CELT document T201070

De controversia Paschali

Cummianus Hibernus

English translation

Edited by Maura Walsh and Dáibhí Ó Cróinín


Cummiani Hiberni epistola ad Segienum Hiensem abbatem de controversia paschali

I confide in the divine name of the most high God

[1] To the holy and venerable lords in Christ, the Abbot Ségéne, successor of holy Columba and of other holy men, and Béccán the hermit, beloved in body and a brother in spirit, along with their sages, Cummian, a suppliant sinner, the least to the great, sends a defence and greeting in Christ.

[2] I dare to offer the words of my excuse boldly in the face of your holiness but I hope that you as fathers forgive me, ‘calling upon God as witness on my soul’ (2 Cor. 1:23 (V)) that it is not out of scorn for you nor puffed up with pride of moral wisdom and the contempt of others that I have undertaken, along with other sages, the solemnity of the Paschal feast. For in the first year in which the cycle of 532 years began to be celebrated by our party I did not accept it, but remained silent; I dared neither to praise nor to condemn it, since I believe that I by no means surpass in knowledge the Hebrews, Greeks and Latins, whose languages, as Jerome says, Christ consecrated in the inscription of His  p.59 cross. Therefore, asking the Apostle who says: ‘Test everything, hold fast what is good,’ (Thess. 5:21) before I tried it, I did not disdain it. Hence, having cloistered myself for a year and having entered the sanctuary of God (that is sacred Scripture) I studied as much as I was able, then I examined the histories, and finally the cycles which I could find.

[3] And I found that firstly one ought to look in Exodus concerning the First Month according to the Hebrews. For it is written: ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year,’ (Exod. 12:2) and in the following verses: ‘On the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to his family and his household, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month ’ (Exod. 13:3 and 6) (that is of the First Month) and ‘the whole assembly of the sons of Israel shall sacrifice their lambs in the evening.’ (Exod. 12:6) And I found that the Apostle spoke thus concerning the sacrifice of Christ, not concerning the Resurrection, saying: ‘For Christ, our Paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.’ (1 Cor. 5:7 (V)) Again in Exodus: ‘You shall observe this day throughout your generations as an ordinance forever, in the First Month, on the fourteenth day of the month.’ (Exod. 12:17) Also in Leviticus: ‘If anyone is clean and is not on a journey, yet refrains from keeping the passover, that person shall be cut off from his people, because he did not offer the Lord's offering at its appointed time’ (Num. 9:13 (V)) (that is in the First Month). I feared this and I sought diligently what the Hebrews, the Greeks, the Latins, and the Egyptians observed and thought about this time, which I shall demonstrate below.

[4] Also in Exodus: ‘For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day,’ (Exod. 12:15 and 18 (V)) I diligently investigated in treatises what the most learned  p.61 men might think about the twenty-first, which Jerome explains most beautifully when he says: ‘The people sacrifice the Pasch, and celebrate other festivities. Their whole solemnity is finished on the eighth day;’ (Hieronymus, In Aggaeum 2:11-15 (CCSL 76A: 734)) the first day of unleavened bread is the fifteenth moon, the eighth day (of the solemnity) is the twenty-first moon. Again in the Book of Questions: ‘We may observe the computation of Easter from the fourteenth moon, which is the first for us according to the Law. For God made all things whole, therefore it was granted to us to celebrate the Pasch during these seven days, from the fourteenth moon until the twenty-first, so that of these, a certain seven days are completed from the parasceve to the resurrection, so that neither should the thirteenth moon be on the passion, nor the fourteenth or fifteenth on the resurrection, lest Christ's passion be before the first moon according to us and lest his resurrection not be on the first day, on which the world began.’ (Ambrosiaster, Liber Quaestionum, q. 83 (CSEL 50: 144)) These matters are in the 86th question. Also in the 91st: ‘The Apostle, [he says,] cannot be deceived,’ (Ambrosiaster, Liber Quaestionum, q. 96 (CSEL 50: 170)) who says: ‘Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed,’ (1 Cor. 5:7) which is, of course, not his own word but the word of the Law, as Moses says: ‘And it shall come to pass when your children say to you 'What do you mean by this service?' and you shall say 'It is the sacrifice' of the Lords Pasch.’ (Exod. 12:26-27) “What more,” he says, “is necessary as testimony? The Law speaks, the Apostle proves, this remains: that the contradictor be cast out as a liar. For it is clear that the passing over was after the Pasch. Therefore the blood gave safety, not the passing over, because the blood prevents the passing over from doing harm.” I feared this and it disturbed me.


