Advent in the Celtic Church

December 24, 2008

The Celtic church refers to the ancient church during the period prior to the conversion and evangelizing of Ireland by British missionairies, including St. Patrick, in the 5th century. Advent in the early Celtic church, prior to the time that the Nicene Creed was adopted was a very different observance from our modern day celebration. During the time of ancient Celtic Christianity, Western and Eastern churches observed Advent season as a lesser Lenten fast. Advent would begin on November 15th with a Mass. Converts to Christianity would use this time for atonement, to purify themselves, and to prepare for baptism. Celtic monks in Gaul, which was still a Celtic country, observed Advent. The customs of the Romans and Gauls combined during this period to include the fast which had been observed by the Romans and was anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. It wasn’t until the 4th century (300’s A.D.) that Advent began to change from a time of fasting and atonement to a period of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Celtic monks also added the feast of Martin of Tours, who was a Roman cavalry officer who converted to Christianity and founded the Gaul Monasteries. the first was the Liguge monastery in 363 A.D. By the end of the 4th century, Advent was celebrated by the whole church, but it wasn’t until the 6th century that a time was set aside to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Celtic Advent is always celebrated from November 15th until December 24th. The same applies for the Eastern Orthodox Advent, which is the time of the Nativity Fast.
For those who wish to celebrate a more holy season and a non secular Christmas, Celtic Advent provides the opportunity for reflection and contemplation about the coming of our Lord. If you are observing Celtic Advent as a Lesser Lenten Fast, it’s not actually forty days of fasting. Sundays and Feast Days aren’t counted as fasting days, and in some cases, it can mean that you are simply giving up a particular food as you would during Lent. Symbolically, it’s your rite of purification as you prepare for the Feast of the Nativity. Celtic Advent Liturgies are found on this site:

Blessed Advent.




 Many misconceptions exist regarding the Anglican church, and the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion refers to the Anglican church worldwide. No single Anglican church has autonomy over all others. Each national church, such as the ECUSA (The Episcopal Church in the United States) has autonomy, a presiding bishop, and bishops elected to each diocese. Churches in full communion with the Church of England comprise the Anglican Communion. 

The Celtic church in Ireland traces its origins back to the time of St. Patrick, when the church was centered around monastic communities. The Irish Church is considered to be both Catholic and Reformed, since Henry Vlll was named the head of the Irish church by the Parliament of Ireland during the Reformation. At that time the Church of England severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church.  When the Church of England was reformed by Edward Vl, so was the Church of Ireland.

During the Reformation, the Irish church underwent more radical changes due mainly to the doctrines of John Calvin. However the Bishop of Armagh authored the Irish Articles which were adopted in 1615, and accepted along with the Thirty Nine Articles, the official doctrine of the Church of England. The Thirty Nine Articles are now the official doctrine of the Church of Ireland. 

The first Irish translation of the New Testament was published in 1602, and the translation of the Old Testament was published in 1680 by the Archbishop of Dublin. The translation of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (the official prayerbook of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion) was published in 1712.

Although there are Anglo-Catholic parishes, referred to as High Church, the majority of the churches in Ireland are consideered more Low Church. The Church of Ireland has two cathedrals, Christ Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, both located in Dublin. However there are cathedrals in other dioceses as well.

The majority of Anglicans numbering 75%, live in Northern Ireland. During the last century there was a decline in the membership both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but the Republic has experienced more growth since the church has relaxed standards about children of mixed marriages being brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, Anglicans moving to Ireland, and Roman Catholics who have left the Catholic church in favor of Anglicanism.

Recent developments in the church have left their mark on every parish, and we can only pray that resolutions will be found to overcome challenges facing the Irish church and restore the stability of the Anglican Communion worldwide.