57 Comments

I just loved reading this! Thank you for fresh information ( never knew about the Coptic monks). The well isn’t terribly romantic, is it? Those bars look positively playground material (circa 1960’s). But as you wrote, fitting for its industrial location.

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I love this. It deepens the connection between Egypt and Ireland which is already very strong and runs through the veins of Irish spiritual life whether people are aware of it or not. There are many stories of finding Egyptian relics buried in the soil, and there is a connection between Isis and Loughcrew. Thanks Paul. 17 is an auspicious number. Perhaps there’s power in that, too.

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I loved this piece, thank you. For many reasons. The milk flowing from Saint Catherine's neck, this image haunts me. So rich and potent with beauty. I also find myself taken with the idea of desert Christianity in Ireland, how curious and how wonderful. It feels true in a very deep way.

I write from the deserts of the Arabian Gulf myself, often on transculturality, and learning that Irish Christianity could be an outcropping of the ancient faith of the desert fathers and mothers is like poetry to me.

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Fascinating alt-history. What if Rome had never turned Christianity into a continuation of the lavish extravagant Imperial Rome? What if those early Ethiopian and Egyptian Christians had been the sole spreaders into Europe and elsewhere? Christianity would have been 'mere' from the start, with no need for rebels like Mohammed or Luther or Hus.

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"the desert Monastery of St Catherine of Sinai - the oldest continually-occupied monastery in the entire Christian world"

That's where my avatar image originates from, a religious icon called Christ Pantocrator (which is an awesome word to begin with).

Though not religious, I was really impressed by it when I saw it the first time. The style looks so fresh, though it is one of the oldest Byzantine religious icons, dating from the 6th century AD, and to me icons usually look kind of 'stiff', for lack of a better word.

But what really impressed me, was this (quote from Wikipedia):

"Many agree that the icon represents the dual nature of Christ, illustrating traits of both man and God, perhaps influenced by the aftermath of the ecumenical councils of the previous century at Ephesus and Chalcedon. Christ's features on his right side (the viewer's left) are supposed to represent the qualities of his human nature, while his left side (the viewer's right) represents his divinity. His right hand is shown opening outward, signifying his gift of blessing, while the left hand and arm are clutching a thick Gospel book."

If you click my avatar (or go to Wikipedia), you may see the composite image I've made with the original in the centre, and the two mirrored halves of the face at either side. I need to get that framed, so I can look at it more often.

I registered on Substack because of Paul's writing years ago, and chose to use the composite image of the Sinai Christ Pantocrator icon as an avatar, not knowing about Paul's conversion at the time. It's one of these nice little religious coincidences that happen to me from time to time, making me wonder whether it's a sign from above that I should shape my agnosticism into something more focussed.

Maybe I need to visit the Sacred Autonomous Royal Monastery of Saint Catherine of the Holy and God-Trodden Mount Sinai as well.

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This is why I subscribe to Paul.

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Does the recent Eastern Orthodox community in Ireland connect with the large Christian Coptic extant in Egypt, N. Africa and Sudan?

Curious place modern(ised) Ireland! Great write-up. I love that bit of rough pasture and thorn (?) backdrop and the glimpse in your final photo of the amazing circles of rain ovelapping in the water like Celtic circles, a palimpsest image of a Cross.

Earliest 'Anglian Christianity' conversion in southern Scotland and northern England, (see also St Cuthbert at Coldingham) arrived from 'Irish' Iona in the 7thC https://orthochristian.com/133791.html

The flowering of Celtic Preaching Crosses across this region to the Atlantic seabord remains as an archaeological record - I am fond of the still standing Cross at Bewcastle near Hadrian's Wall and the rescued Cross with its runes and sacred poetry in the church at Ruthwell on the Solway.

PS/NB Ah ... Alexandria ... those years before Nicaea ... Britannica provides a fact-check on Maxentius... turbulent times in a roiled empire, fair amount of propaganda around ... Glad though Justinian and Theodora secured the desert fathers at the Burning Bush and Catherine's remains are cared for there.

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Beautiful. Thank you.

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Many years ago I read an old, small book that made the case that Pelagius' error was rooted in his British/Celtic Christianity, which was Eastern rather than Latin in nature. The guy that wrote it attempted to tar Eastern Christianity in general with the error, but of course the Eastern Church strongly rejected Pelagianism too. Still, the Eastern Christian connection makes sense, and the case could be made that Pelagianism is an "Eastern" error as much as it is a Latin one, perhaps a corruption of "desert Christianity."

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Wow! The Egyptian desert connection makes a lot of sense given the hermetic heritage in Ireland.

I was talking recently with a friend who makes regular pilgrimage to St Catherine’s Monastery, and he shared multiple stories that are quite wild indeed - encounters and occurrences the modern world would not call normal but that are quite normal there.

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Hi Paul. Egyptian monks, yes. However, you emphasize coptic several times. Is there some concrete reason to say they were coptic? Egyptian Christian doesn't automatically mean coptic. Egyptian Christian doesn't automatically mean coptic. I mean, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria didn't go anywhere... Just curious...

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Imagine going off to unknown lands to spread the Gospel. The danger and adventure are sorely lacking in todays machine age.

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Thanks for writing this.

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Completely agree on the Egyptian origins of Christianity in Ireland. A lot of the practices of the Irish monks, as portrayed in the various Rules ( or fragments of them) do bear a strong resemblance to the desert fathers eremitic tradition. It's very inspiring to think Egyptian monks evangelise Ireland, and by later extension, parts of the UK.

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Interesting as always, and a heck of a juxtaposition between the rather ominous looking turbine blades and the close by holy well.

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Lovely to read about St Catherine's well. To be picky - do you mean the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were mostly converted by Irish monks? I always thought the British had already early adopted Christianity - hence stories about the monk Assa being King Alfred's 'secretary' etc?

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