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Insightful lecture on monastics in early Ireland

April 20, 2015

The most recent lecture in the ongoing series sponsored by Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha and presented at the Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive provided a very interesting insight into the early church’s theology in relation to time, and also in the way monks prayed the Divine Office.
Dr Patricia Rumsey, a lecturer in Christian Liturgy and Visiting Scholar at Sarum College in Salisbury, explored in considerable detail, the monastic lives of the monks in early Ireland.
On this her first visit to Armagh, Dr Rumsey, initially expressed her pleasure at being accorded a conducted tour of the City which she considered ‘a real privilege to be in a place of such enormous history with its two Cathedrals and so many other interesting features.’
The monks in early Ireland were committed, as were monastics throughout the Christian world, to a regular round of prayer that was linked to daily, weekly and yearly cycles of time; this within a perception of time reliant upon sundial interpretation. Though they all prayed the Divine Office and held this as central to their lives, their understanding of the Liturgy of the Hours and its function show significant differences from one monastic family to another.
Dr Rumsey, a Sister with the Poor Clares, explored two monastic families from around the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th;  one from which emanated the Naugatio sancti Brendani abbatis, and the other from which came the Rules of the Céili Dé. They were each used as case studies in the overall exploration.                                                                           The lecturer examined how they lived monastic life and compared one with the other in terms of liturgical structuring of monastic time and the different religious practices including liturgical prayer. In quoting meaningful paragraphs upon which she thoughtfully reflected, the lecturer provided insightful analysis  of the relevance of these ‘to what liturgical prayer is all about’. She noted that ‘when we reflect on the earliest time of the Christian church it shows how people looked at the natural and praised God from what they saw around them.’ A particular area of Dr Rumsey’s expertise is the liturgy and its relationship to time and this was reflected in her reference to ‘the universe being in a constant state of motion and change; we worship God through what we see going on around us in creation.’ She remarked ‘how time is regulating us; it orders our whole life of activities and it was through being surrounded by religious rituals that made these sacred’. She added, ‘the liturgical cycles of the holy year makes the liturgy full of life’.
Despite liturgical texts in early Ireland being notoriously few and far between Dr Rumsey, through examination of the few available, in addition to monastic rules and other texts, managed to decipher the way monks understood time, and how this had a radical effect on the way they lived their monastic lives, and particularly on the way they prayed.
The lecture concluded with informal audience exchange of interesting comments and a vote of thanks was proposed by Committee member Damian Woods in which he said it was a privilege to have Dr Rumsey share her expertise on the early Irish church and ‘we owe her a debt of gratitude and must congratulate her on such inspirational research.’
The next scheduled lecture organised by Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha is on Wednesday 6th May at the Ó Fiaich Library in Armagh and is one that is  likely to command general interest with sport and society being the central theme of the topic. Professor James Kelly, St Patrick’s  Drumcondra and Dublin City University, and author of a recently published book on the origins and prevalence  sport in Ireland  in the 17th and 18th centuries, will deliver a lecture entitled, ‘Sport and Society in 18th century Ireland: The case of Ulster. The lecture begins at the usual time of 8pm but patrons are reminded that it is preceded by the Annual General Meeting of Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha.

The most recent lecture in the ongoing series sponsored by Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha and presented at the Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive provided a very interesting insight into the early church’s theology in relation to time, and also in the way monks prayed the Divine Office.Dr Patricia Rumsey, a lecturer in Christian Liturgy and Visiting Scholar at Sarum College in Salisbury, explored in considerable detail, the monastic lives of the monks in early Ireland.On this her first visit to Armagh, Dr Rumsey, initially expressed her pleasure at being accorded a conducted tour of the City which she considered ‘a real privilege to be in a place of such enormous history with its two Cathedrals and so many other interesting features.’The monks in early Ireland were committed, as were monastics throughout the Christian world, to a regular round of prayer that was linked to daily, weekly and yearly cycles of time; this within a perception of time reliant upon sundial interpretation. Though they all prayed the Divine Office and held this as central to their lives, their understanding of the Liturgy of the Hours and its function show significant differences from one monastic family to another.Dr Rumsey, a Sister with the Poor Clares, explored two monastic families from around the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th;  one from which emanated the Naugatio sancti Brendani abbatis, and the other from which came the Rules of the Céili Dé. They were each used as case studies in the overall exploration.                                                                           The lecturer examined how they lived monastic life and compared one with the other in terms of liturgical structuring of monastic time and the different religious practices including liturgical prayer. In quoting meaningful paragraphs upon which she thoughtfully reflected, the lecturer provided insightful analysis  of the relevance of these ‘to what liturgical prayer is all about’. She noted that ‘when we reflect on the earliest time of the Christian church it shows how people looked at the natural and praised God from what they saw around them.’ A particular area of Dr Rumsey’s expertise is the liturgy and its relationship to time and this was reflected in her reference to ‘the universe being in a constant state of motion and change; we worship God through what we see going on around us in creation.’ She remarked ‘how time is regulating us; it orders our whole life of activities and it was through being surrounded by religious rituals that made these sacred’. She added, ‘the liturgical cycles of the holy year makes the liturgy full of life’.Despite liturgical texts in early Ireland being notoriously few and far between Dr Rumsey, through examination of the few available, in addition to monastic rules and other texts, managed to decipher the way monks understood time, and how this had a radical effect on the way they lived their monastic lives, and particularly on the way they prayed.The lecture concluded with informal audience exchange of interesting comments and a vote of thanks was proposed by Committee member Damian Woods in which he said it was a privilege to have Dr Rumsey share her expertise on the early Irish church and ‘we owe her a debt of gratitude and must congratulate her on such inspirational research.’  The next scheduled lecture organised by Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha is on Wednesday 6th May at the Ó Fiaich Library in Armagh and is one that is  likely to command general interest with sport and society being the central theme of the topic. Professor James Kelly, St Patrick’s  Drumcondra and Dublin City University, and author of a recently published book on the origins and prevalence  sport in Ireland  in the 17th and 18th centuries, will deliver a lecture entitled, ‘Sport and Society in 18th century Ireland: The case of Ulster. The lecture begins at the usual time of 8pm but patrons are reminded that it is preceded by the Annual General Meeting of Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha.

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