Tag Archives: Celtic

Tammie Grimm ~ The Celtic Cross

With its distinctive orb that surrounds the intersecting arms that form the right angles of the Latin cross, most of us recognize the shape and design of the traditional Celtic cross. No matter our level of familiarity with the prayers, traditions and other customs of the medieval Celtic Christians, the iconic artwork of the cross is no ancient relic relegated to history. Numerous high standing crosses of stone that first began to dot the landscape of the British Isles in the 4th and 5th century still remain. But today the Celtic cross is more likely to be worn as jewelry or tattoo art than to be constructed as a visible landmark for all in the vicinity to guide their steps and judge their distance from one place to another.

As popular and distinctive as it might be, the origins of the Celtic cross are not necessarily exclusively Celtic. The ring that gives the cross its distinctive flair might have been first used as arches designed to support or stabilize intersecting beams. There are some who claim that, rather than a crucifix, the Celtic cross depicts a crown resting on the cross on which the prince of glory died. Or, as legend has it, it might have been a pagan symbol for the moon goddess that St. Patrick superimposed with a Latin cross, thus uniting two symbols that allowed him to evangelize more effectively. Regardless of how it came to be, the meanings inherent in the symbolism of Celtic crosses are almost as varied as the numerous knot-works and patterns that often emboss them.

For some, the circle symbolizes eternity, whether it be attributed to God, God’s love or the mystery of God. Others believe the circle highlights the eternal mystery of how the crucifixion and resurrection are united together, or the endless nature of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross. Some even believe the circle represents the world and its creation that is merged with the crucifixion of Christ, thus merging the two into one symbol that represents life, hope and resurrection.

While some Celtic crosses are plain without any inscribed artwork, many Celtic crosses are adorned with elaborate knot work that is typically raised from the stone, metal or wood from which the cross is made. Gemstones or contrasting metals might be used in jewelry as well. Celtic knot work has always been a mainstay of the cross, though many medieval high crosses depict stories of the Christian faith. The artwork can be as plain or as simple as a Triquetra (the three interwoven leaves representing the Trinity) or a much more intricate weaving that mesmerizes in its seemingly endless complexity. Still, the design never meanders aimlessly or so convoluted that it jumbles and snarls. Always, the Celtic knots and strands twist and braid a pattern that is beautiful and elegant, at once demonstrating the complexity of God’s creativity and the simplicity or unity that marks all things as God’s creation.

For believers of any time or generation, the Celtic cross is a beloved symbol that captures our imagination and evokes the mystery and love that lies at the heart of the Christian faith. And after all, that is as it should be, for what is Christianity without the cross?

May the cross of the crucifixion tree
Upon the wounded back of Christ
Deliver me from distress,
From death and from spells.

The cross of Christ without fault,
All outstretched towards me;
O God, bless to me my lot.
Before my going out.

What harm soever may be therein
May I not take thence,
For the sake of Christ the guileless,
For the sake of the King of power.

In the name of the King of life,
In the name of the Christ of love,
In the name of the Holy Spirit,
The Triune of my strength.


Tammie Grimm ~ The Work of Our Hands: Celtic Christianity & the Way of Wesley

I am “old school.” I freely admit it. When it comes to writing, whether it be drafting a letter or revising a doctoral thesis (and I have done both in the last year) I would rather sit down with paper and pencil than a laptop or tablet. Turns out, studies indicate, I am not alone; there is something about the mind-body connection that allows for deeper processing of thought and concept. That is important for me when it comes to the creation of thought and presentation of idea, but I am not a complete throwback. There are times when sitting down and pounding out my thoughts through my fingers on the keyboard allows me to keep pace with the flow of thoughts in my brain and not to be slowed down by them as my hand struggles to keep up. When it came to making minor edits in my thesis, I was ever so grateful my doctoral thesis is stored in a cloud and could easily be corrected with a few keystrokes. So my preference for drafting with pen and paper does not mean I do not appreciate the ease and convenience of electronic writing. I suppose that makes me a “wryter”—a hybrid of writer and typist.

Writing and typing are both physical acts; words are generated onto a page. Research suggests that writing by hand allows a person to do analysis and concept mapping* that is foregone in the action of typing when the emphasis is on copying and capturing words verbatim in a streamline form. In other words, writing by hand allows our brains to operate with generative ability that is stifled when it comes to typing through a keyboard. There is something about using our hands that allows us to create in ways that are important to how we think, reason, and function as human beings.

The Celtic tradition reflects this integration of mind, body and soul. Whether it be the kneading of bread, the weaving of cloth, the shearing of sheep or the plowing of fields, there is a mind and body synergy that allows the worker to engage the craft in such a way that their work becomes a prayer. They found a richness in the rhythms of their lives as the patterns of their daily life and work formed prayers. As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, these prayers accompanied the physical labor that resulted in a lifestyle in which people sought to cooperate with God in the work that they did. A prayer the farmer offered for his livestock as he set them afield was not for his physical stamina to do the chore, but sought the welfare and protection of his herd:

Pastures smooth, long, and spreading,
Grassy meads neath your feet,
The friendship of God the Son to bring you home
To the field of the fountains,
     Field of the fountains.

