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Part One

The Church Building

External Arrangement

Celtic churches are generally an oblong or rectangular shape, imitating the form of a ship. As a ship, under the guidance of a master helmsman convey people through the stormy seas to a calm harbor, so the Church, guided by Christ, carries us unharmed across the stormy seas of sin and strife to the peaceful haven of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Almost always churches are oriented east--west, with the main entrance of the building at the west end. This symbolizes the entrance of the worshiper from the darkness of sin (the west) into the light of truth (the east).

Internal Arrangement

The interior of the church is divided into several parts. The first is the Narthex (Vestibule), in ancient times a large, spacious place, wherein the Catechumens received instruction while preparing for Baptism, and also where Penitents excluded from Holy Communion stood.

The main body of the church is the Nave, separated from the Sanctuary (Altar). The walls of the Nave are decorated with Icons and murals, before many of which are hanging lit lamps. Especially noticeable in Celtic churches is the absence of any pews. The Fathers of the Church deemed it disrespectful for anyone to sit during the Divine services except at certain explicit moments of instruction or Psalm reading.

At the extreme Eastern end of the church is found the Altar (or Sanctuary) beyond the rail.

Holy Icons — Theology in Color

One of the things that strike a visitor to a Celtic church is the prominent place assigned to Holy Icons. The walls are covered with iconic murals. At either side of the Altar are always placed an Icon of the Savior (to the right) and of the Blessed Virgin Mary (to the left). On either side of the Altar, beyond the Icons of the Lord and His Mother, are depicted Icons of the four Evangelists who announced to the world Good News -- the Gospel -- of the Savior. Icons of Celtic saints then flank the altar. Considering the obvious importance of the Holy Icons, then, questions may certainly be raised concerning them: What is the significance of Icons? Are they not idols or the like, prohibited by the Old Testament?

Icons have been used for prayer from the first centuries of Christianity. Sacred Tradition tells us, for example, of the existence of an Icon of the Savior during His lifetime (the "Icon-Made-Without-Hands") and of Icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary immediately after Him. Sacred Tradition witnesses that the Church had a clear understanding of the importance of Icons right from the beginning; and this understanding never changed, for it is derived from the teachings concerning the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity -- Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God-Man not only of the Word of God, but also of the Image of God grounds the use of Icons in the very essence of Christianity, since Christianity is the revelation; for, as St. John the Evangelist tells us, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).

"No one has ever seen God; only the Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known" (John 1:18), the Evangelist proclaims. That is, He has revealed the Image or Icon of God. For being the brightness of [God's] glory, and the express image of [God's] person (Hebrews 1:3), the Word of God in the Incarnation revealed to the world, in His own Divinity, the Image of the Father. When St. Philip asks Jesus, Lord, show us the Father, He answered him: Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:8-9). Thus as the Son is in the bosom of the Father, likewise after the Incarnation He is consubstantial with the Father, according to His divinity being the Father's Image, equal in honor to Him.

The truth expressed above, which is revealed in Christianity, thus forms the foundations of Christian pictorial art. The Image (or Icon) not only does not contradict the essence of Christianity, but also is unfailingly connected with it; and this is the foundation of the tradition that from the very beginning the Good News was brought to the world by the Church both in word and image.

The Icons of the Saints act as a meeting point between the living members of the Church [Militant] on earth and the Saints who have passed on to the Church [Triumphant] in Heaven. The Saints depicted on the Icons are not remote, legendary figures from the past, but contemporary, personal friends. As meeting points between Heaven and earth, the Icons of Christ, His Mother, the Angels and Saints constantly remind the faithful of the invisible presence of the whole company of Heaven; they visibly express the idea of Heaven on earth.

The Altar

The Altar, which lies beyond the rail, is set-aside for those who perform the Divine services, and normally persons not consecrated to the service of the Church are not permitted to enter. Occupying the central place in the Altar is the Holy Table, which represents the Throne of God, with the Lord Himself invisibly present there. It also represents the Tomb of Christ, since His Body (the Holy Gifts) is placed there. Two coverings drape the Holy Table. The first, inner covering, is of white linen, representing the winding-sheet in which the Body of Christ was wrapped. The outer cloth is made of rich and bright material, representing the glory of God's throne. Both cloths cover the Holy Table to the ground.

