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31 October 2011


Emile Mâle:
It was no new departure when at the end of the thirteenth century Jacobus de Voragine wrote the famous Golden Legend, for in it he simply popularised the lectionary, preserving even its sequence. His compilation is in no sense original. He is content with completing the stories by recourse to the originals, and with adding new legends here and there. The Golden Legend became famous throughout Christendom, because it put into the hands of all men stories which until then had hardly been found outside the liturgical books. The baron in his castle, the merchant in his shop could now enjoy the beautiful tales at will.

The attack made on Jacobus de Voragine by scholars of the seventeenth century misses its mark. The Golden Legend, which they accused of being a legend of lead, was not the work of a man but of the whole of Christendom. The candour and the credulity of the writer belonged to his time. The stories of St. Thomas's voyage to India or of St. James's miraculous cloak, recounted so naïvely in the Golden Legend, though displeasing to the strict theologians trained in the school of the fathers of the Council of Trent, were universally accepted in the thirteenth century. They were read in public in the churches, and they were illustrated in the windows. To condemn Jacobus de Voragine is to condemn all the ancient lectionaries, and with them the clergy who read them and the faithful who listened.

The detractors of the hagiographical tradition to which Golden Legend witnesses are legion - beginning with humanists such as Desiderius Erasmus and Lorenzo Valla, and including such churchmen as the Counter-Reformatonal iconoclast John Molanus, John of Launoy (the infamous denicheur), Adrien Baillet, and others whose skepticism triumphed in the great stripping of the calendars in 1969, on the instructions of Sacrosanctum Consilium to purge the liturgy of anything that smacks of mythology.

I will always be a defender of the Golden Legend and the traditional hagiographies - and more than a defender of them, a believer in them. That is to say, I believe that they are holy, deserving of preservation, and usually true. To a modern skeptic, this belief seems foolish and romantic; the sort of thing that could only be maintained through deliberate ignorance.

But the Golden Legend does not require a suspension of disbelief, nor a Sigerist double standard of truth (one truth for reason, one truth for faith), nor any particular hermeneutic to believe. All that is required is the benefit of doubt. That is to say, most of the stories recounted by the traditional hagiographies give us no reason, in themselves, to disbelieve them.

A qualification must be made here. The hagiographies are not infallible and I certainly make no claim to the contrary. They were compiled by human authors without divine inspiration. Some contain errors. On occasion, we find confused identities, or details disproved by substantial historical evidence. On occasion, we find contradictory versions of the same story, as with multiple claimants to the same relic. In such cases, someone must be wrong. Even more rarely, we find cults of devotion whose origins can be traced, with reasonable certitude, to untrustworthy sources.

But these are the exceptions, not the rule - rarities among the hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of saints whose cults have been ignominiously quashed, or whose hagiographies have been edited in the name of historical criticism.

The traditional accounts of the lives of these saints only become incredible when they are read with a prejudice against the miraculous. And most of the proofs offered by scholars debunking the hagiographies and explaining what really happened are as baseless and arbitrary as the stories themselves are accused of being.

For example, according to the Golden Legend:

The body of St. Denis raised himself up, and bare his head between his arms, as the angel led him two leagues from the place, which is said the hill of the martyrs, unto the place where he now resteth, by his election, and by the purveyance of God.

Modern hagiographies are unanimous in rejecting the story of St. Denis carrying his own head for two leagues. Nowadays, everybody knows this didn't really happen - what really happened is that two rival churches claimed the honor of being the place of the saint's martyrdom and death, and the story was invented as a compromise. Or, what really happened is that ignorant medieval peasants misunderstood the artistic convention of depicting a decapitated martyr holding his own head and invented a story to match.

But there is no evidence whatsoever that the story is not true as recounted above. There is no evidence whatsoever that it was invented to pacify rival holy sites, or to explain the misinterpretations of cathedral statuary. All of this is is pure conjecture. The only reason that a man would accept the new explanations is that he gives the benefit of the doubt to the skeptic over the tradition; that he believes that a saint carrying his head two leagues is something that cannot - therefore did not - happen.