Closed be every pit to you,
Smoothed be every knoll to you,
Cosy every exposure to you,
Beside the cold mountain,
     Beside the cold mountain.

The care of Peter and of Paul,
The care of James and of John,
The care of Bride fair and of Mary Virgin,
To meet you and tend you,
     Oh! the care of all the band
     To protect you and to strengthen you.

The farmer understood that his cattle, his sheep, his goats, his crops depended upon more than the elements and his steadfast caretaking, they depended on the protection of the One who created them, the Triune God of the universe. He knew that his family’s welfare depended upon a successful and bountiful harvest whether his fields helped stock the stalls of the butcher, the weaver, the tailor or the baker.

Considering the ways of the Celtic Christian is not some nostalgia for old ways of doing things, nor is it meant to demean our contemporary culture and the modern conveniences that come with it. Electronic innovation allow us to enjoy hands-free mobile devices and voice-activated technologies in every space of our lives. But in the temptation to reach new high scoring quotas to one-up our competition, whether they be adversaries or friends, many of us engage in mindless busy work at the expense of our souls. Though Dilbert, Office Space and The Office are designed to entertain us and make us laugh, how many of us truly ask for God’s help in our daily work—and not just as a desperate prayer to get us through a mandatory meeting or a looming deadline?  How many of us have a definitive line that separates our work and career from our personal life, rarely mixing the two together? I wonder if, as sophisticated twenty-first century people, we really envision our lives as contributing to a tapestry that is woven together and endlessly creative as opposed to a cog in a machine that endlessly spins and turns until enough widgets have been produced.

Many prayers of the Celtic Christian sought God’s blessing upon their labour. Each prayer, whether it was said by the woman who started the fire or churned the butter, or the man who laid the bricks or tended the fields, were a unique expression of the Psalmist who prays, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:7). Collectively, their prayers are mindful that their work is not theirs alone but that their work is given to them by God so that they might contribute back to the whole of creation.

No doubt, the modern day labor force is varied and defies simple classification no matter what color collar that represents a chosen field. It is highly unlikely that one single Celtic prayer will necessarily encompass all the possible workplaces we might inhabit. But it is entering into and going about our daily work that draws us together. The following Celtic prayer, traditionally said upon rising in the morning, elaborates the cry of the Psalmist and reminds the worker that their work is done in the presence of God and for the whole of creation. How might it change your work day if prayed before you started your shift? Before you entered that meeting? Before you met with that client? Before you tackled a mountain of paperwork?

Let us go forth,
In the goodness of our merciful Father,
In the gentleness of our brother Jesus,
In the radiance of his Holy Spirit,
In the faith of the apostles,
In the joyful praise of the angels,
In the holiness of the saints,
In the courage of the martyrs.

Let us go forth,
In the wisdom of our all-seeing Father,
In the patience of our all-loving brother,
In the truth of our all-knowing Spirit,
In the learning of the apostles,
In the gracious guidance of the angels,
In the patience of the saints,
In the self-control of the martyrs,

Such is the path for all servants of Christ,
The path from death to life.


*[1] Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking” Psychological Science 25, April 23, 2014: 1159-1168.

Celtic Clues to Feeding Body and Soul

“What’s for dinner?” It might be the most dreaded daily question an adult can be asked. If only there was a simple answer that did not hinge on a barrage of underlying questions: Who’s making dinner? What time are we eating? How many for dinner? Will there be any dislikes or allergies represented at the table? What’s in the cupboard? Is the shopping done? What will be done with leftovers? What’s quick and easy to make? How long since we had that meal? Should we do take-out? And after all the responses are in and the meal is hopefully declared a success, the questions are all relevant again the next day and the next and the next. Menu planning, shopping and meal prep require a tenacity that can try even the most creative and skilled among us.

Enter the meal delivery kit or boxed meal services. Begun in Sweden in 2008, companies such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Purple Carrot don’t just answer the age-old question but deliver fresh ingredients and detailed recipes to the subscriber’s kitchen door each week. All that is needed is dinner preparation, or as one company calls itself, Just Add Cooking. Designed for working couples and their households, food industry consultants predict this booming market has the potential to become a five billion dollar business before the decade’s end.

What’s the attraction? I asked a few friends who are subscribers, “why go with the meal service and not just do take-out?” Their answers were revealing. Beyond the simplicity of having the decision made about menus and the convenience of having everything delivered with no worries about how to use leftover exotic ingredients is the fun, enjoyment and satisfaction gained from preparing and eating a home-cooked meal. Though often tired at the end of a long work day, people reported that they found satisfaction in sharpening – and in several cases, learning – culinary skills in order to make the labeled and pre-measured ingredients become a tasty, nutritious meal for the whole family. And even though food prep could sometimes be longer than if they made a standby from their normal rotation of meals, they found the preparation and cooking to be valuable time spent with their spouse and families. What had been a thankless job was something they now found enjoyable thanks to their meal delivery service.

