Friday, May 5, 2017

Ballad of the Dead Ladies

Ballad of the Dead Ladies
Translated by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Tell me now in what hidden way is
   Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
   Neither of them the fairer woman?
   Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere,--
   She whose beauty was more than human? . . .
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Where's Héloise, the learned nun,
   For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
   (From Love he won such dule and teen!)
   And where, I pray you, is the Queen
Who willed that Buridan should steer
   Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine? . . .
But where are the snows of yester-year?

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
   With a voice like any mermaiden,--
   Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,--
   And that good Joan whom Englishmen
At Rouen doomed and burned her there,--
   Mother of God, where are they then? . . .
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
   Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Save with this much for an overword,--
   But where are the snows of yester-year?

Ballade des dames du temps jadis
Francois Villon

Dites-moi où, n'en quel pays,
   Est Flora la belle Romaine,
Archipiades, ni Thais,
   Qui fut sa cousine germaine,
   Écho parlant quand bruit on mène
Dessus rivière ou sus étang,
   Qui beauté eut trop plus qu'humaine.
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?

Où est la très sage Hélois,
   Pour qui châtré fut et puis moine
Pierre Esbaillart à Saint Denis ?
   Pour son amour eut cette essoyne.
   Semblablement où est la reine
Qui commanda que Buridan
   Fut jeté en un sac en Seine ?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?

La reine Blanche comme lys
   Qui chantait à voix de sirène,
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Alis,
   Haremburgis qui tint le Maine,
   Et Jeanne la bonne Lorraine
Qu'Anglais brulèrent à Rouen ;
   Où sont-ils, où, Vierge souv'raine ?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?

Prince, n'enquerrez de semaine
   Où elles sont, ni de cet an,
Qu'à ce refrain ne vous ramène :
   Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?

Monday, April 10, 2017

One tree of all

Crux fidelis,
inter omnes
arbor una nobilis;
nulla talem silva profert
flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavo
dulce pondus sustinens.

Flecte ramos, arbor alta,
tensa laxa viscera,
et rigor lentescat ille,
quem dedit nativitas,
ut superni membra Regis
miti tendas stipite.
Faithful Cross,
One tree of all
Is true and nobly born—
No forest bringeth forth the like
In flower, leaf, or fruit:
Sweet wood, sweet nails,
Sweet burden that you bear.

Bend your boughs, tall tree,
Relax your sinews taut,
Soften but a little now
The straightness noble birth bestows,
So may you rack the King's own limbs
Upon a gentler stock.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

The Breastplate of Saint Patrick
At Tara to-day, in this awful hour,
I call on the Holy Trinity!
Glory to Him who reigneth in power,
The God of the elements, Father and Son,
And Paraclete Spirit, which Three are the One,
The ever-existing Divinity!
I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
his baptism in Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors' faith, apostles' word,
the patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.
At Tara to-day, in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness,
All these I place,
By God's almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the Powers of Darkness.
At Tara to-day
May God be my stay!
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken, to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
all that love me,
Christ in mouth of
friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

*I patched this version together from various translations, plundering whatever seemed best. I use Whitley Stokes and John Strachan's version from the Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus (1903), Cecil Frances Alexander's version made for the Irish Church Hymnal of the Chapel Royal at Dublin (1889), and The Catholic Encyclopedia's literal translation (1914). 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bernard's notes on the Hymn: Jesus, Our Redemption

Bernard's reflections on this Hymn of Saint Ambrose—the model for his own hymns, Jesu Dulcis Memoria and Jesu Rex Admirabilis—are at least as striking as the hymn itself.

S. BERNARDUS. Super hymnum: Jesu, nostra redemptio

Jesu, nostra redemptio,
Amor et desiderium,
Deus creator omnium,
Homo in fine temporum.

Quae te vicit clementia,
Ut ferres nostra crimina
Crudelem mortem patiens
Ut nos a morte tolleres!

Inferni claustra penetrans,
Tuos captivos redimens,
Victor triumpho nobili
Ad dextram Dei residens

Ipsa te cogat pietas
Ut mala nostra superes
Parcendo et voti compotes
Nos tuo vultu saties.

Tu esto nostrum gaudium,
Qui es futurus praemium,
Sit nostra in te gloria,
In sempiterna saecula.

