From the very beginning, the Christianity of the Irish was different from that of other men, taking its flavor as it did from the uniqueness of the Irish soul.
First of all, the Irish believer embraced Christ completely. His sacrifice freed him from the terrors of the old Celtic gods who devoured men in their yearly sacrifices and cursed men with doom for the slightest fault, and never offered forgiveness.
Secondly, he embraced all men, seeing them either as brothers in faith or as potential ones. No one was regarded as beyond God's reach. He took seriously God's desire for all men everywhere to be saved, and women as well.
Thirdly, he embraced nature as God's creation. He saw the natural world, and his place in it as one way that God revealed Himself to men. He delighted in its beauty, and gloried in its majesty. If he rejoiced in some natural phenomenon, he was by his very rejoicing praising the Creator.
Fourthly, he embraced all human learning. He recognized that God had also created Man's mind, and was endlessly delighted to study and enjoy what men's minds produced. Once again, this enjoyment was viewed as an act almost of worship, because in praising the excellence of a man's creation, the Irish Christian was also praising the Creator of the mind.
The Irish Christian did not compartmentalize. He did not separate his life or his thinking into categories, and nothing was forbidden as a topic of discussion. This is why a page from the first chapter of Matthew in the Book of Kells can have upon it the beautifully decorated Capitals, and at the same time a tiny self-portrait of the illustrator with an erection. To us this is rather shocking, but to him it was quite natural, for sex is as much a part of life as eating and sleeping, and he saw no reason to pretend otherwise.
We can learn several lessons from this view of Christianity. We can learn to give ourselves wholly to God, even as the white clad monks of the fifth and sixth centuries did. We can embrace all men as they did, ignoring the superficial differences between man and man, and again take God at His Word. We can learn to rejoice in the natural world without embarrassment, and take delight in the play of the dolphin and the cry of the mourning dove, stare in awe at the Grand Canyon, and look up in entranced silence at the stars. We can rejoice in the achievements of Man, recognizing that God created the mind that made them possible. Lastly, we can live a unified life, and realize every act of ours is an act of worship, if we intend it so, including sexual intercourse with our mates. At the same time. we free our friends and companions to live an equally unified life, without hypocrisy or false modesty. And somehow, we just might recapture the magic of the world, that our own fragmented age has lost and sorely longs for.
For further reading: How the Irish Saved Civilization
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