5th June

Friends Of God

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. John 15:14,15

The Celtic church was composed not only of outstanding individuals such as Patrick, Columba and Brigid, it also had indigenous movements which shaped and re-shaped its life. In the eighth century a reform movement began within monasticism in southern Ireland which over time spread to northern Ireland and Scotland, and inspired new bursts of holiness and literature. The monks of this reform were known in Gaelic as Celi De, which roughly means Friends of God.

These Christians, like the prophets who cleared away wrong things so that God could move in, tried to clear up certain abuses that had crept into the monasteries. The leadership of monasteries was often hereditary, but as the generations passed some descendants of founders were far from God. This meant that truly holy monks were shut out and corrupt practices flourished. It created a feeling of vengeance among the people and among some monks, and there were violent attacks on abbots and monasteries, not all of whom deserved it.

The reforms were not brought in by force or rebellion, so much as by example and persuasion. Monks were encouraged to withdraw from worldly affairs in order to concentrate on ‘the three profitable things’: prayer, work and study. The Anamchara or Soul Friend played a particularly important role in this renewal.

This concentration on holiness produced many inspired writings: lists of martyrs; accounts of the saints, guidelines for making restitution (known as ‘Penitentials’), liturgy such as The Stowe Missal, and early Irish nature and hermit poetry.

Each generation has to learn that ‘God has no grandchildren’. We each of us have be to borne anew of God’s spirit, brought to our knees in penitence and wonder at the presence of God. Are you hiding behind Christians who have gone before you, or are you flowing in the life of the Holy Spirit that is ever fresh?

Lord, take from me all that is mere human accretion.
Give to me a broken spirit and a humble heart
That I may be intent on you alone.

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