Thursday, July 14, 2016

Saint Chad

I'm not actually a big fan of Saint Chad. It might sound a little insensitive, might even be worrisome, but possibly it has something to do with his name. His older brother, who was also a Saint, a miserable looking Bishop called Cedd, played a role in the Synod of Whitby which was a gathering in the latter part of the Seventh Century that settled differences between the Island churches and the Europeans. The problem was two competing traditions. The Ionian tradition which was basically the survival of the Christian ideal amongst the Celts following the departure of the legions, and the Roman tradition which comprised the long fingers of Rome reaching out into the more barbaric places in a search for oneness against the Devil. Saint Cedd was more of the Ionian tradition, they had a different day for Easter, they'd be fasting for Lent when those who followed the more Roman tradition would already celebrating Easter, and the other thing about it was, the Europeans had much to offer in the area of more temporal matters. Increasingly the powerful Angle and the Saxon clans had recourse to the kind of fashionable learning that comes with wealth and most of that learning came from Europe. Things like reading, writing, sums as well as stuff like really good ways to make paper, siege engines and remarkably elegant footwear.

Cedd was from the Northern part of what is now England, an area that was called Northumbria, and Northumbria had had terrible trouble with the clans of Mercia, or the Angles. At Whitby, Cedd chose Rome, the Northumbrian Bishops moved from the romance and poetry of Lindisfarne to the dour duty of York. And when Cedd died of plague it was up to Chad to persuade Mercia to stop beating up on Northumbria and follow the edicts of Rome, most especially in the manner of calculating the date of Easter, the correct way to grow a tonsure and a whole bunch of vitally important questions that Rome had already resolved at the First Council of Nicaea over three hundred years previously. The Ionian traditions amongst the Irish had always been ahead of the curve on things like the Councils of Nicaea, the Welsh Church less so. They were a different kind of Celt perhaps, they weren't that disappointed when the Roman Legions left and possibly they might not even have sent a representative to the Synod of Whitby. Either way and perhaps more interesting, I once knew a person called Chad, and I think without doubt he was possibly the most obnoxious person I've ever met. All the same, Saint Chad figures in the Vestry of Monnow.

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