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.
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.
Edward C Sellner has recently published a revised and expanded edition of his important work Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, which presents the stories of 27 of the most important of the Celtic saints from Ireland, Scotland, northern England, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. However, this is currently only available in hardback form and the author has permitted the Northumbria Community to publish his excellent introduction to his book in this booklet form, making it more widely accessible.
What does it mean to be made 'in the image and likeness of God'? This is the first and defining characteristic of our humanity celebrated in the opening pages of the Bible. Its subsequent record is of the struggle between good and evil in human life, a tension that we face daily within ourselves and in the relationships of our lives.
Western Christian tradition has often given the impression, and sometimes explicitly taught that this tension is primarily between the soul and the body. The result has been a denigration of the human body and distrust of our deepest physical desires. We no longer recognise within ourselves the characteristics of the divine image. Yet written into the vey fabric of our being in the mystery, wisdom, strength, beauty, creativity, eternity and presence of God.
This profound and challenging book clears away centuries of misunderstanding, confusion and shame that have damaged our self-perception. Drawing on both Jewish and Celtic Christian sources of spirituality, Philip Newell leads us to discover the sacredness of our souls and our bodies. Our present day assumptions about love, beauty, sexuality and worth are transformed by this truly ground-breaking book.