Tantus fuit amor! Si Christus Filius Dei vivi tot membra habuisset, quot sunt stellae in firmamento coeli, et unumquodque membrum suum corpus habuisset, omnia ad passionem Christus exposuisset, antequam unam animam in faucibus diaboli non redemptam reliquisset. O qualis et quanta est clementia Domini!
Quae vicit clementia mei Jesu Christi, qui non minus diligit peccatorem conversum, quam eum qui peccati maculam nunquam contraxit. Verbi gratia: Conversio peccatoris cibus et potus est Salvatoris.
Inferni claustra penetrans. Homo audacter dic: Peccavi! Non te terreat ira Principis, nec timor Diaboli, nec poena infernalis, nec desperatio peccati enormis. Magis enim Judam desperatio quam peccatum quod commisit, damnavit.

Ipsa te cogat pietas. Peccavimus, et pepercit: offendimus, et adhuc placatus existit.

Tu nostrum gaudium. O bone Jesu, duo in me ignosce: naturam, quam fecisti, et peccatum, quod ego adjeci. Fateor quod per culpam deformavi naturam. Memento quod sum spiritus vadens et non rediens. Per me ivi in peccatum, per me redire non possum. Eia, benignissime Jesu! tolle a me quod feci, ut remaneat quod tu fecisti, ne pereat quod pretioso sanguine in tua cruce redemisti.
Saint Bernard's notes on the Hymn, Jesus, my Redeemer

Jesus my Redemeer,
My longing, my love,
God, and all-Creator—
Man, in the fulness of time.

What mercy overcame you
That you bore our sins
Suffering a cruel death,
To rescue us from death.

Penetrating all Hell's wards,
Ransoming your captive kin,
Victor in the noble fight,
Enthroned at God's right hand.

May mercy itself constrain you
To rise above our sins
In sparing us and, our plea granted,
Let us see your face.

Be thou our joy
Who are our longed-for prize,
In thee our glory be,
World without end. Amen.

What a love was this! Had Christ, the Son of the living God, as many members as there are stars in the firmament of heaven, and every single member its own body, He would have exposed them all to the Passion, rather than leave a single soul unsaved in Satan's jaws. What mercy is the Lord's!
What mercy overcame! The mercy of my Jesus Christ, who loves a repentant sinner no less than him that never took the stain of sin. In a word: the sinner's conversion is the Savior's food and drink.
Penetrating all Hell's wards. Man, say boldly, I have sinned! Let not the Prince's wrath deter you, nor fear of Satan, nor the pains of Hell, nor despair at the enormity of sin. For it was despair that damned Judas, rather than the sin he committed.
May mercy itself constrain You. We have sinned, and he has spared. We have struck at him, and up to now he is gentle.
Be thou our joy. O good Jesus, two things in me forgive: nature, which you made, and sin, which I put in. I confess that I have mangled nature through my fault. Remember how I am a spirit going forth and not returning. Of myself I have gone into sin, I cannot of myself come back. Ah, kindest Jesus, remove what I have made, and leave what you have made, lest what upon the cross your precious blood redeemed be lost. Amen.

Jesus Our Redemption:

(John Chandler's 1837 Translation)

O Christ, our hope, our heart's desire
Redemption's only spring
Creator of the world art Thou
Its Savior and its King

How vast the mercy and the love
Which laid our sins on Thee
And led Thee to a cruel death
To set Thy people free

But now the bands of death are burst
The ransom has been paid
And Thou art on Thy Father's throne
In glorious robes arrayed

O may Thy mighty love prevail
Our sinful souls to spare
O may we come before Thy throne
And find acceptance there

O Christ, be Thou our lasting joy
Our ever great reward
Our only glory may it be
To glory in the Lord

All praise to Thee, ascended Lord
All glory ever be
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Through all eternity

Two Sermons of Saint Bernard for the Beginning of Lent

SERMO I. Quid sit ungere caput, et faciem lavare (Matth. VI, 16, 17).

1. Hodie, dilectissimi, sacrum Quadragesimae tempus ingredimur, tempus militiae Christianae. Non nobis singularis est haec observatio; una omnium est, quicunque in eamdem fidei conveniunt unitatem. Quidni commune sit Christi jejunium omnibus Christianis? quidni caput suum membra sequantur? Si bona suscepimus ab hoc capite, mala autem quare non sustineamus? An respuere tristia volumus, et communicare jucundis? Si ita est, indignos nos capitis hujus participatione probamus. Omne enim quod patitur ille, pro nobis est. Quod si in opere salutis nostrae ei collaborare piget, in quo deinceps coadjutores nos exhibebimus illi? Non est magnum si jejunet cum Christo, qui sessurus est ad mensam Patris cum ipso. Non est magnum si compatitur membrum capiti, cum quo et glorificandum est. Felix membrum, quod huic adhaeserit per omnia capiti, et sequetur illud quocunque ierit. Alioquin si forte abscindi separarique contingat, privetur statim necesse est etiam spiritu vitae. Quaecunque enim portio capiti non cohaeret, unde ei jam sensus aut vita? Nec sane deerit qui expositam occupet, ut ne tunc quidem sit absque capite. Germinabit rursum radix amaritudinis, venenatum caput iterum pullulabit; illud, inquam, caput, quod in eo contriverat ante fortis mulier, mater Ecclesia. Dico autem quando per eam regeneratus est in spem vitae, quem natura filium irae mater carnalis ediderat.

