St. Finian of Magh Bile (Moville), County Down

10 September

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Born about 495; died 589. Though not so celebrated as his namesake of Clonard, he was the founder of a famous school about the year 540. He studied under St. Colman of Dromore and St. Mochae of Noendrum (Mahee Island), and subsequently at Candida Casa (Whithern), whence he proceeded to Rome, returning to Ireland in 540 AD with an integral copy of St. Jerome's Vulgate, a work of translation which Jerome had completed in 404 AD **.

St. Finnian's most distinguished pupil at Moville (County Down) was St. Columba, whose surreptitious copying of the Psaltery led to a very remarkable sequel. What remains of the copy, together with the casket that contains it, is now in the National Museum, Dublin. It is known as the Cathach or Battler, and was wont to be carried by the O'Donnells in battle. The inner case was made by Cathbar O'Donnell in 1084, but the outer is fourteenth-century work. So prized was it that family of MacGroarty were hereditary custodians of this Cathach, and it finally passed, in 1802, to Sir Neal O'Donnell, County Mayo.

St. Finnian of Moville wrote a rule for his monks, also a penitential code, the canons of which were published by Wasserschleben in 1851. His festival is observed on 10 September.

Troparion of St Finian Tone 8
Having been nourished in the faith at Candida Casa, O holy Finian,/ thou didst return to thy native Ireland as the sower of seed which bore fruit an hundred-fold./ In thy love and wisdom intercede with our merciful Creator/ that He will so nourish us with true faith and piety, devoting ourselves only to Him,/ that we may receive the reward of the righteous.

** It is interesting to look at the contents of the Vulgate which Finnian brought to Ireland.

The Vulgate of Saint Jerome

While revising the text of the Old Latin Version, St. Jerome became convinced of the need in the Western Church of a new translation directly from the Hebrew. His Latin scholarship, his acquaintance with Biblical places and customs obtained by residence in Palestine, and his remarkable knowledge of Hebrew and of Jewish exegetical traditions, especially fitted him for a work of this kind. He set himself to the task A.D. 390 and in A.D. 405 completed the protocanonical books of the Old Testament from the Hebrew, and the deuterocanonical Books of Tobias and Judith from the Aramaic. To these were added his revision of the Old Latin, or Gallican, Psalter, the New Testament, revised from the Old Latin with the aid of the original Greek, and the remaining deuterocanonical books, and portions of Esther, and Daniel, just as they existed in the Itala.

Thus was formed that version of the Bible which has had no less influence in the Western Church than the Septuagint has had in the Eastern, which has enriched the thought and language of Europe and has been the source of nearly all modern translations of the Scriptures. The Hebrew text used by St. Jerome was comparatively late, being practically that of the Massoretes. For this reason his version, for textual criticism, has less value than the Peschitto and the Septuagint. As a translation it holds a place between these two. It is elegant in style, clear in expression, and on the whole, notwithstanding some freedoms in the way of restricted or amplified readings, it is faithful to the sense of the original.

At first it met with little favour. It was looked upon by some as a perversion suggested and encouraged by the Jews. Others held it to be inferior to the Septuagint, and those who recognized its merits feared it would cause dissensions. But it gradually supplanted the Old Latin Version. Adopted by several writers in the fifth century, it came into more general use in the sixth. At least the Spanish churches employed it in the seventh century, and in the ninth it was found in practically the whole Roman Church. Its title "Vulgate", indicating its common use, and belonging to the Old Latin until the seventh century, was firmly established in the thirteenth.

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