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The Theology of Sacrament - The Celtic Rite Catholic Church


We value the “sacred”, that is :


“…something…highly respected and set aside for a special purpose (for example): Jesus Christ is a sacred person…belief in God is sacred…the Christian way of life and its values are sacred. When Christians celebrate all these things, then the actions (sitting, standing, kneeling, prostrating, hands raised/joined/extended), songs, words and objects used (church building/space, table, cross, ring, oil, water, wine, palm, ash, bread, fire, candle, incense, book, chalice, icon, clothing, banners, altar linen and so on) also become sacred. All human beings are sacred because they are created in God’s image…all Christians are sacred because they are members of Christ…”

The Collins Dove Dictionary For Young Catholics


We are a “Sacramental Community” and, whilst acknowledging that in the Reformed Tradition…


“…the term (sacrament) does not appear in the Bible (but that) Christ instituted two sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion) which are recognised by the Protestant Church…”

A Dictionary of Church Terms and Symbols


…we follow the Catholic tradition and observe five additional sacraments:


“…the seven sacraments of the (Roman) Catholic Church (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Marriage) are signs of God’s presence and celebrate in a special way the new life which Jesus brings. This new life of the Risen Christ is called grace and it helps us to grow closer to God and each other…”

Collins Dove Dictionary For Young Catholics


Richard Mc Brien in his book ‘Catholicism’ points out that:


“…what is essential is not the number seven, but the affirmation that there are certain ritual actions through which the saving presence and activity of God, on the one hand, and the sacramental nature of the Church, on the other, are visibly and effectively engaged…”

Catholicism, page 744




In following the tradition of the church catholic, we also value our Celtic spiritual connection :


“…we are committed to relationships not to buildings; are seekers, searchers, explorers, experimenters…we are people who want to worship God…talk to God…listen to God. We are people who readily admit we are not entirely sure what that means…we pray alone and together…we blow the dust of old books, we reform old beliefs…we uncover ancient practices and make them our own…we look twice at something that catches our eye. We seek the divine in all things…”

 Patmos Abbey


Our recognition of a Celtic heritage plays a part in our “spiritual quest”:


“…true Celtic spirituality is neither pagan nor Christian but something that transcends these categories. It is based on a deep connection with the natural world, a relentless intellectual curiosity and a sense of comradeship with all creatures…”

Celtic Inspirations


“…The Celt’s relish for the natural world was balanced by a longing for the serenity of the Otherworld. Symbols act as messengers or bridges between these two realms. A network of interlinked symbols gives shape and contour to a distinctively Celtic borderland…”

Celtic Inspirations




The Community of Christ our Hope, however, in reflecting this Celtic connection within its varied liturgical practices, is also an eclectic group made up of members who experience differently…


  • the walk of faith

  • the way of viewing the world around us

  • the lived expression of the faith/life experience

  • the not so clear understanding of what it means “to believe”


This raises a number of interesting questions :


  • how do we bridge Celtic notions of the natural/spiritual world with traditional Christian/catholic “sacramental practice” ?


  • how can we as an ecumenically-minded Community of Celtic Rite Catholics celebrate/ritualise/pastorally administer “the Sacraments” as we know and understand them from the tradition of the church catholic ?


  • how are these “Celebrations of Sacramental Life” reflective of Jesus – His Life and Message…?



Given that our Community is made up of folk who identify either within a broad range of belief systems and faith traditions  (Reformed/Charismatic/Anglo-Catholic/Roman Catholic…) or who do not identify with any “Faith Tradition” (Agnostic/Animist/Pagan) :


  • how do we live out that which is expressed as “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism…” ?


  • do we “dumb down” our Sacramental Celebrations/ Liturgies to the “faith needs of all “?


An interesting comment was made some time ago from a Community Member who, on declining reception of Communion remarked,


“I don’t believe (in receiving Communion) but I still enjoy the Service and wish to be part of this Community – I like the social interaction…”

Graham, member of COHopeCommunity


Let us at least try to give a basic foundation of and throw light on …


  • what we believe….
  • how we express those beliefs when we celebrate our Liturgies…
  • how we bridge those theological and pastoral differences…





From the Latin “sacramentum” (sacred thing), here are some attempts to define ‘sacrament’ as …


“…an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace…”

A Dictionary of Church Terms and Symbols


“…a visible sign of God’s invisible presence…”

Dictionary for Young Catholics


“…the common definition…accepted by the reformed and Roman Churches is that of an outward and visible sign, ordained by Christ, setting forth and pledging an inward and spiritual blessing…(this definition) owing much to the teaching and language of (Saint) Augustine…”

The New Bible Dictionary


“…everything…capable of embodying and communicating the divine, that all reality has a ‘mysterious’ dimension insofar that it is imbued with the hidden presence of God…we reach God (therefore) through the finite and the invisible…this sacramental encounter with God is Jesus Christ…the church community is the sacrament of encounter…sacraments …are signs of faith, acts of worship, signs of the unity of the church and signs of Christ’s presence….the incarnate word made available here and now as he is, the risen Lord…



