The Celtic Revival: Beginnings (21)
His purpose to
obey, the sun arises every day,
and yet its splendor is a passing ray
of brilliance. All who worship it will be
to grievous punishment subjected. We,
however, who the True Sun, Christ the Lord,
adore, will never perish. All who guard
His teaching will abide forever, just
as Christ Himself. So likewise all who trust
in Him will with Him reign, Who reigns on high
with God the Father and the Spirit, by
the power of God.
- Patrick, Confession (5th century) 
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
- Matthew 19.28
In the literature and on liturgical artifacts from the period of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD), Christ as the sun is a recurring image.
We see this, for example, on the opposing faces of the Scripture cross at the monastic site of Clonmacnoise, dating from late in our period. On the one side of the cross, Christ is depicted in His crucifixion, when the sun hid its face as He bore the sins of the world. On the reverse of that image, a ball representing the sun reigns amid the planets and the vast cosmos, depicted on the outer ring. The message is the same as that which Patrick proclaimed: Christ is the True Sun around Whom everything revolves, and on Whom everything depends. In Him all things consist, and He is the Center and Upholder of all creation, and its hope of redemption and renewal.
And if Christ is the sun, we, like Patrick, are the rays of His brilliance, flooding the earth with His light and life.
Well, that’s the plan, at any rate (Matt. 5.13-16).
Christ as Lord and King is a primary theme of the Celtic Revival. Submitting to Him and advancing His rule on earth as it is in heaven was the commanding priority of Celtic Christian leaders. They understood that, in a certain sense, they were ruling with Christ as His vice-gerents, announcing His Kingdom, carrying out His agenda, establishing His presence and rule in all the communities and churches they founded in His Name. They were living “in the regeneration” as new creatures in Christ, and they brought His light into every place they went.
This focus on Christ as the Sun traces back to Patrick, who called on all who emulate him to see Christ as the True Sun, not the fading material sun which would one day pass away. That sun, in its power and regularity, is a witness to the True Sun, and a reminder to us as rays of that Sun, that we must shine brightly through all our course in life.
Christ shines continuously with the radiance of God’s glory. He gives light and life to all things. He supports the cosmos and orders the seasons. He calls on all people everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, and to walk the path of righteousness in His light. And He sends His people out as light to the world, just as He is its primary Light.
Patrick understood, like the apostle John, that the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ meant the True Light had dawned and the darkness of sin and unbelief was fading (1 Jn. 2.8). Patrick had experienced this in his own life, and the truth of it was borne out in his experience and ministry. Generations of Celtic Christian leaders looked back to Patrick and were in awe at what the Lord had done through him. They saw themselves as having received the torch from Patrick – the torch of Jesus’ light – and they accepted it as their duty to shine His radiance into every place and all of life.
And why should we not see ourselves in such a light as well? The True Sun has risen in our hearts, and the brilliant light of His Word and Spirit live within us. Like the sun around which our planetary system revolves, we rise each day and travel our course, shedding the light of grace and truth on everyone and everything. As the True Sun banished the pagan darkness of ancient Ireland, so He brings the light of life to bear on, in, and through us wherever we go.
Let it be our prayer that we may guard Christ’s teaching and trust in His holy Word in all things, so that His light may shine through us to vivify and bless all on whom we shine. Thus we will be true sons and daughters of the True Sun of glory.
1. How do you prepare each day to live as the light of the world?
2. What is your greatest challenge in keeping the rays of Jesus going forth from you throughout the day?
Psalm 19.1-6 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The heav’ns declare God’s glory, the skies His work proclaim!
From day to day and night by night they shout His glorious Name!
No speech, no words, no voice is heard, yet all across the earth
the lines of His all-present Word make known His holy worth.
Behold, the sun arises, a bridegroom strong and bright,
rejoicing as he runs his course from morning unto night.
From east to west across the skies his circuit he completes,
and none can hide their sinful eyes or shelter from his heat.
Today, O Lord, my True Sun, let Your light so shine in and through me that…
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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.
 Verse translation excerpts of Patrick’s Confession from T. M. Moore, Celtic Flame (forthcoming).