But can satisfaction with menu-planning and food preparation only be found through a meal delivery service? Of course not. Though for many families already subject to the demands of extended work hours, exhausting commutes and the conflicting competing schedules of all the various family members, the idea of cooking together, let alone sitting down to eat as a family is more likely to be a well-intentioned thought than an actual lived event.

I doubt the medieval Celtic woman found daily meal preparation to be a complete joy that she eagerly looked forward to either. But for her, and yes, I am being gender-specific per the time period, food preparation constituted much of her regular work. Bread and butter weren’t staples she conveniently picked up at the market, but laborious, time consuming tasks that required her regular attention if she was going to provide the basics for her family. Baking the bread not only required kneading and proofing the dough for each individual loaf, but also keeping the starter from going rancid to provide the family with a regular supply of bread. Churning the butter meant an hour or two of physical labor that had been preceded by carefully skimming the cream off the milk which sat for a day or two previously in order to separate. She had to be as strategic as any of her contemporary equivalents are today—just at very different tasks, ones we often consider to be old-fashioned and obsolete as a result of technological advances.

But how did she do it without losing her religion?

By understanding her chores as part of the wholeness and fabric of life. Specifically, by inviting God to be a part of her daily work. She understood her efforts provided the essential food and nourishment on which her family depended and she asked God’s blessing upon it. The sign of the cross was slashed into the top of bread loaves and a traditional prayer that accompanied her butter churning chore actually sought its success so she might help sustain those less fortunate, as represented by St Peter in the following refrain:

Come butter come

Come butter come

Peter stands at the gate

Waiting for a buttered cake

The plea and blessing she sought from God wasn’t just hers alone. Guests and visitors who arrived to a home in which the daily chores were being tended greeted their hosts with the Gaelic blessing Bail o Dhia which translates to, ‘God’s blessing on the work!’ The declaration of such a blessing expressed the implicit knowledge that the monotonous backbreaking work was not simply the laborer’s alone but a joint effort blessed by God upon which all of society depended. Daily food preparation was streamlined into the weekly chores that made up everyday life.

Inviting God into her work wasn’t some magical incantation that made the work any less onerous, mundane or exhausting. But inviting God’s blessing and receiving the encouragement of others kept her tasks in perspective – it was done for the glory of God, as an act of love for God that showed God’s love to others. How many of us have that kind of awareness today when we face the daily task of dinner preparation? Or are we blinded from seeing how we participate in the greater good for all, simply because we are confounded and frustrated in figuring out what to serve our own families for dinner?

Despite the fact that most of contemporary society is freed from the backbreaking daily chores of food growth, harvest, storage and food preparation, there is a deep disconnection we have from our food and the source that provides it. Food is an easily accessible resource, stocked on shelves in grocery stores with plenty of reserves in warehouses ready to re-fill the shelves even before they are fully emptied. We take food for granted and our frustration with daily dinner prep might stem from the fact that we have too much choice. We want things made simple—but not so simple we must give up the conveniences of modern life.

Ultimately, I believe, we yearn for the connection experienced by early Celtic Christians: to their food, to its sources and to God who is the source of all food and nourishment—physical and spiritual.

So is it necessary to subscribe to a meal kit delivery system to understand the many connections and the community that goes into preparing our meals? No – though for some families, it is a step towards simplicity and in coming to a greater awareness that the meal they are able to make and enjoy with their family is because someone has helped them prep the meal. Regardless of whether your meal is made from scratch or assembled with some pre-made ingredients, it can be an eye-opening exercise for the whole family to consider the preparation that has gone into making the food on the dinner plate.

Being mindful our of meal and its greater purpose is just one initial step to recapturing the spirit of Celtic Christianity in our cooking and dining. Retrieving the practice of saying grace before each meal is a simple and concrete way of understanding the many ways in which we are nourished at mealtime. One advantage to keeping a prayer book with short simple graces handy at the table is that it allows anyone, even a guest, to choose a grace to say before the meal. Thanking God for the hands that have helped make the meal and to bless those who receive it, we begin to practice our awareness of just how far our dinner table extends. And as a recent video celebrating the 150 years of confederation of Canada suggests, overcoming the challenges of eating dinner in our insular homes might be worth it as we begin to know our neighbors and enjoy the community with which God has surrounded us.

Dinnertime dilemmas will not likely go away anytime soon, but practicing an awareness of how God has blessed us and intends us to bless others might be one way in helping make a thankless job something for which we are truly thankful.

A Traditional Celtic Grace

Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat; and we pray you, O God, that it may be good for our body and soul; and if there is any poor creature hungry or thirsty walking the road, may God send them in to us so that we can share the food with them, just as Christ shares His gifts with all of us.  Amen. 


Resources for Saying Grace:

Blease, Kathleen. Mealtime Blessings: Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations for Saying Grace. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012.

