If you’ve been a regular customer at the bookstore, the author of the new book The Ancient Way: Discoveries on the Path of Celtic Christianity probably looks familiar. River Jordan was a bookseller at Parnassus for many years — always ready with a big smile, a compassionate ear and as many book recommendations as you could handle. She always had a good story, too, if you needed one.
And you may already know she’s got quite a few books under her belt, including Praying for Strangers and Confessions of a Christian Mystic. Speaking of Confessions, River had a wonderful talk here on Musing with Parnassus favorite Silas House when that book came out. And now she’s back with a new one!
Ann Patchett describes The Ancient Way as “a warm and glorious book for our time,” and recommends it if you’re looking for something “meditative and hopeful and profoundly kind.” Aren’t we all right about now?
River Jordan will be in conversation with Lisa Patton, author of Rush, this Thursday, Oct. 29, at 6pm Central, in a virtual event held on Zoom. Please join us for what’s sure to be a delightful discussion — multiple ticket options include a pay-what-you-want donation!
Here are two short excerpts from The Ancient Way.
From Chapter 11: The World is Light and Shadow
They believed in angels and they believed in demons. In the forces of good and the shadows of evil. They were superstitious and they were believers. They prayed St. Patrick’s words, “Christ in peace, Christ in danger,” and they prayed for the encircling of protection, as if they were weaving a spell of light, of God. Three being the magic number and as part of their prayers for protection from evil, they would sometimes make the rounds, walk three times around a cross, a home, or a person, encircling them with the good and sealing the evil out.
The Celtic people had long understood that both darkness and light were part of their lives. And they understood the space O’Donohue referred to as the “Celtic consciousness being a penumbral light,” which belonged neither to the light nor to the dark. They were aware of the space in between. What they would call the threshold and the thin places, which we’ll speak of now and later. They knew the pause as night becomes morning and day becomes night again. The space of thresholds and thin laces. Doorways to different dimensions or times. The crossing of one to another as thin as a dime, a hair, a hope.
From Chapter 17: Revelation in the Ruins
There is always something that affects me when I walk through sites where there are remnants of a society that has come and gone. The skeletal remains of entire communities echoing from the stones they left behind. The ghost cities of the Anasazi carved within the rocks of Southwest United States. The paintings found on the walls of the caves of Borneo and in Indonesia. The ruins of a monastery with stones still standing.
Somewhere here a man built a fire; somewhere there a woman stirred a pot; in this corner of the cave a baby nestled at his mother’s breast. I reach to touch this thread of life that carried us forward, vow to not let go. We belonged to the people who came before us, and we belong to them still. And they remind me that I have to be about the business of my life, which is to live it fully, without apology and without regret.
This is what the ruins spoke to. me on Iona as I slowly walked through the remnants of the Augustinian nunnery built in 1203. I stepped over the stones, walked between the arched pink doorways, and thought of the Celtic concept of the significance of thresholds. This one was the threshold of time.