June 25, 2017

Monasteries as Outposts of God's Kingdom

Similar to other monasteries, a Celtic monastery was enclosed by a ditch or wall, but the function of the enclosure was entirely different.  Rather than blocking out the world, it served more like the lines on a playing field.  As one passed through the gate, one entered into a playing field with entirely different rules.  Within the Celtic monastic enclosure the rules of the kingdom of God applied. The community was an outpost of the kingdom - a foretaste of heaven.  What would one day be true in the new heavens and new earth was anticipated and modeled within the walls of the Celtic monastic community.

Monastic activity included all the multitudinous activities of ordinary life.  Celtic monasteries were populated with craftsmen, artists, farmers, families, an children.  Cows were herded, sheep were sheered, cloth was made, and crops were cultivated.  The earth yielded its fruit for the good of human beings and in cooperation with God's design.  As Philip Sheldrake aptly phrases it, "monastic settlements [were] anticipations of paradise in which the forces of division, violence and evil were excluded."

"The gospel in a violent culture"
by Timothy M. Muehlhoff and Richard Langer
Christian Century June 7, 2017, pp. 30-31