The Celtic Revival: Age of the Peregrini (2)
Living his name, living his soul, from the crowds he prepared under the holy Law.
- Dallán Forgaill, Amra Choluimb Chille, Irish, 6th century
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
- Matthew 5.19
Toward the middle of the 6th century, Colum Cille (Choluimb Chille), in self-imposed exile from his native Ireland, founded the monastic community on the island of Iona off the northwest coast of Scotland. He had forsaken a royal inheritance to become a monk, and he prepared for his calling under the tutelage of the great Finnian of Clonard.
Through a variety of circumstances, not all of which are clear, Colum became the first of the great Irish peregrini – wandering missionary/monks and scholars who evangelized Scotland and much of Europe during the 6th and 7th centuries.
Colum was renowned for many things, both in his day and after. Not the least of these was his mastery of divine Law, and his ability to exemplify and teach it so that others willingly took up the Law of God as their path in life. Even after his death, Colum’s example of righteousness and zeal for the Gospel – his “name” and “soul” – lived on in the “crowds he prepared” for Kingdom living.
Greatness in the Kingdom of God is measured by just such things, as Jesus explained. Keeping the Law of God is not the way to salvation. But salvation is the entry point to keeping the Law and doing those good works of love the Law defines (Eph. 2.8-10; Rom. 3.31, 7.12).
Living the Law of God brings us increasingly into the full and abundant life which Jesus gives (Jn. 10.10; Lev. 18.1-5) and makes one a loving servant to the people around him (Matt. 22.34-40). Since love is the hallmark of discipleship (Jn. 13.35), and the Law encodes the standards of love for God and neighbors, it only makes sense that the Law of God should have a prominent place in every Christian’s life.
By living and teaching the Law, we may expect to make a solid and lasting impact for the Kingdom of Christ. Colum left as a legacy “crowds” of men grounded in Scripture, trained in living and teaching the Law, zealous for the Gospel, skilled in preaching, and bold to take the Good News to the ends of the earth.
In Colum Cille there was no separation of grace and Law, of Gospel and the pursuit of righteousness, or of intense study and fervent mission. He was the whole package, truly great in the Kingdom of Christ. What about us? Is being great in the Kingdom even something we think about or hope to attain? What better legacy is there?
We are distracted, busy with so many things, that we hardly have time to think about Kingdom greatness or how it might be achieved. Certainly, as Jesus taught, greatness in the Kingdom will not be ours apart from reading, study, and meditation in the Law of God, then living and teaching it to others.
God has called us into His Kingdom and glory through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 2.12). Everyone wants to have some distinction by which to be identified and remembered. Given the opportunity to pursue greatness in the Kingdom of God, why would we settle for anything less?
Many, like Colum and the thousands of missionary/monks who followed or emulated him, have attained Kingdom greatness. God used Colum and his monks as the first wave of peregrini to take the Gospel beyond Ireland to Scotland and the continent. God used their hunger for His Word, passion for lost souls, and grounding in the Law of God to bring the Kingdom of light to many.
There’s no reason why we should not strive for such Kingdom greatness as well.
Seek the Kingdom, and to be great in it. Then go each day as a peregrini in your own Personal Mission Field to fill the world with Jesus’ Presence, promise, and power.
1. When the Lord calls you home to glory, what will you leave behind of the Kingdom of God?
2. Can you say that greatness in God’s Kingdom is something you aspire to achieve? Should it be?
Psalm 40.9, 10 (Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Lord, Your truth will I proclaim to Your people gathered ‘round,
Nor will I my lips restrain – let Your precious ways resound!
Of Your saving grace and Word I would speak, most loving Lord.
Lord Jesus, help me to seek Your Kingdom! Help me as I go forth today, like one of those ancient peregrini, to…
Personal Mission Field
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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.
 Clancy and Márkus, p. 111.