Irish monasticism and the wall of God

³Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: ³Run, tell that young man, ŒJerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it.²

Zechariah 2:3

In Ireland, monasticism grew with a unique flare. Though Patrick and others introduced both the seed of the Roman church and the seed of monasticism, it was the later which grew into a vast tree whose fruit eventually went back into Europe and manifested the Kingdom.

There were many reasons for this, but one is a secret to spiritual growth. It is not acsetic practice which was reproduced and eventually started Iona and led men to Lindesfaurne and into England as a missions movement. It was not the cultural frame which men were converted by. Rather it was God being allowed to break into the broken lives of those monks.

Monasticism is not salvation any more than the roman church frames could save men. Both, at times, grew religious and replaced Jesus with spiritual practices (which is the way of religion). Neither the celtic or the roman frame save men. Jesus Christ does.

What was unique about Irish monasticism is that it allowed men to start with the central motivation of finding and growing in Christ. Men did not go on mission to save others–primarily they went to be saved! This is a huge matter. It has to do with the heart¹s motivation for doing missions. If we believe that we are going to save others first, we will fail. If we instead see our goal as being transformed ourselves by Christ, then His Kingdom can come and save others.

The primary motivation of being trasformed by Christ leads to His being able to use us then as living stones, placed by Him to do His Work. There is a vast difference in believing that we are already whole and that others need something we carry, and seeing ourselves on a pilgrimage into His Life. These are two opposing motivations for missioning.

We are first on mission, then if we allow Him to form Himself in us, we may become His Action of missioning the nations.

Patrick had both seeds or frames within him. Growing up Roman Catholic, he knew the ways of the church. The frames of bishops and diocese were not alien to him. Nor was the seeds of the monastic movements which had spead across Europe starting in Egypt with the desert fathers. Men had created frames in which to find and be transformed by God. But he was not preaching frames, he was preaching Jesus Christ and His Cross. And men were transformed. In fact, a whole nation was transformed.

There is no way of calculating how many churches and monasteries Patrick himself formed, but after his death (as his seeds went into the Irish soil), a nation wide living network of churches and monasteries emerged. Here is the man who had prophecied the growth of Dublin into a commerce center, and who had raised men from the dead. Here is a man who had not come to convert the nation, but had a dream which stirred his compassion for the irish people, until he had to go on pilgrimage into their nation. Here is a man who manifested the Kingdom of God wherever he journeyed.

The walls of the church are indeed coming down. And unprecedented riches will be received, so that its glory will be so obviously from above that no man will be able to deny its radiance! These walls were for protection, but came to serve to keep people in. They also began to keep people out of the church. Religion itself is a wall which is breaking off the Body of Jesus in our hour. Religious practice does not save us, Jesus does. This is becoming apparent to many.

In the verse that follows this one, it is said that God Himself will become our wall of protection. God as a wall is an entirely different type of boundary! Things which need to come and go will. And people who need to be protected as they grow, will be. In this hour the boundary of the church is blurring, and simultaneously, becoming more clear. The true boundary of those in Christ is Christ Himself not culture and not religion. Christ Himself is both our fortress and our high tower. Nothing else will guard us from what is coming, and noone else will the true boundaries of our identity as The Church eternal.

As we individually and coorporately take down our walls and allow God Himself to become our wall, we will begin to taste and see the boundaries of our own identities, as well as the true identity of The Church.

Irish monasticism effected all of europe, as any movement will, in which God Himself forms His Networks and walls of definition. It was not pure and perfect, but it gave God room to move and use His people who were on spiritual pilgrimage as living stones in His House.

Monasticism as a whole is no more perfect than any other frame of getting the know God. But one thing it had, especially in its irish incarnation, was this central spiritual starting point of personal transformation. Men wanted to be transformed, and God worked with that! They wanted to be on mission, so God could use them to be missionaries. Our heart must be to be Christ formed. To be transformed by His Life. There will be unique expressions of this for each person and nation, but the goal is the same. That His Life and Kingdom be made manifest on earth as it is in heaven.

For a season, Irish monasticism achieved this aim. For a season, Irish monasticism had no walls but Jesus Christ. This too is our calling. Then we will become a living network formed by and through His Holy Spirit, and the nations will see that God is the glory within our walls. Then we will be on His Mission.

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