Celtic Daily Light

Extracts from Ray Simpson's Book

Readings for Thursday 17th January 2019

Rough seas at Sunderland

Call to the desert

The Lord says ‘You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean.’

2 Corinthians 6:17

Celtic Christians drew inspiration from the example of the 4th and 5th century believers who fled the false, comfortable ways of the cities, to live for God alone in the Egyptian and Syrian deserts. These believers became known as the Desert Mothers and Fathers. The movement began with Paul the Hermit and Antony, who founded desert communities. They are depicted together on many high crosses that still stand in Ireland.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, churches were built with public money, people who put career before calling became clergy, and there were no more martyrs to inspire faith. The church became respectable, part of a culture which talked about Christian goals but overlaid the Gospel simplicities. The result was that people began to ask whether it was possible any longer to live a truly Christian life while tied to the structures and possessions of such a greedy society. Many, inspired by the example of Antony and Paul, and later Pachomius, went out to the deserts to live out the Gospel.

By the time Antony died, aged 105, on 17 January 356, there were monastic communities in many parts of the Empire, each touched in some way by his example. It was said that Antony went into the desert with nothing but a cloak, and left behind a desert full of Christians.

Shortly after this Pachomius, the other great founder of communities, established more highly organised monasteries in the south of Egypt, but with similar goals. Pachomius first met Christians when he was a miserable conscript in the army at Thebes. Some Christians brought him food as an act of love. Pachomius was so touched by this that he asked who these people were. He was told that Christians ‘are people who bear the name of Christ, the only Son of God, and who do all manner of good things for everyone’. This so struck Pachomius that he vowed that when he was released from the army he would become a Christian. After his release his call to the desert came through a voice which told him three times: ‘The Lord’s will is to minister to the human race in order to reconcile them’.

  • Lord, if possible, take me from environments that are unclean.
  • But wherever I am take from me all that is false.