2. Videbit ergo jam, si fuerit qui revelatos habeat oculos cordis, et spiritualiter intueatur, horrendum omnino monstrum, corpus quidem hominis, caput autem daemonis habens. Non solum autem, sed etiam erunt sine dubio novissima hominis illius pejora prioribus, cum vipereum illud caput, quod prius fuerat amputatum, non absque septem nequioribus se revertatur. Quis non solo contremiscat auditu? Tollens membrum Christi, faciam membrum daemoniorum? Abscissus a corpore Christi, Satanae miser incorporabor? Sit procul a nobis semper exsecranda ista commutatio <alias, communicatio>, fratres mei. Mihi omnino adhaerere tibi bonum est, o caput gloriosum et benedictum in saecula, in quod et angeli prospicere concupiscunt. Sequar te quocunque ieris: si transieris per ignem, non avellar a te; non timebo mala, quoniam tu mecum es. Tu dolores meos portas, et pro me doles: tu prius transis per angustum passionis foramen, ut latum praebeas sequentibus membris ingressum. Quis nos separabit a charitate Christi? (Rom. VIII, 35.) Ipsa enim est, per quam omne corpus per nexus et juncturas crescit. Hoc glutinum bonum, cujus meminit Isaias (Isa. XLI, 7). Haec, per quam bonum est et jucundum habitare fratres in unum. Hoc unguentum, quod descendit a capite in barbam, a capite descendit et in oram vestimenti (Psal. CXXXII, 2), ut ne minima quidem fimbria careat unctione. In capite siquidem plenitudo gratiarum, de qua accipimus omnes: in capite universitas miserationis, in capite inexhaustus fons pietatis divinae, in capite affluentia tota spiritualis unguenti, sicut scriptum est: Unxit te, Deus, Deus tuus oleo laetitiae prae participibus tuis (Psal. XLIV, 8). Ipsum tamen, quod tam copiose Pater unxerat caput, Maria quoque ungere non veretur. Calumniantur quidem discipuli: sed respondet Veritas pro ea, quod bonum opus sit operata (Matth. XXVI, 7-10).

3. Denique et nobis hodie quid praecipit in Evangelio? Tu, inquit, cum jejunaveris, unge caput tuum. Mira dignatio! Spiritus Domini super eum, eo quod unxerit eum; et nihilominus tamen evangelizans pauperibus ait: Unge caput tuum! Complacet sibi Pater in Filio, et dum vox sonat in aethere, descendit Spiritus in columba. Putatis, fratres, quia Christi baptismo chrisma defuerit? Manet Domini Spiritus super ipsum: et unctum ab eo quis dubitet? Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui (Matth. III, 17). Haec plane spiritualis unguenti fragrantia est. Unxit Pater Filium prae participibus suis, in quo prae caeteris singulariter complacet sibi. Pater enim diligit Filium, affectu utique divino, et inexperto omni creaturae. Unxit, inquam, Pater Filium prae participibus suis, accumulans super eum universa charismata benignitatis, mansuetudinis et suavitatis, abundantius eum replens visceribus misericordiae et miserationis. Unctum denique misit ad nos, quem nobis exhibuit plenum gratiae et miserationis <alias, pietatis>. Sic unctum a Patre est caput nostrum, et nihilominus ungi postulat et a nobis. Cum jejunaveris, inquit, unge caput tuum. Itane aquam petit a rivulo fons indeficiens? Petit sine dubio, aut certe repetit magis. Ad fontem enim unde exeunt, flumina revertuntur, ut iterum fluant (Eccle. I, 7).

