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Source: (consider it) Thread: Celtic Christianity
GeorgeNZ
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I am currently reading 'Brendan' by Morgan Llewelyn http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7201167-brendan, and as with other similar books of Historical fiction (Columba is another one), and limited non-fiction reading I am always struck by one thing. The position/belief that God is not 'over there', God is all, in all, and all things are contained within God.

There is no separation, all of life, every act, thought, deed, God is present and involved in whether we acknowledge His presence or not. It makes me think of Jesus prayer that "they may be one as we are One".

Has anyone here been involved in any Celtic communities? Has the West lost in part this sense of intimacy and understanding? Is it just wishful thinking to live this way in this day and age?

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Arethosemyfeet
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I would be wary of any contemporary community calling itself "celtic". It seems to me that they're akin to neo-pagans in the claim to be restoring something from the past, while actually creating something with some of the aesthetics but little of the substance. What little I know of Celtic Christianity leaves me with an impression of ascetism, hard work, severe penances and self-mortification but also compassion and forgiveness. They were fiercely orthodox in belief while determinedly independent in practice.

Celtic Christianity is too hard a fought battleground to be sure of anything very much. Stephen Lawhead's fiction notoriously reads a sort of proto-Protestantism into it, contrasting it with corrupt continental Catholicism, and it's hardly atypical.

[ 04. November 2016, 21:20: Message edited by: Arethosemyfeet ]

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GeorgeNZ
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Yes Lawhead is another author I enjoy. Also I agree that to a large extent the term Celtic Christianity has been hijacked to mean something almost New Age.
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mousethief

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The eminence of God is just good old fashioned Christianity. Where can I flee from your Spirit? In him we live and move and have our being. There is one who is closer than a brother. Panentheism is as Christian as the virgin birth (not saying they are linked in any way).

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Enoch
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I agree with Arethosemyfeet. There's been a lot of wishful thinking projected both onto the Celts (whoever they were?) and Celtic Christianity, whether or not that has anything to do with who the Celts originally were or whether the phrase would have meant anything to anyone now categorised as a Celtic Christian.

Although it's not quite as record-free a period as is often assumed, it is quite difficult to ascertain very much detail about post Roman Christianity in western Britain. There is a bit more on Ireland, which is slightly later, but not all that much.

What there is, is much better summarised by Arethosemyfeet's
quote:
ascetism, hard work, severe penances and self-mortification but also compassion and forgiveness. They were fiercely orthodox in belief while determinedly independent in practice.
than any of the Pentatonic, mystical nonsense often put about.

If you want some real modern Celtic Christianity, try
this. Be warned, though, these people are pretty strict. There's not much they don't disapprove of on weekdays, yet alone Sundays.

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fletcher christian

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Posted by Enoch;
quote:

What there is, is much better summarised by Arethosemyfeet's
quote:
ascetism, hard work, severe penances and self-mortification but also compassion and forgiveness. They were fiercely orthodox in belief while determinedly independent in practice.
than any of the Pentatonic, mystical nonsense often put about.


That concept of Celtic asceticism may have arisen out of the twelfth century Vita's, which is quite a bit after 'the golden age'. I'm not sure I entirely buy into that view myself, but it is the current thinking.

In relation to the question in the OP I think there is something about Celtic Christianity and that 'golden age' that goes further than just holding a fanciful fascination. I've been on a rather personal journey with this for the last few years and there is much I feel I could say, but alas, it is late here and my fingers are already growing weary from typing.
Perhaps tomorrow.

[ 04. November 2016, 23:18: Message edited by: fletcher christian ]

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mousethief

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Celtic Christianity (in England) died at Whitby. It just took it a while to fall over.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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GeorgeNZ
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Where can I flee from your Spirit? In him we live and move and have our being.

MT I guess this is what I was trying to say, it this from the Psalms?

quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Panentheism is as Christian as the virgin birth (not saying they are linked in any way).

And thank you for the introduction to this school of thought, it is a term I had not heard but it certainly resonates.

Much appreciated.

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North East Quine

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It's not what you are asking, but my parish church was built on the site of the previous church, after its roof collapsed, and the previous church was built on the site of an earlier church, and so on. It seems reasonable to believe that this site was one of the C6th preaching stations established by the community founded by St Machar.

My avatar shows a "Pictish beast" carving dating back to the early C7th which is within the churchyard surrounding my church; other local churches have similar carved stones; the next town along has a very early inscribed cross, incorporated into the external wall of a church, which I always glance at in passing whilst shopping.

Whilst my own religious practice could not be described as "Celtic" and I am not interested in any modern invented Celtic practice, I do believe that there has been an unbroken line of worship here from the C6th to the present day. And that does speak to me in some way I find hard to define.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever

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Anglican_Brat
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Some popular versions of Celtic Christianity are similar to fundamentalist versions of early church history which depict a pristine, glorious, uncorrupted Christian tradition on the isles until bad old Rome messed everything up.