[5] Again searching around, I also found Origen 'the bronze-bellied' and truly 'the Staunch' saying: ‘There is indeed a solemn day in the First Month: on the one hand there is the solemnity of the Pasch, and on the other, the solemnity of unleavened bread, although the solemnity of the Pasch seems  p.65 joined to the unleavened bread, for the beginning of the unleavened bread is joined to the end of the Pasch. However, it is that day alone on which the lamb is killed that is called the Pasch. The rest, indeed, are called the seven days of unleavened bread.’ (Origenes-Rufinus, Homilia in Leviticum 9:5 (GCS 29: 246)) For so He says: ‘You shall keep the solemnity of unleavened bread for seven days.’ (Exod. 23:15 (V))

[6] Then in the gospel I found my Lord Jesus Christ saying: ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer,’ (Luke 22:15 (V)) which Jerome explains: ‘Wishing to put an end to the feast of the flesh and, through the passing shadow of the Pasch to restore the truth, fulfilling the law as He said:’ (Hieronymus, In Matheum 4:26.2 (CCSL 77: 245)) ‘I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it,’ (Matt. 5:17 (V)) that is to augment it. Whence, coming to the Passion, fulfilling the Old Covenant and beginning the New, on Thursday, the fourteenth moon of the First Month (which is called Nisan amongst the Hebrews, Spantoriacos amongst the Macedonians, Parmothi amongst the Egyptians and amongst the Latins occupies sometimes part of March, sometimes part of April) as the evening proceeded, ‘having taken p.67 bread, He gave thanks, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying: This is My Body,’ (Consecration rite) etc. Also: ‘This chalice is the New Covenant in My Blood.’ (1 Cor. 11:25) ‘But when it was morning [(namely Friday)] all the chief priests took council.’ (Matt. 27:1 (V)) ‘On the next day however, [that is on the Sabbath, the fifteenth moon,] the chief priests gathered and set a guard on the sepulchre.’ (Matt. 27:62 and 66 (V)) ‘On the first day of the week,’ (Luke 24:1; John 20:1) on the sixteenth moon, ‘the bonds of hell having been loosed,’ (Acts 2:24) He rose from the dead. ‘After eight days,[however (that is the twenty-third moon)] He came and He stood among [the disciples and He showed His hands and feet and side, and said:] Peace be with you.’ (John 20:26-27) However, on the fortieth day after the resurrection (namely from the sixteenth moon, not from the fourteenth) He ‘led [his disciples] out to Bethany and, raising His hands, He blessed them’ (Luke 24:50-51) and was raised up to heaven. And when the fiftieth day was completed (namely from the resurrection on the sixteenth moon, not from the passion on the fourteenth) the Holy Spirit ‘rested upon each’ (Acts 2:3-4) of the apostles as fire. Hence the entire church of the East has reverently allotted three weeks for the three most holy feasts of Our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘that is [a week] to the Passion, a week to the Sepulture, and a week to the Resurrection: from the 14th to the 20th moon for the Passion, from the 15th to the 21st for the Sepulture  p.69 and from the 16th to the 22nd for the Resurrection, consecrating a week for reverence of the Lord's Day.’ (Cologne Prologue (Krusch, Studien 1: 232-233=PL Supplement 3: 433-434)) For, if the fourteenth moon were assigned to the Resurrection, as you do, then the thirteenth would fall on the Sepulture and the twelfth on the Passion, in an inverted order.

