Wednesday 19 December 2012

Comprehending the Greatness of Christ's Love: an Irish Gloss

There is a multi-disciplinary project entitled 'Christ on the Cross' at University College Cork whose website can be found here. I hope that the contributors may make more of their research findings accessible to the general reader as the work sounds fascinating. The site is worth a visit and I have added it to the useful resources links.

One text which gives the understanding of a particular Irish scholar on the Crucifixion is to be found in the glosses on the 8th-century Manuscript of the Epistles of Saint Paul, preserved in Würzburg:

'Imagery found in an Old-Irish gloss in the Würzburg manuscript,, gives a spiritual dimension in the shape of the cross. The scribe comments on Ephesians 3, verses 18 and 19. The text runs: 'With deep roots and firm foundations, may you be strong to comprehend with all God's people, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge'. The scribe notes that the four measurements are said to be in the secrets of the Godhead and also in the Cross of Christ, i.e. the four limbs of the cross. 'Knowledge' he says, refers to the divine nature of Christ. 'With His right hand He saved the left of the world, i.e. the North; with His left hand He saved the right part of the world, i.e., the South; His head redeemed the East, and His feet the West.'

Hilary Richardson, The Cross Triumphant: High Crosses in Ireland in M.Richter and J-M Picard (eds.), Ogma - Essays in Celtic Studies in honour of Próinséas Ní Chatháin (Dublin, 2002), 114.

The quotes used by the author above have been taken from T. Olden (ed. and trans.), The Holy Scriptures in Ireland one thousand years ago: Selections from the Würzburg Glosses (Dublin, 1888), 90.

Other online resources for the Würzburg Glosses include The Old-Irish glosses at Würzburg and Carlsruhe : Part I: the glosses and translation by Whitley Stokes and the manuscript pages digitized from the facsimile edition here.

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