Thursday, April 30, 2009

Prayers for the Scottish Dead

At the conclusion of St. Adomnan's Life of St. Columba, about which I previously wrote, a transcriber appended a fascinating note:

"Whoever may read these books about St. Columba's miraculous powers, pray to God for me Dorbbene that after death I may have life eternal."

Adomnan's work was written c. 690 AD.  I don't know when Dorbbene made his transcription, but he was a successor of St. Adomnan, not more than nine years after the latter's death.  That means that in early Celtic Christianity, often noted for its development free and clear from Roman influence, prayers for the dearly departed were firmly in place -- so much so that a transciber would seek out the prayers of his readers.  

The Catholic apologist will note that prayers for the dead are recorded within the deuterocanon, and that may very well be true.  So I don't raise this point to surprise anyone at the ancient pedigree of such prayers.  I'm just [b]logging my interest in the note concluding the transcription, and the Protestant's inability to attribute this to "papish" influences.


Devin Rose said...

Hi Tom,

I would like to add a similar experience I had recently. We know that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was dogmatically defined in 1854, but that of course it was believed for a long time before that and has, indeed, always been true.

Well, I saw a painting on my religious artwork calendar of the Immaculate Conception that was done in the 1400s I believe.

Then, just a week or so ago, I read in my Lives of the Saints book about St. Anselm of Canterbury who, depending on whether you trust the Lives of the Saints or Wikipedia's referenced article by John Janaro of Christendom College, was the first to establish the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the West circa 1100 AD. (The Janaro article said that Anselm did not teach the Immaculate Conception exactly as we believe it today but taught two fundamental ideas which paved the way for later theologians to understand it; he also affirms that by this time all orthodox Christians believed that the Virgin Mary lived a life free of actual sin, which is itself obviously an awesome thing to contemplate).

My meandering point is that, similar to what you talked about in your post, I found (without even trying) two clear pieces of historical evidence demonstrating the teaching of the Immaculate Conception going back almost a thousand years before it was dogmatically defined.

The Catholic Church is what she claims, Q.E.D. :)

Thos said...

Dear Devin,

Thanks for the point about St. Anselm. I remember reading some of the 'lives of the saints' a couple of years ago. Their writings from the early middle ages were (to me) shockingly Marian. My reaction, you will understand, was to presume that they were wrong, and then work backwards trying to figure out how such a thing happened. That's a bad reaction.

With this little Celtic gem, what I loved was that it wasn't a line from anyone's apologetic tract. It was just there, plain as day, from an early (and not that widely read) Christian writing.

Peace in Christ,

Joseph said...


...what I loved was that it wasn't a line from anyone's apologetic tract. It was just there, plain as day, from an early... Christian writing.Will it bug you if I say that you will find this as you read any and all of the Early Fathers?

Thos said...


No, it won't bug me, since being in a volume of the Church Fathers does not mean it is used in apologetics tracts. I'm glad it is being circulated, as it is informative.

Peace in Christ,