[7] In the canons of synods called together because of disagreement on this matter amongst the successors of the apostles (that is St Peter the keybearer, who preached to the circumcised, and St John the breastplated, who preached to the uncircumcised) since the Apostles, as we read, acting under strain from all sides and scattered over various territories, were themselves  p.71 unable to regularly compose a cycle, I found it written that ‘those are to be excommunicated and driven from the church’ (Dionysius Exiguus, Ep. ad Petronium (Krusch, Studien 2: 66)) and anathematized who go against the canonical statutes of the fourfold Apostolic See, namely that of Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, which agree on the unity of Easter. Added to these was the Synod of Nicaea of 318 bishops, who decreed that ‘the ancient canon concerning the observation of Easter [should be observed] through which in future no disagreement would arise among the churches, with all things rightly disposed, and one and the same peace and faith of the churches would be maintained in Eastern and Western parts’ (Synodus Niceae, Canon 1, apud Rufinum, Hist. Eccl. 10: 6 (Hefele-Leclercq, Hist. des conciles 1/2: 1175)) Again, in the Synod of Arles of 600 bishops, which ‘first of all [confirmed  p.73 that,] concerning the observation of Easter, we should keep it on one day and at one time throughout the entire world’ (Synodus Arelatensis, Canon 1 (CCSL 148: 9)) so that the universal Church, according to the Apostle, ‘might honour [the one] God with one voice.’ (Rom. 15:6) Whence care should be taken, as Jerome says, lest we eat the figural “lamb” outside of the one house against the precept of the Law, “that is outside” of the universal Church. “From which it is manifest,” he says, “that Jews and heretics and all conventicles of perverse doctrines who do not eat the Lamb in the one Church do not eat the flesh of the Lamb, but that of the dragon that was given, according to the Psalter, ‘as food to the Ethiopian people.’ (Ps. 73:14)” And this I fear. But you ought to consider which are the conventicles of which I spoke, whether they are the Hebrews, Greeks, Latins and Egyptians who are united in their observance of the principal solemnities, or an insignificant  p.75 group of Britons and Irish who are almost at the end of the earth, and, if I may say so, but pimples on the face of the earth. Judge this for me. ‘For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged,’ (Matt. 7:2) and this is the danger hanging over you. For you are the heads and the eyes of the people, and ‘if they are led into error because of your obstinacy you shall answer,’ (Exod. 34:33; 2 Cor. 3:13) according to Ezechiel, ‘for the blood of [each] soul’ (Ezek. 33:6 and 8) to the strict Judge. Our elders, however, whom you hold as a cloak for your rejection, kept simply and faithfully, without blame of any contradiction or animosity, that which they knew to be best in their day, and prescribed for their posterity thus, according to the Apostle: ‘Test everything, hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.’ (1 Thess. 5:21-22) But I fear lest it happen that you should judge the unanimous rule of the Catholic Church to be a form of evil, which heaven forbid!

