Caught up in Love
In a new blog to mark both St Patrick’s Day and the publication of an exciting new Celtic spirituality title, editor David Cole (Brother Cassian) shares some timely reflections on prayer.
Caught up in Love
Our communication with heaven is of vital importance to our faith. However, this communication, or ‘prayer’ as we usually call it, can quite often end up as us simply listing our requests to God. But in the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul says to pray with ‘all kinds of prayers’, so we know that there are different types of prayer, not just our shopping lists for God.
Prayer is simply living in the awareness of God with you, like an ever present companion on a journey. We may not always be speaking to our companion as we walk, but we are aware of their presence, and in our stillness and togetherness there is always space for our companion to speak to us.
So I suggest in my introduction to this exciting new book on prayer, and there are so many ways we can live prayer like this. Within Celtic Christianity prayer was as much about who one was and what one did as it was about what one said.
You may be asking yourself ‘Do I really need another book on prayer?’ My answer will probably always be ‘just one more’ (although for me that’s probably true about most topics I love. Just one more book on that!). But this book is, in my opinion, unique. In this incredible book written in 20 chapters by 30 different members of the Celtic-inspired New Monastic Community, ’The Community of Aidan & Hilda’, we learn about different styles and approaches to our communication with the Divine, including contemplation, scripture – especially the lamenting Psalms – icons, creation, creativity and art, and using liturgy. We learn about discovering the Divine in urban settings, in other cultures, in disability, in our own body, and in equality and diversity, as well as many, many other aspects of prayer and life.
This is a book which, I believe, will transform your prayer life, whatever your prayer life is currently like. It is indeed ‘the antidote to desiccated prayer’, as the quote on the back cover says, but also a rich resource and inspiration to those whose prayer life is not so parched and dry.
I had the privilege of not only writing parts of the book, but also being the editor. These two roles brought different pleasures and challenges. Writing a joint chapter on contemplative prayer with someone else who lives out contemplation from the heart was wonderful. You are invited to lean in to a conversation she and I are having about how the contemplative aspect of Celtic Christianity has inspired us both. Writing is something which I have had experience with before, as you will know if you are a regular reader of BRF material, however, editing material from a variety of writers is something I was not familiar with, but I gained so much from reading what had been written by all these most wonderfully deep and spiritual people. My own spirit was enriched and my walk deepened by what I read. I have changed some of my own prayer practices and understandings because of things I read in these incredibly rich chapters. I truly believe that you will have the same experience when you read this book.
Celtic Christianity is part of our spiritual heritage and has been inspiring so many people across the world, particularly in the last couple of decades. This diverse expression of Christianity which spanned centuries in the first millennia CE and wove Eastern Orthodox as well as Western Latin Christianity with its own understandings is part of our spiritual roots and tradition. Sometimes the way forward means taking a look back, which is what many folk are doing with Celtic Christianity.
In a talk given in the 1980’s Professor Jaroslav Pelikan differentiated between ‘tradition’ and ‘traditionalism’. ‘Tradition’ he said, ‘is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’ That is, the rich heritage of the past can give life to those who are living out their faith today, that is tradition – the rich heritage we have, the rich well of wisdom and knowledge that we can draw from. Traditionalism, though, is the ‘it’s always been done this way, so we will always do it this way’ mentality that keeps things going even though they are now having a detrimental effect on those trying to live out their faith today. Prof. Pelikan went on to say ‘...I suppose I should add that it is traditionalism which gives tradition a bad name. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.’ This beautiful book is like a conversation on prayer between the ancient Celtic Christians and a modern Celtic inspired Community which will challenge you and inspire you, it will draw you deeper into prayer and lift you higher into the Throne room of Grace.
Pray. Pray always, and with all kinds of prayers. This book will enable you to do that.
David Cole (Brother Cassian)
UK Deputy Guardian of The Community of Aidan & Hilda.
David Cole is an international Spiritual Teacher and Retreat Leader; an author; the UK Deputy Guardian for The Community of Aidan and Hilda - a globally dispersed Celtic New Monastic Community; and founder and Executive Director of 'Waymark Ministries'. He studied a Masters' degree in 'Christian Spirituality' writing his thesis on Celtic Christianity and Discipleship.
David is speaking at this year's BRF Festival of Prayer (9July) on 'Celtic Prayer - expressions of love.'
 Ephesians 6:18 - NIV Professor Jaroslav Jan Pelikan Jr. Taken from his 1983 Jefferson Lecture, The Vindication of Tradition. Professor Jaroslav Jan Pelikan Jr. Elaborated in a 1989 interview in U.S. News & World Report from his 1983 Jefferson Lecture, The Vindication of Tradition.