Friday, 25 September 2009

unearthing treasures from the past

The unearthing of a huge hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure in a field in Staffordshire has so vividly brought a fascinating chapter of our violent history to the surface. In what looks like a hidden cache of victor’s spoils we see hundreds of pieces of ornately worked gold which were systematically taken from weapons, shields, helmets, jewellery and other ornamentation. Amongst these are highly decorated crosses and, as ‘The Guardian’ describes it,

a strip of gold with a biblical inscription …folded in half: it reads, in occasionally misspelled Latin, "Rise up O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face."


This spectacular collection is thought to date pilgrimage missional prayerto between AD650 – AD750, a period which begins with the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria in conflict, the death of St. Aidan and the continuing spread of Celtic Christian mission from Lindisfarne, and the Synod of Whitby. It ends with the dawn of the Viking incursions into Britain and Ireland.

Looking at the pictures of this astonishing treasure trove one can almost touch, taste and smell that stream of missional Christian expression which goes back to St. Columba on Iona, and before him to the likes of St. Brendan. These great Celtic pilgrims and adventurers help us to unearth a special treasure from our Christian past: that of peregrinatio ( 'pro Christi perigrinari volens') or "wandering for the love of Christ".

This aspect of our faith obedience has its roots in the biblical experiences of exile, exodus and journey, and was of such importance in the development of the early  ascetic and monastic movements in Christianity. Peregrinatio takes us far from the comfort zone of the familiar and known.  Here we let go into God’s missional flow. That is why the sculpture of St. Brendan’s boat at Caherciveen in Co Kerry is such a powerful reminder of what it actually means to trust Jesus when he says “Follow me”. We cannot fully know what the journey will entail or where we will land.

No metal detector is necessary if we wish to unearth this treasure and hold it in our own hands. A simple heartfelt prayer will suffice.

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