Usually in the Celtic version of history, this occurred at the Synod of Whitby when Celtic Christians were forced to accept the Roman date of Easter.

I suspect one could argue, reasonably that there were distinctive traits of the Christianity of the isles which marked it from the continent. But then Christianity in France would be different from Christianity in Germany, and different from Christianity in the east. The notion that different regions of Christianity are dissimilar to each other, isn't a big revelation.

The biggest difference which marked Christianity in the isles which had some merit was the noted importance of monasteries as opposed to secular parishes in church life.

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GeorgeNZ
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quote:
Originally posted by North East Quine:
It's not what you are asking, but my parish church was built on the site of the previous church, after its roof collapsed, and the previous church was built on the site of an earlier church, and so on. It seems reasonable to believe that this site was one of the C6th preaching stations established by the community founded by St Machar.

That is a beautiful thought, I have this image of prayers constantly ascending in a timeless sense,
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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by North East Quine:
Whilst my own religious practice could not be described as "Celtic" and I am not interested in any modern invented Celtic practice, I do believe that there has been an unbroken line of worship here from the C6th to the present day. And that does speak to me in some way I find hard to define.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever

In much the same way as we value the line of the worship itself in those parts of the liturgy which date back to the very earliest days of the church. We stand with those earliest believers.

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Humble Servant
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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Some popular versions of Celtic Christianity are similar to fundamentalist versions of early church history which depict a pristine, glorious, uncorrupted Christian tradition on the isles until bad old Rome messed everything up.

Usually in the Celtic version of history, this occurred at the Synod of Whitby when Celtic Christians were forced to accept the Roman date of Easter.

I suspect one could argue, reasonably that there were distinctive traits of the Christianity of the isles which marked it from the continent. But then Christianity in France would be different from Christianity in Germany, and different from Christianity in the east. The notion that different regions of Christianity are dissimilar to each other, isn't a big revelation.

The biggest difference which marked Christianity in the isles which had some merit was the noted importance of monasteries as opposed to secular parishes in church life.

If Celtic Christianity pre-dates Roman Christianity, would it not have been basically Orthodox Christianity, without the "Eastern" tag?

[ 05. November 2016, 06:29: Message edited by: Humble Servant ]

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by fletcher christian:
Posted by Enoch;
quote:

What there is, is much better summarised by Arethosemyfeet's
quote:
ascetism, hard work, severe penances and self-mortification but also compassion and forgiveness. They were fiercely orthodox in belief while determinedly independent in practice.
than any of the Pentatonic, mystical nonsense often put about.


That concept of Celtic asceticism may have arisen out of the twelfth century Vita's, which is quite a bit after 'the golden age'. I'm not sure I entirely buy into that view myself, but it is the current thinking.

The beehive hermit cells which one can just make out on the south west corner of the island where I live don't point to guys who enjoyed the pleasures of life. My recollection is that Columba and his followers were influenced by the desert fathers.
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fletcher christian

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Personally I think there is truth in that Egyptian and desert connection. It is extremely hotly debated here at the moment though. The notions that asceticism comes later is essentially - as far as I can tell - from the examination of the Vita's of St David. Early texts tell of his life and acts but later texts place a very heavy emphasis on his asceticism; so the thinking runs that this repainting of the saints later puts in the images and emphasis of asceticism that wasn't there before. I'm not entirely sure I buy that; or at least I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that such asceticism as described in later Vita's didn't actually exist in early times.

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Schroedinger's cat

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I think that, while anything taking the title "Celtic" is probably not authentic (including the books you are read), sometime they are well researched and valid, sometimes they are sentimental claptrap.

But the ideas of the Celts were very much more about seeing God in everything and everywhere. And yes, a lot of Western faith has lost this sense, it becoming more legalistic.

I was a member of the society of Aiden and Hilda for a while. It gave me a form and structure for my spirituality. It was something that worked for me, while accepting that it was not "authentic". It has valid insights.

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Robert Armin

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quote:
Originally posted by GeorgeNZ:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Where can I flee from your Spirit? In him we live and move and have our being.

MT I guess this is what I was trying to say, it this from the Psalms?
Psalm 139: Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?

Acts 17:28  For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Humble Servant:
If Celtic Christianity pre-dates Roman Christianity, would it not have been basically Orthodox Christianity, without the "Eastern" tag?

This is what is claimed by Orthodox "fans" (for want of a better word) of Celtic Christianity. We were here (British Isles) first, and then those nasty Papists came and messed everything up. Ignoring of course that the Christians who brought the faith to the Isles in the first place were under Rome.

