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Book Review

 

"Sun Dancing"

Image: portion of illuminated manuscript page from "The Book of Kells."

Photo: of Geoffrey Moorhouse. Geoffrey Moorhouse

  Author Photo by Linda Bussey

   Geoffrey Moorhouse is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in North Yorkshire, England. _________________

Photo: Skellig Michael.  Copyright Irish Tourist Board.

  "Skellig Michael" was inhabited by Irish monks for 634 years; from 588-1222 A.D.  (Photo © Irish Tourist Board).   To see a close-up: just "click" on the picture above. ________________

 Geoffrey Moorhouse on "Skellig Michael":

"I have returned to it many times since, and I have never lost the spellbound sense of awe I felt on that first marvelously quiet, sun-drenched day in spring.  It was then that I knew I must write about the skeilic, try to fix its essence in the collective memory; but I never have, until now.   _________________

"Sun Dancing" will delight anyone who has  enjoyed Thomas Cahill's fine book: "How the Irish Saved Civilization."                 -Library Journal

 An intriguing journey through Irish lore and spirituality, "Sun Dancing" is "sure to fascinate lovers of Celtic history."              -Boston Herald

  "Highly original, gracefully written, and carefully researched." -The Boston Globe

A HARVEST BOOK Harcourt Brace & Company  525B Street, San Diego, CA 92101  15 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010 _________________

Have you received Christ as your Lord and Saviour?  

Find out how to do so on our page:  

Plan of Salvation _______________

Photo: Celtic Cross.  Copyright 2003 S.G.P.  All Rights Reserved.

Tell others about Jesus like Great Christians throughout History have done:

Though not all Christians are called to full-time Christian Ministry, we are all called by God to share our faith (witness) with those who are not Christians.  Some Bible verses that you will find helpful for doing this, and that you may want to commit to memory are found on other pages on our  web site (see: Memory Verses; 2nd Set: Salvation!, Plan of Salvation, and Statement of Faith). _______________

Life in a Medieval Irish Monastery and How Celtic Spirituality Influenced the World

Subject: Ancient Celtic Monks;  Skellig Michael Monastery

  "As I climbed the path winding up to the ancient constructions near the top of the cliff, I sensed that I was on the threshold of something utterly unique, though I was by no means a stranger to monasteries, which I had visited throughout Europe, and even farther afield at one time and another.  

But nothing in my experience had prepared me for this huddle of domes, crouching halfway to heaven in this all but inaccessible place, with an intimidating immensity of space all around, where it was easy to feel that you had reached a limit of this world.  

A holy place, to be sure, which would still have been so, even if it had never known the consecrated life of prayer." 

              (-from the Author's Note)

Sun Dancing Copyright © 1997 Geoffrey Moorhouse. All Rights Reserved.  __________________________________________

   Use Discernment: This is Not a book of Christian Teaching; it is a work of Secular History; and as such must be read with spiritual discernment.

   Because so many of our web site visitors have been reading Sun Dancing and How the Irish Saved Civilization, we have decided to review them to point out some areas where spiritual discernment is needed.       

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            Sun Dancing

A Vision of Medieval Ireland

Life in a Medieval Irish Monastery and how Celtic Spirituality Influenced the World

   "The Irish Monks of the Middle Ages have been credited with saving  Western civilization.  But what is known of their day-to-day lives---the spiritual struggles and triumphs or the unbelievable physical hardships that they endured?  

... writer Geoffrey Moorhouse travels back 1,400 years to re-create life on Skellig Michael, a cruel rock off Ireland's west coast and home to a community of monks for over 600 years.   

Sun Dancing's imaginative stories not only capture a particularly intense form of monastic life, they illuminate one of the most mysterious yet important chapters of Celtic history.  

Entertaining and enlightening, Sun Dancing makes medieval Ireland come alive."

(-from the Back Cover.)  _______________________________

Comments of The Prayer Foundation:

The Positive

     This book shows us the dedication and love for God of the Irish Monks of 800 to 1,400 years ago, and their example in these areas can be inspiring.  After all, these are the people who preserved the Bible for us when the Roman Empire disintegrated and most of Europe reverted to barbarism.  These are also the type of monks (early Irish)  who made the beautifully illuminated Book of Kells that we got to see when we were in Ireland.  We mention this trip on our page: Our Goals.

The Negative

  Unfortunately, the Irish monks of this period practiced the most extreme and austere forms of penance and asceticism in the history of the church.  The practice of "penance" as practiced by the monks in this book is based on the idea that a Christian can partially "atone" for his own sins.  This denies the complete and finished work of atonement accomplished for us by Christ on the Cross, and that our salvation is by grace alone (sola gratia). _______________________________

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Image: The Prayer Foundation logo (with white Celtic cross on a green shield).

Image: Front Cover of the Book, "Sun Dancing."

  Cover photo by Emmanuel Sailler/ Liaison Agency Inc.

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"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."  

-Ephesians 2:8,9

"And if by grace, then is it no more of works..."  

-Romans 11:6  

(Historical Note: the practice of "penance" was not adopted by the Roman Catholic Church until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215).

Holy Scripture On Extreme Asceticism

"'Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!'?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."  -Colossians 2:21-23; New International Version (See also: I Timothy 4:1-3)

     Overall: A Real Blessing

That having been said, the book is well researched and written.  It also contains a very memorable illustration against the sin of spiritual pride.  

The first half of the book tells the story of the monks of Skellig Michael in a fictional style, though based on historical fact.  The second half goes into the same historical facts in greater depth.

         In 588 A. D. Fionán, a monk of the community of St. Brendan the Navigator, along with twelve brother monks, set their coracle to drift, looking to find a home for a new monastery.  

They arrived at Skellig Michael, a forbidding rock island off the western coast of Ireland.  Irish Monks would live there for the next 600 years.  

This book is the amazing story (from the historical record) of how they lived, and what their daily life might have been like.   _________________________________

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