Third Sundays of the Month
in the Church
Welcome to Celtic Evening Prayer at St. Stephen’s. So why Celtic Evening Prayer? Sometimes it is helpful in our spiritual journeys to step away from our own Episcopal liturgy, which has its foundations in the Church of Rome, and explore the wisdom of other ancient Christian traditions. Such a tradition is Celtic Christianity, which likely owed its origins to evangelists from Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. It was heavily influenced by the Gospel of John as well as other mystical writings, saw God in all things, and was contemplative at its core.
The following is from the Rev. J. Hutchison Cockburn’s paper, “Church life in the time of St. Blane: ” “….There is no doubt that the Celtic Church owed its ritual, its architecture, its worship and its law to Syria, Egypt and Palestine, and that its allegiance to Rome was slight.”
Although Celtic churches, monasteries and nunneries were absorbed into the Roman Church after the Synod of Whitby in 664, the essential wisdom of Celtic Christianity lives on in the writings of such philosophers, historians, and theologians as Pelagius, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, and J. Philip Newell. It is through these writings and the liturgy developed by Newell at Casa del Sol, a retreat center in the high desert of New Mexico, that we explore this wisdom and its practices.
A word about our silence:
Our service includes two 10 minute periods of silence which can be used for listening for what God has to say to us. This form of meditation is called centering prayer. It shares its roots in Celtic practice with Early European monastic mysticism, and eastern spiritual traditions. The practice was later spread in this country by Fr. Thomas Keating. Although it is normal and expected to become distracted by our own thoughts which originate in our past and create anxiety about our future, the goal of centering prayer is to come into the peace of the present where, as Newell eloquently offers, “time and eternity are intertwined.” In order to still our minds we can focus on sacred words of our own choosing, a word or phrase from the readings for the day, or simply our breath which is, after all, the spirit in which we all share.
Our services are open to all, whether or not one has attended prior services or has or has not experienced centering prayer. Come, spend time with us as we explore this ancient wisdom.