Celtic Christians did not retreat from society to create solitude and secrecy, but instead went to the places where people were – they went to the villages and towns. But instead of simply living intermingled with them, they chose, as teams, as groups of 10 or more people, to live together in a village-within-a-village. They had walls around their monastery – not to keep people out, but to denote something different, a break from the culture. Within their community there were homes of hospitality where guests were welcomed in and cared for. There were certain individuals within the monastery who were responsible for welcoming and taking care of guests. Meals were shared communally, as were many forms of prayer and worship. Perhaps building homes and putting walls around them is not incredible feasible in our context today, but why couldn’t we gather together 10 families, couples, or individuals and move into an apartment complex together? Or into a new housing development?
What was the five precepts of the Celtic monastics:
1. Voluntary periods of solitary isolation.
2. Communicating with a “soul friend” – a peer with whom you were vulnerable and accountable (to whom you confessed and who supported and challenged you).
3. Small group interaction (groups of 10 or less) led by a devoted disciple of Jesus.
4. Participation in “common life” (meals, work, learning, bible recitation, prayers, and communal worship).
5. Ministry and witness to non-Christians (through small group, soul friend, or communal life).
Our ministry and witness to all, Christians and non-Christians alike, is to care for those who have no one to care, to give compassion and love to those who have no love, no compassion, to care for others as though we were caring for Christ himself. This is our one purpose, our one goal.
Not all early monks spent their days alone. Many hulled in loose associations called 'lavra,' while others formed communities (cenobium, a word combining the Greek koinos (community) and bios (life). Our community is open to all who believe, all who wish to Christ found in all others with whom we come in contact, and to do so unconditionally.
How much would we impact our communities if we had actual pockets of Christians living an alternative lifestyle. Christians in America are invisible. Maybe we say something about morality, or vote by different standards (not always God’s standards), or speak with a little less vulgarity. But what if we stood out because we lived together and we lived different!? What if that 'living differently' was to not only see Christ in all others; but, to love and care for all the Christ in all others without conditions? How much greater of an impact could we have!
- A modern Monastery -