4. Non vero, ut minus habens, quod dederat Christus repetit: sed ne tibi pereat quidquid ad eum referre volueris. Siquidem etiam fluminis aqua, si stare coeperit, et ipsa putrescet, et inundatione facta superveniens, repelletur. Sic plane, sic gratiarum cessat decursus, ubi recursus non fuerit: nec modo nihil augetur ingrato, sed et quod acceperat vertitur ei in perniciem. Fidelis autem in modico censetur dignus munere ampliori. Unge igitur caput tuum, refundens in eum qui supra te est, quidquid in te est devotionis, quidquid delectationis, quidquid affectionis. Unge igitur caput tuum, ut si qua in te est gratia, referatur ad ipsum: nec tuam quaeras gloriam, sed ipsius. Ungit enim Christum, qui bonus ejus odor est in omni loco. Memento sane adversus hypocritas hunc processisse sermonem. Nolite, inquit, fieri sicut hypocritae tristes. Non omnimodam nobis tristitiam interdicit, sed quae in facie est coram hominibus. Alioquin, Cor sapientis ubi tristitia (Eccle. VII, 5): et Paulum quoque discipulos contristasse non piget, pro eo quod contristati sunt ad salutem (II Cor. VII, 8). Non est talis tristitia hypocritarum: non in corde, sed in facie est. Exterminant enim facies suas.

5. Nota proinde quod non dixerit: Nolite esse sicut hypocritae tristes; sed: Nolite fieri, hoc est fingi. Sic quippe vulgo dicitur: Tristem se facit; aut: Magnificat se; et: Qui beatificat te, in errorem te adducit (Isa. IX, 16), et similia, quae simulationis sunt, non veritatis. Tu autem cum jejunaveris, unge caput tuum, et faciem tuam lava. Exterminant illi faciem, tu autem lavare juberis. Est autem facies, quae in facie est conversatio. Hanc fidelis Christi servus lavat, ne quod offendiculum praebeat intuenti: hypocrita magis exterminat, dum singularia magis et inusitata sectatur. Sed nec caput ungit, cujus affectio elongatur a Christo, et vanis favoribus delectatur. Ungit potius semetipsum, ut propriae fragrantiam opinionis respergat. Aut certe quia manifestum est non esse caput hypocritae Christum nec suum tamen qualecunque caput ungere potest, cujus mens non propriae testimonio conscientiae, sed adulationibus demulcetur. Date nobis, aiunt fatuae virgines, de oleo vestro (Matth. XXV, 8). Cur hoc? Quia in vasis suis oleum non habent. Sed non est prudentium hujuscemodi oleum dare. Quod enim sibi fieri nolunt, quando ipsae facient aliis? Audi vero Prophetam, cui incerta et occulta sapientiae suae revelaverat Deus. Oleum, inquit, peccatoris non impinguet caput meum (Psal. CXL, 5). Emunt oleum istud hypocritae, sicut ait Dominus: Amen dico vobis, receperunt mercedem suam. Exterminant enim facies suas, ut appareant jejunantes. Vides quam brevi sermone hypocritas et singularitatis notat, et arguit vanitatis. Vide etiam quam paucis et coram Deo suadeat bona, et coram hominibus providere. Unge caput tuum, et faciem tuam lava: hoc est, sic te irreprehensibilem foris exhibe, ut divinam tibi conciliare studeas gratiam; et ante oculos humanos non propriam quaeras gloriam, sed auctoris.

6. Potest tamen et alio modo lota facies, conscientia pura; et unctum caput intelligi mens devota. Quod si id probas, adversus duplex vitium, quod maxime solent appetere jejunantes, haec duo verba ablutionis et unctionis dicta videntur. Alius enim jejunat studio vanitatis, et huic dicitur: Faciem tuam lava. Alius jejunat cum impatientia et rancore, et huic opus est ut caput ungat. Est autem caput istud, mens interior, quae tunc ungitur in jejunio, cum spiritualiter delectatur in eo. An vero tibi novum videtur, ut dicamus caput ungi jejunio? Ego plus dico: etiam impinguatur. Nunquamne legisti quod scriptum est: Ut alat eos in fame? (Psal. XXXII, 19.) Est ergo jejunium corporis, capitis unctio; et carnis inedia, refectio cordis. Quidni dixerim unctionem, quae et medetur vulneribus, et exasperatas conscientias lenit? Emat igitur hypocrita jejunio suo oleum peccatoris: ego meum interim non vendo jejunium, et ipsum mihi oleum est quo ungar. Unge, inquit, caput tuum, ne quid forte murmuris aut impatientiae subeat. Non solum autem, sed et gloriare in tribulatione, sicut ait Apostolus (Rom. V, 3). Gloriare, inquam, sed absque omni studio vanitatis, ut sit etiam facies munda ab oleo peccatoris.

