Monday, November 19, 2012

water from an ancient well

Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntosh on Amazon

water from an ancient well coverFor quite some time the ancient and more contemporary insights of Celtic spirituality have interested me. I've done some reading that's specifically in the field, and perused other books that reference and apply those understandings. However, Kenneth McIntosh's Water from an Ancient Well is a kind of mini-encyclopedia or maybe a survey that provides stories, theology, and applications in each chapter, as well as an excellent sense of the earthbound, heaven-oriented way of living together (and occasionally in solitude) that continues developing and spreading. One thinks of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but Celtic geography has ranged much further to France, Spain, Switzerland and Germany; the author reminded me how I've explained to more than one of my classes the Galatian church the Apostle Paul addressed was an ethnic church, a gathering of Celts or Gauls in diaspora. What a beautifully, and fully integrated way of life this can be, with little or no separation between divine and mundane, sacred and secular!

Celtic Saints' heartfelt devotion to Jesus of Nazareth has been passionately recorded in their poetry and prose; in return, some people, especially Roman Catholic, have their own devotion to a particular saint: Patrick and Brigid are popular choices. A draught from this "Ancient Well" is a drink of trinitarian Christianity, but no way does it exclude incorporating other viewpoints and perspectives. There are Celtic knots, tapestries and intricately ornate metal jewelry, all of which are familiar in this 21st century. How many churches have – how few churches do not display? – a Celtic cross that superimposes the cruciform symbol of the Incarnate Son upon a radiant disk of the created sun? Similar to Eastern Church bodies, Celtic theology interprets Jesus Christ's atonement with a Christus Victor model, rather than one of other possibilities Western Christians have read into scripture.

Titles of the fifteen chapters:
1. Seeking Ancient Wells: The Celts and Their World
2. The Spiritual Romance: In Love with Christ
3. Be Thou My Vision: God in the Everyday
4. The Crux of Life: The Meanings of the Cross
5. Streams in the Desert: The Divine Presence in Solitude
6. Green Martyrs: Spiritual Fitness
7. Every Bush Aflame: God Revealed in Nature
8. Furred and Feathered Neighbors: Creatures of Grace
9. Water into Wine: Signs and Wonders
10. Beings of Light and Darkness: Angels and Demons
11. Circles of Strength: Community
12. Living Words: Scripture
13. Gifts of the Imagination: The Arts
14. Christ in Neighbor and Stranger: Hospitality
15. Uncharted Seas: Life’s Pilgrimage

McIntosh writes in an easy-going, conversational style, as if we were sitting around a warm fire listening to him talk about these topics. Approximately a dozen finely executed black and white line drawings help illustrate the author's narrative; endnotes reference the chapter as well as providing a wealth of further reading. Fourteen 2-column pages of index topics help demonstrate how complete this book is. I did say it amounts to a mini-encyclopedia, or it could be introductory Celtic Spirituality 101; even if you're already very familiar with the subject, this would be an excellent book to keep on your bookshelf.

my amazon review: celtic spirituality survey

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