St. Patrick’s Day 2023: Honoring the Celtic Tradition of Sacred Creation

The Celtic tradition is the indigenous tradition of a great part of Western Europe that has gifted us with many of the Rhineland mystics whom we celebrate in the creation spirituality lineage.  From Hildegard to Eckhart, from Francis of Assisi to Dominic, Julian of Norwich and more.  The scholar Scotus Erigena in the 9th century and Pelagius in the 4th century took on St. Augustine’s dualisms as did Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. 

“Life of St. Francis of Assissi.” (The Life of a Mystic) Painting by José Benlliure y Gil. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

It seems then that St. Patrick’s day is a good time to reflect on Celtic wisdom and recognize its likeness to indigenous wisdom in North America and elsewhere where also matter and the cosmos are understood as bearing the sacredness within them.

Especially at this time in history when the planet and all the systems and species of the planet find ourselves in grave jeopardy because of climate change brought about by humans turning our backs on the sacredness of creation.  As we do also when we once again engage in the folly of war that threatens both the health of the earth and the future of humanity and democracy and more.

Stained glass image of St. Brigid
Wikimedia Commons

In his excellent study on Celtic spirituality called Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul, Scottish theologian John Philip Newell* brings alive Celtic wisdom. He reminds us that the “earliest recorded Celtic Christian community was in Lyon in second century Gaul” where Irenaeus of Lyons (c 140-202) was a leading theologian who emphasized that matter is sacred.  Newell shares other Celtic teachers such as Pelagius, St. Brigid, Scotus Erigena, John Muir, Teilhard de Chardin and more.

The high-standing crosses of the Celtic world sometimes stood more than twenty feet in height and reflected the Celtic worship outside in “the great cathedral of earth, sea, and sky.”  Often planted deep in the earth, they point to the “connection between grace and nature, spirit and matter, heaven and earth.”  

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

They consisted of two symbols—the first of Christ and the cross; the second of the cosmos–a sun or circle image that overlays the cross—a resurrection symbol also perhaps?  “Thus, Celtic art speaks of Christ and the cosmos coming forth from the same point of origin”—the Cosmic Christ therefore?  “The sacred was seen as the very heart of all things.”

On St. Patrick’s day, let us celebrate this creation-centered wisdom of the Celtic world. 

*John Philip Newell, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know and Healing the World, pp. 26-28, 83f.

See also Charles Burack, ed., Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality, pp. 198-217. 

And Fox, Original Blessing and The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner image: Ireland: the great cathedral of earth, sea and sky. Photo by Sean Kuriyan on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you feel recovering the sacredness of matter and cosmos and earth are at the heart of a renewed spirituality today?  How do you practice that?

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality
Selected with an Introduction by Charles Burack

To encapsulate the life and work of Matthew Fox would be a daunting task for any save his colleague Dr. Charles Burack, who had the full cooperation of his subject. Fox has devoted 50 years to developing and teaching the tradition of Creation Spirituality and in doing so has reinvented forms of education and worship.  His more than 40 books, translated into 78 languages, are inclusive of today’s science and world spiritual traditions and have awakened millions to the much neglected earth-based mystical tradition of the West. Essential Writings begins by exploring the influences on Fox’s life and spirituality, then presents selections from all Fox’s major works in 10 sections.
“The critical insights, the creative connections, the centrality of Matthew Fox’s writings and teaching are second to none for the radical renewal of Christianity.” ~~ Richard Rohr, OFM.

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

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12 thoughts on “St. Patrick’s Day 2023: Honoring the Celtic Tradition of Sacred Creation”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Mathew… thank you for all that you have done and continue to do in recovering the sacredness of Matter, the Cosmos and the Earth; and for renewing my faith in the Christian pathway, through Creation Spirituality. I also want to tell you how much I enjoyed your video teaching that you shared recently during the Lions Roar Summit. I’ve learnt so much as well as healed and reconciled many things within myself and my own souls journey; through your writings and especially through these DM’s. You’ve led me to discovering the lineage of mystics, that I feel I am a part of. I’m truly grateful for the blessings I have received.