Kelly, Marcia M and Jack Kelly. 100 Graces: Mealtime Blessings Harmony Publishing, 1997.

McElwain, Sarah. Saying Grace: Blessings for the Family Table. Chronicle Books, 2003.

Faith and Worship http://www.faithandworship.com/Celtic_Blessings_and_Prayers.htm

Daily Prayer Ministries http://dailyprayer.us/before_meals_prayer.php

Living Prayers: Contemporary Prayers for Today http://www.living-prayers.com/events/ prayer_for_food.html


Featured image courtesy Vicky Ng on Unsplash.

Tammie Grimm ~ A Flame of Love: Celtic Christianity Within Reach


This post is part of a series on integrating the values and practices of Celtic Christianity into our lives.

On a cold winter’s evening, whether to toast marshmallows, chat with friends or curl up and read a book, many of us might enjoy the opportunity to cozy up to a brightly burning fire in the hearth. But how many of us depend upon a fireplace—excepting in dire emergencies—to heat up our homes? The reality is, despite whatever scouting skills may still be lurking in your back pocket, most of us need only rely on a switch or a button to raise the temperature on the thermostat. And those of us with smart phone and security cameras can adjust our homes as needed from remote locations. With effortless ease, our homes are kept comfortable with the flick of our wrist or the point of our finger.

Not so the medieval Celtic woman. She had to be skilled in the art of fire tending: how to keep the fire from smoldering and filling the house with smoke, yet not use too much peat as to waste the precious resource that had been cut from the bogs months before and dragged to the home where it dried before burning. Physical labor, often dusty and dirty work, was also necessary—to haul the peat, shovel the cinders and keep the flue clean and safe from chimney fires. The fire she lit each morning in the hearth of her home was the fire she depended on to heat the home, cook her family’s food, and be a ready source of flame to ignite a splint that would light a trimmed wick from which to see; the fire depended upon how well she “smoored” or banked down the fire the previous night. In the midst of this manual labor, a prayer to the Trinity such as the following accompanied the nightly ritual which involved spreading embers into a raised heap before it was divided into three sections on which peat was laid.

The sacred Three

To save,

To shield,

To surround,

The hearth,

The house,

The household,

This eve,

This night,

Oh! this eve,

This night,

And every night,

Each single night. Amen.

The next morning, as she stirred the ashes and coaxed a flame from the coals, she prayed again. And just as she prayed the evening before, her prayer was more than a simple wish for the fire to light; it was a prayer that her day’s labor would be guided by the one who is the source of all Light.

I will kindle my fire this morning,
in the presence of the holy angels of heaven,
in the presence of Ariel of the loveliest form,
in the presence of Uriel of the myriad charms,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror, of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.

God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
to the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,

To the Name that is highest of all,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the name that is highest of all.

I wonder how many of us pray when we adjust the thermostat? Sure, we may pray the furnace keeps heating and the lights stay on as we prepare for an ice storm, blizzard or other wicked weather. And the exclamation, “Thank God!” when power has been restored after a power outage is not exactly the prayer of gratitude to which I refer.

Do we regularly stop and consider all the ways in which God is present in our lives and has provided so our homes have electricity, power and running water? Do we pray as diligently and as intentionally as the Celtic woman’s kindling prayer for the basics of life? I confess I do not, and I am willing to wager that I am not alone. I suspect one reason we do not pray for the utilities that supply our homes is that we have come to expect them as a consequence of modern-day first-world living.

And underlying our expectation that electricity, heat and hot water are effortlessly a part of contemporary life is our very disassociation from the basic necessities of life and the constant need to attend to them. Unlike the fire in the fireplace or the wick in the oil lamp, our modern-day conveniences do not require the regular tending – except to pay our monthly bills in a timely manner.

But if we pay attention to the Celtic woman’s kindling prayer, we realize what she prays for is more than a comfortable home. She asks God to kindle a flame of love within her heart that will reach out beyond herself to include her neighbors. As she attends to the basic needs of her home, she is also looking beyond her family to take care of the needs of others. Her kindling prayer reflects the nature of the Triune Godhead who is whole, complete and integrated as its own self, yet bothers to invite humanity to share in the gift of divine love.

The kindling prayer teaches us that once ignited, the flame of love needs regular tending. Our relationship with God and our relationship with others is not an on-again, off-again event that can be controlled by the flip of a switch or the turn of a spigot.

Our cues from the kindling prayers invite us to attend to the relationships that sustain us, to understand we depend upon God and one another. In many respects, the kindling prayer reminds us that relationship is as basic a necessity to life as heat and light. The kindling prayer considers the plight of our neighbor, both the ones we like and the ones we do not. How many of us know all the neighbors on our block? In our apartment complex? For too many of us, it is not until the power goes out and stays out for more than a few hours that neighbors begin to pool their resources and check in on one another. And despite the inconvenience of doing without power for a day or two, a sense of community can be cultivated and experienced as folks band together to survive the black-out. But once the power is restored, it is easy to lapse back into our homes and the creature comforts we enjoy in our private domain, neglecting to regularly attend to and nurture the community in which we live but have no part.

