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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Lord's Monasteries

Let us go forth with some of His glory on us.

Even though he have possession of the unsavory world, he should not love its treasures. Let him cultivate and share the fruits of the earth.

  - Anonymous, The Rule of Ailbe (Irish, 8th century, from an earlier ms.)

The heavens are the LORD's heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.

  - Psalm 115.16

How should a Christian relate to the material world? The monks and other believers of Celtic Ireland provide an excellent example for us.

First, they understood that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord - every creature, every place, even all the people of the earth (Ps. 24.1). They saw themselves as engaged in a perpetual campaign of announcing the Lord's ownership of the world and securing specific portions of land for His purposes.

As they found favor with local rulers and tribes - through service and instruction in the Word - they would be given a parcel of land on which to construct a monastery. The monks would sanctify this parcel to the Lord by marking it off with a low stone fence, building a center for worship, and taking up residence in private cells. Ultimately they would construct a refectory, as a place for common meals and instruction, and a scriptorium, in which they studied and copied important manuscripts. Prayers were held throughout the day, following the ancient tradition of praying the psalms. Over time, crosses were erected and served as focal points for instruction and devotion.

Thus the entire monastic parcel became an enclave or outpost of heaven on earth, within which the monks were careful to maintain a focus on the unseen realm and King Jesus at its center, and to set themselves to the work of making disciples so that other such enclaves could be created by the monks who would be sent out as peregrini (missionary scholars) for the Lord.

From the monastery the monks would go out to work in the world of the people who lived around them. They cultivated fields, taught literacy and provided instruction in the faith, served as counselors to kings and tribal heads, did the work of evangelism, cared for the needy, taught basic skills, created works of culture, and helped in codifying laws. At the end of the day they "left the world" to return to their enclave, having brought to "the world" something of the benefits they were gaining through their sojourn "beyond the veil." Thus "the world" beyond the monastery became salted with the eternal Kingdom of Christ.

The goal of this way of life was to train a generation of men and women who lived within the veil of eternity and who brought the reality of the unseen realm into the mundane experience of the people of the world. Through the work and lifestyle of the monks, those who could not become so devoted were able to share in the benefits of eternal life. At the same time, they shared with the monks the material benefits of their harvests and herds. They gave willingly to those who brought the unseen Christ and all His benefits to them. And the monks received these gifts gratefully as a supplement to what they were able to produce through their own labors.

Thus both those who were devoted to ministry and those to whom they ministered shared alike in the blessings of this world and the world to come. Each ministered according to his station, and a balance of communal love was achieved as both clerics and laity nurtured their commitments to the Kingdom of God and fulfilled their individual callings on earth. They understood that the earth was the Lord's, but that He had entrusted it to them for a season, so that they might seek the Kingdom thereon and know a measure of the fulfillment of their daily prayer that the Kingdom might come on earth as in heaven.

The earth has been given to us, and we are called to bring the rule of heaven to bear upon it. This must begin in our own lives, where we are "monasteries" of devotion for Christ. It extends to our Personal Mission Fields, as the "mundane territory" to which we go forth each day from our "monasteries" to serve Christ and the people around us. Our goal is so to dwell beyond the veil in our personal lives that we will be able to bring the savor and reality of the eternal Kingdom to the places and people with whom we have to do, even as we gain from those places and people the benefits God is preparing for us there.

Let us prepare well, brethren, by passing beyond the veil into the presence of King Jesus day by day, there to behold the glory of His face (2 Cor. 4.6). And let us go forth with some of His glory on us, to show Him to the world around us, that His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit may come on earth as it is in heaven.

T. M. Moore, Principal

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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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