[8] Need I say more? I come to the Apostle saying further: ‘Brothers, let no one lead you astray with regard to a part of the feast day, or the new moon, or the Sabbath. These are only a shadow of things that are to come, but the substance is Christ's.’ (Col. 2:16-17) Holy Augustine of venerable memory explains this beautifully, saying: ‘'The feast day is the Pasch,’ (Unidentified source) as the evangelist Luke says: ‘Now the feast of unleavened bread approached when it was necessary to kill the Pasch.’ (Luke 22:1 and 7) The Pasch is killed and is brought to life. It is a part of the feast day, the fourteenth moon, not the whole feast, in which we are led astray, but in the part, and in the restful Sabbath and in the heralded new moon, which are but a shadow, not the substance, of Christ. The shadow is killed, the truth is brought to life.' And this I ask: Consider diligently how you might excuse me or direct me to some better understanding by your words or with more valid writings and more certain proofs — if you have any — and I will gratefully accept it, as I have accepted this. If, however, you do not have any, be silent and do not call us heretics. For it is written: ‘Woe to those of you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness. ’ (Isa. 5:20 (V)) ‘For we are sons of the day, not of night nor of shadows.’ (1 Thess. 5:5) You should  p.77 also take heed of what is said about others: ‘They were putting to death souls that were not dead, and keeping alive souls that are not alive.’ (Ezek. 13:19) We do not, therefore, hate you, but we defend ourselves with the truth. Jerome, again, is at hand as a helper saying: ‘It should not be considered that there is one church of Rome, another of the whole world. For the provinces of Gaul, Britain, Africa and Persia, the East and India and all barbarian nations adore one Christ, observe one rule of truth. If authority is sought, the world is greater than a city; the bishop of Rome or of Alexandria.’ (Hieronymus, Ep. 146 ad Evangelum (CSEL 56: 310)) And somewhat  p.79 further on: ‘From one side, [he says,] the Arian madness, supported by the powers that be in the world, bears down. From the other, the Church, rent into three parts, hurries to harm itself. The ancient authority of the monks in the surrounding area rises up against me. Meanwhile I cry out: 'Whoever is joined to the chair of St Peter is mine.' Therefore either two deceive or all deceive.’ (Hieronymus, Ep. 16 ad Damasum (CSEL 54: 69)) ‘Troubles on all sides of me!’ (Dan. 13:22 (V)) If I shout this with Jerome, interpreter of divine Scripture and opponent of all heretics, I am opposed by you. If I do not cry out, I am excommunicated by the universal Catholic Church, to which the authority of binding and loosing was given by God.

[9] Having examined these things, I come to Cyprian “the all knowing” (as they say) and I find him nearly the strictest of all concerning the unity of the Church. He says: We came into this world from one father and one mother, and so we shall go into the world to come. He who does not have one mother on earth, neither shall he have one father in heaven. Therefore, after the confession of the Trinity in which there is the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit, there follows a devout confession of one Mother, saying that she is the Holy Catholic Church. Why was one Adam formed and one Eve taken from his side and fashioned into woman? Surely this is, as the Apostle says, ‘a great mystery in Christ and in the Church?’ (Eph. 5:32) Thus, there is no other fashioned from the side of Christ except the one. Hence there is one mystical place in Jesus Christ's side, from the lance of the soldier, from which flowed water and blood. These are two symbols of the one Church. Hence there was one ark saved in the flood and no other. ‘“If anyone could have escaped outside of Noah's Ark, then one who is outside of the Church might escape.”’ (Cyprianus, De unitate ecclesiae 56 (CCSL 3: 253-254)) Hence, there was one tabernacle on the mountain and one exemplar shown to Moses. Hence there was one place before the Lord in which Moses saw the final work of the supreme hand, the Lord saying;  p.81 ‘There is a place by me. Stand in the cleft of the rock and you will see my back.’ (Exod. 33:21-23) ‘The rock, however, was Christ;’ (1 Cor. 10:4) the back of his hand was the incarnation; the one cleft, the one Passion; the one place can be figuratively understood as the one Church. Take note that the right hand of the Lord is not seen except in one place, in one rock, in one cleft. Only the one home of Rab the harlot was saved from the burning of Jericho through the scarlet rope. Hence one temple was built by Solomon. ‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’ (Ps. 132:1) I believe you have well remembered how all these things are explained with regard to the unity of the Church.

