Remembering the Saints (1)
At the prayer of the holy bishop the woman bare (sic) a son without pain or travail; and he was baptized, and the name Abban was given to him. And he was sent to be fostered, and to be instructed in feats of strength and valour with a view to succeeding his father in the kingdom; but it was of no avail. Whatever was recited to him of the words of God he would recite, and he remembered the Scripture without any trouble or committing to memory. The grace of God rested manifestly on him…
- Life of Abban (16th century, from an earlier manuscript)
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
- Psalm 16.3 (my translation)
Have you ever paused to consider where you might be if the believers of the previous generation had decided that being witnesses for Jesus Christ was not “their thing”? No Billy Grahams. No parents or grandparents for whom the Gospel was a priority. No faithful pastors or teachers. No writers. No friends who cared about your soul.
No one who regarded proclaiming the Gospel a matter to concern them.
Doubtless, you came to faith in Jesus because someone who knew Him before you told you the Good News and urged you to believe. Well, what if such persons didn’t exist? Where would you be now? Probably not reading this teaching letter, or anything else related to Jesus Christ.
We’d all be Pottersvilles of one sort or another – dark and brooding, corrupt and tawdry, selfish and coarse, lacking any purpose beyond making a buck – without faithful believers in the past to be examples and witnesses to us of what our lives could be in Jesus Christ.
The Irish Christians who lived in the generations following the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) knew this quite well. They made considerable efforts to remember those whose faith, work, and witness had “saved civilization” (Thomas Cahill) and spread Gospel renewal throughout Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and continental Europe. Those who understood the significance of that period of Irish history knew that such great movements of God don’t just happen, but that God uses faithful, courageous, and determined people to further His Kingdom. And they wanted to make sure the memories and achievements of those saints who were now “in the earth” would not be forgotten.
So they took to writing. Two forms of “memorial” writing appeared in the centuries following the Celtic Revival to help make sure that people in their day and beyond – even to us – would not lose sight of the great work God had done in bringing revival, renewal, and awakening to the world. The first, hagiography, records the lives of great saints and leaders from that period. The second, saints’ calendars, provides information for daily meditation and devotion based on beloved saints.
In this Crosfigell series, “Remembering the Saints”, we’re going to explore both types of this memorial writing, to encourage us by the record of those excellent ones who have gone before us from that time.
One attribute we will see over and over as we survey this literature is that these great saints, like Abban (late 5th/early 6th century), one of the earliest leaders from this period, had a heart for the Word of God. They loved the Scriptures, read and meditated on them daily, obeyed them unquestioningly, preached and taught them faithfully, and made sure that those who succeeded them shared their love for the Word of God.
This was so of Patrick (fl. 430-490), who provided the initial impetus for the Celtic Revival. Patrick was neither a scholar nor a writer, but he did leave two brief publications – a testimony and a letter – which give a very clear sense of his faith and his work. Those two brief pieces, no longer than your pastor’s last sermon, contain more than 125 quotes, references, or allusions to the Word of God. Like Abban, Patrick loved the Word and took it to heart and life. The grace of God came to these leaders through their time in Scripture; and as they taught and evangelized others, grace spread far and wide, leading to abundant thanks and praise to God (2 Cor. 4.15).
We should plead with God to give us such a heart for His Word, so that we long to feed our souls on it, do not hesitate to obey it, and eagerly share it with others as often as we can. This is how the Gospel has come down to us, and it’s the only way the Gospel will reach the next generation of believers. Pray that God will give you a vision for the generations to come (Ps. 45.17) and a hunger for His Word (Jer. 15.16), so that you will be equipped for every good work and every true word God wants to flow to others through you.
We’re the next link in the Lord’s chain to the generations to come. Remembering the excellent saints who have gone before, let’s make sure we’re a strong link from them to the people in our Personal Mission Field and beyond.
1. How do you think learning more about great saints from the past might help you?
2. Share with a fellow believer today that you have begun this study. Forward a copy of today’s Crosfigell to them and urge them to join you in reading about the saints who have delivered the Gospel down to us.
Sing Psalm 78.4, 5
(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.
Lord, thank You for the saints who are in the earth. Help me to follow their example as I…
A Sure Foundation
Make sure the foundation of your faith is firm and true by being a faithful and diligent student of God’s Word. Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, shows you why the Scriptures are so important, and guides you into disciplines of reading and study that can bear consistent fruit for the Lord. Order your free copy by clicking here.
To learn more about the Celtic Revival, order a free PDF copy of our book, The Celtic Revival: A Brief Introduction, by clicking here.
Please prayerfully consider becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate online through Anedot or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
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.
 Charles Plummer, Lives of Irish Saints