I’ve been corresponding with a priest of the Celtic Christian Church about the relationship between mainstream Christian mysticism (of the Neoplatonic/Benedictine/Carmelite variety) and the indigenous spirituality of the Celtic lands. It’s been a great little conversation so far, and hopefully it will provide grist for the future blogging mill. But for now, I just want to share a little daydream I indulged in before mass this evening:
Imagine, if you will, a faith community centered on the Celtic tradition. Celtic spirituality is by nature earthy, joyful, optimistic, humorous, and — at least at times — raucous and rowdy, if not downright ecstatic. If you don’t believe me, listen to a top-flight Celtic band, like Altan, the Tannahill Weavers, Solas, or Capercaillie. Okay: imagine that kind of spirit (and music) at a Eucharistic gathering. Sure, there could be contemplative space, with music like “Be Thou My Vision” or “Morning Has Broken” to integrate Celtic sensibility and sacramental worship. But what if the music ministry at a gathering like this consisted of a four piece band: acoustic guitar, fiddle, flute/pennywhistle/pipes, and bodhran? What if, at appropriate moments (during the offertory, and after communion) the worship experience included a rip-snorting Irish jig or Scottish reel? Yes, this could lead to dancing. Dancing during the Eucharist? You bet!
During my Brigid’s Well days as a neopagan, I always thought that druidic ritual ought to include heavy doses of authentic Celtic music — not wispy new age melodies (à la Enya) or generic folk music with a Celtic twist (à la Emerald Rose), but the real thing: traditional jigs, reels and strathspeys, performed by musicians who understand that good music and good mysticism go together well, like a bodhran and a stick. Brigid’s Well never quite pulled this off, even though we had some great musicians (like Gwen Knighton and Julia McPeek) participate. Well, I’m not a pagan anymore and so I’m not too worried about how to create an ideal druid ritual.
But I’m still interested in Celtic spirituality, and now that I’ve returned to the church, I’d love to see authentically Celtic forms of worship. And it seems to me that rousing music combined with a heartfelt worship experience might be just the way to go.