[10] Terrified by these things, I turned to others and found Augustine, who is called 'Water from the Clouds', explaining this verse from the Psalter: ‘The sun will not burn you during the day, nor the moon during the night.’ (Ps. 120:6) ‘He who thinks evil of Christ is burnt by the sun during the day, and he who thinks evil of the Church by the moon during the night.’ (Augustinus, Enarratio in Psalmo 120.12 (CCSL 40: 1797-1798)) Whence it is written in the Law: ‘He who curses his father or mother shall be put to death.’ (Exod. 21:17; Lev. 20:9) What, then, more evil can be thought about Mother Church than if we say Rome errs, Jerusalem errs, Alexandria errs, Antioch errs, the whole world errs; the Irish and British alone know what is right. Again Jerome: ‘Moses dying, [he says,] is mourned; Jesus [is buried] on the Mount’ (Hieronymus, Adversus Iovianum 1:22 (PL 23: 251)) without tears. I would mourn for those who die in the Law, crucifying the Lord under the fourteenth moon, but I would receive those rising again with Christ in the Gospel. Again holy Augustine comes to me, where he disputes against all heresies under the heading of anathema, saying that ‘Teserescedecadite [(that is 'of the fourteenth')] is the heresy of those who hold [Easter] on the fourteenth moon with the Jews.’ (Augustinus, De haeresibus 29 (CCSL 46: 304)) Also, commenting on the Gospel, he says about them: Jesus chose one man from among the invalids at the pool to heal, ‘because whoever is outside of the unity, although he comes, he cannot be healed.’ (Augustinus, In Iohannem 17:3 (CCSL 36: 171)) And this  p.83 horrifies me, unless the trustworthy reasoning of your counsel should lead me to a more valid and more certain opinion.

[11] What more? ‘I turned to the words of Pope Gregory, bishop of the city of Rome, accepted by all of us and given the name 'Golden Mouth', for although he wrote after everyone, nevertheless he is deservedly to be preferred to all.’ (Gregorius Magnus, Moralia in Iob 18:26 (CCSL 143A:911)) And I found him commenting on this place in Job: ‘Gold has a place in which it is melted,’ (Job 28:1 (V)) and the rest. ‘Gold is the mass of saints; the smelter is the unity of the Church; the fire is the suffering of martyrdom. He, therefore, who is burned outside of the unity of the Church can be melted down, but cannot be purified.’ (Gregorius Magnus, Moralia 18:26 (CCSL 143A:911)) Whence Paul also says: ‘If I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing’ (1 Cor. 13:3) {} I also found him interpreting the following verse in the same sense in another place: ‘Be thou to me God a protector, and a strong fortress that you might save me.’ (Ps. 70:3 (V)) ‘And he does not find a fortified place (that is, safe) either in heaven for the angels, or on earth for men, except the humble unity which the archangel cast away and now is the devil, and which man, imitating him, cast aside and now is mortal.’ (Gregorius Magnus, Homilia in Hiezechiel 1:9.22 (CCSL 142:136)) And I fear this. You consider carefully, brothers, whether it is with good reason or through cowardice.

