Ten Elements of the Way of Life
In common with many communities within Christianity we have three vows. These are SIMPLICITY, CHASTITY, and OBEDIENCE which we understand as principles, not rules. SIMPLICITY means the willingness to be poor or rich for God according to his direction. We resist the temptations to be greedy or possessive, and we will not manipulate people or creation for our own ends. We are bold to use all we have for God without fear of possible poverty. CHASTITY means accepting and giving to God our whole being including our sexuality. We love all people as Christ commands, but the specific emotions and intimacy of sexual relations are expressed only in married life. Some will be given a gift of marriage, others a gift of celibacy. Both are to be equally respected and rejoiced in. We respect every other person as belonging to God, and we are available to them with generosity and openness. OBEDIENCE is the joyful abandonment of ourselves to God. The root of obedience is in attentive listening to God, because the longing of our hearts is to obey him. We honor those whom God has placed in authority over us, and we seek to recognize and respect the gifts, roles and authority of those who work alongside us in the community of the church.
1. Study and Application of the Celtic Christian Way
Daily Bible reading is at the heart of this Way of life. In addition, we study the history of the Celtic church, becoming familiar with such saints as Aidan, Bridget, Caedmon, Columba, Cuthbert, David, Hilda, Illtyd, Ninian, Oswald and Patrick. We remember their feast days and consider them as companions on our journeys of faith. We also bear in mind their strong link with the Desert Fathers and the Eastern Church, and wish to draw them also into our field of studies. It is essential that study is not understood solely as an intellectual exercise. All that we learn is not for the sake of study itself, but in order that what we learn should be lived. We encourage the Celtic practice of memorizing scriptures, and learning through the use of creative arts.
2. The Anmchara or “Soul Friend”
We meet with our Soul Friend at least twice a year. The Soul Friend gives guidance on two disciplines which the Order considers to be important: 1) Regular retreats: The outworking of this depends on the individual’s own lifestyle, but we encourage regular days of quiet and reflection, and also an annual retreat. 2) Pilgrimage: The Celtic Christians knew two kinds of pilgrimage. The most commonly known form of pilgrimage is to tread in the shoes of Christ or his saints in order to make contact with the many rich experiences which are to do with being a pilgrim. Such pilgrimages draw us into deeper devotion to our Lord Jesus and will inspire us to mission. In North America, members might seek out communities of prayer such as monastic foundations and retreat centers. However, the Order also recommends pilgrimage to sites of the Celtic Christian tradition in Europe, such as Iona and Lindisfarne, when possible. The second form of pilgrimage was peculiar to the Celtic Christians. Referred to sometimes as “White Martyrdom,” it entailed leaving home, family and land to become wanderers for Christ, peregrenati pro Christi. The most famous of such Celtic pilgrims was St. Columbanus who brought revival to the church in Gaul (France) and whose companions introduced the Gospel in parts of Central Europe. This form of pilgrimage is characterized by taking risks for God. Such risk taking can include taking new directions in worship, in ministry, in exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Soul Friends give guidance about different ways of making pilgrimage.
3. A Daily Rhythm Of Prayer, Work And Rest
Prayer: We commit ourselves to a regular discipline of prayer. If required, our Soul Friend can give us guidance about this. The Order recommends the use of daily office. The St. Aidan Trust provides offices which are suited to the Way. Ways of praying will vary according to temperament. The Order encourages a renewal of “all kinds of praying” (Ephesians 6:18), and we are therefore committed to discovering new ways of praying, from contemplative prayer to celebratory praise.
Work: We welcome work as a gift from God. Every member should engage in work, whether it be the routine activities of life or paid employment. Work motivated by values which conflict with the Way should be avoided as much as possible. In humility we accept what God gives us. If we have no employment and are not clear what our work is, then we seek the advice of our Soul Friend. We seek not to overwork, standing firm against all pressure to do so, because it robs us, others or God of the time we should give to them.
Rest: The hours of rest and recreation are as valuable as the hours of prayer and work. The Lord Jesus reminds us that “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;” (Mark 2:27) In the Scriptures even the land was given a Sabbath in the seventh year (Leviticus 25:3-5). The need for rest was built into creation (Genesis 2:1-3). A provision for this kind of holy rest should be part of each member’s Way of Life.
4. Intercessory Prayer
The Order affirms a world view that recognizes the reality of the supernatural and of spiritual warfare. As Cuthbert and others “stormed the gates of heaven,” so we also need to engage in and to become familiar with intercessory prayer. We do not project on to the supernatural what belongs to the sphere of human responsibility. We affirm national initiatives in intercessory prayer.