SERMO II. Quomodo debeamus converti ad Dominum.
1. Convertimini ad me in toto corde vestro, in jejunio, et fletu, et planctu: et scindite corda vestra, et non vestimenta vestra, ait Dominus omnipotens (Joel. II, 12, 13). Quid sibi vult, dilectissimi, quod praecipit Dominus, ut convertamur ad eum? Ubique enim est, et replet omnia, et nihilominus complectitur universa. Quo me vertam, ut convertar ad te, Domine Deus meus? Si ascendero in coelum, tu illic es: si descendero in infernum, ades (Psal. CXXXVIII, 8). Quid jubes? quo convertar ad te? Supra, an infra? ad dexteram, an ad sinistram? Consilium istud est, fratres mei; secretum est, quod solis credatur amicis. Mysterium regni Dei est; Apostolis revelatur in aure, nam turbis nihil dicitur absque parabola. Nisi conversi fueritis, inquit, et efficiamini sicut parvulus iste, non intrabitis in regnum coelorum (Matth. XVIII, 3). Agnosco plane quo velit ut convertamur. Ad Parvulum converti necesse est, ut discamus ab eo quia mitis est et humilis corde: ad hoc siquidem parvulus datus est nobis. Sane idem et magnus est, sed in civitate Domini, cui et dicitur: Exsulta et lauda, habitatio Sion, quia magnus in medio tui sanctus Israel (Isa. XII, 6). Quid tu inflaris, o homo? quid extolleris sine causa? quid alta sapis, et oculi tui omne sublime vident, quod tibi non cedet in bonum? Sublimis quidem Dominus, sed non ita proponitur tibi: laudabilis magnitudo illius, non etiam imitabilis. Elevata est magnificentia illius, et non poteris ad eam: nec si te ruperis, apprehendes. Accedet, inquit, homo ad cor altum, et exaltabitur Deus (Psal. LXIII, 7, 8). Excelsus siquidem Dominus et humilia respicit, et alta a longe cognoscit (Psal. CXXXVII, 6). Humiliare, et apprehendisti. Haec plane lex pietatis, et propter hanc legem sustinui te, Domine. Si forte sublimitatis esset via proposita, et illic iter, quo ostenderetur salutare Dei, quanta facerent homines ut exaltarentur? Quam crudeliter invicem sternerent, invicem conculcarent! Quam impudenter reperent, manibusque et pedibus conarentur in altum, ut imponerent sese homines super capita aliena! Et certe qui contendit supergredi <alias, excedere> proximos, multas inveniet difficultates, multos habebit aemulos, multos patietur contradictores, ascendentes equidem ex adverso: nihil vero facilius est volenti, quam humiliare semetipsum. Hoc verbum est, dilectissimi, quod omnino nos reddit inexcusabiles, ut ne tenue quidem nobis velamen praetendere liceat.

2. Sed jam ad hunc parvulum, ad mansuetudinis et humilitatis magistrum quonam modo converti necesse sit, videamus. Convertimini, inquit, ad me in toto corde vestro. Fratres, si dixisset: Convertimini, nihil addens; esset nobis forsitan liberum respondere: Factum est, jam aliud propone mandatum. Nunc autem spiritualis (ut audio) conversionis nos admonet, quae non una die perficitur: utinam vel in omni vita, qua degimus in hoc corpore, valeat consummari! Corporis namque conversio, si sola fuerit, nulla erit. Forma siquidem conversionis est ista, non veritas, vacuam virtute gerens speciem pietatis. Miser homo, qui totus pergens in ea quae foris sunt, et ignarus interiorum suorum, putans aliquid se esse, cum nihil sit, ipse se seducit! Sicut aqua effusus sum, ait Psalmista in persona hominis hujuscemodi, et dispersa sunt omnia ossa mea (Psal. XXI, 15). Et alius quidam propheta: Comederunt, inquit, alieni robur ejus, et ignoravit (Osee. VII, 9). Exteriorem quippe superficiem intuens, salva sibi omnia suspicatur, non sentiens vermem occultum, qui interiora corrodit. Manet tonsura, vestis necdum mutata est, jejuniorum regula custoditur, statutis psallitur horis; sed cor longe est a me, dicit Dominus (Marc. VII, 6).