Although it is true as Anglican Brat says that the "Celtic" church before Whitby was more monastery-centric. At that synod there was a difference in outlook as well as language between those who had learned their Christianity from people who spoke a Celtic language, and those who had learned their Christianity from people who spoke English (or whatever passed for English in those days). Bede, an anglophone, praised Celts (Irish-speakers) who were particularly pious because he found it so unusual and unexpected. There really was some kind of rivalry going, at least in Bede's head, but I think in the wider church at least in England.

quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
The beehive hermit cells which one can just make out on the south west corner of the island where I live don't point to guys who enjoyed the pleasures of life. My recollection is that Columba and his followers were influenced by the desert fathers.

Hermits were hardly the whole of Hibernian piety.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Gamaliel
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I'm sure Mousethief wouldn't mind me observing that some of the whackiest ideas about 'Celtic Christianity' I've heard have come from Orthodox Christians ...

[Roll Eyes]

As well as some of the wisest observations ...

[Smile]

FWIW I think Mousethief's observations on the issue fall into the latter category.

What I think we all overlook at times is that although there were certainly regional differences - questions of emphasis, differences in custom and practice ... before the Schism the kind of Rome vs Everyone Else tensions weren't as realised as they later came to be.

I've seen all sorts of loopy things online that Orthodox people have posted about the Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon Churches - conveniently overlooking that St David is said to have undertaken a pilgrimage to Rome (ok, that might be a later, medieval addition to his hagiography) and that King Alfred of Wessex certainly spent time in Rome as youth. Why wouldn't he?

Although it's clear from Bede that there were tensions - and Bede was writing from the perspective of a pro-Roman, post-Whitby 'party' - Christians in what became Ireland, Wales and Scotland wouldn't have regarded themselves as separate or distinct from Christians in Rome, in Spain, Gaul, Syria or Asia Minor ...

If you read St Patrick's fascinating memoir it's pretty clear he regarded himself as a 'Roman' Christian - and that's because the Britons continued to use 'romanised' terminology after Roman rule had ceased - or fizzled out - here.

We shouldn't regard the end of Roman Britain as stalwart legions embarking at Dover and sailing away to defend the Eternal City ... it was a lot more gradual and messier than that.

The Britons, and the Irish, used Latin in their liturgies and on their grave inscriptions and so on. To a certain extent, the British seem to have used Roman administrative terms, long after civic life on the Roman model had broken down ... a combination, it would seem, of the end of the currency/market economy, plague and the general unrest of the period.

There are some hints that episcopal structures and civic life may have continued in some places for a while - notably Viriconium or Wroxeter near Shrewsbury - but to all intents and purposes the emergence of a monastic structure and framework was more suited to a pastoral and tribal society (as in Ireland) and to conditions in post-Roman Britain.

I was never convinced of the Egyptian influence but I do think there is evidence for that - perhaps not directly from Egypt itself but certainly through contacts with the Eastern Mediterranean. Plenty of Mediterranean pottery has turned up in 5th and 6th century sites in Wales and Cornwall, for instance.

Moving onto the Anglo-Saxons, to hear some Orthodox talk you'd think that King Harold and his house-carls were loyal to Constantinople rather than Rome ... although it is true that some thegns fled to Constantinople and enlisted in the imperial bodyguard after the Norman Conquest.

It's 1066 and all that which sullies the matter, I think. People redact conditions that existed around the mid-11th century (1054 and all that) into those 500 or 600 years before.

Sure, there was a growing divergence between East and West (or West and East) for many years, but this would not have been quite so apparent in the 4th to the 7th centuries. In fact, it's really only around the 7th century that we see Christianity achieving some kind of critical mass in these islands - even though there had been Christians here from fairly early on.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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I'd read a few years ago "How the Irish Saved Civilization which promoted that after the decline of the Roman Empire, the corner of Europe inhabited by the Irish then spread it's preserved wisdom over the areas that had lost most of what had been previously learned. It probably doesn't matter if it is true or not. People derive an idea of pride and leadership from such things.
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Gamaliel
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I read that too. It overstates the case but there's something in it. Es

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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andras
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Carlisle was certainly a focus of continuing civic life as late as 683, with a working aqueduct and well-maintained city walls, as St Cuthbert found when he was given a tour of the place.

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Some popular versions of Celtic Christianity are similar to fundamentalist versions of early church history which depict a pristine, glorious, uncorrupted Christian tradition on the isles until bad old Rome messed everything up.

.. and which not un-coincidentally provided something for middle-class Christians of a certain stripe to land on during a time when there was a general interest in 'celtic' things in the culture at large.

Which is ironic, as their forebears had done their best to eradicate the various indigenous christianities through the colonized world, as such things were obviously heathen and of the devil.