And the most popular explanation - that of ignorant medieval peasants misinterpreting art - is completely implausible. It betrays a misunderstanding of the way hagiography, iconography and devotion related in the middle ages. (As a general rule, any explanation for anything that hinges on the idiocy of medieval people is a product of historical bigotry and little more.)

This explanation assumes that medieval hagiographies were essentially the product of folk religion, generated by the ignorant peasantry and only later accepted by the official Church - something akin to the folk devotions of contemporary Latin America. While it is certainly true that medieval hagiography and contemporary folk hagiography resemble each other more closely than either resembles historical critical hagiography, there is an important difference between them. In the Middle Ages, the theologically learned participated in the cults of devotion, and usually initiated them. How many of the saints in the Golden Legend were monks or nuns, whose veneration began in the very monasteries where they lived and died! The authors of their vitae were the most educated men of the day, including popes and bishops and abbots. 

Jacobus of Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, was not a folklorist wandering the fields and writing down the fantastic bedtime stories of the unlettered. He merely collected, compared and expanded what was already written in the various liturgical martyrologies: what was read at Matins across Christendom. The story of St. Denis the Cephalophore was known and believed and chanted aloud by the very clergy who commissioned the cathedral sculptures. It was known and believed and chanted aloud by St. Thomas Aquinas and the scholastic theologians disputing at the University of Paris. They certainly had no reason to doubt it.

For there is no evidence that St. Denis did not carry his head, or that St. Catherine did not destroy the wheel of her torture through prayer, or that St. Medard was not sheltered from the rain by an eagle, or that St. Cuthbert was not reverenced by otters after a night of penance in the cold sea. There is no evidence that St. Eustace did not witness the apparition of the Crucified Christ between the antlers of a stag, or that St. Hubert did not witness the same, or that the two men are really one (for who says that God cannot work a similar miracle twice?). There is no evidence that a giant of monstrous appearance did not ferry the Christ Child across a river, or that St. Genevieve's candle was not snuffed by a demon - for giants and demons are real, and still exist today.

As for the the story of St. George and the dragon - we know that reptilian monsters once roamed the earth in great numbers; we know that books can be filled with lists of the so-called Lazarus taxa; we know that fishermen pull coelacanths out of African rivers, and that Laotian rock rats are sold at meat market; we know that creatures as large and as common as the giant squid are able to evade the eyes of modern man for centuries; we know that creatures as large and as fantastic as the half-ton elephant bird lived and died even after the Council of Trent. Why is it implausible that large reptiles (perhaps now extinct) fulfilling the descriptions of the hagiographies lurked in the wildernesses in the days of St. George and St. Margaret and St. Sylvester and St. Benedict? (Although, really, a demonically possessed Nile crocodile would fulfill them just as well.)

And even more importantly - we know that holy scripture, the inerrant Word of God, speaks of dragons and basilisks, of frogs falling from the sky and rivers turning to blood. The miracles of Elijah are no less fantastic than the miracles of St. Nicholas. Balaam's ass is no less fantastic than St. Rumwold. Jonah's whale is no less fantastic than St. Brendan's. The Old Testament - and the New - are no less fantastic at face than the Golden Legend. They smack no less of mythology to the modern mind. 

Here of course, some will object that scripture is inerrant, and that hagiography is not; the vitae of the saints form a tradition extrinsic to divine revelation - a little t tradition. And yes, this is true - but I think that the obsession in popular catechesis and apologetics over distinguishing big T and little t traditions is a good example of the old demonic ploy of making men fear exactly the wrong error at exactly the wrong time. The world is not overrun with men who think that such traditions must be believed de fide, believed in the same way that the Nicene Creed must be believed. The world is overrrun with men who think that they need not be believed at all; minimalism is the heresy of the hour. Hagiographic, iconographic, monastic and liturgical traditions - these are holy and Christ-bearing things, and a Christian who dismisses them, insults them, ignores them, changes them at whim, or rejects them entirely does so at his peril.

