Christus Victor – A Celtic Look at the Death of Christ

Most of the Western Christians – Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals, look at the cross of Christ through the lens of a legal metaphor. According to it, God created humans and gave them his commands. At the devil’s temptation, they disobeyed God, whose honour, as head of the universe, was utterly offended. Because of human rebellion, called sin, God cursed the entire creation. And thus, death entered our world. At the peak of history, God sent his son into the world, to die for us, so that the guilt for Adam’s fall and our sinfulness could be atoned for. Through Christ’s terrible death, justice was done for the breaking of God’s law, and God’s wrath was appeased. The penalty for our sins was paid (let us not ask ‘to whom exactly’, as this may lead us into all sorts of strange theories). If humans believed that Christ died for their sins (what is usually called the ‘penal substitution theory’) they would be saved, and when Christ comes back, at the end of history, he will take them with him to heaven, while this world will perish in flames. As to those who did not believe, God, in his wrath, has prepared for them the eternal fire of hell.

I imagine many of my readers would be familiar with this perspective, maybe it is also their own, even if they might be disturbed here and there by the way I phrased things. This is the perspective behind Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ, and of many of the western depictions – cinematic, literary or theological, of the events we rememorate at this time in the church calendar. For some, this is the only correct way of understanding the story of Christ. For them, this is the Gospel.

Yet, this is by no means the only way to look at it, and, dare I say, not the best way of accounting for Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension. The Eastern Church and the Celtic Church viewed the cross through a radically different lens, which we may call generically, the Christus victor motif. In what follows, I will talk more of the Celtic version of the story.

During this period of Lent, the first I ever spent in Scotland, I did two things which gave me a somewhat different perspective on Easter. First, I followed the daily readings from David Cole’s book Celtic Lent: 40 Days of Devotions to Easter. Second, I am watching at this time the Vikings series, which begins with the first incursion of the Norsemen on the Monastery of Lindisfarne on the Holy Island, the famous Celtic religious centre in Northumbria, which I had the privilege of visiting a number of times.

Cole talks often in this book about the Christus victor metaphor that informed the Celts’ understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, not as a ransom to appease God’s wrath, but as the culmination of a hero saga, in which the Dryhtnes (the Celtic word for Lord, which was originally the designation of a warlord in charge of a band of warriors) becomes victorious in his battle against the invisible forces of evil, in spite of his terrible death, precisely because death is followed by resurrection. And that not because God’s wrath has been appeased, but because death was the entry door for the hero to be received in triumph at his return in the angelic world (the Christian version of Valhalla, if you want).

Watching in the Vikings the painful and courageous death of Ragnar Lothbrok, helped me understand much better how this metaphor worked in the minds of Celtic Christians. To be fair, being a moderate pacifist, I am more attracted to the peaceful metaphors of the Gospel in the biblical text (grain of wheat, mustard seed, light, yeast, etc.) and I have an instinctive negative reaction to the aggressive metaphors favoured for instance by the American obsession with ‘cultural wars’. Though, this may have not been so much of a problem for the Celts, who were (and their hers still are) short tempered, very passionate people, constantly engaged in war between themselves and with others.

However, the Christian version of the Celtic cult of the hero has nothing to do  with physical fighting or waging ‘holy wars’, supposedly for the spreading the Gospel, which dominated so much of Medieval Christendom, booth in the East and the West, but it is about spiritual warfare against the demonic forces of evil, of which Paul the apostle speaks in Ephesians 6.

This reminds me of a very insightful observation made by Michael Green in his book Evangelism in the Early Church. He argues there that when Peter the apostle preached to the Jews, the recipients of the law of Moses, he spoke of sin as breach of God’s law and of salvation in terms of propitiation for their lawlessness. However, when Paul spoke to the Greeks, who had no law of God revealed to them (besides the testimony of God in nature and their own conscience, as Paul shows in the book of Romans), the apostle spoke of evil in terms of people being enslaved by fear of the primordial forces of evil, and he presented salvation in terms of liberation from under the oppression of these forces and the adoption of these Gentiles as daughters and sons of the God of love, who sacrificed his own son in order to liberate them and give them life in all its fulness, the resurrection of Christ being the guarantee of this promise, which was to be accepted by faith.

