A significant body of scholarship addresses pre-Norman Irish life and history, including the archaeology, art, and architecture from the time of St. Patrick (d. 493) to the arrival of the Normans in the twelfth century. While the place of the church and its organization in pre-Norman Ireland have been extensively studied, relatively little has been published on the eucharistic liturgy as celebrated in the pre-Norman church or on the attitudes of its worshippers to the Eucharist. But, as Neil Xavier O’Donoghue notes, many of Ireland’s national treasures—including the Ardagh Chalice, the Book of Kells, and Cormac’s Chapel—date from this time and are directly connected with the celebration of the Eucharist. Additionally, many of the textual and archaeological sources for the study of pre-Norman Ireland—saints’ lives, penitentials, monastic rules, manuscripts, eucharistic vessels, church buildings, and ecclesiastical complexes—directly relate to the Eucharist. There has been no attempt to provide a useful synthesis since F. E. Warren’s 1881 Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church.
O’Donoghue’s The Eucharist in Pre-Norman Ireland provides a necessary, updated synthesis, one that incorporates advances made in liturgical studies and liturgical theology since the early twentieth century. In addition to reassessing and supplementing the texts discussed by Warren, O’Donoghue considers the social dimension of the Eucharist, its treatment in art and architecture, and its treatment as reflected by the spirituality of the time, placing this new analysis within a better understood Western European cultural and liturgical context. Most importantly, O’Donoghue shows that pre-Norman Ireland was very much a part of the Western (Gallican) liturgical tradition; he argues that what we know of the Eucharist in Ireland must be integrated into what we know of it in Britain and Gaul in order to understand the central role of the Eucharist in the Christianization of the West.
Father Neil Xavier O’Donoghue is prefect of studies at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Kearny, New Jersey.
"O'Donoghue's The Eucharist in Pre-Norman Ireland fills an important gap in liturgical history and theology within the little known and studied Celtic liturgical tradition, a gap not addressed for at least one hundred years. This is a superb work of great value to scholars and students within the various disciplines of liturgical studies, medieval studies, and Irish studies." —Maxwell E. Johnson, University of Notre Dame
“In this groundbreaking study, Neil Xavier O’Donoghue sheds light on a little known area of liturgical history. This work is a valuable contribution to the study of the early Medieval liturgy and should be of great help to scholars and students alike.” —John F. Baldovin, S.J., Boston College
“In providing a synthesis of current scholarship on the topic of the Eucharist in early Christian Ireland, the author considers not merely the intrinsic features of Eucharistic celebration, but also takes account of its social dimension.” —Anglican and Episcopal History
“In this study of the Eucharist in pre-Norman Ireland, Neil Xavier O’Donoghue has assembled an array of primary source material that is most impressive in its breadth and quality, and the University of Notre Dame Press has done this source material ample justice in its attractive presentation.” —Catholic Historical Review
“In preparing this study O’Donoghue has surveyed a vast array of primary and secondary sources—not only in the area of early Irish studies, but also in those of church history and liturgiology in general. For this reason alone the book will be welcomed by readers in many disciplines.” —American Historical Review
“No future history of the Eucharist in Ireland or in Europe will be able to ignore this book. O’Donoghue does not pose as an Irish nationalist but rather as a citizen of Europe and a member of the universal church.” —Doctrine & Life
“The question is whether the British liturgy, adopted after the conquest, replaced a uniquely Irish liturgical tradition or whether that tradition had already assimilated British and Gallican features. O’Donoghue, arguing for the latter possibility against much traditional scholarship, marshals his sources in three parts: historical background, manuscript sources, and architectural and iconographic sources.” —Concordia Journal
“O’Donoghue considers the social dimensions of the Eucharist, its treatment in art and architecture, and its treatment as reflected by the spirituality of the time, placing this new analysis within a western European cultural and liturgical context. Most important, O’Donoghue shows that pre-Norman Ireland was very much a part of the Western (Gallican) liturgical tradition.” —Vigiliae Christianae
“In this work . . . O’Donoghue has rendered an immense service to students of early Irish church history and its liturgy. . . . This is an excellent work, and sure to become a classic in the field in the study of Irish liturgy and as a background to such works as the Stowe Tract on the Mass.” —Ecclesiastical History