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Remedies of Salvation

Celtic Christians took sin seriously because they took holiness seriously.

That holy ordinance which was made in the days of our fathers never departed from right ways; they established the remedies of salvation for those who repent of and bewail their passions and vices...just as the physicians of bodies pursue diverse remedies...

- The Venerable Bede, Penitential (British, 9th century)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

- Romans 12.21

Reading the various penitential handbooks which have been preserved from the Celtic period (5th-9th centuries) is pretty depressing stuff. These were some hard-core sinners, prone to some very shameful behaviors, or so it appears. And the "remedies" prescribed for the cure of souls could be equally brutal.

It would be interesting to know if Celtic Christians really encountered some of the sins for which they prescribed remedies, or if they were just using their sanctified imaginations to keep the faithful from straying too far. Personally, I find it hard to believe that drinking cat blood or horse urine was a common practice, even among the lowest of people.

These - and many other equally gross  practices - were, however, common practice among certain pagan peoples, among whom the Celtic Christians continued to live. Were these penitentials meant to warn believers away from pagan practices, much as certain civil laws in the Old Testament intended to keep Israelites from taking up the horrific pagan practices of their neighbors? I think this likely.

Still, we're all sinners for as long as we're in this flesh, and we're all tempted in various ways, every day of our lives. The Celtic penitentials stood ready to correct sinful behavior, whatever its form, and may have been written anticipating things that were not common practice, but could become such if not checked by penance.

In short, Celtic Christians took sin seriously because they took holiness seriously. Where we downplay the devastating effects of sin, or wink at sin, or rationalize our sins as no worse than anyone else's, we show that we have but little regard for holiness. And without holiness, none of us will see the Lord.

We could stand a little more of that Celtic rigor concerning sin and holiness in our own day.

Today in ReVision: Who holds the future? - The President shows us the nation's priorities when it comes to our best hopes.

Tomorrow we hope to have news about our new website, which will be coming up this week. New Members of The Fellowship will join us there, and we'll be offering new products and services to help you in your walk with the Lord. Stay tuned.

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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