But this really is beside the point. The debate over the worth of the traditional hagiography should not be reduced to an argument over different categories of authority. For the Bible is not just a book of stories whose veracity we are not permitted to question; it is a record of God's action among men and as man, a record of events that really occurred - and it speaks of marvels. We either live in a world in which these sort of things happen, or we do not.

If we believe that we live in such a world, the hagiographies no longer appear ridiculous. If we do not, the Resurrection itself appears ridiculous. The idea that we can save the reputation of the Church by conceding every allowable criticism to the skeptics, and that this will prevent them from crossing the uncrossable line of doubting Divine Revelation itself, is patently ridiculous. Let us give the Golden Legend and the old hagiographies the benefit of the doubt. They deserve at least that much.

21 October 2011

ST. URSULA and the 11000 VIRGINS

Their lives, according to James of Voragine.

Prose by Hildegard of Bingen:

O Ecclesia,
Oculi tui similes saphyro sunt,
Et aures tue monti Bethel,
Et nasus tuus est sicut mons mirre et thuris,
Et os tuum quasi sonus aquarum multarum.
In visione vere fidei
Ursula Filium Dei amavit
Et virum cum hoc seculo reliquit
Et in solem aspexit
Atque pulcherrimum iuvenem
Vocavit dicens:
In multo desiderio
Desideravi ad te venire
Et in celestibus nuptiis
Tecum sedere
Per alienam viam ad te currens
Velut nubes,
Que in purissimo aere
Currit similis saphiro.
Et postquam Ursula sic dixerat,
Rumor iste per omnes populos exiit.
Et dixerunt:
Innocentia puellaris ignorantie
Nescit, quid dicit.
Et ceperunt ludere cum illa
In magna symphonia,
Usque dum ignea sarcina super eam cecidit.
Unde omnes cognoscebant,
Quia contemptus mundi est
Sicut mons Bethel.
Et cognoverunt etiam
Suavissimum odorem mirre et thuris,
Quoniam contemptus mundi super omnia ascendit.
Tunc diabolus membra sua invasit,
Que nobilissimos mores
In corporibus istis occiderunt.
Et hoc in alta voce
Omnia elementa audierunt
Et ante thronum Dei
Wach, rubicundus sanguis innocentis agni
In desponsatione sua effusus est.
Hoc audiant omnes celi
Et in summa symphonia
Laudent Agnum Dei,
Quia guttur serpentis antiqui
In istis margaritis
Materie Verbi Dei
Suffocatum est.

19 October 2011


Her life:

Seint Fretheswyde, that holy mayde, was of Englonde;
Atte Oxenford heo was ybore, as ich understonde.
Hir fader hete Kyng Dydan, and Sefreth hete the quene -
This were hire eldren, that hure gotten hem bytwene.
Fretheswyd, hure yonge doughter, to lettre hii setten in youthe;
So wel heo spedde in six monnthes that heo hure Sauter couthe.
Swythe wel heo was byloved, of hey and of lowe;
Alle hii hadde joie of hure that couthen hure knowe.
Of the hard here was hure nexte wede.
The meste mete that heo ete was worten and barly brede,
And the cold welle water - that was hure drynke.
Now wold a knyghtes doughter grete hoker of suche sondes thynke!
The maide bysoght hure fadere to make hure nonne
In Seint Marie churche, that he hadde er bygonne.
Hire fadere was the furste man that lete the churche rere
That bereth the nam now of that mayde that lyth yschryned ther.
The king was glad of this chyld, that to clene lyf drowe.
He sende after a byschop anon hasteliche ynowe
Of Lyncolne that was tho - Edgar was his name -
To maken his doughter nonne ne thoght hym no schame.
The byschop for the kynges heste thuder he cam hymsulf
And schar hure in the nonnerie with hire felawes twelve.
A nyght, as this mayde was huresulf alon,
In hire bedes with hire sustren slepen everechon,
The fende hadde envye therof to hire goudhede
And thoght myd som gynne of goud lyf hure lede.
To hire he cam hire to fonde, in one mannes lyche
In goldbeten clothes that semed swythe ryche.
"My derworth mayde," he sede, "ne thynke thee noght to longe.
Tyme hit is for thy travayle that thou thy mede afonge.
Ich am thulke that thou byst to: take now goud hede.
Honoure me here, and for thy servyse ich croune thee to mede."
The fende hadde in his heved an croune of rede golde;
Another he that mayde bede, yif heo hym honoury wolde.
"Fare fram me, thou foule fende with thyn byheste!"
Heo made the croys, and he fley awey with noyse and grete cheste.
In the holy nonnerie so longe heo lyved ther
That hure fadere and hure modere both ded were.
Algar hete the king after the king Dydan;
He was king at Oxenford ychose - a wonder luther man.
He ofsende Fretheswyth, to habben hure to wyve.
Heo sede heo was to God ywedded, to hold by hure lyve.
The forward that heo hadde ymade, heo sede heo nolde breke;
If heo dude, wel heo wyste God wold be awreke.
"A foule", heo sede, "ich were the hey King of Hevene forsake
For gyfte other for anythyng, and thee His hyne take."
The messageres with grete strengthe wolden hure habbe ynome
And don the maide byfor the king anon to hym come.
Alle that weren ther woxen starc blynde;
Bynome hem was the myght the mayde for to fynde!
The borgeys of Oxenford sore were agaste,
And this holy maide for this men hii beden atte laste,
That heo thorw Godes grace geve hem here syght;
And thennes to the king passe that hii mosten habbe myght.
Anon hii hadden here syght thorw hire bysechyng;
Thannes hii wende, and al that cas hii toldyn the king.
The king therfor hym made wroth tho he herd this,
And in grete wrath swor his oth that he wold hire seche, ywys;
And that he hure habbe wolde. Faste he gan to yelpe
And swor that hure wocchecrafte scholde hure lyte helpe.
An angel that sulf nyght to that mayde cam
And bad hire oute of the kinges syght wende, that was so grame.
The levedy wende by nyght fram hure sustren tho
With somme that heo with hure toke - tweyne, witthoute mo.
To Temese heo yede and fonde a bote al preste, thorw Godes sonde,
And therin heo fonde an angel that broght hem to the londe.
For dred of the king heo wende, as God hit wolde,
Ne dorste heo come at non toune, to dwelle at non holde.
In a wode that Benesy yclyped ys al day
Thre wynter in an hole woned, that seylde me hure say.
A mayde that seve yere ne myght nothing yse
Cam to hure in the wode, and felle adoun a kne.
Hure eyghen that holy mayde wysche with water of hure honde,
And as hole as any fysche that maide gan up stonde.
The king hym cam to Oxenford, wroth and eke wode,
And thoght to do the mayde other than goud.
So sone so he to toune cam, he thoghte for to fyght
And habbe this maide Fretheswythe with strengthe agenryght.
He enquered ware heo was. Me told hym sone that cas:
That heo in the wode of Benysye preveliche yhydde was.
The king rod toward the wode with hauke and with racche,
For to enserchy after this mayde yf he myght cache.
Tho this maide this yherd, anon heo bygan to fle
Priveliche toward Oxenford, that non scholde hure se;
So that heo was underyute that heo was fleynde.
After hure me wende faste; the king rod ernyng.
The mayde scaped into the toune, as hit was Godes grace.
The kinges hors spornde witthoute the gate in a wel faire place
And felle and brake the kinges necke; and that he gan awynne.
Nas ther non of his men tho that derst come withinne.
The maide holde hure ther in pes fram alle hure fon.
Glad was that myght with hure speke other to hure gon.
Of hure holy lyf me told fer and eke nere,
Into alle Englonde that me wyste nas yholde hure pere.
A wel swythe wondere cas byfelle oppon a day
Up a fyscher that in a bote with his felawes aslepe lay.
He bygan to ravien as he awoke of slepe.
Up among his felawes, wod he gan to lepe,
So that on that ther was among hem alle he slowe;
And wan he was afalle, with his teth on hym he gnowe.
Alle that myght to hym come on hym setten honde,
And uneth with muche pyne hii teyghede hym and bonde.
Al hii wer busie that foule goste to lede
Toward that holy mayde, that heo for hym bede.
The maide fourmed that croys tofor on his heved;
The bounden body felle adoune, as hit were ded.
The maide hete unbynd hym anon in al wyse,
And suth hym a Godes name hole and sounde to aryse.
Hol and sounde the man aros and hered God almyght
And that mayde that hym delyvered of that foule wyght.
As heo yede a day in the toune, a mysel heo mette.
To hure the mysel felle adoune, and on knes hure grette,
And bysoght that lady that heo hym cusse scholde.
Heo custe hym, and he was hole, ryght as God hit wolde.
Fele miracles by hure lyve of hure weren ycude,
And suth after hure deth; hii neren noght yhud.
Heo wend out of this world a morwe up Lukes day.
Now God ous bringe to the blysse that He broght that may! Amen.