[12] Finally I thoroughly examined the cycles of different computations to see what each language thinks about the course of the sun and the moon, and I found cycles that are in disagreement with the one which you hold, although  p.85 diversely one in the day, another in the moon, another in the month, another in the bissextile, another in the epact, and another in the lunar augment (which you call the saltus). The first is that which holy Patrick, our bishop, brought and followed, in which the moon is regularly observed from the fourteenth to the twenty-first, and the equinox from March 21st. 1 Secondly, I found Anatolius (whom you extol) who says that those who observe a ‘cycle of eighty-four years can never arrive’ (Ps.-Anatolius, Canon paschalis 1 (Krusch, Studien 1: 317)) at the correct reckoning of  p.87 Easter. Thirdly Theophilus; 2 fourth Dionysius; 3 fifth Cyril; sixth Morinus; 4 seventh Augustine; 5 eighth Victorius; 6 ninth the monk Pacomius, founder of the monasteries of Egypt, to whom the reckoning of Easter was dictated by an angel 7; tenth the nineteen-year cycle of the 318 bishops ‘which is called 'enneacedeciterida' in Greek’ (Ps.-Pacomius, Versus de Pascha (Strecker, MGH PLMA 4/2: 670-671)) in which the Kalends of January and the moons of that same day, the beginnings of the First Month and the fourteenth moons of that month have been correctly noted, as if by a most clear path, “leaving aside the shadows of ignorance,” for studious men for all times, by which the feast of Easter can with certainty be found. Indeed, I found this cycle contrary in the kalends, the bissextile, the epact, the fourteenth moon, the First Month and the equinox to that one whose author, place and time we are uncertain of. Note, as Cyril says, ‘that the Council of Nicaea ordained the fourteenth  p.89 moons of all years through the nineteen-year cycle’ (Ps.-Cyrillus, Ep. de Pascha (Krusch, Studien 1: 346-349)) (which Victorius made return to where it started through twenty-eight turns with 532 kalends and 133 bissextiles), ‘so that we may not be deceived in the moon of the First Month and so that we should celebrate Easter on the following Sunday, and not keep it on the fourteenth moon with the Jews and heretics who are called Thesserescedecadite. [And it was decided, he says,] in all the synods except the synods of Gangrensis and of Caesaraea that no church or city or any region should act contrary to these things which were laid down concerning Easter in the Nicene Council. And if the Nicene Council had not written the lunar cycle of the First Month, the cycle of the Selenite stone of Persia would suffice as a pattern for the Paschal reckoning, the inner brightness of which waxes and wanes with the moon of the First Month; so that we should not make a common year from an embolismic and an embolismic from a common’ (Ps. Cyrillus, Ep. de Pascha (Krusch, Studien 1: 347-348)) (that is a short lunar year of twelve months from a long, that is a thirteen-month year, in which you falsely celebrate an early moon), so that, in the First Month and ‘in the unity of the Church we might eat the true Lamb of the true Israelite, the immaculate of the immaculate, in one home as it was prescribed. In that month, on a Friday, Cain led Abel the just into the fields to kill him, in the prefiguration of Christ led into Pilate's praetorium, because it is believed that He was conceived in the womb and that He died on the cross that same day. While Adam also died in spirit for his sin in paradise on a Friday, and died in body on the same day.’ (Ps. Cyrillus, Ep. de Pascha (Krusch, Studien 1: 348-349))


[13]  Approve these things if you wish; if not, disclaim them with catholic testimonies; if you wish to do neither of these, we shall say this: ‘We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may answer for his own body.’ (2 Cor. 5:10 (V)) Also, We should not judge ‘before the time [when] He shall come Who shall bring light to things now hidden in darkness and shall disclose the purpose of hearts.’ (1 Cor. 4:5) And ‘Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you shall be judged.’ (Matt. 7:1 and 2) And ‘Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.’ (Rom. 14:4 (V)) The burden of what I say is on you, as I see it, and the burden of what you say is on me, unless you demonstrate it with the words of Holy Scripture. Let us bear each other's ‘burden [mutually] and so we shall fulfil the law of Christ.’ (Gal. 6:2) For if we ‘wound one another's weak conscience, [we] sin in Christ.’ (1 Cor. 8:12) If we are in our right mind, it is for you; ‘if we are beside ourselves it is for God;’ (2 Cor. 5:12) ‘if we live, we live in the Lord; if we die, we die in the Lord, for we are of the Lord.’ (Rom. 14:8) We entreat you, for Christ's sake, that you not reproach us along with our Mother, because every offspring copies the appearance of its Mother. Whence we receive the spirit, thence we breathe. Your self-confidence is warrant for our outspokenness.