Because of their cultural resemblance, I find the Celtic view of Easter much closer to the way in which Paul preached to the Greeks. Same was true, I guess, about Viking culture. As a result, the Norsemen may have been victorious against the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons, but, in the end, they themselves were conquered spiritually by the Christus victor, the Dryhtnes, the hero, whose glorious victory we remember and celebrate these days.

So, I invite you to look at the cross with new eyes and to get enriched with this new perspective, which will give new meaning to your song ‘Christ is risen’.


Be Though My Vision – Oldest Christian Hymn

Be Though My Vision is considered by many as the oldest known Christian hymn, dating at least from the 8th or the 9th century, if not even the 6th. Here is what David Cole says about it in his book Celtic Lent: 40 Days of Devotions to Easter:

It is thought that the early Irish saint and poet Dallán, also known as Eochaid mac Colla, who died in around 598, may have been the writer of some early form of this hymn, and the words have been chanted by monks from that time onwards. Although we know it best from the version often sung in churches today, versified as a hymn by Eleanor Hull (1860–1935), the original, more literal, translation from which the versified version was taken was written by Mary Byrne (1880–1931).

Watch here one of the best versions I could find on youtube. I hope it will be an encouragement for you at a trying time like this.

Here is the text of the hymn:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my souls Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor mans empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heavens joys, O bright Heavens Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Hannah Rarity – Strong Women Rule Us All With Their Tears

This great song, from the unique voice of beautiful Scottish singer Hannah Rarity, is my tribute to all the great women I had the privilege of meeting in my life. You know who you are. This is for you all!

* * *

Written by Brian McNeill, the song details Brian’s admiration for the life and courage of the famous Scottish historical figure Flora MacDonald, who saved Bonnie Prince Charlie after the civil war of 1745. She was imprisoned for helping him, but then moved to America to live the rest of her life. She later returned to the Isle of Skye, where she passed away. A very strong woman, indeed. Here’s to all women & all they have achieved, all they do and all they will continue to share with the world.

(Please find below the lyrics of this marvelous song.)

* * *

Strong Women Rule Us All With Their Tears

There’s a moment of your story
That has always haunted me
When you set out in yon open boat
To help the poor man flee
Was Charlie Stuart’s future
Already plain to see
Did you know he’d be a waster on his days
If you did, I’d give the world to find
A single tear you cried
From the Cuillins tae the Carolinas
You showed us one and all
The courage you could call
From the tears that would not fall
From your eyes

And after thirty years
After all that you’d been through
Us been marriede haven’ been a
Just a memory to rue
As you watched your husband putting on
His coat of scarlet hue
To go and fight for German Geordie’s crown
But you never tried to hide behind
The dreams of days gone by
From the Cuillins tae the Carolinas
You showed us one and all
The courage you could call
From the tears that would not fall
From your eyes

And there’s times I think I see you
When I find that kind of face
When a woman’s independence
Has kept a woman’s grace
Where confidence and pride
Refuse to know their place
Or hide behind the easy tricks of beauty
For to me your lights are like the chimes
Across the stormy skies
From the Cuillins tae the Carolinas
You showed us one and all
The courage you could call
From the tears that would not fall
From your eyes

From the Cuillins tae the Carolinas
Strong women rule us all
With the courage that they call
When the tears refuse to fall
From their eyes.

(Music and lyrics by Brian McNeill. Inspired by the story of Flora MacDonald, 1722-1790, a figure of Scottish history and of the American Revolution. Source, here.)




Northumbria Community – Kyrie Eleison

Here are the lyrics of this very special Celtic spirit song from the Northumbria Community, around the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, in the north-east of England, at the border with Scotland.