So what’s a twenty-first century person to do to capture the spirit of Celtic Christianity? Jettison the modern conveniences of life? Go live in a cabin in the woods? Could it be something as simple and as mindful as praying the kindling prayer? Can we be like the Celtic woman, as diligent and as intentional to check in on our neighbors even when there isn’t an emergency?

This week, I invite you to pray the kindling prayer as part of your morning routine and the evening ‘smooring’ prayer, intentionally placing yourself before God at least twice a day.

Don’t simply adjust the thermostat in your home—or even check it, especially since it might be pre-programmed—without asking God to ignite the flame of love within your heart for your neighbor.

Be willing to allow God to use you as kindling in your community, to spark a flame that attracts others to its glow and spread the Light of the world into the dark shadows that oppress your neighborhood.

May the God of peace bring peace to your home,

May the Son of peace bring peace to your home,
May the Spirit of peace bring peace to your home,

This day, this night and evermore. Amen.

Tammie Grimm ~ The Trinity: A Woven Mystery of Beauty

For my shield this day

A mighty power:
The Holy Trinity!

Affirming threeness,

Confessing oneness,
In the making of all

Through love…

The breastplate of St. Patrick features this refrain at both the beginning and the end of its poem. St. Patrick’s invocation of the Trinitarian Godhead—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is emblematic of Celtic Christianity. St. Patrick may be famously remembered for using the shamrock to explain the Trinity (even though his analogy and other ones are derided by the Irish twins  Donall and Conall on YouTube), but his attraction to Trinitarian language and symbolism is shared by many other Celts. What can be more holistic and integrated than to invoke the name of the Trinity, the fullness of God?  Addressing each member of the Godhead—the one who creates, the one who redeems and the ones who sustains—is a natural part of Celtic prayer, weaving each member into prayers, both the ones spoken in corporate worship or the ones prayed privately by individuals.

For many contemporary Christians, to pray in the Celtic tradition can seem very “Catholic,” especially modern-day converts who are taught a prayer has no real merit unless it includes the phrase “in the name of Jesus.” Truly, I have had more than one conversation with students about the efficacy of prayers I offer because I did not invoke that exact phrase! To which I have pointed out (as a previous professor pointed out to me once before) that to depend solely on this usage is to reduce the “power, power, wonderworking power in the blood” of Jesus and negate the fullness of the Trinity. There is power in the name of Jesus, but to cut it off from membership it shares with the the co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent persons of the creating Father and sustaining Holy Spirit is to ask Jesus to work with two hands tied behind his back. Sure, he can do it, but not in the fullness or totality that is the divine nature of God. After all, each member of the Godhead, the Father, Son, and Spirit, share equally in divinity, power, and love. All distinctive, yet participating so closely with one another and infused so deeply with one another, that they are one.  We might call it a divine dance of love in which each participant gives of their self to the others so wholly and completely that they live and act as one being. They are one entity. As a divine entity, they are complete and whole unto their self in no need of anything else. It needs nothing else. Not even humanity, not even the world.

God’s love is so complete in the Godhead that nothing else is needed. But, it is not all that God desires. God’s love desires to include more, not because God needs to, but because God wants to. God did not give into a whim in the act of creation.

Creation is the result of God deliberately acting out of love to share love with others beyond God’s self in the Trinity. Redemption is what God did in Jesus by deliberately acting out of love to rescue what rejected him but still desires to accept divine love and be saved. Sustenance is what God continually does to care for, guide and nurture persons in their ongoing relationship with God and one another—but never are these actions done apart from one another. Basic to Wesleyan understanding and theology is that the love of God flows through Jesus Christ to us by grace and in combination with Holy Spirit, and we are able to find new life and faith through Holy Spirit who sustains, comforts, and empowers us to offer ourselves to God through the work of Christ.

The Celtic understanding of the threeness that is oneness and the oneness that is threeness  is more than a celebration of the power of three. Sure, scoring hat-tricks in futball (think American soccer) and hockey are great, and getting a trifecta is special, but the Trinity is far more than the accidental occurrence of three particular events. The Trinity is the essence and nature of God, not only to be invoked in prayers, but symbolized in artwork.

The Triquetra, or Celtic knot, three leaves without beginning or end, is a Trinitarian symbol long associated with the Celts, but now popular in many other forums. With a circle entwined around it, the infinite mystery of God, without beginning and without end offers the artist and the viewer exquisite beauty that can be represented in infinite variations.

As predominant as the Trinity is within Celtic Christianity, Trinitarian thinking is not the exclusive purview of the Celts. John Wesley illustrated the entwined nature of the Trinity within Christianity when he preached, “knowledge of the Three-One God is interwoven in all true Christian faith with all vital religion” (On the Trinity 2:385). His prayers, his brother’s hymnody, the liturgy of the early Methodists—and even those who claim to be his modern-day descendants—seek the fullness and the richness of the Trinity in corporate worship.

