The Celtic Church and the Synod of WhitbyPosted: April 18, 2007
Martin of Tours, who died in 397 inspired monasticism in the West. After living a military life he spent time in a solitary place in France, which also inspired many others to join him till they had a semi-community. Against his will, he was convinced to become the bishop of Tours in 372, and then transferred to living as a hermit in a small room, or cell next to the church. After enduring many criticisms and questions from the people, he moved to Marmoutier and started a monastery to help facilitate evangelism in much of the still–ungodly country France. A popular biography written up about Martin is one of the reasons this way of life was promote, and was later exalted as a Saint of the early church. It was said that, “Martin of Tours set the pattern for the Dark Age ‘holy man’”. Later, Augustine of Hippo, along with Jerome and Rufinus belonged to a similar groups put a new way of thought and living structure to Martin’s hermit-like living; the agreement whereby a grouping of celibate clergy lived together and served a local church.
In Egypt a more organized and armed group of monks took sides in theological battles and took part in a more political fight. In the front of this more active movement was the man, Schnoudi, who later would be destined for heresy at the council of Ephesus in 431. A great writer in the west on monasticism was John Cassian. His writings included much detail in instructing, promoting the monastic movement extensively. He covered not only subjects such as what clothing was to be worn but some of the very practices of Monks. This detailed writer also examined extensively the temptations which a monk had to fight against in living each day. Cassiodorus, another great man in the history of monasticism placed a vast emphasis on the copying of manuscripts and also the study of the ancient writings.
Although the roots of monasticism in Ireland and surrounding area are very vague it was said that Patrick was the founder or starter of this movement. When looking at the severe severity of Irish hermits and the arrangement of living compartments or cells, within an outer boundary wall, it strangely reflects Egyptian influences, brought on by Martin of Tours’ monastic ideals. What provided the ultimate rule for monasteries in the west was a man named Benedict of Nursia. In the late sixth century his system gradually outdated other Western monastic rules. Benedict promoted a rule that is founded on the two activities of prayer and works. In order for a monk to show high moral character, they had to hold strictly to these precepts along with remaining in the same monastery where he had taken his vows. The monasteries’, with their emphasis on worship, and stable, well–ordered communities deeply assisted to keep up spiritual standards during these centuries.