Saturday 27 September 2014

Grasping for The Numinous in the Celtic Twilight

Ah, the wonders of a properly authentic invented ethnic religio-cultural ethos! Or, to put it another way, we had the wonders of our Celtic Twilight Service tonight.

Now that the Scots have accepted their fate as the place British oil comes from, we thought we would honour them in traditional Celtic liturgy. So we brought together the traditions of Iona, Lindisfarne and Kildare. Which is to say, the Beaker Quire wore Arran Sweaters and ginger beards while people threw seaweed at them.

As ever, it leaves me thinking. Why do we always act as though some other tradition is the more authentic? Why did people fly to Toronto Airport for a revival, when the same Holy Spirit is in Bedford? Why do even people from Cornwall and Wales have "Celtic" worship that is nothing like what they have inherited? Or is it only the English that assume other cultures are more earthy, and yet simultaneously more heavenly, than  their own?

Is it that we so assume we are the norm, that we cannot find spiritual depth in our own English - reaching, at the least, to our own 16th Century, at worse to worship in the Venusian Style or Space-Hopper services or whatever? Why do we as believers reach for more unusual forms of worship for ourselves, while dumbing-down when we are trying to reach people whom we refer to - but who normally don't self-identify - as "seekers"?

And looking over towards the goings-on at Blackfen I am intrigued. I guess to a cradle Catholic of that tradition, the Mass in Latin must seem like mother's milk - maybe one of them can let me know? While to me, hearing the Berlioz Requiem for the first time, or even Faure's for the umpteenth - a language whose meaning I can kind of figure out, but which is fundamentally stil foreign - it is the strangeness  that brings me closer to our wild and unfathomable God. A strangeness that a book of poor cod-Celtic liturgy or the sound of an out-of-tune Pan Pipe can conjure up  - whereas a 19th Century hymn, full of Victorian confidence and self-belief even as the bottom fell out of their spiritual world, struggles to inspire. And a 1960s hymn about the God of atoms, steel and non-stick frying pans never could.

I don't know what I'm saying here, really. Maybe that God is found in the ordinary things, and the strange, deep things. But if you try to find God in the reinvented, the never-was, the re-envisaged, then when you look into the Celtic cauldron of mystery you have put in the middle of the Moot House, you just find yourself looking out. With a bit of tartan round your neck. And seaweed in your hair.

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