14 September 2011


Benedict XVI:
The first theological commitment of [Rabanus Maurus] is expressed, in fact, in the form of poetry and had as a theme the mystery of the holy cross in a work titled, De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis, conceived to propose not only conceptual content, but also exquisitely artistic motivations using both the poetic form and the pictorial form within the same manuscript codex. Iconographically proposing between the lines of his writing the image of the crucified Christ, he writes: This is the image of the Savior who, with the position of his members, makes sacred for us the most sweet and dear form of the cross so that, believing in his name and obeying his commandments, we might obtain eternal life thanks to his passion. Because of this, each time that we raise our eyes to the cross, we remember him who suffered for us to sever us from the power of darkness, accepting death to make us heirs of eternal life.

This method of harmonizing all the arts, the intelligence, the heart and the sentiment, which came from the East, would be highly developed in the West, reaching unreachable heights in the miniate codices of the Bible and in other works of faith and of art, which flourished in Europe until the invention of the press and even afterward. In any case, it shows that Rabanus Maurus had an extraordinary awareness of the need to involve in the experience of faith, not only the mind and the heart, but also the sentiments through these other elements of aesthetic taste and the human sensitivity that brings man to enjoy truth with all of his being, spirit, soul and body. This is important: The faith is not only thought; it touches the whole being. Given that God made man with flesh and blood and entered into the tangible world, we have to try to encounter God with all the dimensions of our being. In this way, the reality of God, through faith, penetrates in our being and transforms it.

8 September 2011


Prose by Hildegard of Bingen:

O presul vere civitatis,
Qui in templo angularis lapidis
Ascendens in celum
In terra prostratus fuisti
Propter Deum:

Tu peregrinus a semine mundi
Desiderasti exul fieri
Propter amorem Christi.

O mons clause mentis,
Tu assidue pulcram faciem aperuisti
In speculo columbe.

Tu in absconso latuisti
Inebriatus odore florum
Per cancellos sanctorum
Emicans Deo.

O culmen in clavibus celi,
Quod propter perspicuam vitam
Mundum vendidisti!
Hoc certamen, alme confessor,
Semper habes in Domino.

In tua enim mente
Fons vivus clarissima luce
Purissimos rivulos eduxit
Per viam salutis.

Tu magna turris
Ante altare summi Dei,
Et huius turris culmen obumbrasti
Per fumum aromatum.

