Remember Our People

We must not forget those who have gone before us in the faith.

The Celtic Revival: The Monasteries (1)

Let all our mind
be upon the people of God, whom we do not conceal.
It will benefit us to make trial
of the prologue which we recite.

The world’s strength is a deception
to whoever dwells therein;
there is no strength
save great love for the Son of Mary.

Though the kings of this world are great
to you who look [upon them],
a hundred hundred times loftier
are the humble hirelings of Jesus.

Though they are lower in the eyes of men,
and in the noise of their outcry,
they will be exalted in the high stronghold of the Kingdom,
for age upon age.

  - Oengus mac Oengobann, The Martyrology of Oengus (9th century?)[1]

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 - Hebrews 12.1, 2

Toward the end of the period of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD), and spilling over into its afterglow, a number of writings and artifacts appeared which sought to capture, magnify, and preserve the achievement of those generations that followed Patrick. One of the most notable of these is The Martyrology of Oengus.

The Martyrology of Oengus is a calendar of the saints of Ireland, cast in the form of a lengthy poem. It takes the reader back to the Scriptures and the glory days of the Celtic Revival, and, as John Carey explains, “was intended to establish a relationship between whoever recited it and the saints themselves.” This was the purpose of the writer of Hebrews as well, to keep us mindful of the saints who have gone before us, and of what they achieved for God’s glory and Kingdom, and with and through them, to point us to Jesus, exalted in glory.

Oengus’ purpose in composing this magnificent calendar was the same. In a stanza just a bit beyond those cited above, Oengus wrote,

    You have nothing more precious
    than the love of God, if you perform it:
    you will not regret
    adoring the King of clouds.

In these words Oengus shows us the great value of journeying through the Celtic Revival. By reflecting on the lives and learning from the teachings of those great saints, we can follow their fingers as they point and their steps as they lead us to the King of clouds.

Many of the saints Oengus celebrates were associated with monasteries. There were monasteries in Ireland before Patrick came, as we shall see; but following his ministry, and largely as a result of it, many new monastic settlements arose. Monasteries became the new way of organizing life in Irish society. They were centers of worship, disciple-making, evangelism and missions, and cultural renewal. Monasteries flourished throughout the period of the Celtic Revival, but the epoch of their greatest impact extended from the end of the 5th century to near the end of the 7th.

The monasteries were notable and effective because of the people who led and lived in them. We’ll be looking at some of those monasteries, and a few of their leaders, as we continue our journey through the Celtic Revival into the second phase of its unfolding, the age of the monasteries. It was through the spiritual vitality issuing from the monasteries that the Kingdom of God supplanted the kingdoms of paganism throughout Ireland and beyond. As Oengus reports:

    Fleeting is the sovereignty
    of the wretched world in which we are;
    the King who rules over the angels
    is the Lord of every land.

How the King of clouds Who rules over the angels and is the Lord of every land, brought Ireland under His sovereign rule is the story we shall follow in this second part of The Celtic Revival: A Devotional Journey.

Psalm 125 (St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!
Like the hills surrounding safe Jerusalem,
Christ surrounds His Church and holds her in His mighty Hand!
Refrain, v. 1
    All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
   Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!

Wickedness shall rest not on this holy land;
Sinfulness shall never come forth from their hand. 
Trusting in the Savior, firm in His caress,
Ever shall His favor on this holy city rest.

Lord, do good and care for those upright in heart.
All who turn to evil shall from You depart.
Sinful men may increase; send them, Lord, to hell!
Save Your people, let your peace abound in Israel!

The Legacy of Patrick
We hope your interest in the Celtic Revival is growing, and that you’ll begin looking more closely at this period as a source to inspire, direct, and equip you, just as we do at The Fellowship of Ailbe. Our book, The Legacy of Patrick, examines the lasting impact of that great saint’s life and ministry, and outlines the lessons to be gained from a more careful consideration of this period. Order your copy by clicking here.
I encourage you to prayerfully seek the Lord about becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1]In Carey, pp. 188, 189.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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