Fr Deacon Aidan Hutson
The Celtic Orthodox Church is one of the Ancient Christian Churches. Founded in AD37, it radiated across Europe, remaining faithful to its tradition and its spirituality during the first twelve centuries of the Christian era. It is the original Church of Great Britain.
Restored in 1866, the Celtic Church has rediscovered its very rich heritage. The Celtic Church is one of the oldest in the Christian world. By tradition it was founded by Saint Joseph of Arimathea in 37AD, in Britain, in a place which is now called Glastonbury. In AD63, another disciple, Saint Aristobulos, also came to Britain. In six centuries, all the British Isles were Christianised.
This church, which spread across much of the Romano-Byzantine Empire, kept the freshness of the Apostolic Church. She was free of all temporal power, poor, and extraordinarily dynamic with numerous monasteries. From Ireland to Scotland, Brittany and to the borders of Europe, thousands of Celtic monks carried a spirituality which, following the first fathers of the West, were a glory in the first millennium of the Christian era. Such great names as Patrick, Brigit, Columba, Brendan, Samson, Amand, Fare, Columban and many others stand out in the history of our Church.
The Celtic Church lost its sovereignty in the 13th century, but its restoration began in 1866, by the grace of one inspired man, Bishop Jules Ferrette and the intuition of a Metropolitan Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mar Boutros, later becoming Patriarch Peter-Ignatius IV. In 1955, Saint Tugdual, the founder of the Monastery of the Holy Presence, in Brittany, restored Celtic monasticism and its spirituality. The Monastery of the Holy Presence is the headquarters of the Celtic Orthodox Church. In 1977 His Beatitude Metropolitan Mael, Primate of the Celtic Orthodox Church, who resided at the monastery until his reposing on 20 July 2014, initiated profound reforms, and since then the Church has continued to grow, regaining the historic Celtic traditions, her Rite and her spirit. New communities have been born, establishing ecumenical relations with other Churches. The Celtic Orthodox Church is an important part of the heritage of Western Orthodoxy.
In 2007 the Celtic Orthodox Church, the French Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of the Gauls, represented by His Beatitude Metropolitan Mael de Brescia and Bishop Marc Scheerens of the Celtic Orthodox Church, Bishop Vigile and Bishop Martin Laplaud of the French Orthodox Church, and Bishop Gregoire Mendez of the Orthodox Church of the Gauls formed the Communion of the Western Orthodox Churches. The Communion has parishes, monasteries and missions across France, where the Communion was established, and in Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Cameroon, Australia, the United States of America, Brazil, and Martinique.
The position of the Celtic Orthodox Church with regard to the Ecumenical Councils might best be described as Pro-Chalcedonian. That is to say, it accepts the teaching of all seven Councils, but acknowledges that only the first three were truly Ecumenical. Although having its apostolic roots in the Oriental (Non-Chalcedonian) Church, the Celtic Orthodox Church was given the mandate to establish a Western Orthodox Church faithful to the spirit of the original Celtic Church. It is an autocephalous Church and has never been required to be subject to the Syriac Orthodox Church, or tied to its doctrinal position. The Celtic Orthodox is not monosyphite, but upholds the doctrine that the one Person of Christ has two Natures.
The Celtic Saints have left us a rich heritage of deeply spiritual prayer, and a visionary way of finding God in the beauty of His creation. Celtic spirituality is full of symbolism, some of which was borrowed from their Druid forefathers, but given a deeper Christian significance.
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