3. Attende solerter quid diligas, quid metuas; unde gaudeas, aut contristeris; et sub habitu religionis animum saecularem, sub pannis conversionis invenies cor perversum. Totum enim cor in his quatuor affectionibus est; et de his accipiendum puto quod dicitur, ut in toto corde tuo convertaris ad Dominum. Convertatur proinde amor tuus, ut nihil omnino diligas nisi ipsum, aut certe propter ipsum. Convertatur etiam ad ipsum timor tuus; quia perversus est timor omnis, quo metuis aliquid praeter eum, aut non propter eum. Sic et gaudium tuum, et tristitia tua aeque convertantur ad ipsum. Hoc autem ita fiet, si nonnisi secundum eum doleas, aut laeteris. Quid enim perversum magis, quam laetari cum male feceris, et in rebus pessimis exsultare? Sed et ea quoque quae secundum carnem est tristitia, mortem operatur. Si pro tuo sive proximi peccato doles, bene facis, et haec tristitia est ad salutem (II Cor. VII, 10). Si gaudeas ad munera gratiae, hoc gaudium sanctum est, et securum gaudium in Spiritu sancto. Debes et in dilectione Christi fraternis congaudere prosperitatibus, et adversitatibus condolere, sicut scriptum est: Gaudere cum gaudentibus, flere cum flentibus (Rom. XII, 15).

4. Verum ne ipsa corporalis quidem est parvipendenda conversio, quia spiritualis hujus adminiculum noscitur esse non parvum. Inde est quod in hoc loco Dominus cum dixisset: In toto corde, adjunxit protinus: In jejunio: quod utique corporis est. Volo tamen vos admonitos esse fratres meos, observandum illud non ab escis tantum, sed ab omnibus illecebris carnis, et universa corporis voluptate; imo vero jejunandum est longe amplius a vitiis, quam a cibis. Sed est panis a quo vos jejunare nolo, ne forte deficiatis in via: et si nescitis, panem dico lacrymarum. Sequitur enim: In jejunio, et fletu, et planctu. Exigit enim planctum a nobis poenitentia praeteritae conversationis; exigit fletum desiderium futurae beatitudinis. Factae sunt mihi lacrymae meae panes die ac nocte, ait Propheta, cum dicitur mihi quotidie: Ubi est Deus tuus? (Psal. XLI, 4.) Parum ei placet hujus vitae novitas, qui necdum vetera plangit, necdum plangit admissa peccata, necdum plangit tempus amissum. Si non plangis, plane non sentis animae vulnera, conscientiae laesionem. Sed nec futura satis gaudia concupiscis, si non quotidie postulas ea cum lacrymis: minus tibi nota sunt, si non renuit consolari anima tua, donec veniant.

5. Addit deinde Propheta: Et scindite corda vestra, et non vestimenta vestra. Quibus verbis manifeste prior ille populus Judaeorum et duritiae cordis, et vanae superstitionis arguitur. Crebra siquidem apud eos scissio vestium, sed non cordium esse solebat. Quando enim scinderentur corda lapidea, quae non poterant nec circumcidi? Scindite, inquit, corda vestra, et non vestimenta vestra. Quis in vobis est, cujus voluntas circa unum aliquid solet obstinatior inveniri? Scindat cor suum gladio spiritus, quod est verbum Dei: scindat illud, et in multas minutias festinet dispertiri. Alioquin non est converti ad Dominum in toto corde, nisi scisso corde. Donec enim illam unam accipias in Jerusalem, cujus est participatio in idipsum, multa interim tibi praecipiuntur; et si in uno offenderis, factus es omnium reus. Spiritus Domini multiplex, ait Sapiens (Sap. VII, 22), nec potest sequi multiplicem sine multiplici scissione. Audi denique hominem, quem secundum cor suum invenerat Deus. Paratum, inquit, cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum (Psal. LVI, 8). Paratum ad adversa, paratum ad prospera; paratum ad humilia, paratum ad sublimia; paratum ad universa quaecunque praeceperis. Vis pastorem ovium facere? vis constituere regem populorum? Paratum cor meum, Deus, paratum cor meum. Quis ut David fidelis ingrediens, et egrediens, et pergens ad imperium regis? Et dicebat de peccatoribus: Coagulatum est sicut lac cor eorum; ego vero legem tuam meditatus sum (Psal. CXVIII, 70). Inde enim cordis duritia, inde mentis obstinatio, quia meditatur quis non legem Domini, sed propriam voluntatem.