So, in accepting that members of the Community of Christ Our Hope may have a different perspective, our “pastoral practice” is to acknowledge …


  • that each of us encounters Jesus, the Risen One, differently in our faith journeys
  • that each holds the concept of “sacrament” in his or her own heart, therefore encountering God’s friendship through Jesus the Risen One, in his or her own way
  • that the gathered Community upholds, encourages and acts as an agent for transformation and change in the Name of the Risen One




From ‘Celtic Inspirations’


Water Centennial Prkland Sydney Australia


 “…a symbol of vitality and inspiration…capturing light (as in the setting sun)…wells and springs were charged with magic powers. Lakes and rivers were the dwelling-places of otherworldly beings…”


Healing Herbs Healing Herbs


 “…plants had a vital medicinal role…”


Starlight – star Light


 “…shooting stars were believed to be souls returning to earth to be reborn…”


The Realm of the Birds – Swan


“…heralds of the Otherworld, their song the speech of that realm which we can nearly understand…”


The Wheel of the Year – Wheel of the Year



“…rolling forward through the seasonal festivals, the year brought with it its special flavours

and ceremonies…”


Books and Letters –KellsFol292rIncipJohn


“…passing on sacred knowledge orally, stories and myths through generations tapped into the “art of memory”…priceless treasures of imagination and learning…a source of inspiration and truth…”


The Illuminated Word –Meister des Maréchal de Boucicaut 001


“…a deep respect for the word demonstrated in the love of riddles, poetry and story-telling, much noted for wit and dexterity…talented artists created and glorified the written word in astonishing flowing, spiralling patterns…great pains were taken to source the raw materials…the making of these books was a spiritual meditation which led the scribes into  an intense and intimate relationship with the word of God…”



The Celtic Cross – celtic Cross


“…ancient symbol dating from 10,000 bce…Padraich (St.Patrick, 5th c.) made the first Celtic cross; lunar power of old religion absorbed into solar Christianity…emblem (Celtic yin-yang symbol) symbolises harmonious and dynamic union of opposites…”


The Tree of Life – MotherTree


“…in the midst of a settlement, a great tree (the mother tree) would be left standing in the middle where the chieftan would be inaugurated (identity and source of life)…the tree’s roots extended to the lower world, its branches reaching to the upper world, connecting him with the power of both the heavens and the elements…”


The Twisted Vine – Nyoman Subrata
         Parable of the Vine Cross
    Carved mahogany




…patterns on illuminated manuscripts and on Celtic stone crosses: rooted in a golden chalice, a vine twists and twines and provides a bunch of grapes for peacocks with iridescent tail feathers: Christ the “true vine”…the grapes: fruits of his life which are there to feed the faithful…the golden bowl/cup: redemption….dazzling outspread tails of the birds: resurrection…”


The Cup – Quaich


 “…female symbol associated with Maeve, goddess of sovereignty (connection with Celtic Royalty) and intoxication…to drink from the Celtic cup: not only communing with the one who offers it but dedicating oneself to the service of the higher powers that it represents…”


Ardagh chaliceArdagh chalice 



The Graal –    God's Graal


 “…neither cup nor cauldron, something on a higher level…magic vessel in which the dew of the otherworld gathered…later acquired a Christian meaning: Holy Grail in which Joseph of Arimathea collected the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion…belief in the power to heal all mankind; can only be seen by those who are pure of heart…powerful symbol of whatever is most precious, elusive and meaningful to each of us…”


The Head – “…where the person’s soul resided…




“There is more to the sacraments than meets the eye. We see the outward side of these signs, but what they are is invisible to the eye, they are the signs of the presence of God in our lives, opening our hearts and minds to our own possibilities and giving us the help we need to make those possibilities real…(and) because Christ is the focal point of the Christian community (life’s) natural events are transformed into signs of His life, death and resurrection….their deeper meaning and reality made known….”




“The whole world is charged with the grandeur of God….”

Gerard Manley Hopkins, poet and priest




Acknowledged Sources:


  • Celtic Inspirations, Essential Meditations and Texts, Lyn Webster Wilde, Chartwell Books Inc., NewYork,U.S.A., 2013

  • Celtic Illumination, The Irish School, Courtney Davis, Thames and Hudson, New York,U.S.A., 1998

  • The New Bible Dictionary, J.D.Douglas (organsing editor) and others, The Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London,U.K, 1962

  • A Dictionary of Church Terms and Symbols, Carl F. Weidman(ed.), The G.K.Gibson Co., Norwalk, Conn.U.S.A, 1974

  • The Collins Dove Dictionary For Young Catholics, Laurie Woods, Colins Dove, North Blackburn, Vic.,Aust., 1990

  • Catholicism Study Edition, Richard P. McBrien, Winston Press, Minneapolis, U.S.A., 1981

  • Sacraments, Moira Eastman(ed.), Dove Communications Melbourne, Aust., 1984

  • Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office); seasonal and daily alternative readings for Morning, Evening and Night Prayer





Last updated 12/02/2018 web-servant Br Andrew Blair efo