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Some popular versions of Celtic Christianity are similar to fundamentalist versions of early church history which depict a pristine, glorious, uncorrupted Christian tradition on the isles until bad old Rome messed everything up.

.. and which not un-coincidentally provided something for middle-class Christians of a certain stripe to land on during a time when there was a general interest in 'celtic' things in the culture at large.

Which is ironic, as their forebears had done their best to eradicate the various indigenous christianities through the colonized world, as such things were obviously heathen and of the devil.

Celtic Christianity is often cited as a successful example of inculturation, in that the Christian missionary saints did not completely destroy the Celtic culture, but adopted and Christianized it. A noted example cited is Brigid, in which Christian missionaries turned a Celtic goddess into a Christian saint.

I believe the Brigid example is discredited in the sense that there is evidence of a historical St Brigid. It remains debatable if attributes originally attributed to the goddess Brigid were later attributed to the historical saint.

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Jengie jon

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If you want to know what the Church is bothered about then in the UK look how it thinks Celtic Christianity was like. We tend to project the issues that we see as important for the Church in this age back onto the Celtic Church. If you want to see this today read the difference between the current Irish, Scots and English version of it. One of Ian Bradley books looks at this in detail. We are not the first generation to project our own concerns on and we read Celtic Christianity through the concerns of others.

This is not to say that Celtic Christianity did not exist. It is to say that there is actually a relatively small amount of historical material on which a lot of conjecture is built. For instance, most of our knowledge on Cuthbert is down to lives by Bede and one unknown Lindisfarne monk written about the century of his death. They are "lives" and not "autobiography", that is they aim to portray him as Saint with particular qualities rather than be accurate to what actually happened. Yet St Cuthbert, who spanned the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Church, is one of the Saints who we know a lot about. For instance, I think it is a stray reference only who names the first missionary (pre-St Ninian and may have landed on the Rhins of Galloway which is why I know there is something early), many Saints exists as place names only and those are debated.

It is also not to say that the modern forms are to be ignored, their virtue is precisely the way they mirror back at us our concerns about the current church. They are a fertile way of re-imagining who the Church should be and even in some cases in testing it out.

Jengie

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fletcher christian

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The problem is essentially one of definition. Many have tried to define what makes or constitutes a Celtic Christianity and there are a few good historians out there who have tried, but it tends then to lie mainly in the realm of the historical event rather than theological idea. There are a few things that can be identified but then you might argue that these things existed elsewhere too. In identifying theological marks it is also possible to run into trouble as there were competing traditions even in the early stages and differing ideas.

I personally think it is possible to identify distinctive markers. For me, that journey began by looking at the prominence of Enoch and the use of the allusions to Moses and Elijah which appear absolutely everywhere in terms of the early Irish church and persist for a very long time. There are certain identifiable practices, ways of understanding liturgy, notions about the holiness (or unholiness) of land and notions about specific individual counselling in the context of confession. The approach to scripture is generally quite strange and not something I've come across elsewhere with the same force. The way in which they read themselves into a text often feels very forced, but also quite powerful, in ways that I think we would feel quite uncomfortable about today. That's merely a skimming of the surface though.

[ 06. November 2016, 09:20: Message edited by: fletcher christian ]

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'God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe'
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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Celtic Christianity (in England) died at Whitby. It just took it a while to fall over.

Pretty well sums up the history.

I'm a companion of the Northumbria Community, finds their daily offices and prayer book very helpful. I don't think the NC tries to reinvent history or reach back to a golden age; being intentionally ecumenical it is more interested in exploring ways for folks with different backgrounds (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant) to find ways of being "pilgrims on a journey" rather than adversaries competing over what constitutes the truth.

At any rate, that's my experience. Personally, I like and respect Roy Searle, and have found much to admire in the writings of Trevor Millar. YMMV.

(BTW, the three questions in my sig form an important part of the NC ethos.)

[ 06. November 2016, 11:12: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Gamaliel
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I like the Northumbria Community too.

My question, though, would be what is distinctively 'Celtic' about it?

It means well, it is ecumenical, it has some pleasant liturgies ... But it's not as if members immerse themselves in the freezing cold North Sea to recite the Psalms and have seals and otters to keep their feet wm ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Jengie jon:
If you want to know what the Church is bothered about then in the UK look how it thinks Celtic Christianity was like. We tend to project the issues that we see as important for the Church in this age back onto the Celtic Church. If you want to see this today read the difference between the current Irish, Scots and English version of it. One of Ian Bradley books looks at this in detail. We are not the first generation to project our own concerns on and we read Celtic Christianity through the concerns of others.

