We believe that all persons have access to the one holy, catholic, apostolic, and orthodox church. Consequently, all the services of the Celtic Catholic Church USA (CCC USA) congregations are open to all. This includes the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The altars of our Church are open to anyone who wishes to receive this gift of our beloved Christ. The Celtic Catholic Church USA does not require that any person renounce their current denominational affiliation or faith in order to join in worship or prayer in our Church.
The style of worship varies from congregation to congregation. Some use the Disert Missal, a contemporary liturgy based on Celtic Liturgies and folk prayers going back to the 8th Century and earlier. Some use worship services developed by other Celtic Christian groups like the Iona Community, St. Aidan's Trust, and the Northumbrian Community. While the Disert Missal is the recommended liturgical resource and the one in most common use, the Celtic Catholic Church USA allows for freedom of style in worship, encouraging the development of worship forms capturing the spirit of the ancient Celtic Church and its relevance for today.
The Church is an association of congregations, religious orders, and various ministries drawn together in an "organic unity of faith and love." There is not a compelled corporate unity. We are drawn together around the basic doctrine of the undivided Church. And we exist for the reciprocal sustenance and growth of ministries. Periodically, the clergy, religious, and laity meet in Convocation for dialogue, sharing, and collective support.
Our form of ecclesiastical government is a combination of episcopal leadership and Synodal, egalitarian polity. Our Bishops are not "corporate CEOs" but pastoral leaders of a Jurisdiction, providing doctrinal stability and equipping the Church for ministry. Our organizational model is "axial" rather than "hierarchic." Our Bishops are foci for the presence of the Church in the world rather than feudal lords ruling their ecclesiastical domains. All Bishops are equal and serve their Jurisdiction and the whole Church.
Congregations are self-governing. They own their property, manage their own affairs, and are governed by locally elected Church Councils. All important decisions for the Church are made through the Pastoral Council, which is comprised of the Bishops, Clergy, and Lay Representatives, all holding one vote per person.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
We acknowledge the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament as the Word of God and the primary requirement for ruling in all matters of practice and church policy.
THE NICENE CREED
We believe that the sufficient statement of faith is the Nicene Creed. This means that we believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith: the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, His Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, His Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, His eventual return, the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, God's forgiveness of our sins through Christ, and eternal life.
Our version of the Nicene Creed is that which was approved at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) and reaffirmed by the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.). It does not contain the so-called "filioque" clause arbitrarily added later by the Church of Rome.
We observe the 2 major and 5 minor Sacraments (or Mysteries) of the undivided Church. The major Sacraments of Baptism (with Chrismation) and Holy Communion are necessary to living a full Christian life. The minor Sacraments of Confirmation, Reconciliation (also called Penance), Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Unction (also called Last Rites) are deemed necessary for a more abundant life in Christ and the Church. We also recognize the work of God in what we call sacramentals such as preaching and teaching, prayers and devotionals, which assist in the spread of the Holy Gospel. And we teach that all of Christian life is potentially sacramental (that is, an outward sign of the inner grace of Christ which all Christians possess).
Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we maintain the historical ministry of the Church (Bishops, Presbyters or Priests, and Deacons) instituted by Christ through the Apostles by the laying on of hands and rites of Chrismation. The Bishops of the Celtic Catholic Church USA trace their succession through the historical line of duly consecrated Bishops back to the Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ. Equally important, they preserve and promote the faith once delivered by Christ to the Apostles.
THE 7 ECUMENICAL COUNCILS
We hold that the first seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church were guided by the Holy Spirit and are continuations and elaborations of the deposit of the faith given to Christ by the Apostles. In addition to theological clarifications on the nature of Christ, these Councils pronounced the intercession of the Saints and the veneration of sacred art and Icons as consistent with Christian doctrine and worship. They also gave the Blessed Virgin Mary her proper recognition as the Theotokos (the Mother of God by virtue of the birth of the Son of God through her obedience). To learn more about the Seven Ecumenical Councils click HERE.
THE EQUALITY OF ALL GOD'S CHILDREN
We believe that it is in keeping with the Holy Scriptures, the Celtic Christian tradition, and God-given reason, that in Christ Jesus we are neither Greek nor Jew, black nor white, male nor female. And, therefore, all of God's children inherit the responsibility to respond to God's call in the full life of the Church. No ministry of the Celtic Catholic Church USA is denied to anyone on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference. To deny any person the opportunity to respond to God's call on these bases is to contradict Holy Scriptures, sacred tradition, and simple Divine justice.
We observe the traditional Christian Calendar of seasons (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost), Holy Days (Nativity, Easter Vigil, Ascension, etc.), and the observance of the feast days of Saints (with special emphasis on the Celtic saints). In addition, some member congregations observe the Celtic seasons (Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lammas) and Celtic celebrations (Christmas Vigil, Prayer Around the Cross, Vigil of Fire, Harvest Office). Observances vary from church to church, depending on the size and preferences of the congregation.
