To review the short film clip of our prayer-scape, please click onto the The Contemplative Network Facebook page.
A cold north wind blows across Chanctonbury Ring. Her breath driving banks of white clouds across the crystal clear vista of the South Downs. Their shadows chasing the edges of light across the chalk landscape. Chanctonbury, an ancient iron and bronze age site, encircled now by banks of beech tree, is our host for our fourth Celtic Easter celebration. Thirty of us gather from across the country to meet on the date that the early British Church had celebrated Easter and to encounter Christ in the Cathedral of Creation.
I am struck by God’s ability to communicate beyond the use of language. In fact my journey with the rediscovery of the British Easter celebration has become a journey of discovering theology and spirituality as drama and narrative, rather than the dominant view as history and orthodoxy. Much of our life in Christ is channeled through predetermined pathways, set out for us by the experts of cultural orthodoxy. Yet what captures most devotees of Jesus is not his orthodoxy, but his unorthodoxy. His desire to haunt the margins of society, the wild places of the mountains and valleys and to respond to the cries of the poor and the yearnings of creation.
The drama of Christ and the power of his resurrection is a story to be told and reenacted throughout life, not just a story to be confined to the pages of a book and a place in history. To my mind, confining resurrection to a ritual and to history is to deny its very veracity. If Christ is resurrected, then history has been framed as a daily encounter with the eternal. It moves from ritual to encounter, from history to future opportunity.
Therefore, celebrating Easter on the Celtic dating is not a reactionary political two-fingered gesture to the established religious institutions that benefited from the Easter Controversy and in recent times have presided over the demise of the message of Christ in these Islands, it is a vital symbolic enactment of the drama of God in our lives and an invitation to all of creation to take part in this drama. I call this a prayer-scape as it is more than just a meeting in the open air, it is the prayerful encounter of all of Creation with its Creator.
At Chanctonbury we weaved a prayer-scape of pilgrimage, ascending to the top of the highest peak in the area, the land meeting the coastland to the south, the Sussex plain the recipient of our prayers, the warmth of fire in the brazier, the procession through the points of the compass, voices intoning “be Thou My Vision” to the nation as we sung to the north, the mournful north wind chilling our bones as we listened to Uilleann pipes playing behind a recitation of the Psalms and watching Buzzards display in the open sky. In the breaking of bread and wine, Christ was in our midst, was in creation and our prayers for one another affirmed our desire to be transformed into the Likeness of Christ.
I am constantly challenged in my faith to find external ways of dramatising the internal journey of contemplative encounter. The resurrection of celebrating Easter on the calendar of the original British church is just one of those symbolic ways of doing so.
- Next year we will look to take our rag-tag group to Glastonbury Tor for Celtic Easter on the 5 May.