CELTIC LITURGY

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Under the name “Celtic liturgy” some scholars treat it together with the Gallican rite we find the liturgical sources codices or fragments produced or reproduced in Ireland during the 7th and 8th c. Actually, these documents do not represent a liturgy in the proper sense, i.e., they do not correspond to a fully defined and organized local rite. One of the main sources, the Bangor Antiphonary, copied in the late 7th c., reproduced a type of monastic office remotely inspired by the structure of the Ambrosian office, with locally produced hymns, antiphons and prayers. Another characteristic source, the so-called Stowe Missal late 8th c., contains an ordinary of the pre-Gregorian Roman Mass, into which some distinctive litanies are inserted; then follow three formularies, for the feasts of the saints, for penitents and for the dead, corresponding to the Gallican-Hispanic structure of the eucharistic celebration. The last part of the manuscript the slightest expression of a ritual comprises an ordo baptismi and an ordo ad infirmum visitandum. The coordination of the Irish liturgical documents becomes still more difficult if we consider the Munich palimpsest to be among them: a sacramentary composed with Gallican texts and some texts of Spanish origin, copied in Ireland in the mid-7th c., but to which was added a distinctive rewriting of the part of the Mass corresponding to the account of institution, and a strange post mysterium inspired by the apocryphal Acts of St. Thomas. It seems difficult to sustain J. Hennig’s thesis that the primitive Irish liturgy consisted of the ordinary of the Mass from the Stowe Missal, a vestige of the Roman liturgy brought by Bishop Palladius, sent to Ireland in 431 by Celestine I. Study of the liturgical sources and literary-doctrinal analysis of the texts, even those contained in small fragments, lead to a very different conclusion. The Irish church failed in its attempt to create its own liturgy as was being done in the various Western churches for lack of authors sufficiently expert in the use of Latin or learned in Mediterranean Christian literary culture. More than in euchological texts the prayers of the Bangor Antiphonary are of some interest in content the Irish church found its identity in the composition of hymns, in which their authors found a way to apply, even in Latin, the rhetorical canons of their traditional poetry.

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