I thoroughly enjoyed The Singer Trilogy, and subsequently ordered and read Miller's book The Path of Celtic Prayer. Though not as rich as some of Miller's other works, The Path of Celtic Prayer addressed several intriguing themes relating to our experience of God.
I. The Spirituality of Nature
From St. Francis to Thoreau to Wendell Berry, I have been attracted to authors possessing a strong sense of the spirituality of nature, blazing a middle-ground between pagan pantheism and fundamentalist utilitarianism. To recognize and appreciate the creation as the handiwork of the Creator is not nature-worship. We ought to know Psalm 19 both from reading the text and gazing at the sky.
II. The Power of Raw Scripture: Lectio Divina
The contemporary Celtic scholar Thomas O'Laughlin described Scripture as "literature born on the high ledges between this world and the next." I believe we need to cultivate a renewed appreciation for the reading of mere Scripture - raw and unadorned. "The Celts... seemed to believe there was a deliberate power for living in allowing the Bible to have its own majestic voice without the clutter of human chitchat trying to explain it." (53)
III. Liturgy as High Praise
There is a renewed interest in liturgy in the Church today that I think stems from a dissatisfaction with the irreverence of impromptu, colloquial devotion. I believe there is a place for spontaneous, spirit-inspired prayer, but I also believe it is untrue that the only "real" prayer is merely praying whatever comes into our heads.
The secular mind sometimes tries to fashion prayers and generally ends up with a divine headache. But the heart in love with God cheerfully labors over gladsome poetry. The heart is the place of prayer rehearsal. It is the editing room for dialogue with royalty... It is a foundry of intensity that smelts the ore of our devotion till it is fine enough to be formed into the highest kind of praise. Then, and only then, is the word beautiful enough to be spoken.Other high points in the book include an incisive discussion of the Trinity (33-35), a thought-provoking definition of confession ("It doesn't mean so much that we are informing God of our sins as it is agreeing with him that we are sinful... confession is that bold step by which we stand with God, look at our dark side and agree with all that he has said about it in his Word." -140), and a description of the pagan Celtic concept of spiritual energy referred to as the neart (21) - similar to the Chinese tao as described in C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man.-40
The old Celtic prayers and runes are easily the best part of the book, almost to the point of giving Miller's commentary the flavor of filler. The prayers are encased in beautiful poetic forms and are of a reverence, depth, and simplicity that is timeless.
I leave you with an old Irish prayer we have hanging in our home just inside the door:
Deep peace of the running waves to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.
Image courtesy of journeywithjesus.net