[14] Therefore after a full year (as I said above), in accordance with Deuteronomy, I ‘ask[ed my] fathers [to] make [known to me, my] elders’ (Deut. 32:7) (that is to say, the successors of our first fathers: of Bishop Ailbe, of Ciaran of Clonmacnois, of Brendan, of Nessan, and of Lugid) to tell me what they thought about our excommunication by the aforementioned Apostolic Sees. Having gathered in Mag Lene, some in person others through representatives sent in their place, they enacted and said: “Our predecessors enjoined, through capable witnesses (some living, some resting in peace), that we should adopt humbly  p.93 without doubt better and more valid proofs proffered by the font of our baptism and our wisdom and by the successors of the Lord's Apostles.” Then they arose in unison and after this, as is our custom, they performed a prayer, that they would celebrate Easter with the Universal Church the next year. But a short time afterwards a certain ‘whited-wall [arose, pretending to] preserve the tradition of our elders,’ (Acts 23:3; Matt. 23:27; Marc. 7:3-4) who did not unite with either part but divided them and partly made void what was promised. I hope the ‘Lord shall strike [him] down’ (Acts 23:3) in whatever way he wills. Then it seemed proper to our elders, according to the command, that if disagreement arises ‘between one side and another, and judgement vary between leper and non-leper, they should go to the place which the Lord has chosen;’ (Deut. 17:8) and that ‘if the matters are major, [according to the sinodical decree,] they should be referred to the chief of cities.’ (Coll. canon. Hibernensis 20, De prouincia (Wasserschleben, p. 61 n. e)) Hence we sent those whom we knew to be wise and humble as children to their mother, and ‘having had a prosperous journey through the will of God,’ (Rom. 1:10) some of them arrived at Rome, and returned to us in the third year. And they saw all things just as they had heard about them, but they found them more certain inasmuch as they were seen rather than heard. And they p.95 were in one lodging in the church of St Peter with a Greek, a Hebrew, a Sythian and an Egyptian at the same time at Easter, in which we differed by a whole month. And so they testified to us before the holy relics, saying: “As far as we know, this Easter is celebrated throughout the whole world.” And we have tested that the power of God is in the relics of the holy martyrs and in the writings which they brought back. We saw with our own eyes a totally blind girl opening her eyes at these relics, and a paralytic walking and many demons cast out.

[15] I have said these things not to impugn you, but that I, ‘a night owl, [as it were, hiding] in the home,’ (Ps. 101:7) might defend myself. But if perchance I have said anything rough or corrupt through impure lips, touch it with the two-edged tongs of your lips in the manner of the fiery Isaian coal from the altar of God, and cut off the foreskin of the unpolished word with the twelve double-edged swords of Ben Nun, the fifteen little fingers buried with the foreskins of the former people. For it is wicked that you do not recognise your errors, and that you do not acknowledge more certain proofs. It is proper to heretics not to correct their opinion; to prefer a perverse opinion rather than abandon one they had defended. ‘One who knows what it is to do good, and who does it not, that is a sin for him.’ (James 4:17) ‘For death is the reward of sin.’ (Rom. 6:23) From this death may the Divine Majesty and undivided Trinity and Manifold Head (under whom there is nothing, within whom there is nothing, near whom there is nothing, beyond whom there is nothing, above whom there is nothing, ‘sustaining [all things] without effort, entering [all things] without diminution, [surrounding  p.97 all things] without stretching, surmounting [all things] without discomfort)’ (Gregorius Magnus, Moralia 2:12.20 (CCSL 143: 72-73)) deign to free us. Amen. Amen.

‘Great is the labour’ (Pelagius, Ep. ad Demetriadem (PL 30: 42D=PL 33: 1119)) of prudence. Here ends the letter of Cummian directed to Abbot Ségéne. Thanks be to God.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): De controversia Paschali

Title (supplementary): English translation

Author: Cummianus Hibernus

Editor: Maura Walsh and Dáibhí Ó Cróinín

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translated by: Maura Walsh and Dáibhí Ó Cróinín

Electronic edition compiled by: Benjamin Hazard

proof corrections by: Janet Crawford

Funded by: University College, Cork

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2. Second draft.

Extent: 6520 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2005

Date: 2011

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T201070

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Availability: Copyright for the text lies with the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, Canada. Their URL is http://www.pims.ca. The text is here reproduced by their kind permission.

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Manuscript source

  • London, British Library, MS Cotton Vitellius A.xii, fol. 79r–83r. For further details, see Thomas Smith (ed.), Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum bibliothecae Cottonianae: 1696 (Cambridge repr. 1984); see also Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Cottonian Library deposited in the British Museum (London 1802) 379f.

