In a similar vein to my previous review of “Simple Ways” by Gunilla Norris – a book on meditation, witha Christian bent – this is not a book I would necessarily choose to read, but it’s something I think is worth reading. It is very easy to remain stuck in a Christian rut – whether its reading something like this, or considering other opinions on central issues, its important to read around the huge treasure trove that is the Christian tradition.
The introduction is probably the single best simple introduction to a tradition I know nothing about that I have ever read. Rather than assuming knowledge or insulting ignorance, Earle shows us the bones of the Celtic Christian tradition – explaining its context and history – and also giving the reader useful snapshot-biographies of the key figures and authors of the tradition. This blogger can genuinely say he knows more now about St. Patrick, Pelagius, John Scotus Eriugena, George MacLeod and others. The snapshots of what their wider thought was like really aids the reader when engaging with the main body of the book.
The main body of the book is literally split 50/50 across the page – on the left is Earle’s explanation and commentary – and on the right is the simple, unadulterated source text. This pairing is what makes this book so useful – the introduction sets you up, and then you are not abandoned into the maze of Celtic Christian Spirituality without a guide! The Texts are divided into a number of sections – Creation, Prayer, Incarnation, Daily Life and Work, Soul Friends, Pilgrimage, Social Justice, and Blessing as a way of life. Each of these sections is rich and full of depth – you (and indeed I!) may not agree wholeheartedly with the theological persepctives expressed – but there is much to be fed by.
I particularly engaged and resonated with the section on the Incarnation. An especial highlight – and this echoed throughout the book – were extracts from John Scotus Eriugena’s Homily on the Prologue to the Gospel of John, which are incredibly rich in relation to Scripture, theological reflection, and full of truth.
Whilst this is not necessarily a book I would think of getting, it has definitely changed my opinion of certain elements of the Theological heritage of our country. Its something that is perhaps a doorway into a huge treasure trove of spiritual writings. I’d recommend this book if you are interested in older Christian Spirituality, Celtic Christianity, or just looking for something a little of the beaten track but worthwhile.