From the fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagne – the 'dark ages' – learning, scholarship and culture disappeared from the European continent. The great heritage of Western civilisation – from the Greek and Roman classics to Jewish Christian works – would have been utterly lost were it not for the holy men and women of the unconquered Ireland.
In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known 'hinge' of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the 'island of saints and scholars', the Ireland of St Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes labouriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the West's written treasury. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilisation, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on Western civilisation.
This rich and diverse collection of texts newly translated from Latin, Irish and Welsh marks a landmark in the study of Celtic Christianity. In these pages we find saints' lives, sermons, liturgy, monastic rules, penitentials and exegesis a well as devotional texts, poems, and works of theology. The effect is to create a sense of a Christian civilisation that is deeply life-arffirming, imbued with a pervasive sense of divine presence and wonderfully at ease with itself.
There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: 'A threshold is a sacred thing. In some places of the world, in some traditional cultures and in monastic life, this is still remembered. It is something, however, that we often forget today. To take time to pause at a threshold - be it a place, or a moment between one action and the next - is to show reverence for the handling of space and time, and respect for those who we meet. Pausing allows us to let go of all the demands and expectations of the previous activity, and to prepare for the encounter with another. Esther de Waal explores what this ancient wisdom has to teach us about our public lives in the world today.
by David Adam
Over fifty joyous years, David Adam has exercised a rich and profoundly influential ministry. His origins were humble if romantic: his father, an itinerant laborer, and mother, a traveller, had their first momentous encounter at the west end of Loch Ness on a summer’s day in the early 1930’s. They were married within a week.
David was born in Alnwick, Northumberland, a few years later, and encouraged from his earliest days to use his eyes to absorb what was around him. He writes: “ I lived in a land of open fields, moorland and beaches: a land of castles, of history, of heroes, saints and story… a radiant world… full of the mystery of existence.”
The aim of The Wonder of Beyond is primarily to help us enter David Adam’s own words, ‘ a wonder-filled world’; to open our eyes, ears and hearts to what is about us; to become truly aware of the glory of God in our midst.