Loyola Institute commemorate St Columcille
The Loyola Institute, Trinity College Dublin has been hosting a series of lectures as part of their Columcille Online Lecture Series. The theme of the series is Columcille in Context: Theologians and Historians in Conversation to Commemorate the 15th Centenary of the Birth of Saint Columba of Iona (521/ 2021)’
The first talk, on the life of St Columba, was delivered by Meredith Cutrer, the Michael Biggs Scholar, DPhil Candidate, Oxford University. It took place on Wednesday 8 September 2021, at 7.30pm and was entitled ‘St Columba and the Fathers’.
According to Ms Cutrer, St Columba’s life and memory, as recorded and perpetuated by his monastic familia, consciously placed him in the tradition of a number of prominent late antique saints. So her lecture, she said, considers the saints his community drew upon to craft St Columba’s image with a particular focus on the enduring interest his community evinced in the Egyptian Desert Fathers, St Antony of Egypt, and St Paul of Thebes.
Her presentation demonstrated how these monastic pioneers were a crucial component of the Columban familia’s cultural memory by examining key pieces of literature and art produced by his community from the seventh to the eleventh centuries.
This next lecture in the Columcille lecture series was given by Dr Cornelius Casey and Dr Fáinche Ryan, Loyola Institute, School of Religion, Trinity College Dublin.They co-presented an introduction to the Book of Kells – The Great Gospel of Colmcille – and discussed its provenance, composition and iconography.
The Book of Kells (Trinity College Dublin MS 58) contains the four Gospels in Latin based on the Vulgate text (St Jerome, 384AD), intermixed with readings from the earlier Old Latin translation. The date and place of origin of the Book of Kells have attracted a great deal of scholarly interest.
Drs Casy and Ryan offered a detailed theological reading of one of the Book’ss fully illustrated pages.
‘St Columba and the Existential Categories of Displacement and Identity‘ was the title of the talk on Wednesday 6 October, given by the Very Rev Dr Billy Swan.
‘Adomnan’s Life of Columba famously described St Columba as a ‘Pilgrim for Christ’. This was certainly the identity that the Iona community attributed to him after his death but were there any traces of this identity in Columba himself as an exile from Ireland?
This was the question addressed by Dr Swan whose paper focused on the earliest sources and the identity of Columba as a peregrinus pro-Christo, in order to try and answer it. This identity is clarified in the context of Scriptural tradition that Columba was steeped in according to Dr Swan who noted that the Word of God contains not just meta-narratives but existential categories of displacement and the formation of identity.
These themes emerge first in the Old Testament with the people of Israel called out into the desert and led to the promised land, he said. It is also seen in the spirituality of the psalms that are often marked by a process of orientation leading to disorientation and that finally leads to re-orientation on the part of the person or community of faith.
Such a process of displacement, relocation, and adaption facilitates a new identity in the person or community. In the Irish Christian tradition, this shaping of a new identity by displacement, pilgrimage and re-orientation is seen in the life of Columba but also in Patrick before him and Columbanus after him.
In the final section of his talk, Dr Swan also addressed the issue of how the existential categories of displacement and identity in these Irish saints can speak to Irish Christians today’.