Yet artwork, hymnody, liturgy and prayer are not the only ways the Trinity can be represented. To take another phrase from the Wesleys, Christian disciples are living, breathing “transcripts of the Trinity.” Created, redeemed and sustained by God, we are empowered by the Trinitarian God of the universe to be in relationship with the rest of creation—to share the infinite love of the Trinity with others. This requires relationship. And within that relationship there is cooperation with the divine, discipline by the divine, practice. It takes dedication, desire and commitment to participate with the divine actions of God in this world.

That is what it means to be a disciple of Christ: to be willing to dedicate ourselves to God, submit ourselves to Christ’s teaching, and be directed by the Holy Spirit in all that we do. And just as the Godhead is not comprised of a simple single deity, but lives in Trinitarian communion, we as God’s creation are meant for connection and community—to live with and among one another for the fullness, goodness and the advancement of God’s kingdom here on earth.

So what’s a contemporary Christian to do to recover the Celtic tradition of Trinitarian prayer?

As a way to begin, I suggest it is possible to think about the actions and events that occur in the ordinary everydayness of life and appeal to the Godhead in prayer.

In what ways do we create, whether it be making meals, making decisions about schedules, which bills must be paid, making judgments about whether your child needs correction or nurture? When do you find yourself being an intermediary, a conduit of communication for others, appealing on the behalf of a friend, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a co-worker to another? How are you seeking to sustain yourself as well as family members or friends, looking to guide others in their decision-making processes, to nurture yourself and the relationships that sustain you? Chances are, if you are like me, life and love are as complicated as they are simple. Any one action involves a host of motivations, needs and desires as we seek to act in faithful obedience to God and one another.

As you go about your week, consider the myriad actions and roles you play in your life. Consider how they intersect with one another and bring a fullness to your life. Ask God, in the fullness of the Trinity, to guide you, prompt you and create within you a life of fullness and wholeness that is integrated and reflects the goodness and glory of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For my shield this day

A mighty power:
The Holy Trinity!

Affirming threeness,

Confessing oneness,
In the making of all

Through love…

Tammie Grimm ~ Celtic Christianity and the Coloring Craze

Chances are, you or someone you know gave or received a coloring book for adults in the last year. With titles as catchy as “Color Me Stress Free” or “The Art of Relaxation,” the coloring craze has swept the nation. Whether the book contains images of floral gardens, mandalas or other graphic patterns, the idea behind coloring therapy is to find “inner peace” or your Zen through selecting a desired pencil and shading in a printed design.

Coloring reportedly helps reduce stress in adults as it requires the brain, nervous system and muscles to use fine motor skills and therefore engages the participant in a creative action. An added benefit is that it is a skill learned in childhood, so the simplicity of what was once work for a young child is now a pleasant pastime. Regardless of any nostalgia coloring may evoke, the action of coloring allows the mind to rest from the myriad of helter-skelter activities of modern-first-world-living that keep it occupied otherwise.

Together, the right brain and left brain coordinate in the simple repetitive action of moving the pencil to dapple, daub, dot, fleck, or steadily tint the page with pigmentation with infinitely creative possibilities. No matter how many copies of the same pre-printed image are made available, each person who sits down to color expresses their own creative autonomy with the colors they choose, the techniques they use and whether or not they chose to stay within or even create outside the lines.

I wonder if coloring hasn’t become our contemporary culture’s expressed need for connection and integration. Living in a society in which so much is mechanized and automated, we lose track of who we are, how we function and who we are meant to be as human beings. Think about it: for many of us, eating and drinking – a basic human necessity- is something we access through cardboard boxes and cellophane wrappers. Yes, it is convenient to use the drive-thru line to get our Starbucks or use an app to place our to-go order ahead of time to use the handy carry-out parking space at Applebee’s or Panera’s. Such conveniences and technological assists allow us to be super productive in our overcrowded schedule. Yet, whether we like it or not, a sense of alienation begins to creep into our lives, disconnecting us from a life of intentionality, a life of integration, a life of wholeness that is a hallmark of Celtic Christianity.

Celtic Christianity, through its prayers and practices, grounds participants in the fundamentals of who we are as human beings – creatures of God, our lives connected to the earth and related to the world – even the world beyond our tangible senses.

In similar ways, the act of coloring connects us in a fundamental way to who we are as human beings, unified creatures made in the image of God who created us. Our mind, heart, and will are united in creative endeavor and that prods our soul and awakens it into consciousness – integrating our whole being. Instead of continually living a distracted existence that imperceptibly fractures our sense of self and belonging in the world, coloring is a simple, easily accessed and a typically pleasant pastime for many. Coloring allows a person’s mind, heart, and energies to become focused and provides rest and rejuvenation from the rat race that otherwise consumes us.

No wonder coloring has become a fashionable entry point for prayer and meditation. But coloring is no substitution for living a life of intentionality and integrity that is Christian. Even coloring a series of Celtic knots and designs does not make one practiced in the ways of Celtic Christianity – ancient or contemporary. It might be a start, but it is only the initial steps of a lifelong and all-encompassing journey of intentional whole-life discipleship.