5. Simplicity of Lifestyle
We wish to “live simply that others may simply live,” to avoid any sense of judging one another; and God will make different demands of each of us. Our common responsibility is to regularly hold before God (and as appropriate to share with our Soul Friend) our income, our savings, our possessions, conscious that we are stewards, not possessors of these things, and making them available to him as he requires. A simple lifestyle means setting everything in the simple beauty of creation. Our belongings, activities and relationships are ordered in a way that liberates the spirit; we cut out those things that overload or clutter the spirit. We are not seeking a life of denial, for we thoroughly rejoice in the good things God gives us. Our clothes and furniture should reflect God-given features of our personalities. There is a time to feast and celebrate as well as to fast. Our commitment is to openness. We stand against the influence of the god of mammon in our society by our lifestyle, by our hospitality, by our intercession, and by regular and generous giving.
6. Care for and Affirmation of Creation
We affirm God’s creation as essentially, good, but spoiled by the effects of human sin and satanic evil. We therefore respect nature and are committed to seeing it cared for and restored. We aim to be ecologically aware, to pray for God’s creation and all his creatures, and to stand against all that would seek to violate or destroy them. We look upon creation as a sacrament, reflecting the glory of God, and seek to meet God through his creation, to bless it, and to celebrate it.
7. Wholeness Not Fragmentation
We renounce the spirit of self-sufficient autonomy, and are committed to a much more holistic approach which was the strength of the Celtic church. We encourage the ministry of Christian healing. We not only lay hands on the sick and pray for their healing, we also “lay hands” on every part of God’s world to bless it and recognize its right to wholeness in Christ.
8. Openness to the Wind of the Spirit
We allow God to take us where the Spirit wills, whether by gentle breeze or wild wind. The Celtic Christians had such faith in the leading of the Spirit that they gladly put to sea in small coracles, and went where the wind took them. We desire this kind of openness to the leading of the Spirit. Essential to this is a proper affirmation of the gift of prophecy. St. Paul urges us all to prophesy (I Corinthians 14:1). We honor this gift and encourage its proper and appropriate use. Learning to listen is a skill that has almost been lost, and which takes many years to acquire. We seek to cultivate an interior silence that recognizes and sets aside discordant voices, to respond to unexpected or disturbing promptings of God, to widen our horizons, to develop “the eye of the eagle” and see and hear God through his creation.
9. Unity and Community
As we study the history of the Celtic church we discover the unity we once had as one Christian people within the one universal church. We are constantly ashamed of our divisions, and we repent of the schisms that have occurred from the Reformation onwards. We look upon all fellow Christians not as “strangers but pilgrims together,” and we honor those in oversight in all denominations. We resist all gossip and destructive talk about our own denomination or others. We resist in our own lives things that damage the unity of Christ’s body, and will not do separately what is best done together.
The Celtic church was thoroughly indigenous to the people in a way that the church has never been since. Aidan lived alongside the people and refused to accept practices and customs that would distance him from the people and make him seem superior. The Celtic church honored, trusted and went with the grain of the human communities it worked among. We seek to cultivate a solidarity with all people in everything except sin, to value all that is truly human in them, and to shed attitudes and practices that put up barriers between the church and the people. We desire the healing of peoples divided by class, color or creed and repent of our own part in these divisions.
Our aim is that “the whole created order may be reconciled to God through Christ” (Colossians 1:20). We seek to live as one Christian community so “that the world may believe.” (John 17:21). The goal of the way of life is to develop a disciplined spirituality that will make us effective in our witness to Christ in the world. The Celtic church evangelized from grassroots communities such as Lindisfarne, Iona and St. David’s. Our evangelism springs naturally from the community of our local church, and out of the community of this order. Bishops like Chad and Cedd were irrepressible evangelists as they traveled around. As we live out this life, the Holy Spirit leads us into new initiatives to bring God to the people. These will usually be through our churches at local or wider levels. Sometimes it may be appropriate to form a mission task group with other members of the order to pray, study and accomplish a particular God-given task. We seek to share our faith wherever opportunity is given. We evangelize not simply out of a sense of duty, but because the Spirit of God is giving us a heart for the lost. We ask God to work through us in signs and wonders for his glory, not ours.
Our mission also includes speaking out for the poor, the powerless and those unjustly treated in our society, and to minister with them as God directs. As our gifting and opportunity permit we counter all false, materialistic, new age or occult teachings through love, sound argument, prayer and demonstrations of the power of God, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Celtic evangelists worked hand in hand with those in authority to bring regions and kingdoms under the rule of God, and to open the doors to the gospel. We seek to dialogue and work with people of good will in places of authority and influence so that our lands may be lead by people who are led by God, and become healed lands of the glorious Trinity.