Saturday, May 5, 2012

Monasticism (part 4)

Celtic Monasticism

As Christianity took hold in the Celtic world monasticism blossomed.

Influenced much by middle-eastern and Coptic monasticism.

Ninian (360-432) is the first recorded figure on the monastic scene in Brittan. On a return trip from Rome he meet Martin of Tours (316-97). Martin had founded a Monastery at Liguge in Gaul before becoming Bishop of Tours. He is credited with bringing monasticism West. Aside from possible direct contact with eastern monks we can trace the arrival of monasticism in Ireland and Whales from Martin in France through Ninan in Scotland. According to one story Patrick spent time at Ninan’s monastery studying monastic life.

 Monk and monastery conjure up strange and stereotypical images for many of us. There were no large medieval stone monasteries or cloisters that formed a Celtic monastery. No large church buildings were erected the. Eucharist and communal acts of worship probably took place out doors as had formally been done. The natural connection between God and creation was maintained

 Unlike the urban centers on the continent this was a tribal system with varying degrees of association or membership in the monastic family including lay members, married people, and singles, They were more like a ‘monastic village” than a huge complex building. The village was generally in a walled compound to keep animals in and raiders out. In Ireland these “villages” were the closest things to towns and became centers of hospitality, learning, agriculture, recreation, medicine, trade, commerce.
These monasteries were not often what we usually imagine.  While some monasteries were in isolated places, many more were at the crossroads of provincial territories. Monasteries were often huge theocratic villages associated with a clan with the same kinship ties, along with slaves, freemen, celibate monks, and married clergy, professed lay people, children. Men, women  and even a bishop or two living side by side as part of the community 

All were encouraged to live the life of a monk even if married with children. The abbot or abbess was the administrator of the community leaving the sacramental and evangelical functions to the bishop or the priest. Bishops were part of the tribe consecrated as holy men rather than authority figures. There were often more than one or two in a monastery.

The Druids had sacred oaks, wells, and groves.  These were considered thin places, where the veil between the natural world and the spiritual realm was tangible.   Often these became the sights of monastic communities.  Bangor is an example of a druid collage that became a monastery attracting thousands of students. Iona had been a pagan religious center known as the isles of the druids.  It became a primarily force for Celtic monasticism. St Bridget’s center at Kildare” the Church of the Oak was established at a former Druid place of worship
These communities were theologically orthodox, yet heavy emphasis on the Trinity, a love and respect for Mary, the Incarnation of Christ, theosis, Imgieo dei, Creation as a theophany and a distinct Liturgy
graphic: Skeleg Micheal

1 comment:

Chris Whitler said...

Brad, I wonder if you have ever heard the origin of the Celtic cross having somewhat to do with monasteries being built on the sites of these 'thin places'...the cross over the druid circle. This was told to me by an Anglican priest a long time ago but I've never heard anyone else talk about it. It's always been a neat idea to me.