Celtic Spirituality draws its inspiration from the earliest manifestation of Christianity in these islands – an offering that was also inspired by the wisdom of pre-Christian Ireland.
In the prayers of the early church of these islands, in their passion and their practice of the faith, there is a clarity and simplicity and wisdom that speaks directly to many of the concerns of our age.
Here are some aspects of Celtic Spirituality that may inspire you:
Love of the natural world
The prayers of the Celtic Saints are filled with experiences of God’s presence in creation, the simplicity of living in harmony with creation, and awareness of the sacredness of all things. The Psalms are full of praise for God’s handiwork in nature, and Celtic Christianity followed in that tradition, reflected in prayers and poems which spoke of God’s power and majesty revealed in creation. As it says in the first chapter of Genesis, all things originate in the Divine Source, and so all things are sacred. that Presence permeates all of creation. It is repeated five times in Genesis chapter 1 – ‘And God looked at the Creation, and said: ‘It is good.’ This speaks to us of ‘Original Goodness’. It reminds us of the Sacred Presence that is to be found in us and in the natural world. So when we walk in nature, everything is a visible reminder of the Invisible Presence. ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God.’ (Gerald Manley Hopkins).
Columbanus said – ‘If you want to know God, first get to know His creation.’ If there is any one word that would sum up the essence of Celtic Spirituality, it’s the word ‘PRESENCE.’ Awareness of the Sacred Presence at every moment of life, in all places.
The Monastic way of living fitted the early church in Ireland because pre-Christian society was based on the Tuatha, small villages of people. Celtic Christianity encouraged people to live and work as small communities, following a less hierarchical model of the Church. The Church at that time was a loose grouping of local communities of prayer, learning, and hospitality.
Celtic Christianity, in its monastic practice, believed in openness and welcoming to the stranger. It challenges us today, in a multicultural world, to try to have an open heart, without pre-judgment. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels unawares.’ (Hebrews 13.2) Also to look for the Sacred soul in others, for all are made in God’s image.
“I saw a stranger last night. I put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place, and in the sacred name of the Triune, he blessed myself and my house and my cattle and my dear ones. And the lark said in her song, ‘Often, often, often goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.’ (A Celtic rune of hospitality used by the Iona Community)
Following the experiences of the desert fathers and mothers, Celtic Christianity drew inspiration from the daily rule of life of ancient monasticism. Faith is not just for one hour on a Sunday – but for the whole of life. The Sacred Presence is for all times and all places. It is not a dualistic approach to life that divides the ‘sacred’ from the ‘profane’ – Celtic Christianity reminds us that all is sacred.
The practice of the Anam Cara – ‘The Friend of the Soul.’
A soul friend is someone who walks the spiritual journey with you as a source of wise advice and encouragement. This practice is being reclaimed in our day through spiritual direction. However, the practice of Anamchara is a gentle accompaniment, respecting the fragile nature of the spiritual search. All the wisdom we need is already within us. Through an Anamcara approach to listening, we can access that wisdom.
Art and Music
Celtic Christianity produced wonderful works of Art e.g. The Book of Kells and the wonderfully elaborate High Crosses. In many Irish villages, to this day the high crosses still stand, reminding us of a time when there were no elaborate buildings to upkeep and the people worshipped outdoors, around the high crosses. The beautiful carvings on the high crosses, telling the stories of the Old Testament and the life of Christ, were used as ‘visual aids’ to tell the stories of the Gospels in an age when literacy wasn’t so common.
Esther De Waal, a well-known writer on Celtic Spirituality has commented on the shape of the Celtic Cross, with its circle and cross combined. In her view, it represents the combining of salvation (the Cross) and the world of creation (the circle). Christ’s salvation was not only for human beings but for the whole cosmos (see Romans chapter 8). So in the carvings and the artwork, animals and the rest of creation are also included.
Art and music enable us to perceive with the senses as well as the intellect and to use both the right and left brain. In worship, our love of God can be expressed through the whole of our humanity, including the senses, intuition, imagination and emotions.
Celtic Christianity had a particular kind of martyrdom which they called ‘white martyrdom’ – for those who left home and family behind and went out into the world as pilgrims for the sake of the Gospel. Today many are rediscovering the power of pilgrimage and the ‘Peregrini’ by going to ancient sacred places such as Iona, Lindisfarne, Ireland – and Armagh. The Celtic Saints called these places ‘thin places’ because there seemed to be only a thin veil between this world and the world of Spirit.
‘When you travel, A new silence goes with you,
And if you listen – you will hear what your heart would love to say...’ (John O’Donohue The Benedictus)
We may not be able to travel to faraway places, but there is yet benefit in being a ‘heart’ pilgrim – i.e. Having that nomadic approach to life that is always open to moving on, not getting stuck in a rut, open to new experiences, new relationships, and understandings – open to the ever onward call of God.