* * *

Empty, broken here I stand – Kyrie eleison
Touch me with your healing hand – Kyrie eleison
Take my arrogance and pride – Kyrie eleison
Wash me in your mercies tide – Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

When my faith has all but gone – Kyrie eleison
Give me strength to carry on – Kyrie eleison
When my dreams have turned to dust – Kyrie eleison
In you, Oh Lord, I put my trust – Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

When my heart is cold as ice – Kyrie eleison
Your love speaks of sacrifice – Kyrie eleison
Love that sets the captives free – Kyrie eleison
Oh pour compassion down on me – Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

You’re the voice that calms my fears – Kyrie eleison
You’re the laughter dries my tears – Kyrie eleison
You’re my music, my refrain – Kyrie eleison
Help me sing your song again – Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

Humble heart of holiness – Kyrie eleison
Kiss me with your tenderness – Kyrie eleison
Jesus faithful friend and true – Kyrie eleison
All I am, I give to you – Kyrie eleison

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

(Source, HERE)

John O’Donohue – At the End of the Year

year's end

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
Continue reading “John O’Donohue – At the End of the Year”



This is just beautiful.

Enya – Echoes in Rain

Enya – Echoes In Rain (Official Video)
Taken from Enya’s album ‘Dark Sky Island’

A Celtic Prayer for Paris

Prayer for Paris

May we also pray this prayer for Beirut and for Baghdad, at the same time.

Lord have mercy!

Enya – The Humming

Taken from Enya’s forthcoming Album ‘Dark Sky Island’ – Out 20th November


Source: The Story of St Brendan’s Monastery | THE ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF ALL CELTIC SAINTS

Fr Serafim, a Romanian monk living in Scotland, tells the story of a visit to Eileach An Naoimh, St Brendan’s island. The pictures are stunning.

You may read HERE about my own visit to that island.

The Celtic Rune of Hospitality

Alfred Burt Carol arr. Jimmy Joyce
sung by Musickes Pleasure

Continue reading “The Celtic Rune of Hospitality”


For a night, join the saints! | THE ORTHODOX MONASTERY OF ALL CELTIC SAINTS.

Here is the story of a night spent on Iona Island, my most beloved place in the entire world. The pilgrim is a Romanian Orthodox monk, Fr Serafim.

Tara Owens – Anam Cara Blog

Anam Cara

If you are interested in spiritual formation and Christian Celtic spirituality, you may find the Anam Cara Blog a rich source of resources.

Anam Cara Ministries is led by Tara M. Owens, a Christian Spiritual Director, living in Colorado Springs, US.

You may also subscribe to it, in order to receive an email every tine a new post is published.


Ken Read – St Patrick’s Breastplate

A song by Ken Read performed by Cincinnati Christian University’s World Music Worship Ensemble at the 2007 National Missionary Convention.

Tara Owens – Embracing the Body

Tara Owens - Embracing the Body

Christians along history had, and they continue to have an ambiguous relationship with their bodies in particular and physicality in general.

This is the topic of Tara M Owens’s new book, Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone.

Here is a short presentation, on Amazon website.

Our bodies teach us about God, and God communicates to us through our bodies. Our bodies are more good than we can possibly imagine them to be. And yet at times we may struggle with feelings of shame and guilt or even pride in regard to our bodies. What is God trying to do through our skin and bones? In Embracing the Body spiritual director Tara Owens invites you to listen to your thoughts about your body in a way that draws you closer to God, calling you to explore how your spirituality is intimately tied to your physicality. Using exercises for reflection at the end of each chapter, she guides you to see your body not as an inconvenience but as a place where you can meet the Holy in a new way―a place to embrace God’s glorious intention.

I have heard of Owens for the first time on Rachel Held Evans’s blog, in a guest post written by Tara and titled ‘How do I involve God in my sexuality?

Read HERE a very good interview with Tara on her book. Here is the beginning of it:

Q – Tara – you’re a certified spiritual director, veteran writer, wife and mum – can you tell us three things we may not know about you?

That’s a fun question! I’ve always thought I would win the “two truths and a lie” icebreaker game—because I have at least three outrageous things about myself that I can share, all of which are true.

First, I used to be an amateur boxer. For nearly eight years, I competed in boxing, muay thai boxing and kickboxing. It surprises people, because I’m a soft-spoken spiritual director, but I loved the sport and learned so much about myself from it. I hope to get back to in some time in the future.

Second, five years ago I had a heart attack. It was completely out of the blue, and almost totally unexplained—I didn’t have high blood pressure or cholesterol. It’s one of the things that created this desire in me to write about the body in a way that both honored the gift that we’ve been given in flesh and bone, and acknowledged that our bodies sometime betray us deeply.

