The Celtic Revival: Celtic Christian Culture (1)
Father, do not allow thunder and lightning,
lest we be shattered by its fear and its fire.
We fear You, the terrible One, believing there is none like You.
All songs praise You throughout the host of angels.
Let the summits of heaven, too, praise You with roaming lightning,
O most loving Jesus, O righteous King of Kings.
- Anonymous, Noli Pater (7th century)
“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
- Acts 2.32-36
The Celtic Christian worldview is a tapestry of mystery, wonder, beauty, majesty, practicality, surprise, and joy, encompassing all aspects of life and the cosmos. Celtic Christians celebrated and promulgated their worldview through a variety of cultural forms. Though few and often difficult to understand – given our distance in time from the Celtic world – these artifacts – poems, carved crosses, stories, everyday items, and illuminated manuscripts – help us enter the Celtic Christian worldview and sample its beauty and power.
One of the earliest poems from the period of the Celtic Revival is Noli Pater (“Father, do not…”), attributed to an unknown poet in the Ionan tradition. The first three couplets, cited above, show us the power of verse to capture the scope and majesty of a worldview centered in Jesus Christ, exalted in glory. In the original Latin, these verses were composed in a regular meter with a careful rhyme scheme. They would have been easy to memorize and a source of delight and inspiration to recite. Here is the third couplet in the original Latin. Try reading it – just pronounce the words as they seem to indicate – and see if you can feel the meter and hear the rhyme:
Teque exaltent culmina caeli vaga per fulmina
O Iesu amantissime, O rex regum rectissime.
Let’s note how much of the Celtic Christian worldview is brought together in these six lines. First comes the glory of God in thunder and lightning. While these are mysterious and terrifying elements of the created world (cf. Ps. 29), we understand that they praise King Jesus, and we, though small and fearing, may enter with them into His praise and glory.
Next, the unity of heaven and earth is clearly in view, connected by the thunder and lightning, and by the affection of fear (fear the lightning, fear God), but more than that, by their common purpose of serving and glorifying King Jesus.
The government and affairs of nations are also indicated in the mention of Jesus as King of kings, and not just of the cosmos. His power to rule and judge extends to all nations, tribes, and tongues.
Our relationship to God, defined by fearing and believing in Him, is clearly indicated. He is our Father, and Jesus our Savior is our King.
Angels swarm throughout the heavens and over the earth with their mission of giving and encouraging praise to God. We cannot see them, but they are there and active on our behalf, sent from the Father as our servants.
Even the form of the poem itself – rhythm, rhyme, powerful images – speaks of a worldview of order, mystery, and beauty in which God can be known, feared, loved, and worshiped by anonymous believers from every walk of life, and over which Jesus reigns as King and Lord.
Powerful worldviews come to expression in powerful forms. In this section of our journey through the Celtic Revival, we’ll sample many of the various cultural forms that Celtic Christians employed to exalt Jesus and celebrate the economy He is unfolding on earth as in heaven.
And perhaps we’ll be challenged in our own understanding and use of culture, for knowing Jesus, celebrating Jesus, and proclaiming Jesus to our increasingly secular age.
1. What does 1 Corinthians 10.31 require concerning your use of culture?
2. What aspects, facets, or items of culture do you typically encounter or use?
Psalm 49.1-6, 15 (Sagina: And Can It Be, That I Should Gain)
Hear this, you peoples, low and high; give ear as wisdom I proclaim:
My heart with understanding fills to hear and sing my Savior’s fame.
Why should I fear when foes arise, who trust in wealth and boast in lies?
Refrain v. 15
My God redeems my soul from hell!
His grace and mercy let me tell!
Lord, teach me to see and hear and wonder at this world, and at You, King Jesus, Who…
A little introduction to culture
Jesus used culture in many ways, and He encourages us to do the same. Our booklet, Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars, can help you make the most of the culture God has entrusted to you. Learn more about this book and order a free copy by clicking here.
About the Celtic Revival
Want to learn more about the Celtic Revival. Go to our new web page on this important topic by clicking here. Listen to our newest podcast, Celtic Legacy, by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Clancy and Márkus, p. 85.