Editions and translations

  1. Veterum epistolarum Hibernicarum sylloge, ed. James Ussher (Dublin 1632) 24–35, Ep. xi.
  2. C. R. Elrington (ed.), The whole works of the most rev. James Ussher (Dublin 1846) vol. 4, 432–44.
  3. Jacques-Paul Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina (Paris 1860) vol. 87, 969–78.

Secondary literature

  1. Whitley Stokes (ed.), On the calendar of Oéngus (Dublin 1880) pp. liv, clxix, clxiii.
  2. Bruno Krusch, Die Einführung des griechischen Paschalritus im Abendlande, Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 9 (1884).
  3. J. G. O'Keeffe, Cummíne Fota and Mac dá Cherda, Ériu 5 (1911) 26–32.
  4. James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland, and introduction and guide (New York 1929; repr. Dublin 1979) 220–21.
  5. D. J. O'Connell, Easter cycles in the early Irish Church, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 66 (1936) 67–106.
  6. Mario Esposito, Notes on Latin learning and literature in medieval Ireland, Hermathena 45 (1930) 240–45.
  7. Paul Grosjean, Recherches sur les débuts de la controverse pascale chez les celtes, Analecta Bollandiana 64 (1947) 200–44.
  8. René Derolez, Runica manuscripta (Brugge 1954) 222–25.
  9. J. E. L. Oulton, The epistle of Cummian, 'De controversia Paschali', Studia Patristica 1 (1957) 63, 128–33.
  10. August Strobel, Ursprung und Geschichte des frühchristlichen Osterkalenders (Berlin 1977).
  11. Kenneth Harrison, Episodes in the history of Easter cycles in Ireland, in: Dorothy Whitelock, Rosamund McKitterick and David Dumville (eds.), Ireland in early mediaeval Europe: studies in memory of Kathleen Hughes (Cambridge 1982) 307–19.
  12. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, A seventh-century Irish computus from the circle of Cummianus, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 82 C 11 (1982) 405–430.
  13. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Early Irish annals from Easter tables: a case re-stated, Peritia 2 (1983) 74–86.
  14. Marc Schneiders, The Irish calendar in the Karlsruhe Bede, Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft 31 (1989) 33–78.
  15. Daniel McCarthy, The origins of the Latercus paschal cycle of the Insular Celtic Churches, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 28 (1994) 25–49.
  16. Conor O'Brien, 'Exegesis as Argument: The Use of Ephesians 2,14 in Cummian's De Controverisa Paschali', Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 67 (Summer 2014) 73–81.

The edition used in the digital edition

Walsh, Maura and Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, eds. (1988). Cummian’s Letter: De controversia Paschali‍. 1st ed. clxxxiv + 385 pp. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  title 	 = {Cummian's Letter: De controversia Paschali},
  editor 	 = {Maura Walsh and Dáibhí Ó~Cróinín},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {clxxxiv + 385 pp.},
  publisher 	 = {Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies},
  address 	 = {Toronto},
  date 	 = {1988},
  UNKNOWN 	 = {seriesStmt}


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The present text represents odd pages 57–95. All editorial introduction and notes have been omitted, except citation sources. The original Latin text is available in a separate file (L201070).

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Creation: Translation by Maura Walsh and Dáibhí Ó Cróinín. For details of Latin text please see Latin file.

Date: 1987

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Keywords: religious; prose; medieval; letters; Easter; scholarship; translation

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  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
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  10. 2005-06-14: Text proof-read (2); header modified; bibliography compiled. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  11. 2005-06-14: Header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  12. 2005-04-06: First proofing of text; some structural markup added. (ed. Janet Crawford, Co. Tipperary)
  13. 2005-04-04: Text scanned. (data capture Benjamin Hazard)

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L201070: De controversia Paschali (in Latin)

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Search CELT

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