The Celtic Revival: Celtic Christian Worldview (2)
He created the good Angels, and the Archangels, and the orders
of Principalities and Thrones, of Powers, and Virtues,
so that the goodness and majesty of the Trinity,
in all the largesse of its munificence, might not be idle,
but might have heavenly dignitaries in which,
with a potent utterance, it could be mightily manifest.
- Colum Cille, Altus Prosator (6th century)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
- Hebrews 11.1
The unseen world of angels, demons, and departed saints was very real, and very close for Celtic Christians. Men like Colum were always acutely aware that they inhabited a world of things seen and unseen, and that of the two of these, the unseen things were by far the more important. Saving faith is grounded in unseen, hoped-for things, and not in the changing circumstances or fading flowers of our seen existence.
Irish missionary/monks had the courage to leave their familiar surroundings and families, and head off to parts unknown, living off the land as they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, because they knew they were ambassadors from a City to Come, and they were not alone in their journeys. They understood that their calling to the Kingdom and glory of God, undertaken by faith, would be accompanied by God Himself, retinues of angels ready to serve those who walked by faith and not by sight, and departed saints interceding for them with prayers like bowls of incense.
In writing that God “created the good Angels,” Colum is not saying He did not also create the evil ones, those who fell with Satan and were ultimately cast out of heaven. He is indicating that even these Powers were created good, and (as he later explains) fell from that state in prideful rebellion against the Lord.
Evil powers indeed surround us, and they seek ever to influence us away from laying hold on our great salvation. Spiritual forces of wickedness seek to distract us from our calling. Their mission is to redefine our calling, not to the Kingdom and glory of God, but to a faith that meets my needs and satisfies my interests. When your faith is focused more on your wellbeing than on Christ, exalted in glory, and His Kingdom, you are listening to the wrong voices, voices whose “potent utterance” is leading you into yourself, rather than into the Lord. As the anonymous author of the Liber de Ordine Creaturarum reminds us, “those deceitful and unclean spirits are restless and subtle…Lying and skilled in deceit they stir people’s senses…they pour the desire for illicit love and lust into human hearts, and imitating things that are true, they transform themselves even into the appearance of good angels and into light…”
But as we shall see, God uses even these His enemies for His own good purposes in magnifying His goodness and majesty.
The realm of unseen things is real, immense, abundantly populated, and rich in images and activities to instruct and embolden us in our faith. We cannot truly pray that the Kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven, nor seek it as fervently as we ought, unless our vision of that heavenly domain is full and pulsing and beckoning, as it was for the saints of old (cf. Heb. 11.13-22).
The Christian worldview includes a vast unseen realm of splendor, majesty, power, goodness, joy, and rejoicing, of saints and angels and holy creatures (Rev. 4, 5), whose actions can enlarge and enrich our walk with and work for the Lord. But, like Colum and the Celtic saints of old, we must make it our business to inquire into this unseen realm, to study and contemplate it daily, and to live each moment of our lives as though our sojourn were first in that then and there realm, and only secondarily in our fleeting now and here.
God intends to display “the largesse of [His] munificence” through us His people, and He employs all the resources of the unseen realm to aid us in our Kingdom-and-glory calling.
Let us, like Colum Cille, study to be aware and make good use of these powerful heavenly allies.
1. How would you describe your vision or understanding of “things unseen” at this time?
2. What can you do to improve this vision and keep it more consistently before you (Ps. 16.8)?
Psalm 91.7-16 (Lauda Anima: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven)
Thousands at our sides may falter – it will not to us come near!
We instead shall see the end of all who at God’s mercy sneer.
Evil shall no more befall us for we hold the Lord most dear.
He shall give His angels charge to bear us up, lest we should fall.
They will guard and carry all who on the Savior’s mercy call.
Cobra, mighty lion, serpent: We shall tread upon them all!
Save us, Lord! We love You only; set us up secure on high!
You we know, on You we call in trouble: Hear us when we cry!
Show us Your salvation, let long life forever satisfy!
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The Landscape of Unseen Things
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T. M. Moore, Principal
 Carey, 34.