This is not to say that Celtic Christianity did not exist. It is to say that there is actually a relatively small amount of historical material on which a lot of conjecture is built. For instance, most of our knowledge on Cuthbert is down to lives by Bede and one unknown Lindisfarne monk written about the century of his death. They are "lives" and not "autobiography", that is they aim to portray him as Saint with particular qualities rather than be accurate to what actually happened. Yet St Cuthbert, who spanned the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Church, is one of the Saints who we know a lot about. For instance, I think it is a stray reference only who names the first missionary (pre-St Ninian and may have landed on the Rhins of Galloway which is why I know there is something early), many Saints exists as place names only and those are debated.

It is also not to say that the modern forms are to be ignored, their virtue is precisely the way they mirror back at us our concerns about the current church. They are a fertile way of re-imagining who the Church should be and even in some cases in testing it out.

Jengie

There's a lot of truth to this. The first abbot here (and St Columba's successor at Iona) was St Baithene, and virtually all we know of him comes from him being a secondary character in writings about Columba.
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PaulTH*
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I've seen all sorts of loopy things online that Orthodox people have posted about the Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon Churches - conveniently overlooking that St David is said to have undertaken a pilgrimage to Rome (ok, that might be a later, medieval addition to his hagiography) and that King Alfred of Wessex certainly spent time in Rome as youth. Why wouldn't he?

I have a cyber friend who's been spending the last decade trying to convince me that British Christianity pre Norman Conquest was Orthodox. I can agree in the sense that all Christianity was Orthodox prior to the Great Schism, usually dated to 1054, but Britain was always under the Western Patriarch, ie the Pope, as shown by the pilgrimages to Rome made by Alfred the Great. The Norman Conquest was sanctioned by Rome as a means of yoking the English Church closer to Rome, as was England's invasion of Ireland under Henry II, but England was never under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of anyone else.

quote:
Originally posted by Mousethief:
Panentheism is as Christian as the virgin birth

quote:
Originally posted by GeorgeNZ:
There is no separation, all of life, every act, thought, deed, God is present and involved in whether we acknowledge His presence or not. It makes me think of Jesus prayer that "they may be one as we are One".

This is pure panentheism as Mousethief points out, and is one of my own favourite approaches to Christianity. It's very evident in the writings of John Scotus Eriugena c815-877, whose name means John the Scot, Irish born. This idea has been much better preserved in Orthodox Christianity than in either Catholicism of Protestantism and was a very strong feature of Celtic Christianity. But I don't like modern groups trying to make bogus connections with things Celtic. It's a sham.

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Yours in Christ
Paul

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Carlisle was certainly a focus of continuing civic life as late as 683, with a working aqueduct and well-maintained city walls, as St Cuthbert found when he was given a tour of the place.

Interesting Andras. I've not heard that before. Have you got a source for it? Does it say what the walls were made of? After all, one would imagine that most chieftains, whether British, Anglo-Saxon or Pictish had some sort of earthwork or palisade round their stronghold. The same would have applied to most monasteries. And when you say 'aqueduct' do you mean something on brick or stone arches in tiers, or something that was really a leat?

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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PaulTH*
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quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Carlisle was certainly a focus of continuing civic life as late as 683, with a working aqueduct and well-maintained city walls, as St Cuthbert found when he was given a tour of the place.

On a personal note, I'm proud to say that I was baptised in St Cuthbert's Church, Carlisle. It still ends tingles down my spine when I visit.

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Yours in Christ
Paul

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Mockingbird

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Caitlin Corning, in her over-priced academic book The Celtic and Roman Traditions: Conflict and Consensus in the Early Medieval Church identifies five distinctive "Celtic" practices:

1) The "Celtic-84" Easter table
2) The unique tonsure
3) The early and enthusiastic use of penitential manuals and auricular confession
4) The ideal of being a "Pilgrim for Christ"
5) In the Irish church, the prominent place given in legal rankings and in the councils of the church to scholars who were not bishops (This one she mentions in the text-p. 101- but in her concluding remarks she mentions only the first four).

In her conclusions, she goes on to note
quote:
By 768, these specific distinctives either had been abandoned or adopted in some sense by the wider Church.
If we define "Celtic" (or Irish) Christianity by these markers, then these markers, as a geographically concentrated unique tradition, came to an end. If we define "Celtic" (or Irish) Christianity differently, we might come to different conclusions.

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Forþon we sealon efestan þas Easterlican þing to asmeagenne and to gehealdanne, þaet we magon cuman to þam Easterlican daege, þe aa byð, mid fullum glaedscipe and wynsumnysse and ecere blisse.

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venbede
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My reading of Bede is that since the only specific differences he mentions between the two sides are the date of Easter and clerical hair styles, he presumably thought they had most things in common.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I like the Northumbria Community too.

My question, though, would be what is distinctively 'Celtic' about it?