Third, I’ve never had a full cup of coffee in my life. I know that I tend toward fallen, addictive behaviors, so I’ve avoided coffee because I just have this sense that if I started it, I’d be mainlining it every morning within a week or so. It’s part of the way I steward my own weaknesses.

Oh, and I’m British and Canadian, living in the United States on a green card. And I once had a warrant out for my arrest.

Read on at the link above. It is really worth it.

You may also listen HERE to another interview with Tara in her new book.

* * *

Here are a few things about Tara as told by herself:

Tara M Owens

I was born in Montreal to British parents who moved to Canada for a better life for their growing family. Canadian by birth and British by blood, I’ve also lived in Raleigh, North Carolina; Washington, DC; Arlington, Virginia and, now, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I discerned the call to spiritual direction while completing my Masters of Theological Studies in Spiritual Formation at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto. Like many spiritual directors, I was captured by the incredible privilege it is to companion someone as they discern the voice of the Loving Creator in their lives.

Before pursuing my Spiritual Formation degree, I was a professional print journalist. My love of story drew me to news reporting and then to political journalism. It was that very ear for narrative that God used to bring me to spiritual direction, where I help others make sense of the story in which they are living, and connect it up with the Larger Story of redemption and life that the Trinity is weaving into human history.

In addition to my journey as a spiritual director, I am blessed to marry my love for spiritual formation with my love for the written word as Senior Editor of Conversations Journal. Founded by Larry Crabb, David Benner and Gary Moon, Conversations is a forum for authentic spiritual transformation where authors such as Dallas Willard and Eugene Peterson discuss the patterns and practice of spiritual growth.

I founded Anam Cara Ministries in 2007 as a place of where true soul friendship can be found. ‘Anam Cara’ is an ancient Celtic word meaning ‘soul friend,’ one of the essential qualities of a spiritual director. Celtic  Christianity and its practices form a foundation to the work of Anam Cara Ministries—from spiritual fri en ds hip to a fundamental respect for creation to the discipline of the hours.

Anam Cara Ministries is meant to be a place of grace and hope, where a deeper relationship with God can be pursued in a context of hospitality and safety. I’ve been a practicing spiritual director for more than five years, and I’m honored that you’ve chosen to explore a little deeper here with me.

(Source, HERE.)



Fantasy World Map

Fantasy World Map

(From Facebook. Thanks to Teofil Stanciu.)


St. Patrick’s Creed

sf.patrick - final

Because there is no other God
nor ever was nor will be in future days,
other than God who is unbegotten Father,
without beginning,
yet from whom is all beginning
and who holds all things in being
as we have come to learn; Continue reading “St. Patrick’s Creed”

A Belated Happy St Patrick’s Day to All My Friends


Christ before me,
Christ behind me;
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me;
Christ to the right of me,
Christ to the left of me; Continue reading “A Belated Happy St Patrick’s Day to All My Friends”

Philip Jenkins – The Ancient Inheritance

Philip Jenkins

His latest article published on the Patheos platform discusses the little known phenomenon of ‘global Christianity’ in the first centuries of Christian history, particularly in relation to the Celtic Church.

Here is the beginning of his article:

* * *

I recently suggested that studying the history of the so-called  “Dark Ages” gives a wonderful background for understanding contemporary Christianity worldwide. Nowhere is that more true, oddly, than in the central theme of globalization itself. When you explore the world of Late Antiquity, roughly from the fourth century through the ninth, you see a Christian world that was enthusiastically transcontinental, if not exactly global. Repeatedly, we see influence and ideas transmitted from old churches to new and emerging bodies, and then later returning to the parent churches in odd and unexpected ways. Continue reading “Philip Jenkins – The Ancient Inheritance”

Samuel Barber – The Heavenly Banquet (verses by St Brigid of Kildare)


Hermit Songs, op. 29 (1953), no. 4

Composer: Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Baritone: Gerald Finley
Piano: Julius Drake

The Heavenly Banquet

I would like to have the men of Heaven in my own house;
with vats of good cheer laid out for them.
I would like to have the three Mary’s,
their fame is so great.
I would like people from every corner of Heaven.
I would like them to be cheerful in their drinking.
I would like to have Jesus sitting here among them.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family
Drinking it through all eternity.

