Borderlands

Continuing with what I wrote yesterday on Celtic Christianity and the power of nature, from Restoring the Woven Cord by Michael Mitton:

Psalm 29:

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

Such biblical passages as these appealed very much to the Celts, whose previous Druid-let pagan religion also had a very high regard for nature. Ian Finlay writes; “The Celtic church grew among people who were not builders, who were not tempted to follow a tradition of containing their gods in temples, but felt closer to them where they felt the wind buffeting their faces and saw the flash of white wings against the sky, and smelled the sun-warmed bark of trees.”

The Christian community saw nothing wrong with this respect for nature and they found it very easy to incorporate it into their Christian life and witness. In fact, their Christian faith enhanced their love for creation, and many Celtic communities were formed in wild and remote places, for it was here that they could feel the power of the wind and the strength of the sea. Anyone who has been to Lindisfarne or Iona during bad weather will know all about this. The first time I visited Lindisfarne the rain fell continuously and most of the time horizontally carried by the north-easterly gale. I clearly remember walking round the coast of the island in these conditions, getting soaked and buffeted, and feeling so aware of the power and glory of God. How sad that we have got into the mentality of thinking that storms are something to shelter from! In our Western society where we do all we can to protect ourselves from cold wind and wet, we miss something of this closeness to creation that those early Celtic communities experienced. This protectiveness has been partly to blame for our lack of concern for creation and ecological issues. It also contributes to our lack of any sense of adventure. David Adam, in his book Borderlands, speaks about the need for us to experience the borderlands;

Today we are very much in danger of producing ‘midlander’ mentality and emotions: those safe people who have never been at sea or experienced the ‘cliffs of fall’ (as the poet Gerard Hopkins described the mind’s mountains of grief). We avoid being frontiersmen and women in case we are shot at by our own side if we dare to cross boundaries. Yet in reality, life is ever taking us to the edge of things. Borders may be hard to set or define, but we forever cross into new lands. Frontiers are still exciting places and everyone should be encouraged to explore them: the borderlands are there for us all to enjoy.

If we have never spent time in natural borderlands such as where the land meets the ocean or where day becomes night, then we will find the borderlands of human experience harder to face and understand.

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