea

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

 ~ John O’Donohue, ‘To Bless the Space Between Us


The surprise of its own unfolding…

"I would love to live 
like a river flows, 
carried by the surprise 
of its own unfolding.” 

John Donohue


An Irish Welcome (13th Century)


fireside kid

Hospitality in Ancient Ireland
Anonymous verse from the 13th century (translated by Kuno Meyer)

O King of stars!
Whether my house be dark or bright,
Never shall it be closed against any one,
Lest Christ close His house against me.

If there be a guest in your house
And you conceal aught from him,
‘Tis not the guest that will be without it,
But Jesus, Mary’s Son.


Celtic Circle: An Irish Blessing


May you always find the best within all people;
may you continue to learn throughout your life;
may your word be trusted by all you meet.

May you search for the similar within the separate;
may you show compassion; may your sacrifices benefit others;
may you be diplomatic when it is most difficult.

May you always remember you were loved before you were born;
may the transitions of your life ripple on the pond of time into the future;
may your journey come to exemplify the Celtic Circle.

(David Morris 1997)


Trees are sanctuaries.


Trees are sanctuaries.

Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.

They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life.

The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark.

I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me.

I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me.

I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts.

Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent.

You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home.

But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother.

Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all. (Hesse)


Reflecting on the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnoise

clonmac crossThe High Cross at Clonmacnoise stands an impressive four metres tall, built of Clare sandstone around 900 AD.  The scenes depicted upon it are sometimes difficult to decipher and this has given rise to many alternative explanations.

There are two aspects, however, which are beyond dispute, and declare with a timeless eloquence the central paradox of Celtic Christology: that of the suffering and the glory of Christ.  On this face (above), the central figure is the crucified Christ. The usual explanation of the four roundels (at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock), are the four gospels, pictorialized as lion, ox, eagle and man as the various metaphors explaining aspects of  Christ’s life and ministry (and/or of the gospel writers).

Here’s a detail of the central scene:

clonmac cross detail


Peter Harbison writes “Christ, represented as if wearing a short trouser-like garment and with his legs bound, is shown with his outstretched arms falling at an angle and with his large hands bearing the nail heads in the centre of the palms.”  (Harbison 1992, 52)

There are other interesting features in this scene.  The figures to the left and right of Jesus are traditionally identified as Stephaton (left), who offers Jesus vinegar on a pole and  Longinus (right) who stabs Jesus with a lance.  Stephaton and Longinus appear (unnamed)  in the passion story in the Gospel of John 19:28-34.

clonmac cross detail 2

On the reverse face, the center of the head of the cross and the arms form one integrated scene.  This is clearly a portrayal of Christ in glory and judgement.

Harbison writes:  “Christ stands . . . carrying a sceptre  . . . over his right shoulder and a cross-staff over his left shoulder.”  (Harbison 1992, 49)

It’s as if the very emblems of his humiliation have become the badges of office as He rises, rules and reigns in power.

What is the sermon the High Cross is intending to preach?

It’s a declaration of the two sides of Christ and how one aspect teaches the other. If there was only a depiction of power and glory then one would be left with a triumphalist, omnipotent god bent on conquest and ruling in total authority.

That’s true, of course, but only partly so.

If there was only a depiction of suffering and death, then one might be left with the notion that pain and sorrow was the end of the story, or that they were somehow redemptive and valuable by themselves.

Again, there is a sliver of truth here, but both sides have to be brought together.

This is how the apostle John approached the paradox: he began his gospel with an account of the glory of God in creation and revelation but then said “And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory.” We behold the glory of God “made flesh”.

Yet it was a strange sort of glory, and many who saw and heard him perceived no glory at all. What is striking about John`s presentation is that, although his glory was manifested powerfully in his miracles or “signs”, it was above all to be seen in his present human weakness, in the self-humiliation of his incarnation.

As He came in lowliness we have an example of the paradox that John uses so forcefully later in the Gospel, that the true glory is to be seen, not in outward splendour, but in the lowliness with which the Son of God lived for men and suffered for them.

This becomes especially clear from the way in which John links glory with the cross. We may not be as surprised at this as we should be, since our awareness of the splendour of Christ`s accomplishment at Calvary can cast over his cross a cloak of spurious sentiment and so obscure something of its horror. But a horror it was to the first century world, a place of unspeakable agony, and, above all, of shame and curse. To explain the paradox was, indeed, a great part of John`s purpose in writing the gospel. Part of his goal, in writing an evangelistic book for Jews and proselytes, is to make the notion of a crucified Messiah coherent. The intrinsic offense of the cross he cannot remove. What he can do is to show that the cross is at one and the same time nothing less than God`s astonishing plan to bring glory to himself by being glorified in his Messiah.

But what do we do with the paradox? What should our reaction be?

As we come to Easter, those two aspects come into their sharpest focus. The cross at Clonmacnoise reminds us that Good Friday and Easter Sunday belong together, to speak out the one gospel of the living Christ.