In a series of several posts, I plan to explore the heart of Celtic Christianity, what such a life of integration and integrity looks like for a contemporary Christian and why such a life is authentic to our Wesleyan heritage. Each post will consider aspects of everyday life that threaten to distract and distort us from living full lives that seek the sacred and find connection with the endlessly creative Triune God who created the universe.

For those of you interested in taking this journey with me, try your hand at coloring once or twice in the next week. It need not be a Celtic design, but if a Celtic knot will help inspire or ground you in this experience a few links to some free on-line artwork are provided below.





As you color, consider the things you notice about the activity…what sorts of things are conducive to coloring? What distracts you from coloring? Do you enjoy coloring with others or do you prefer doing it by yourself? There are no right or wrong answers, but taking stock of the activity may lead to further insights about what Celtic Christianity might look like in our contemporary culture.

Until then – may this traditional Celtic blessing accompany you on your journey and serve as a benediction.

May you have –

Walls for the wind

And a roof for the rain,

And drinks bedside the fire

Laughter to cheer you

And those you love near you,

And all that your heart may desire.

Tammie Grimm ~ Warming the Soul with Celtic Traditions

For as long as I can remember, my family has celebrated St. Patricks’ Day like many other Irish-American families: corn beef and cabbage, homemade Irish soda bread, green dye in everyone’s beverages all served on Mom’s best Irish linen tablecloth. Typically, the sound of The Chieftains or Tommy Makem and The Clancy Brothers can be heard on my parent’s stereo. Over the years, I’ve tried including The Pogues, The Waterboys and of course, U2. But tradition in my family runs strong – St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the complete without a rousing rendition of  “My Wild Irish Rose”and “O Danny Boy,” designed to bring a tear to your eye.

Early in my career as a school teacher, I was introduced to another saint commemorated in March: St. David. Like St. Patrick’s Day, there are associated traditions for St. David, and as a young school teacher with a new teaching assignment, I found myself carrying on another cultural tradition of sorts when I was conscripted by a friend and co-worker to make St. David Day cookies for our faculty colleagues. In preparation for St. David’s Day, we’d spend the last weekend of February making dozens and dozens and dozens of a little Welch biscuit so faculty members could literally fill their pockets with these addictive little morsels.  It was in discovering more about St. David and this new tradition I participated in that I also discovered more about St. Patrick and the rich tradition of Celtic Christianity.

Who St. Patrick is to the Irish, St. David is the Welsh. Both men were early Christian bishops who helped spread Christianity and converted Druids and other pagans throughout Ireland and Wales. Both are two of only a handful of Celtic saints, who are also recognized and canonized by Rome for their influence on the Christian faith. Celtic saints were the men and women of Ireland, Scotland and Wales who, whether they were of noble or peasant birth, lived a life dedicated to God, and sought with heart, body, mind and soul to share and express God’s love to others. Many Celtic saints are known only in their localized area – their holiness revered and cherished among the people who witnessed that the successive generations continue to benefit from the life of the saint who once lived there. Whereas the status of Catholic saints of the Roman church is conferred by a far-away pope after a lengthy documentation process that verified the saintly credentials of a person, Celtic sainthood is conferred by popular veneration.

Often times, particular Celtic saints may have legendary stories attributed to them. The famous Lorica of St. Patrick is attributed to an incident following Holy Saturday in 433 when Patrick kindled the paschal (Easter) fire on a hill across from Tara, the center of the country and seat of the Druid High King. Patrick’s fire undermined the high king’s authority and power, who, by virtue of their office, ritually lit bonfires, thereby symbolically claiming they were the givers of light and warmth. When summoned by the Druid king to what would likely be his execution, Patrick and his companions robed themselves in white and found miraculous protection in chanting the Irish hymn invoking God and heavenly protection from the “powers of corrupt and distorted powers of the world.” The tale does not describe the king’s reaction, but the resultant successful spread of Christianity throughout Ireland suggests he did not have much of a fight left in him after being thwarted by God’s miraculous protection.

A similar story is told of St. David, but instead, the subdued chieftain is credited to say, “the kindler of that fire shall excel in all powers and renown in every part that the smoke of his sacrifice has covered, even to the end of the world.”

But for all the miraculous stories and the supposed powers that rivals today’s superheroes, Celtic saints became saints because the community in which they lived recognized their life of holiness and relationship to God. Perhaps one reason there are so many Celtic saints is because they saw no separation between what was secular and religious – all of life was sacred, and therefore consecrated to God. It was intertwines, much like the famous knot work still popular today.

In the centuries before furnace units and central heating, Celtic women who kindled the day’s fire in their hearth didn’t just clear the night’s ashes, they prayed and asked God’s blessing upon the fire that would give their families heat and light throughout the day. The prayer underscores the understanding they shared with St. Patrick and St. David, that light and life was a gift from God.