6. Scindamus itaque corda nostra, dilectissimi, quatenus integra proinde vestimenta servemus. Vestes enim nostrae virtutes sunt. Bona vestis, charitas; bona vestis, obedientia est. Beatus qui custodit vestimenta haec, ut non ambulet nudus. Denique: Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata (Psal. XXXI, 1); et, Charitas operit multitudinem peccatorum (I Petr. IV, 8). Scindamus corda, sicut praedictum est, ut haec vestimenta integra servemus, quemadmodum integra salvata est tunica Salvatoris. Nec modo integram servat vestem scissio cordis, sed et talarem eam facit et polymitam, qualem a sancto patriarcha Jacob accepit filius, qui prae caeteris amabatur (Gen. XXXVII, 3). Hinc nempe virtutum perseverantia, hinc conversationis pulchrae discolor unitas. Hinc illa est gloria regis filiae in fimbriis aureis, circumamicta varietatibus (Psal. XLIV, 14, 15). Potest tamen et aliter haec scissio cordis intelligi, ut si quidem pravum fuerit, scindatur ad compunctionem <alias, confessionem>; si durum, ad compassionem. Quidni scindatur ulcus, ut sanies effluat? Quidni scindatur cor, ut visceribus effluat pietatis? Utilis prorsus utraque scissio, ut nec clausum lateat peccati virus in corde, nec indigenti proximo claudamus viscera misericordiae: ut et ipsi consequamur misericordiam a Domino nostro Jesu Christo, qui est super omnia Deus benedictus, in saecula. Amen.

At the Beginning of the Fast.
Sermon 1. What it is “to anoint one's head and wash one's face” (Matthew 6:17-17)

1. Today, dear people, we step out into the holy season of Lent, the season of Christian warfare. This observance is not peculiar to us; it belongs alike to all who come together in the same unity of Faith. Why should the fast of Christ not be common to all Christians? Why should not the members follow their Head? If we have received good things from this Head, should we not also bear evil things? Will we spit out the bitter, and share in the sweet? If so, we prove ourselves unworthy of our participation in this Head. For everything He suffers, He suffers for us. But if we shrink from working with Him in the work of our salvation, in what will we show ourselves His helpers? It is no great thing if one who hopes to sit with Christ at His Father's table should fast with Him. No great thing if a limb should share in the suffering of the Head with whom it will also be glorified. Happy the limb that has cleaved to this Head through all things, and will follow it wherever it goes. But if it should be cut off and separated, it would immediately be deprived of the spirit of life. For any part that does not cleave to the Head—whence will either feeling or life come to it? Nor indeed will there fail one to take possession of the cast off limb, so that not even then will it be without head. Instead, a root of bitterness will sprout and once more produce a poisoned headthat head which had been crushed in him before by the mighty Woman, Mother Church. I mean, when he was reborn through Her unto the hope of life, though his fleshly mother had brought him forth a son of wrath.

2. Therefore he will now see, if the eyes of his heart have been opened to see spiritually, a monster wholly horrible—with the body indeed of a man, but a demon head. Not only that, but this man's new state will without doubt be worse than his first, since that viper's head—which had once been lopped off—does not return without seven worse than itself! (Matthew 12:45, Luke 11:26, 2 Peter 2:20) Who is not wracked with tremors just to hear of it? Should I remove a limb of Christ to make a limb of demons? Will I, wretch, be cut off from the body of Christ to be incorporated in Satan? May that cursed mutation be far from us always, my brothers. It is good for me to cleave to You altogether, O Head, glorious and blessed forever, on which Angels long to gaze. I will follow you wherever you go (Apocalypse 14:4). If you pass through fire, let me not be torn from you (Isaiah 43:2). I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4). You carry my sorrows, and you grieve for me (Isaiah 53:4). You pass first through the narrow door to offer broad entry to following members (Mattew 7:13, Luke 13:24). Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 6:35). This is that love through which the whole body grows together in ligatures and joints (Ephesians 4:16). This is the good glue, of which Isaiah reminds us (Isaiah 41:7). This, by which it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell as one. This is the anointing that spills down from the head to the beard, spills down from the head even to the hem of the garment (Psalm 132:2), that not even the slightest fringe-thread should lack anointing. Since indeed there is a plentitude of graces in the Head, from which we all receive. In the Head is a world of mercy, in the Head is the undrained source of divine kindness, in the Head is all the abundance of spiritual anointing, as it is written: God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows (Psalm 44:8). And the Head that the Father so abundantly anointed, Mary too did not fear to anoint. The disciples indeed blame her: but Truth answers on her behalf that, She has done a good work (Matthew 26:7-10).

