The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (4)
You have nothing more precious
than the love of God, if you perform it:
you will not regret
adoring the King of clouds.
- Oengus mac Oengobann, Féilire Oengusso, Irish, 9th century
There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land...
My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.
- Hosea 4.1, 6
It is sometimes the case that we do not realize what we have until we have it no longer. In the years following the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD), the institutions that had been so prominent in promoting the Gospel and advancing the Kingdom of Christ deteriorated, becoming competitive, ingrown, and self-serving. Open warfare broke out between monastic communities to settle differences, assert territorial claims, or overthrow political sugar daddies. The love of God, which for four centuries had sustained a movement of self-denying, missions-minded scholar/monks, seemed to factor but a little in the agenda of post-9thcentury monasteries and parishes.
Céili Dé thinkers like Oengus longed to recover the most precious love for God, which, they feared, had all but disappeared from the Irish ecclesiastical landscape. His martyrology (Féilire Oengusso)looked back fondly at the heroes of the Celtic Revival, recording their achievements as monuments to the love of God.
If only indirectly, Céili Dé leaders questioned the genuineness of the faith of many in their generation. If they had no love for God or neighbors, how could they know Him? The Celtic lands in the 9thcentury and beyond seemed more like Old Testament Israel than the Church in the book of Acts.
The prophet Hosea had played a role similar to that of the Céili Dé. The people of Israel were perplexed by Hosea’s charge: “What does he mean, ‘no knowledge of God’?”
Why, they were a very religious people. They were so religious, in fact, that they thought they outstripped their sister state, Judah, in worshiping God. Whereas the poor, benighted people of Judah only had one center for worship, well Israel had set up two. It was much more convenient not to have to travel so far, and, by making worship more convenient the religious leaders of Israel attracted more worshippers than those rigid “Puritans” in Judah.
Plus, in Israel anybody could aspire to the priesthood, from any of the tribes who lived there, not just those from one privileged tribe, as in Judah (how narrow-minded!).
And besides, hadn’t the Israelites shown more flexibility in their worship of God, making room for the “best practices” of many of the “seeking” folk from the surrounding nations? Oh, so what if they referred to God as “Baal” (Hosea 2.16, 17)? What’s in a name? Everybody knew what they meant. Show a little tolerance, would you? If we adopt a few of their liturgical forms, it will help to draw them to the true God. Lighten up.
Yes, indeed, the people of Israel in Hosea’s day were veryreligious. They seemed to be fairly dripping with the knowledge of God. So they must have been puzzled, if not offended, by Hosea’s accusation.
Hosea’s word was precisely to the point Oengus was making: To know God is to love Him, and if we would loveGod, it must be as He makes Himself known to us, on Histerms, not ours. Love for God is not merely something to profess. Love for God must be performed. And it is performed in the ways He prescribes, not those we invent.
Like the people of 9thcentury Ireland and those of ancient Israel, we will forfeit our covenant relationship with God if we insist that we can improve on what He has revealed concerning how we must know, honor, and love Him. To know God truly is to submit to Him completely, and to hang on His every Word – to love Him obediently. There is nothing more precious than to love God, and to love Him as He prescribes.
No amount of good intentions, clever innovations, or culturally-sensitive adaptations will substitute for loving God by knowing Him and keeping His Word (Matt. 22.34-40; Jn. 14.15).
We will not regret knowing God in this way; but we will not truly love Him at all if we insist on doing so on our terms, rather than His.
Psalm 116.1-3, 10-14 (Mit Freuden Zart – All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
I love the Lord because He hears my cries and pleas for mercy.
Because He bends to me His ears, my prayers shall ever thus be.
The snares of death encompassed me; hell’s grip could not unloosened be;
Distress and anguish pressed me.
Afflicted, I believed His Word, though lying lips would undo me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above, and call upon the God of love,
And pay my vows most truly.
O loving God, let love for You wash my soul, content my mind, and render all love of lesser things hateful. And keep me from…
Do you love God?
How do you know? How does anyone who knows you know? How does God know? Perhaps it’s time for a little self-examination in knowing and loving God? Download our worksheet on loving God and loving your neighbors,and set aside some time to meditate on this our highest calling in life.
The Lord provides for the needs of The Fellowship of Ailbe by moving on the hearts of those who benefit from our work and believe in our mission. If that includes you, please seek the Lord in prayer concerning this opportunity. 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
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.
Carey, p. 190.