    I hope that in some small way, that my contributing to these DM’s through my comments… which is one way I practice, creatively collaborating with others, within community… adds something beautiful to the recovery, renewal and nurturance of all that which is sacred. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

  2. Avatar

    At Creation Spirituality Daily Meditation with you Matt the feast days are always Truly a feast – essential nourishnent for the journey . The journey of returning Home. Home Integrating the fragments in ourselves, Home Healing the sounds in our human Communities and polarizations and War with each other and coming Home to our Healing with the Earth, our sacred Mother source, Ground of being, fragile Living body of Gaia from whom we have become separated. Deep bow and great-fullness and sacred foolness for your profound Wisdom , oh friend, Brother, sage, and fellow earthling – paloma pavel with Carl anthony at Earth house center and Co Creator with Diocese of California «Sacred Earth: growing Beloved community» webcast series and seed Sower with Anne Herbert of «Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty»

  3. Avatar

    Matthew, I also want to compliment you on your contribution to the Lions Roar Summit. You present a wealth of new material for me to investigage. Being a student of non dualism and an avid reader of Thomas Merton I was very pleased to also hear of your appreciation of Merton. While I am in no measure comparing myself to Merton I do want to share my own experience of some 15 years ago while I was sitting, in my truck, in a Target shopping mall lot waiting for people in the crosswalk. I very suddenly saw all those people as beings of light particles in a vast spaciousness. It was an inexplicable joy and it was perfect. I don’t think the experience lasted long but it has stayed with me all this time. Well, I put it aside for quite awhile and until I came to non dualism and the works of the great teachers I didn’t understand what had happened for me. Isn’t it funny though how these experiences transpire under the most mundane conditions and, always, by surprise when we are not even looking or expecting anything ? Thank you for your continued wisdom,
    Best Regards, Susan

  4. Avatar

    Yes, Jeanette, your contributions are deep and real and multiple, I learn from them and I’m sure other readers do as well. I respect the journey you are on and your obvious devotion to it. I cannot reply to many of the Comments because I am just too busy with the DM and other tasks in my life, but often I have wanted to! To many of your comments and that of others as well. Carry on! I am glad we are on this journey together.

  5. Avatar

    Yes, I feel that recovering the sacredness of Mother Earth and the Cosmos includes recovering the sacredness of our multidimensionality of our nonphysical Cosmos within us also as essential in renewing spirituality in our modern world….

  6. Avatar

    Ancient Ireland managed to preserve the electric, vivid living-ness of its spirituality, and in doing so kept its version of Christianity from being flattened and deadened with dualistic intellectualism.

    In their poetry and incantations, words opened up into the betwixt-and-between, the shimmering of the sacred, living MORE, of divine energy that crackles and leaps, shouts and celebrates, energy that whispers in secret corners and kisses the soul, energy that wraps and heals and comforts, energy that explodes and creates stars and spiderwebs, whales and oaks and wheat and mother’s milk. Words were potent with all the living energy of G*d and the sacred cosmos that they conjured into awareness. That is the Living energy in Mysticism.

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  7. Avatar

    Reading Newell’s book gave me a whole new way of looking at Pelagius, Scotus and others than I had been taught in my Catholic education. I liked Newell’s writings much better.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Elaine, In the first three hundred years of the Church, they had numerous Councils defining what real Christians were SUPPOSE to believe! Arius however, said that the Father created the Son, and therefore they were not co-eternal–and whole countries at one time were Arian back then. Then when Pelagius came along he denied original sin (like someone else I know) and both Arius and Pelagius were ousted by the Church as countless others were and continue to be as manifested in Matthew himself. Orthodoxy should be called Orthoidolatry. Its no wonder that when I went through RCIA one of the first topics we covered were the major heresies–because it was through working through these, they were able to define THE faith, but it allowed for no individuality, creativity, or change…

  8. Avatar

    Please excuse this niggle: The Celtic cross in the photograph shows the cross “overlaying” the circle, not the circle overlaying the cross. I like the spiritual speculation about the blending of pagan sun worship and Christian doctrine. I’m not a scholar of either, just observing the picture and respecting the use of words. I also respect the worship of pagans, God’s children like the faithful of all religions or just those who are awed by nature.

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