Verses attributed to St Brigid (10th century), translation by Seán Ó Faoláin

1 February – Feast of St Brigid of Kildare

St Brigid of Kildare

On 1 February, the beginning of Celtic Spring,  the western Church, particularly in the Celtic lands, is celebrating the feast of St Brigid of Kildare – c. 451–525 (also called Brigit or Bridget). A controversial feature of her life, to which the staff in the picture above alludes, is that she might have been inadvertently ordained as a bishop. This may have not been true, but historians agree that Brigit enjoyed tremendous authority in the Celtic Church of her time.

Most probably, the Celtic Church chose this day to celebrate one of its most venerated women saints, in order to Christianise the traditional Celtic festival called Imbolc.

In the old Celtic tradition, ‘Imbolc, also known as the Feast of Brigid, on February 1 celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring. It is one of the four major “fire” festivals (quarter days), referred to in Irish mythology from medieval Irish texts. The other three festivals on the old Irish calendar are Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. The word Imbolc means literally “in the belly” in the Old Irish Neolithic language, referring to the pregnancy of ewes. In ancient Irish mythology Brigid was a fire goddess.’ (Source, HERE).

St. Brigid is ‘patron of babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle farmers; children whose parents are not married; children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers; Clan Douglas; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travelers; watermen’, and beer makers.

Samuel Barber has composed one of his Hermit Songs, Op 26, on poetry attributed to St. Brigid, which I will post separately (see HERE). Continue reading “1 February – Feast of St Brigid of Kildare”

Animated Story of St. Andrew – Scottish version


Thanks to my friend Charles Twombly for the link.

John O’Donahue – A Celtic Blessing for Leaders – dedicated to a special friend

John O’Donahue – A Blessing for Leaders

May you have the grace and wisdom to act kindly,
learning to distinguish between what is personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the centre of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself, building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know you see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence in order to engage with those who meet you. Continue reading “John O’Donahue – A Celtic Blessing for Leaders – dedicated to a special friend”

Nolwenn Leroy – La Jument De Michao

Spiritul celtic in versiune franceza, mai precis bretona. O frumusete veritabila, in toate sensurile acestui cuvint.

Scottish Blessing

May the blessing of light be on you – light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.

And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm. Continue reading “Scottish Blessing”

Ziua Sf. Patrick 2012 – Bucuresti – Flash-mob Lipscani

Ziua Nationala a Irlandei, ‘St. Patrick’s Day’, este sarbatorita sambata, la Bucuresti, in Centrul Vechi, printr-un spectacol desfasurat in zona Lipscani-Smardan, in imediata vecinatate a BNR. Pe scena amplasata special pentru acest eveniment au urcat, de-a lungul zilei, artisti romani, irlandezi si maghiari, care sarbatoresc Ziua Irlandei cu cantece si dansuri, evocand buna dispozitie si spiritul vesel si ‘verde’ caracteristic irlandezilor. “Programul zilei” a inclus o mini-parada inedita care a “cutreierat” stradutele principale ale Centrului Istoric in ritmuri inconfundabile de tobe si cimpoaie si spiridusi care au “animat” zona, oferindu-le trecatorilor cate un trifoi sau tricolor pictat pe obraz. Continue reading “Ziua Sf. Patrick 2012 – Bucuresti – Flash-mob Lipscani”

The History of Saint Patrick – a Short Story

A Life of St Patrick for Children

Amusing cartoon which explains the key facts in the life of Saint Patrick and why we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on 17th March.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th is the celebration of St. Patrick’s day.

I wish a happy St. Patrick’s day to all my friends for whom St. Patrick is a spiritual inspiration.

Allow me also to share with you on this happy day a beautiful Celtic blessing.

* * *

May Christ and His Saints stand between you and harm.
Mary and her Son.
Patrick with his staff.
Martin with his mantle.
Brigid with her veil.
Michael with his shield.
And God over all with His strong right hand. Continue reading “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”

Irish Blessing

Wishing you always…

Walls for the wind,
A roof for the rain
And tea beside the fire.

Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire

May neighbours respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

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