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Leeching on the Lord?

It's what disciples do.

The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (14)

Gilldae (‘a pupil’) – like to a leech (gil): it is its custom to suck: it is also the custom of the gilldae to suck instruction from his tutor’s tongue...

  - Cormac, Glossary, Irish, 10th century[1]

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

  - Hebrews 5.12-14

Cormac was a most interesting person, both a bishop and a king. But he was also a lexicographer, and he compiled his Glossary to preserve Gaelic words which were beginning to fall into disuse, as the world of Irish Christianity was becoming Latinized by the Roman Church.

From his 10th-century vantage point, Cormac reflected on the Celtic Revival, by then in eclipse for more than a century, and he may have hoped to rekindle some of its vibrancy by reminding his readers of the vanishing glories of their native tongue.

Of all the words Cormac, that dutiful logophile, preserved from the ancient Gaelic, this is my favorite. I’m glad he was afraid that gilldae was going out of use and needed to be included in his list. Its meaning is in danger of being lost in our day, and thus it is a word we should pause to appreciate as we bring our study of the Celtic Revival to a close.

This is a powerful image: the student as one who sucks instruction from his mentor like a leech sucks lifeblood from its host. A leech clings to its host; a student clings to his teacher or the subject of his study, especially the Word of God. A leech is nurtured for its labors and has lifeblood to share with its offspring; a student grows in grace, and gains grace to spend on others.

I doubt many of us think of ourselves as leeches on the Lord, clinging to Him and drawing from Him all the life He can give. Perhaps we don’t even think of ourselves as feeding on the banquet of His Word, which He daily prepares, especially for our needs. David, Amos, Jeremiah, Job, Paul, Peter, and John all thought about the Word as the Source of food for their souls. By feeding their souls, they knew, the Word would prepare their bodies to serve the Lord with words and deeds.

The Word nurtures our souls, but it also gives true shape to our lives. Feed on the Word, and your soul and body will grow into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Fail to cling to the Word (Ps. 119.31), and your spirit will shrivel, and your body will have no strength for anything other than itself.

If we really believe that feeding on the Word is critical to our physical wellbeing, not just our spiritual, we should attach ourselves to it more firmly, to feed on it longer.

After all, which of us doesn’t get a little cranky if we miss a meal?

But miss time feeding on God’s Word? Most of us hardly notice.

Are we content to remain babes all our lives, lapping at a little milk poured out from behind the pulpit once a week? Pastors must feed us on the Word of God, it’s true. But nothing can substitute for your own, leech-like clinging to and feeding from the Word to make you fit for the Kingdom in soul and body.

The richest banquet of spiritual food is ready for your consumption, morning by morning, day by day. “Your words were found, and I ate them,” Jeremiah declared. “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” said beleaguered Job.

This ancient food has transforming power. Let us be eager eaters, fulfilling the longing of Cormac to be true gilldae of Jesus, that the life of Jesus might fill us, and His grace flow through us to bring revival, renewal, and awakening to our world.

Get past the milk diet and start clinging to the real divine cuisine by which we may grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. What are you waiting for?

For Reflection
1. What could you do to improve your time of feeding on God’s Word?

2. How would you expect that improved feeding to affect your walk with and work for the Lord?

Psalm 119.171-176 (Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
With our lips we praise You, Jesus, for You teach us, full and free.
Now Your Word will ever please us; Your commandments true shall be.
Let Your hand come forth to ease us; we Your Word choose gratefully!

For Your saving grace we plead, Lord, and Your Law is our delight.
We to live and praise You need, Lord, all Your help by day and night.
Straying sheep, we do not heed, Lord; come and seek us by Your might!

Feed me, Lord! Make me a true gilldae of Your Word, and help me to grow in You! Beginning today, Lord, I will…

Thanks to all of you who share in the support of our ministry by your prayers and gifts. If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to give with your credit card or through Anedot or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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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.


[1] Cormac, p. 83.

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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