Lindisfarne? There is an acknowledgement of early Christian roots in Northumbria. The founder of the Christian Community on Lindisdarne, Aiden, was an Irish monk and missionary, also recognised as a saint by the Orthodox and Catholics.

Basically, there is affection for the heritage in Northumberland. But I don't think it is rosy-eyed.

Part of the "fun and games" tension that the community creates is exemplified by the fact that when Roy Searle was President of the Baptist Union, he was sometimes accompanied on his visits around the Baptist church network by his spiritual director, who happens to be a Catholic Nun.

It's actually quite hard to pin down! My first visit to the home base involved some important conversations while helping with the washing up. All the friends and companions I've met have been characterised by gentleness and a freedom from judgementalism. I guess it's messy really. Maybe one of the things in common with those who lost out at Whitby in favour of a more orderly approach to Christian faith.

I don't know that much about other neo-monastic communities with connections to Celtic roots. I have a lot of time for the Iona Community as well, probably because of its emphasis on social justice issues. But I know more about the NC from the inside, and have just found the connection to be good and helpful.

[ 06. November 2016, 16:17: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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andras
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
quote:
Originally posted by andras:
Carlisle was certainly a focus of continuing civic life as late as 683, with a working aqueduct and well-maintained city walls, as St Cuthbert found when he was given a tour of the place.

Interesting Andras. I've not heard that before. Have you got a source for it? Does it say what the walls were made of? After all, one would imagine that most chieftains, whether British, Anglo-Saxon or Pictish had some sort of earthwork or palisade round their stronghold. The same would have applied to most monasteries. And when you say 'aqueduct' do you mean something on brick or stone arches in tiers, or something that was really a leat?
That's from Bede. The walls and water supply were Roman and apparently still going strong. Remember that the Saxons refortified the walls of York, so it's not a unique situation.

And of course Carlisle had been the capital of the Celtic kingdom of Rheged, so it's not surprising that it remained an important place even after becoming a part of Northumbria.

His visit to Carlisle is dated to May 865, by the way, not 863. My error!

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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andras
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May 685 I mean!!

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God's on holiday.
(Why borrow a cat?)
Adrian Plass

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Gamaliel
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Well, obviously there's the Lindisfarne connection but that doesn't make the NC 'Celtic' in any way.

You might as well call any parish church or non-conformist chapel in parts of Britain associated with Celtic Saints, Celtic.

I'm not for a moment questioning the integrity or the usefulness of the NC or other 'neo-monastic' communities, simply wondering what is supposedly 'Celtic' about them.

I've only been to one NC meeting and Ron Searle was speaking. I liked them but the history was bollocks, quite frankly and I did pick up the impression they were romanticising pre-Whitby Christianity in these islands.

I do wonder how many RCs and Orthodox are involved with groups like the NC. I once heard an RC Benedictine monk speak warmly of both it and Iona as valuable initiatives that held promise in an ecumenical sense and perhaps even the reunion of divided Christendom.

For the most part, it appears like Baptists and other non-conformists rediscovering pilgrimage and liturgy - which is a good thing in my view. But whether there is anything specifically 'Celtic' is open to question, I'd say.

As Jengie Jon has observed, we all tend to create a 'Celtic Church' in our own image.

We all do that - whether we are RC, Orthodox or Protestant.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
My reading of Bede is that since the only specific differences he mentions between the two sides are the date of Easter and clerical hair styles, he presumably thought they had most things in common.

Bede is notoriously unreliable when talking about matters Celtic. (Or rather reliably negative and peevish.) I can imagine him minimizing or pooh-pooing something that was very important to the Irish monks. Since the Saxons had "won" the argument, those who still complain must be minimized and shown to be ridiculous. So there were only ever small differences. Colmán greatly overreacted, since the synod had nothing to do with anything but a date and some hairstyles.

No, I do not trust Bede on this.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:

For the most part, it appears like Baptists and other non-conformists rediscovering pilgrimage and liturgy - which is a good thing in my view. But whether there is anything specifically 'Celtic' is open to question, I'd say.

Andy Raine, one of the founders and a major creator of the liturgical forms, is Catholic. One of the reasons why the Lord's Prayer in the midday office ends "deliver us from evil".

It really isn't a mixture of baptists and other nonconformists. The group I'm in has Catholics, MOTR Anglicans and Baptists. I'm the only really wild nonconformist in terms of church membership.

I think I found a value there, precisely because I was already moving towards a better understanding of liturgies, contemplation and ecumenicity. I was at the stage where the nonco tradition I grew up in was raising more questions than answers. The rest is all about babies and bathwaters and how best to distinguish them without falling out with one another.

I think Bede's stories of early Christianity in the UK simply provide a kind of language to help explore these things. It depends on the story and the story-teller. I don't think Bede was a very good historian. But he was a dab hand at good tales.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Gamaliel
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Ok, I'm interested to hear of the Catholic input to NC.

