A Celtic cross is a cross often decorated with Celtic knots or other images. The cross is laid over a circle background that represents the sun.
Prior to St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland (St. Patrick was not Irish, but an English missionary to Ireland), the religions of the people there were heavily focused on creation. The sun was viewed as especially sacred. Tradition has it that the Celtic cross was developed by St. Patrick as an evangelizing tool. The remote nature of the British Isles allowed Christianity to grow there with fewer requirements for conformity. While most evangelism efforts on the European continent included a commitment to eradicate pagan beliefs, in Ireland the people’s love of creation was incorporated into a creative and vibrant theology uninhibited by constraints often put in place by Rome.
Rather than tossing out the people’s emphasis on creation, Celtic Christianity was built intentionally upon it. If there is any symbol for Christianity with both a historic and present concern for the environment, the Celtic cross seems to be it.
This message is excerpted from “Calla lilies and crosses” by Dave Daubert in the March 2019 Gather magazine. Today we commemorate Patrick, bishop, missionary to Ireland, 461.
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