This morning, as I kindle the fire upon my hearth, I pray the flame of God’s love may burn in my heart, and the heart of all I meet today.
I pray that no envy or malice, no hatred or fear, may smother the flame.   
I pray that indifference and apathy, contempt and pride, may not pour like cold water on the fire.
Instead, may the spark of God’s love light the love of my heart, that it may burn brightly throughout the day.
And may I warm those who are lonely, whose hearts are cold and lifeless, so that all may know the comfort of God’s love.

In our contemporary lives, when the light and heat of our homes can be programmed and controlled by remote from miles away by computer prompts, it takes a little imagination – or a power outage – for us to understand how present day humanity is still dependent upon the provisions of the earth – God’s creation – for our sustenance.

But understanding that God’s presence is infused into all of daily life like the Celtic saints of old did does not require we heat our homes with peat dug from a bog. Spiritual sight to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in all things comes with practice as we avail ourselves of divine grace. Like the Psalmist who was content “to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord” (Ps. 84:10), may we also embody holy lives and open the doors of heaven, pointing the way to God for others.

Kimberly Reisman ~ The Strong Name of the Trinity

I’ve got a lot of Irish in me. Lots of Malone’s & Patrick’s and Lilly’s dot my family tree. Plus a good deal of English and even some Native American – two of my great grandmothers on my dad’s side were Choctaw.

It also draws me to Celtic spirituality. A while back I used a book, A Song for Every Morning by John Davies for my devotional time. The subtitle is Dedication and Defiance with the St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I’m thinking it was the Celtic influence that caught my eye when I bought the book, but it may have been that I’m just attracted to anything that has the words dedication and defiance in the subtitle.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a wonderful morning prayer. It was probably written about 300 years after St. Patrick’s time but no matter. It’s powerful no matter who wrote it or when. Soon we’ll be celebrating Trinity Sunday, so this prayer feels timely; but that very timeliness is unfortunate in a way; because this is a prayer that should start our days far more often than on a single Sunday.

Translated from the Irish the first stanza reads:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the Threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

In the early part of the 20th century it was put into hymn form:

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

Understanding the Trinity isn’t very easy. A little over two months ago Phil Tallon lamented that we don’t focus on the Trinity more than we do. He asserted – and I think he’s right – that if we thought about it more, it might not be such a confusing concept.

Yet, despite my (and Phil’s) desire to explore the Trinity more often, it remains difficult for most people and it’s definitely not something we start off with when we think about our faith. We usually add it on at the end, like a bow on a present after it’s wrapped – after we’ve talked about God as our creator and Jesus as our redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as our sustainer, we try to sum everything up by referring to the Trinity. In my mind, that just seems to make it all the more confusing.

A Celtic understanding of the spirituality the Trinity on the other hand isn’t as much a problem as it is a blessing. I like that. Not that it’s going to solve the whole mystery – why would we ever think our minds are big enough to get around the whole God thing anyway? Anyone who thinks they can give a complete description of God is either unbelievably arrogant or delusional. But the symbol of the Trinity hints at something wonderful. I like where the threeness in oneness takes me.

The problem for me is that our culture seems to be all about polarities. Everything comes in twos and each one is usually the polar opposite of the other. Or at least that’s what the culture says – male/female – young/old – rich/poor – liberal/conservative – extravert/introvert. If we don’t fit on one side or the other we at least have to find someway to fit on the spectrum in between.

But maybe life isn’t all about polarities. Maybe things come in threes? There’s space in threes. Instead of a line with two points, maybe we should think about triangles with three points. Maybe it’s not about locating yourself on a line between two opposites but about moving around a triangle.

In the Bible, the meaning of the names Joshua and Jesus is “Savior.” Davies points out that the underlying idea of savior is “one who gives space.” I don’t know how you feel about that, but it resonates with my spirit. I can bind myself to a God who’s spacious, who is a space-maker.

Early in my ministry I was told that I was “gender confused.” You can imagine how that rocked my world. What prompted the comment was that I was a woman going into a “man’s” field – ministry. The person who said this thought it was odd that I showed so many “male” traits; yet, was so “feminine” at the same time. Apparently the fact that I love to wear nail polish, am a sucker for the latest fashion, and can’t pass a shoe store without being sorely tempted didn’t jive with my assertiveness, confidence and tendency to move into roles of leadership – or so I was told.

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity, the Three in One and One in Three – the space-maker who is the source of my freedom, the one who empowers me to defy the forces that seek to restrict me to unbending characterizations or rigid roles.

Yet even as I bind myself to this God, I have to stay watchful and alert. It is easy to become complicit with and conformed to our culture. As Christ followers we are called to stand in opposition to such conformity. If it is wrong, we’ve got to stand in defiance.

But our spirituality can’t always be about opposition. Opposition isn’t nourishing in the long run. That’s the blessing of our spacious Three in One and One in Three. It may be mystery. It may only hint at a way of understanding God. But it’s a beautiful hint, a blessing of a mystery. A space-making understanding that leaves room for the divine yes.