What Celtic Christians Believe

What Is the Celtic Church?

Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church, through His Apostles and disciples, for the salvation of man. In the years which followed, the Apostles spread the Church and its teachings far; they founded many churches, all united in faith, worship, and the partaking of the Mysteries (or as they are called in the West, the Sacraments) of the Holy Church. Each of these churches is independent in administration and together they constitute and call themselves the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Historians all place Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury. Even the four Church councils of Pisa 1409, Constance 1417, Sienna 1424 and Basle 1434, mention that "the Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain as the latter Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the passion of Christ." This would make the Celtic Church the oldest Gentile church outside of Israel.

The teachings of the Church are derived from two sources: Holy Scripture, and Sacred Tradition, within which the Scriptures came to be, and within which they are interpreted. As written in the Gospel of St. John, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:20). Much teaching transmitted orally by the Apostles has come down to us in Sacred Tradition.

The Celtic Episcopal Church is orthodox in its teaching. The word Orthodox literally means right teaching or right worship, being derived from two Greek words: orthos (right) and doxa (teaching or worship). As the encroachments of false teaching and division multiplied in early Christian times, threatening to obscure the identity and purity of the Church, the term Orthodox quite logically came to be applied to it. The Celtic Episcopal Church carefully guards the truth against all error and schism both to protect its flock and to glorify Christ whose body which is the Church.

An astonishing number of religious groups today claim to be the successors of the early Church. A standard must be used to compare what the Church originally believed and practiced with what these groups proclaim. Certainly we all have the right to believe whatever we choose. But it is also just good sense to be acquainted with the options before we make our final choices.

It is our hope that this outline of our beliefs will help introduce you to the Christianity espoused and instituted by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. This is the Standard of truth by which our choices in Christianity need to be measured.

GOD THE FATHER is the fountainhead of the Holy Trinity. The Scriptures reveal the one God is Three Persons -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- eternally sharing the one divine nature. From the Father the Son is begotten before all ages and all time (Psalm 2:7; II Corinthians 11:31). It is from the Father that the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds (John 15:26). God the Father created all things through the Son, in the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1 and 2; John 1:3; Job 33:4), and we are called to worship Him (John 4:23). The Father loves us and sent His Son to give us everlasting life (John 3:16).

JESUS CHRIST is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, eternally born of the Father. He became man, and thus He is at once fully God and fully man. The prophets foretold his coming to earth in the Old Testament. Because Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christianity, the Celtic Episcopal Church has given more attention to knowing Him than to anything or anyone else.

In reciting the Nicene Creed, Celtic Christians regularly affirm the historic faith concerning Jesus as they say, "I believe... in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; through him all things were made; for us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried; On the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and his kingdom shall have no end."

THE HOLY SPIRIT is third Persons of the Holy Trinity and is one in essence with the Father. Celtic Christians repeatedly confess, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, With the Father and the Son together he is worshiped and glorified..." He is called the "promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4), given by Christ as a gift to the Church, to empower the Church for service to God (Acts 1:8), to place God's love in our hearts (Romans 5:5), and to impart spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:7-13) and virtues (Galatians 5:22, 23) for Christian life and witness. Celtic Christians believe the biblical promise that the Holy Spirit is given through chrismation (anointing) at baptism (Acts 2:38). We are to experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and grow in our relationship with him for the rest of our lives.

INCARNATION refers to Jesus Christ coming "in the flesh". The eternal Son of God the Father assumed to Himself a complete human nature from the Virgin Mary. He was (and is) one divine Person, fully possessing from God the Father the entirety of the divine nature, and in His coming in the flesh fully possessing the entirety of human nature from the Virgin Mary. By His Incarnation, the Son forever possesses two natures in His one Person. The Son of God, limitless in His divine nature, voluntarily and willingly accepted limitation in His humanity in which He experienced hunger, thirst, fatigue -- and ultimately, death. The Incarnation is indispensable to Christianity -- there is no Christianity without it. The Scriptures record, "...every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (I John 4:3). By His Incarnation, the Son of God redeemed human nature, a redemption made accessible to all who are joined to Him in His glorified humanity.

This article continues with Part Two.