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Author Topic: Ancient British Orthodoxy  (Read 1442 times) Average Rating: 0
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Antonious Nikolas
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« on: June 25, 2004, 07:49:55 PM »

I started to post about this in the thread about H.H. Karekin and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I decided it needed its own thread.  The Copts were the first missionaries in Great Britain.  As I posted in the other thread: Writing in 1898, the renowned historian Stanley Lane-Poole remarked: “We do not yet know how much we in the British Isles owe to these remote hermits.  It is more probable that to them we are indebted for the first preaching of the Gospel in England, where, till the coming of Augustine, the Egyptian monastic rule prevailed.  But more important is the belief that Irish Christianity, the great civilizing agent of the early Middle Ages among the northern nations, was the child of the Egyptian Church.  Seven Egyptians monks are buried at Disert Uldith, and there is much in the ceremonies and architecture of Ireland in the earliest time that reminds one of still earlier Christian remains in Egypt.  Everyone knows that the handicraft of the Irish monks in the ninth and tenth centuries far excelled anything that could be found elsewhere in Europe; and if the Byzantine-looking decoration of their splendid gold and silver work, and their unrivalled (sic) illuminations, can be traced to the influence of Egyptian missionaries, we have more to thank the Copts for than has been imagined”.

And there's more...the “Book of Leinster”, housed in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, contains a litany which reads: “Seven Egyptian monks in Disert Ullaigh, I invoke unto my aid through Jesus Christ”.  Three other manuscripts in the Academy contain similar supplications, and a fourth contains a guide for Irish pilgrims wishing to travel to the famous desert of Scetis in the Nitrean Valley, Egypt.  A fifth Irish manuscript places the Apostolic Sees in the following order: Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome.  Some scholars are of the opinion that the initials and miniatures on these manuscripts reveal an Egyptian influence, and that there was an indirect influence of Coptic iconography on Northumbrian monastic art and culture.  

The Irish historian Jospeh F. Kelly said “It is difficult to assess what is ‘native’ Celtic and what is influenced by monasticism, especially Egyptian asceticism.  Most scholars believe that Celtic Christianity is a combination of the two...The demanding monasticism of the desert appealed to the heroic character of tribal Celtic society.  Both emphasized individualism.  The Egyptians went to desert retreats, the Celts to offshore islands; the Egyptians wandered in the unknown wilderness, the Irish ventured out on the uncharted North Atlantic.  Both movements were products of a rural society...The Egyptian portrayal of the desert as the symbolic Eden is reflected in the Celtic fondness for the natural world, so prevalent in vernacular poetry.  In both regions, the saints did indeed live with animals, and their hagiography - especially the Celtic - includes tales of saints and animals”.

I guess it is fitting that the BOC is now under the See of Alexandria (Althoug I know some Syriac Christians who would beg to differ.  But I won't get into that...).

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Seafra
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2012, 02:36:48 AM »

HAHA most historians would agree Wink

I have a question i figured i would put here rather than start a new topic. Does anyone know of any book or books on the twelve Irish Apostles? or writings of these saints? I can only really find writings on Colmcille in any real depth.
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Father Peter
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2012, 06:02:35 AM »

The direct Egyptian connection in the British Isles is pretty tenuous, it certainly was not the missionary agent.

There was a less direct influence through Cassian's writings on monasticism, and via the more direct influence in the south of France.

There were seven Egyptian monks buried in Northern Ireland, but we know of no other such visitors. Certainly some people from Britain reached the shrine of St Mina and brought back pilgrim flasks. But I don't know of any real evidence for any real direct influence. All of the Churches in the British Isles were to a great extent Western and even Roman.
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2012, 06:13:11 AM »

Greetings!

You migh be interested in this link:

http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/archaeology/egyptian-papyrus-found-in-ancient-irish-bog.html

Although it seems possible, even probable that Egyptian monks influenced Irish monasticism, there is a danger ( and I am guilty of this also) of romanticising the whole business.

Having been to Iona, Tiree, Holy Island etc I can feel the glamour of Celtic Christianity.

Food for the imagination apart we do have two really inspiring books from the time, namely St Bede's History and St Adomnan's Life of St Columba. If you haven't read them, please do.

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Seafra
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2012, 06:17:47 AM »

The direct Egyptian connection in the British Isles is pretty tenuous, it certainly was not the missionary agent.

There was a less direct influence through Cassian's writings on monasticism, and via the more direct influence in the south of France.

There were seven Egyptian monks buried in Northern Ireland, but we know of no other such visitors. Certainly some people from Britain reached the shrine of St Mina and brought back pilgrim flasks. But I don't know of any real evidence for any real direct influence. All of the Churches in the British Isles were to a great extent Western and even Roman.
My understanding was that the Irish church was unique to much of the Latin church in that it was focused more on Monasticism and governed as such rather than Parishes, I know there was little direct linkage however Thomas Cahill(?) poses it was pulled from the literature moved through the empire by monks for preservation that the Irish began to copy.

Fr do you know of any answers to my questions in my post? Thanks for your wisdom and insights
« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 06:22:55 AM by Seafra » Logged
Tikhon29605
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 06:30:47 AM »

The direct Egyptian connection in the British Isles is pretty tenuous, it certainly was not the missionary agent.

There was a less direct influence through Cassian's writings on monasticism, and via the more direct influence in the south of France.

There were seven Egyptian monks buried in Northern Ireland, but we know of no other such visitors. Certainly some people from Britain reached the shrine of St Mina and brought back pilgrim flasks. But I don't know of any real evidence for any real direct influence. All of the Churches in the British Isles were to a great extent Western and even Roman.


Thank you for this input.  It is a breath of fresh air, esp. with the popularity of so-called "Celtic spirituality" these days.  I think much of what passes for "Celtic spirituality" is simply recycled New Age material.
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2012, 06:40:42 AM »

The Irish church has bishops and priests the same as all other churches. What has happened is that much of the literature of some aspects of the Irish church has been mediated through monastic sources which naturally stress the monastic context, especially where those monasteries were major land owners themselves.

It is a little like the history of the Methodist movement being written only by members of Youth Fellowships. A future historian might suggest that there was indeed a figure called 'Pastor' but the major authority figure was always the 'Youth Leader'.

When the Irish wanted to find a solution to the Eastern dating question they met in a Synod, as bishops do, and as a Synod they addressed their question to Rome. When the reply came they adopted the Roman dating as a Synod. Likewise we know that the South Welsh had a Synod. And of course the Irish Church had in any case been established by men consecrated as bishops in Rome and Roman Gaul.

That is not to diminish all that is interesting and wonderful about the insular churches, but they were always essentially Western and Roman. Those aspects we see as Eastern are most often actually universal features which Roman Catholicism came to lose.
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2012, 05:08:42 PM »

Here's an audio recording of HG Met. Seraphim speaking on the topic.

"The Orthodox Heritage of the British Isles" 
by Met. Seraphim of Glastonbury for the Oxford Orthodox Christian Student Society

http://vimeo.com/32299163
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