O Disibode,
In tuo lumine
Per exempla puri soni
Membra mirifice laudis edificasti
In duabus partibus
Per Filium hominis.

In alto stas
Non erubescens ante deum vivum
Et protegis viridi rore
Laudantes deum ista voce.

O dulcis vita
Et o beata perseverantia,
Que in hoc beato Disibodo gloriosum lumen
Semper edificasti
In celesti Ierusalem.

Nunc sit laus Deo
In forma pulcre tonsure
Viriliter operante.

Et superni cives gaudeant de his,
Qui eos hoc modo imitantur.


Its significance, explained in the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Ave, mater Jesu Christi,
Quae de coelo concepisti
Non carnis commercio!
A contactu viri pura
Concepisti, paritura
Gaudium cum gaudio.

Peperisti medicinam,
Non humanam, sed divinam
Pereunti saeculo.
Totus mundus in languore,
Totus erat in dolore,
Totus in periculo.

Mundi languor error ejus,
Quo languore nihil pejus,
Nihil tam pestiferum;
Hostis totum possidebat,
Quia totus diffluebat
Per abrupta scelerum.

Nondum semen venerat
Quod nobis promiserat
Deus ab initio,
Semen ex muliere,
Sine carnis opere,
Sine matris vitio.

Mulier eligitur,
Cujus serpens nititur
Pungere calcaneum:
Sed fortis et sapiens,
Hosti non consentiens,
Praecavet aculeum.

Caput anguis haec contrivit,
Cujus carni counivit
Se majestas Filii;
Sexus autem fragilis,
Sexus seductibilis
Vires frangit impii.

Ave, virgo gloriosa,
Plus obryzo pretiosa,
Fragrans super lilia!
Tibi cedit laus herbarum,
Florum decor et gemmarum,
Libanique gloria!

O Maria, maris stella,
Pro conservis interpella
Jugi prece Filium.
Quia jugis est assultus,
Jugis noster est singultus
Et juge suspirium.

Te preces, te suspiria,
Te nostri tangant gemitus;
Te virtutis potentia
Nequam refrena spiritus.

Ne carnis nos lubricitas
Resolvat in flagitia,
Ne mundi juvet vanitas
Christi juvante gratia! Amen.

Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

Hail, O mother of Christ Jesus!
Who from heaven that Son so precious
Didst conceive uncarnally!
Pure from contact with aught human,
Thou conceivedst, who, as woman,
Should'st with joy Joy's parent be!

Thou hast borne a medicine, given
Not of man, but sprung from heaven,
To an age in swift decay:
All the world in great prostration,
All the world in tribulation.
All the world in peril, lay.

This world's sin was this world's weakness.
And there is no direr sickness,
None so deadly at the last;
Satan was in full possession,
Since down steeps of foul transgression
All the world was gliding fast.

Not yet had that seed appeared,
Which God's promise had declared
From the first to us should come;
Seed with woman as its source,
Without carnal intercourse,
Sprung from mother's spotless womb.

Of a woman choice was made,
Whom that serpent old essayed
In the heel to wound and tear:
But she, wise, and valiant too,
Made no compact with the foe,
Of his deadly sting aware.

She, with whose flesh to be blended
God's Son's glory condescended,
Bruised the subtle serpent's head:
Woman, though but weak and frail,
Doth to crush hell's power avail,
Woman, easily misled!

Virgin, who in glory shinest!
Precious beyond gold the finest!
Sweeter far than lilies! hail!
Meadows' fairness yields before thee;
Flowers', gems', beauty, with the glory
Of proud Lebanon's forests, pale!

To thy Son, thou Star of Ocean!
Mary! ever with devotion
For thy fellow-servants pray;
Since temptations are unending,
Endless are our sobs heart-rending,
And our sighs from day to day.

O may our prayers, our sighs, our tears,
With pity touch thine heart within;
And, by the power thy virtue bears,
Do thou restrain what prompts to sin.