Again, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the NC and think of it as a positive force in contemporary British Christianity.

It's how 'Celtic' it is and what that actually means that I'm querying.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Bede is notoriously unreliable when talking about matters Celtic. (Or rather reliably negative and peevish.) I can imagine him minimizing or pooh-pooing something that was very important to the Irish monks. Since the Saxons had "won" the argument, those who still complain must be minimized and shown to be ridiculous. So there were only ever small differences. Colmán greatly overreacted, since the synod had nothing to do with anything but a date and some hairstyles.

No, I do not trust Bede on this.

If so, what other sources does that leave you with? It's a non sequitur to say that Bede is untrustworthy and so the Celtic Church must have been like X.

If you say you don't trust Bede as a reliable witness, that doesn't mean there is some other story. It means that as far as we in any period since are concerned, we've hardly any story left.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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Barnabas62
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I think you're trying to "bottle moonbeams", Gamaliel. The Wild Goose is actually rather a good symbol for the Holy Spirit. Too orderly a Christianity quenches the smoking flax. To disorderly a Christianity leads to great confusion. The narrow path, as Rowan Williams accurately advised, involves keeping the questions alive, like the ones in my sig.

Try reading Trevor Millar on paradox. Or reflecting on the means by which we keep in necessary tension the apophatic and kataphatic aspects of faith. What helps to free our minds from these rationalising straitjackets? It is the realisation that some questions, such as seeking, living, and worshiping in a strange world, are actually a lot more important than others.

You'll be accusing me of taking refuge in vagueness next. The truth is I tend to be vague about things I don't rightly know. Such as the exact differences between truth and legend in the writings of the Venerable Bede. But I do like the stories. Like Harry Potter, they can be quite useful for moral guidance, once you "get" them.

[ 06. November 2016, 21:35: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Gamaliel
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I'm obviously not making myself clear.

I don't have an issue with any of that.

I'm simply questioning how 'Celtic' it is and what was so substantially different about post-Whitby Christianity.

Rome in the 7th century wasn't quite the same as Rome in the 9th or 11th centuries. Ok. So it wasn't as anarchic as we'd like to think the Celtic Church was ... But again, we're all reading things back into it. You seem to be reading non-conformity back into it.

Meanwhile, one if the things that sometimes gets mentioned in connection with the Church in these islands is Pelagianism. Pelagius was a British monk, of course.

St Germanus of Auxerre us said to have made two visits to this country in the immediate post-Roman period - the 420s and 440s, to combat Pelagianism and is said to have visited the shrine of St Alban.

He's also said to have helped the Britons rout a combined barbarian force by getting them to shout 'Alleluia!' in unison.

It's interesting that Bede doesn't cite Pelagianism as a bone of contention between the Roman/Anglo Saxon and Celtic parties when it comes to the controversies addressed at the Synod of Whitby.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Mockingbird

Mimus polyglottos navis
# 5818

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Bede is notoriously unreliable when talking about matters Celtic. (Or rather reliably negative and peevish.) I can imagine him minimizing or pooh-pooing something that was very important to the Irish monks. Since the Saxons had "won" the argument, those who still complain must be minimized and shown to be ridiculous. So there were only ever small differences. Colmán greatly overreacted, since the synod had nothing to do with anything but a date and some hairstyles.

No, I do not trust Bede on this.

This is not my impression of Bede at all. Indeed, it makes no sense that he would play up the Easter controversy throughout his book, stressing it as a matter of utmost importance, only to "pooh-pooh" it later. His description of Colman's departure is respectful, not jeering. His description of Irish teachers in HE 3.27 is favorable. Bishop Wilfrid may have thought it his mission to root out "the foul weeds sown by the Irish", but Bede seems to have thought that the Irish sowed good seed.

On the mathematics of the Celtic-84 computus and the Victorian computus Bede reports his sources accurately.

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Forþon we sealon efestan þas Easterlican þing to asmeagenne and to gehealdanne, þaet we magon cuman to þam Easterlican daege, þe aa byð, mid fullum glaedscipe and wynsumnysse and ecere blisse.

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GeorgeNZ
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I know it's not as technical on some of the discussions here (which I do enjoy reading), but this is what I also enjoy

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

- From the Carmina Gadelica

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Mockingbird:
His description of Irish teachers in HE 3.27 is favorable. Bishop Wilfrid may have thought it his mission to root out "the foul weeds sown by the Irish", but Bede seems to have thought that the Irish sowed good seed.

On the mathematics of the Celtic-84 computus and the Victorian computus Bede reports his sources accurately.

Ticks in the box from me, Gamaliel.

