8 October 2009

Stowe Hanc Igitur

Here is a translation of the Hanc igitur in the early Irish Stowe Missal (c790, probably from somewhere in Munster); I give the New ICEL rendering with, in {} the additional bits from Stowe, and in [] words which New ICEL, which is not infallible, has unaccountably left untranslated.

Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation of our service [and also] that of your whole family {which we offer to you in honour of OLJC and in commemoration of your blessed martyrs in this church which your servant has built to the honour of the glory of your name; deliver him and all the people from the worship of idols and turn them to you the true God the almighty Father} etc

Beside the track leading out to Bolus Head, one of the most westerly - and surely most beautiful - parts of Europe, is the 'monastic' settlement of Kildreelig. Most of the ruins are inside a stout circular rampart which has all the massive appearance of the local circular stone forts.It was probably given by a chief (whose fortified house it had been) to a monk who adapted it. One such site (on nearby Church Island) has, on a pillar, the name of the father of the donor - and it is a pagan deity name.

As we tramp through the brambles and bracken of such sites, we are transported back to the exact moment of transition between paganism and Irish Christianity, when the New Faith had received some sponsorship from a local magnate - possibly he had in mind the hedging of bets like the King Redwald of East Anglia who had a Christian and pagan altars side by side in one complex - but Christianity was not secure and the advance had to be consolidated; remnants of pagan culture and worship were still abundant and needed extirpation. Dom Gregory Dix had a different but very similar context in mind when he wrote "Men found nothing better than 'this' to 'do' ... for ... for ... or for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed".

A friend - Oxford readers might well hazard a guess as to her identity - tells me that in an unpublished and now missing draft of a paper written shortly before his death, the late Dr F L Cross, one of our great Anglican Catholic Patristic scholars and liturgists in the last generation (you probably have his Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church on your bookshelves), advanced the hypothesis that the Stowe Missal [or perhaps the exemplar from which it was copied?] was first written specifically for use in the dedication of such first-generation Irish churches. You will see how this theory does converge with the approach I set out above.


Christian said...

Dr Hunwicke, I have followed your blog for a little while and I would be very grateful if I could speak to you by email (as, if I remember correctly, you offered to do on a post some time back).

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Well, try pp@thomasthemartyr.org.uk .But don't tell anybody else. I get quite a lot of emails to look at each day!