Let carnal ways, so smooth and bright.
The means to misdeeds ne'er be made:
Nor this world's empty joys delight,
With Christ's free grace at hand to aid! Amen.

1 September 2011


His life, according to the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Promat pia vox cantoris
Hujus laudem confessoris!
Ipsum laudans, praesens chorus
Sit festivus et canorus!

Fide fuit Deo carus,
Mundo quoque stirpe clarus:
Mundi tamen sprevit fastum
Se conservans Deo castum.

Adhuc aevo puerili,
Sensu fuit tam subtili
Quod in brevi fit doctorum
Doctor ipse doctiorum.

Ardens intus caritate,
Foris lucet honestate;
Intus ardens vis amoris
Per exemplum lucet foris.

Dum languenti praebet vestem
Mox languoris fugat pestem,
Ex divina dans virtute
Vestem simul cum salute.

Quidquid rerum possidebat
Christo dedit quem colebat;
Fit egenus, ut egeni
Fiant bonis ejus pleni.

Dum egenis hoc impendit
Christus ei plus rependit;
Dans pro Christo transitura
Promeretur permansura.

Quod fateri rex veretur
Scelus scire promeretur;
Christus ei revelavit
Scelus quod rex perpetravit.

Nam altari dum astaret
Dumque missam celebraret,
De supernis charta missa
Regis pandit huic commissa.

Hic horrendae rei reum
Videns crimen apud Deum,
Jam pro rege supplex orat
Cujus culpam non ignorat.

Servo Dei non ingratum
Praebet cerva famulatum:
Servit cerva nutu Dei,
Quasi grates agens ei.

Plura possunt reperiri
Mira facta sancti viri,
Quibus clare demonstratur
Quam praeclarus habeatur.

Hic praesentem juvet chorum
Ut in regno beatorum
Regem videns sempiternum
Glorietur in aeternum. Amen.

Englished by Digby S. Wrangham:

Loving hymns, Precentor! bringing,
This Confessor's praise be singing!
To extol him, Choir! before us
Sing this sweet and festive chorus!

Dear to God through faith devoted,
Of a race in this world noted,
Earthly pomps he scorned still, striving
Pure in God's sight to be living.

In his years of boyhood even
Such great parts to him were given,
That the teacher soon he turnèd
E'en of teachers the most learnèd.

He, within, with warm love gloweth,
And, without, bright virtues showeth;
Love's strong heat, within residing,
Shines without, all others guiding.

To one sick his robe he sendeth,
And his sickness straightway endeth;
Thus at once, through power from heaven,
Clothes and health by him are given.

All his riches he surrendered,
And to Christ, as offerings, tendered:
Needy he became to feed them
With his goods, who most did need them.

Whilst he on the poor thus spendeth,
Greater wealth to him Christ sendeth;
Off for Christ things temporal casting,
He obtains those everlasting.

Of the crime a monarch feareth
To confess to him he heareth;
Christ to him the facts revealing
Of the monarch's evil dealing.

For whilst, at the altar waiting,
He a mass was celebrating,
From above a scroll descended,
Telling how the king offended.

Having thus dread insight given
To a deed abhorred of heaven.
Now in humble prayer he boweth
For the king whose crime he knoweth.

Help he from a hind receiveth,
Which in gratitude she giveth;
Moved by God, her succour tendering,
As it were thanks to him rendering.

Far more deeds with marvel glowing
Might be found of this Saint's doing,
Showing us to demonstration
How illustrious is his station.

To this choir his help be given,
That they evermore in heaven,
Gazing on the King eternal,
Glory with the Saints supernal! Amen.

30 August 2011


His life, according to James of Voragine.

28 August 2011


His life, according to the Golden Legend of James of Voragine, as Englished by William Caxton.