Although there were some sharp differences over, shall we say, whether the Irish Missionaries were 'poisonous' in some of their beliefs and practices, I'm sure you're right that this was not a binary issue in the sense of Celtic Christianity = Good, Whitby winners = Bad. Or the other way round.

So far as divisions between Christians are concerned, whether then or now, I'm an intuitive believer in reconciliations, rather than divisions. Peacemaking. Which means I try to avoid binary interpretations of historical events unless they are unavoidable.

Do some members of the Northumbria Community see the historical importance of the Celts in more black and white terms than I do? I'm sure they do. Can we disagree about such things amicably? I know we can. That's very much a shared value.

Tell you what, the next time I'm strolling along one of the beautiful Northumbrian coastal pathways with Roy Searle, I'll have a chat with him about it.

--------------------
Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Gamaliel
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I think thee and me are at cross-purposes to an extent, Barnabas62.

I'm sure Ron Searle will be pretty balanced on all these issues.

As I've said, I've only heard him speak the once - and it was at an evening about the work of the Northumbria Community at a Methodist church to which members of other churches in the area had been invited.

He seemed fine, but there was some embarrassing movement-and-movement type liturgical activity that I couldn't quite see the point of and some bloke gave an account of 'Celtic Christianity' in a a story-telling type way - and in an oblique way too as he didn't mention it by name but it was obvious what he was referring to. That was the bollocky bit.

Overall, I have to say I was underwhelmed, as were my Methodist friends. They'd come along wanting to know more about the work of the Community and what it represented in terms of values and so on - but they went away with the impression that it was all spectacularly vague and wishy-washy ...

With the best will in the world, I was trying my best to get something good and positive about it as I'd recently picked up a cassette (this dates it) from Lindisfarne with NC liturgy on it and thought it was fine ...

If you'd have asked me immediately after the meeting what it was all about and what impression the whole thing had conveyed I'd not have been able to give you a coherent answer. It just seemed like Scotch mist ... fairly whishty-whishty and rather wet but somewhat insubstantial.

Searle I know better by reputation.

Anyone who can turn to a Baptist minister friend after Bill Johnson has addressed a New Wine-ish audience and mutter, 'There's a theological term for that ... Bollocks' - has to get my vote.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Gamaliel
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Sorry, I meant 'music and movement' ...

As for the thing about Bede and the Irish (and the Britons), my reading of him suggests a certain ambivalence. He respects aspects of it but his particular loyalty demands that he sees it as wanting in some way ... he certainly believed that God judged the Britons for not attempting (he claimed) to evangelise the pagan Anglo Saxons - and the massacre of monks at the Battle of Chester in 615/16 AD appears to have been regarded as some kind of punishment.

Whatever the truth of the famous account of the Welsh bishops taking offence when St Augustine of Canterbury refused to stand up when they entered, there does certainly seem to have been tensions.

I'm sure there may have been more at stake than the dating of Easter and the style of tonsure, but there doesn't seem to be a great deal of evidence for doctrinal discrepancies or disagreements ... more issues of practice, custom and dating.

The problem is that all manner of disputes in those days tend to be presented as matters of life and death and with lashings of hyperbole.

In plenty of hagiographies and accounts there are examples of apparent divine intervention to show which side was in the right and who was in the wrong ...

That sort of thing comes with the territory.

I don't know what Mousethief thinks of such material but even in contemporary Orthodoxy we seem to get similar stories - I recently came across one in an obituary of the late Fr Ephrem Lash where a reliquary remained rooted to the spot on a particular day on Mt Athos and couldn't be budged - leading the monks to conclude that the Saint didn't want his relics to be moved on that particular day because it wasn't actually his Feast Day or whatever it was ...

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Jengie jon

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quote:
Originally posted by GeorgeNZ:
I know it's not as technical on some of the discussions here (which I do enjoy reading), but this is what I also enjoy

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping.

God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

- From the Carmina Gadelica

Yes but that is 19th Century whimsical Celtic Christianity. It fits with a lot of reasonably well-off gentlemen doing research and assuming that those who are far from cities are somehow more in contact with the past. Sometimes they did but not normally when collecting current ephemera

I think they have rather less authenticity than Hogg's Jacobite Songs simply because the distance between the original and the recorded is greater. There is the difference in how accurate things can be when time is measured in millennia rather than centuries.

It is also true of a bias in collecting. The Roman Catholic Islanders were collected from, their Presbyterians (see up thread) were not.

In other words among serious scholars of Celtic Christianity, it is not considered an original source.

Jengie

--------------------
"To violate a persons ability to distinguish fact from fantasy is the epistemological equivalent of rape." Noretta Koertge

Walking 18 miles to help Refugees get an education.

Posts: 20583 | From: city of steel, butterflies and rainbows | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged



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