Early Celtic tradition

Daily Reading for August 31 • Aiden, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 651

The most typical mark of the spirituality of the Celtic tradition apparent in Pelagius’ writings is his strong sense of the goodness of creation, in which the life of God can be glimpsed. Everywhere, he says, ‘narrow shafts of divine light pierce the veil that separates heaven from earth’. Because Pelagius saw God as present within all that has life, he understood Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as ourself to mean loving not only our human neighbour but all the life forms that surround us. ‘So when our love is directed towards an animal or even a tree,’ he wrote, ‘we are participating in the fullness of God’s love.’

Much of Pelagius’ teaching can be seen to stem from the Wisdom tradition of the Old Testament. He saw Christ as the fulfillment of that tradition, as the perfect exemplar of wisdom and humility. Again, his Celtic emphasis was not so much on religious belief and the doctrines of the Church as on living a life of wisdom; by that he meant such things as loving all people, friends and enemies alike, and doing good in return for evil.

From Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality by J. Philip Newell (Paulist Press, 1997).

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