Sequence by Adam of St. Victor:

Aeterni festi gaudia
Nostra sonet harmonia,
Quo mens in se pacifica
Vera frequentat sabbata;

Mundi cordis laetitia
Odorans vera gaudia,
Quibus praegustat avida
Quae sit sanctorum gloria,

Qua laetatur in patria
Coelicolarum curia,
Regem donantem praemia
Sua cernens in gloria.

Beata illa patria
Quae nescit nisi gaudia!
Nam cives hujus patriae
Non cessant laudes canere.

Quos ille dulcor afficit
Quern nullus moeror inficit;
Quos nullus hostit impetit
Nullusque turbo concutit;

Ubi dies clarissima
Melior est quam millia,
Luce lucens praefulgida,
Plena Dei notitia;

Quam mens humana capere,
Nec lingua valet promere,
Donec vitae victoria
Commutet haec mortalia.

Quando Deus est omnia:
Vita, virtus, scientia,
Victus, vestis et caetera,
Quae velle potest mens pia!

Hoc in hac valle misera
Meditetur mens sobria;
Hoc per soporem sentiat,
Hoc attendat dum vigilat;

Quo mundi post exilia
Coronetur iu patria,
Ac in decoris gloria
Regem laudet per saecula.

Harum laudum praeconia
Imitatur Ecclesia,
Dum recensentur annua
Sanctorum natalitia;

Cum post peracta praelia
Digna redduntur praemia
Pro passione rosea,
Pro castitate Candida.

Datur et torques aurea
Pro doctrina catholica:
Qua praefulget Augustinus
In summi regis curia.

Cujus librorum copia
Fides firmatur unica;
Hinc et mater Ecclesia
Vitat errorum devia.

Hujus sequi vestigia
Ac praedicare dogmata
Fide recta ac fervida,
Det nobis mater gratia! Amen.
Englished by Digby S. Wrangham
Our tuneful strains let us upraise
That endless feast's delights to praise,
When, since thereon no trouble weighs,
The heart observes true sabbath days;

The rapture of a conscience clear,
That perfumes all those joys sincere,
By which it hath rich foretaste here
Of saints' unending glory there,

Where the celestial company
Joys in its home exultingly;
And, giving crowns, their King they see
In all his glorious majesty.

O happy land! how great its bliss,
That knoweth nought but happiness!
For all the dwellers on that shore 
One ceaseless song of praise outpour;

Who those delights' full sweetness feel,
Which not a trace of grief conceal;
'Gainst whom no foeman draws the steel,
And who beneath no tempest reel: 

Where one day, clear from cloudlet's haze,
Is better than a thousand days;
Bright with true light's transcendent rays;
Filled with that knowledge of God's ways,

To grasp which human reason fails,
Nor human tongue to tell avails.
Till this mortality shall be
Absorbed in that life's victory;

When God shall all in all appear,
Life, righteousness, and knowledge clear;
Victuals and vesture and whate'er
The pious mind would wish to share!

This in this vale of misery
The sober mind's chief thought should be;
This should it feel, while rest it takes,
This should be with it when it wakes;

How it will in that home, - its days
Of earthly exile past, - fond lays
For ever, crowned, the King to praise
In all His glorious beauty, raise.

These praises, sounding loud and clear,
The Church now imitateth here;
As, in due order, year by year,
The birthdays of her saints appear;

When, after they have fought their fight,
With worth-won honours they are dight;
The martyr crowned with roses bright;
The virgin clad in robes of white.

They too receive a golden chain,
Who doctrines Catholic maintain:
In which Augustine now doth reign.
One of the great King's shining train;

Whose written volumes' full array
Are now the one Faith's strength and stay:
Hence Mother Church avoids the way
Where errors lead mankind astray.

To follow where his steps precede,
And preach the truths He taught indeed.
Mother! may grace thy servants lead,
And grant the pure warm faith we need! Amen.

25 August 2011


His life according to James of Voragine and according to John of Joinville.

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