(All content provided by the Centre for Celtic Spirituality, Armagh, Ireland)
Universalism in the Christian and Celtic Tradition
By the Late Bishop Taoiseach Thomas Faulkenbury
The word "universalism" has been used in two senses in Christian theology. In the context of biblical thought, universalism frequently denotes the view common to the Old Testament and New Testament that the purposes of God are not limited to any one nation or race, but extend worldwide. This idea comes to expression in the worldwide promises to Abraham [Genesis 12:3], to the welcome afforded those from other nations [Rahab, Ruth, etc.], and above all in the frequent prophetic vision of the nations of the world coming within the scope of salvation for all people.
The second use of the word "universalism" is the logical extension of the first but has suffered from controversy. It is the belief that all human beings, without exception, will eventually attain salvation. This view has a foundation in the New Testament [John 1:29; 2nd Corinthians 5:19; Colossians 1:18-20]. It was the view held by many in the early Christian Church.
To find the roots of universalism we must go back to the prophets of ancient Israel. The spiritual truth of Jonah was that God was a universal God for all people, not just the Israelites. Then later, universalist Christian origins are anchored in the moral teachings of Jesus, as exemplified in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. Early Christianity was neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian. But it was overwhelmingly universalist.
The New Testament writer St. Paul himself preached a definite if often muted doctrine of universal salvation. One of the great Christian Church Fathers, St. Clement of Alexandria (150- 220), the first Christian philosopher and president of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, advocated universalism on the ground of the remedial character of all souls. His pupil and successor in the school following St. Clement, Origen (185-254) became the next president of the Catechetical School at Alexandria. He was generally considered the greatest theologian and biblical scholar, scientist, and mathematician of the early Eastern Church, and until Augustine was the most influential theologian of the church. He taught about universalism (apokatastasis or 'restoration of all beings'), by denying a perpetual hell, preaching instead a progressive purging of the soul by spiritual fire for a limited time. When the soul is purged of all sin, evil, and ignorance it shall be rehabilitated and purified in its resurrection into heaven. Each and every soul including the devil shall be restored and returned to a knowledge of and presence with God.
Origen advocated universalism on the ground of the ever continuing freedom of the will, the deep mental and spiritual anguish occasioned by the light and knowledge of the truth until it leads to repentance, and then the harmony of the soul with God.
More than a few of the most notable Church Fathers were outspoken universalists, including, St. Athanasius, (296-373), St. Basil (329-379), St. Gregory Nazianzen (330-390), and St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-390), and Pelagius or St. Morgan of Wales (354-440).
In 553 A.D. at a local council meeting in Constantinople, later called the Fifth Ecumenical Council, called by Roman Emperor Justinian to specifically condemn universalism and some other of the doctrines falsely ascribed to Origen. The Council failed to concur with the Roman Emperor, his queen, and a groveling bishop. No doctrines resembling universal restoration were anathematized. Origen's name appears in the 11th canon of the Council, but scholars think the insertion of Origen's name to be a forgery.
Based upon the popularity of Universalism among the number of significant saints and in 5 of the 7 catechetical schools for the teaching of Christian beliefs, it is very easy to conclude that a large share of the Christians thrown to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome were universalist Christians. Universalist martyrs were multitudinous.
After 500 AD the tables, with the assistance of Augustine and the Roman emperor had shifted, and the strident minority had taken the political and religious majority to over-rule the more gentle philosophy of universalist Christianity. From a Hellenic (Greek) enlightened rational faith of freedom and love, these orthodox minorities subdued the Christian church and plunged backward into the Dark Ages brought on by Roman political and religious legalism. Universalism was eclipsed though never formally anathematized. Furthermore, if universalism were declared heresy, most of the early Church Fathers, Popes, and Saints would have been denounced. The anathematizing of Universalism was inconceivable.
In truth, during the first 500 years of Christianity, universalism was the predominant religious philosophy of the age. Today, we receive a revisionist history that not only defames and minimizes, but nearly eradicates universalism. The revisionists progressively took command of Christianity, reshaped it by declaring every unwanted belief as "heresy" and ran these believers out of the churches. Even to this day, this is a practice visited upon universalism using more subtle methods with a more genteel style.
847 A.D., the Celtic theologian St. John Scotus Eriugena was invited by Charles II, later the Holy Roman Emperor, to head the court school in Paris. He was one of the most learned individuals of his time and taught that everything emanated from God and would be restored to God.
Universalism was abroad in England as demonstrated by the Protestants, who drew up their Forty-two Articles of Religion, in 1552, and condemned universalism. Ten years later, when the convocation revised the doctrines of the Church, the number of articles was reduced to thirty-nine, omitting, among others, the one condemning universalism. Since that time universalism has not been a forbidden doctrine in the Church of England.