The Celtic Cross and Creation
Chris Ellis

Last Wednesday I asked you to think about the cross. More specifically, I  asked you to think about the Celtic Cross. Take a moment and think back. Compared to what we normally think of as a cross, what’s different about this one? What’s the same? Does it evoke any feelings in you? Did you notice its height? Did you notice the orb near the top? Or the inscribing along the front, back and sides?

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I’m not an expert in Celtic Christianity, but my friend Chris Fillingham is. He’ll be joining us on our pilgrimage to Scotland, if the current pandemic allows it. I’ve borrowed heavily from his recent dissertation.

The massive stone crosses, twelve to fifteen feet in height, date from the mid 8th to mid 11the centuries. Many have scenes from the little book (scripture) carved on one side and scenes from the big book (creation) carved on the other. Just as the ancient Celtic people did not worship in buildings, these outdoor crosses likely marked places for communal worship out in the great cathedral of earth, sea and sky.

The most striking and consistent characteristic of these crosses is the orb circling the center. The circle is the archetypal symbol found across cultures and religions. It commonly evokes an awareness of the eternal, never beginning or ending as well as completeness. More concretely, it is an image of the earth, moon and sun. The encircled cross, towering on the Celtic landscape, invites the worshiper or pilgrim to recognize the eternal Christ, the logos, at the center of all creation.

“The encircled cross, towering on the Celtic landscape, invites the worshiper or pilgrim to recognize the eternal Christ, the logos, at the center of all creation.” The Celtic cross reminds us of the connection between God and his creation. It proclaims that creation itself is the sanctuary of God. Our religious sanctuaries are at best chapels onto the great cathedral of creation. This is very reassuring in a Covid-19 world. God is not limited to our physical structures – which we can’t even access right now. Our journey with God requires us to move closer to the earth, not farther from it.

Of course moving from the intellectual to the embodied is at the heart of the Celtic Christianity. Consider doing the following to to move from your mind to your body, to move from a more intellectual notion of God to an embodied experience of God 

  • Stand in a rainstorm and be enveloped by God’s nourishment. 

  • Warm yourself in the morning sun and feel the love of God.

  • Breathe in the scent of Gardenia and breathe the smell of God.

  • Feel the grit of dirt as you run it though your fingers and feel the medium of God, the artist

  • Listen to the Whip-poor-will in the evening and hear the sound of God.

Lastly,  consider this prayer from St. Patrick and the connection to the Trinity and creation.  

Our God, God of all men,
God of heaven and earth, sea and rivers,
God of sun and moon, of all the stars,
God of high mountains and of lowly valleys,
God over heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven.

He has a dwelling
in heaven and earth and sea
and in all things
that arc in them.

He inspires all things,
He quickens all things,
He is over all things,
He supports all things.

He makes the light of the sun to shine,
He surrounds the moon and stars, and
He has made wells in the arid earth, placed dry islands in the sea
and stars for the service of the greater luminaries.

He has a Son coeternal with Himself,
like to Himself;
not junior is Son to Father,
nor Father senior to the Son.

And the Holy Spirit
breathes in them;
not separate are Father
and Son and Holy Spirit.

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