Celtic Christians found their lives and organised worship complex and stressful; so much to accommodate; needing time and resources just to tread water. They were too busy and that was 1500 years ago!

Their ‘go to’ for help was not to turn to a myriad of self-help books and apps about how to declutter your life; it was to turn to God and the Bible, where they found encouragement in Jesus’ words:

‘…  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10)

In general, Celtic Christians were not disposed to be legalistic and wanted simple freedom in their lives. Freedom to choose to honour God, relate to people and steward nature; loose structure, less hurry.

Some, it is true, were tied to an austere and regulated life, and ironically many in Celtic Christian holy orders found austerity in the extremes of simplicity. The more relaxed Benedictine Order became more appealing than its Celtic Christian counterpart, which helped the Benedictine monk, Augustine, arriving on British shores with the new wave of the Church of Rome.

It is called a ‘Rule’ but it is not a legalistic set of requirements. The word comes from the Latin for ‘trellis’. The Rule is a framework to lift us up in Jesus, enabling better growth; preventing disease attacking from below:

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5)

We can, of course, find a biblical template. Despite us looking at Celtic Christians of so long ago, it is the contemporary version of The Message which perhaps highlights this best:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message Romans 12: 1-2)

A Rule is not regulation but rhythm. It supports our changing needs as we grow up and allows us to work with the seasons in which we live. What the Celtic Christians did – and what we can seek to do – is to find our rhythm of life in God; not work against it or even drive on relentlessly pursuing, for there is much to be gained from including a season of rest.

In practice this addresses both the positive and negative. It positively leans into godly habits and practices, drawing us closer to God and enabling us to have time with God. Remember that for Celtic Christians, any activity could be worship – they reshaped the routine of walking somewhere into a prayer-walk. It is also helps avoid evil and negativity: identifying and helping us remove habits and practices which prevent us from consciously being with God, consciously doing what He calls us to do.

[from Timothy Pitt]

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