3. What then does He tell us in our Gospel today? You, He says, when you fast, anoint your Head. A wonderful honor! The Spirit of the Lord is upon Him to anoint Him, and nevertheless, proclaiming good news to the poor, he says, Anoint your Head! The Father is well pleased in the Son, and while His voice still thunders in the sky, the Spirit descends in a dove. Do you think, brothers, that the Baptism of the Christ could have lacked chrism? The Spirit of the Lord remains upon Him, and who could doubt that He has been anointed in Him? This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17). Surely this is the fragrance of His anointing in the Spirit. The Father anointed the Son above His fellows—the Son in whom above the rest He specially delights. For the Father surely loves the Son with a divine affection, unknown to any creature. The Father has anointed the Son, I say, above His fellows, heaping upon him all the graces of His kindness, mildness, and sweetness, filling him more abundantly from the bowels of mercy and pity. So anointed He sent Him to us, and revealed Him to us full of grace and pity. So is our Head anointed by the Father, and nonetheless He asks to be anointed by us too. When you fast, he says, anoint your Head. And does the unfailing source ask water from a mere channel? Without doubt He does, or rather he asks it back. For to the spring whence they went forth, the streams return, that they may flow once more (Ecclesiastes 1:7).

4. Not indeed, as one depleted, does Christ ask back what he had given, but in order that whatever gift you want to ascribe to Him should not perish. Since indeed even the water of a stream, if it begins to stagnate, will also go bad, and will be flushed out by a sudden flood and rejected. So, clearly, the flow of graces to us ceases, when there is no flowing back. Not only does nothing increase for the ungrateful, but even what he had received is turned to his destruction. But one who is faithful in a small thing will be judged worthy of a fuller gift. Anoint your Head therefore, pouring back unto Him who is above you whatever devotion is in you, whatever delight, whatever affection. Anoint your Head therefore, that—if there is any grace in you—it may ascribed to Him; and do not seek your own glory, but His. For anyone who is Christ's good fragrance in every place anoints Christ. Remember that this word went out against the hypocrites: Do not, He says, make yourself sorrowful as the hypocrites do. He does not forbid us every kind of sadness, but that which is in our face before men. On the contrary, The heart of the wise is where sorrow is (Ecclesiastes 7:5). Paul too is not sorry that his disciples are sad, since, Their sorrow is unto salvation (2 Corinthians 7:8). Their sorrow is not like the hypocrites', which is not in the heart but the face. For they disfigure their faces.

5. Notice also that He does not say: Do not be sorrowful as the hypocrites are, but, Do not make yourself so, that is, pretend to be. So it is commonly said: He makes himself out to be sad, or, He magnifies himself, or He who makes you out to be happy leads you into error (Isaiah 9:16), and things like this, which are of pretense, not truth. But you, when you fast, anoint your Head and wash your face. They disfigure the face, but you are commanded to wash it. The true face, though, is the courtesy which is in a face. This face, moreover, a faithful servant of Christ washes, lest he offer any offense to the one who looks to him. But the hypocrite prefers to disfigure it, while he pursues special and exceptional things instead. But he does not anoint his Head, for his affection is far from Christ, and he delights in empty favors. Rather he anoints himself, that he may spread the fragrance of his own reputation. Or rather—since it is clear that Christ is not the head of a hypocrite—nevertheless neither is whatever head he anoints his own, for his mind is soothed not by the witness of his conscience but by flatterers. Give us, say the foolish virgins, of your oil (Matthew 25:8). Why? Because they have none in their own jars. But it is not for the prudent to give them oil of this sort. For will they do for others that which they refuse to have done for themselves? Hear indeed the Prophet, to whom God revealed things that were ambiguous and the secrets of His wisdom: The oil, he says, of a sinner will not stain my head (Psalm 140:5). Hypocrites buy that oil, as the Lord says, Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. For they disfigure their faces to appear to be fasting. You see in how brief a saying he notes the special distinction of hypocrites and proves its vanity. See too with how few words he persuades you to prepare good things before God and men. Anoint your Head and wash your face. That is, show yourself blameless abroad, that you may strive to win divine grace for yourself; and before the eyes of men seek not your own glory but your Maker's.

6. By a washed face one can also understand a pure conscience, and by an anointed head, a devout mind. But if you consider it, these two words of washing and anointing seem to be spoken against the twofold vice which those fasting are often prone to. For one man fasts in pursuit of vanity, and to him is said, Wash your face. Another fasts with impatience and rancor, and he needs to anoint his head. It is however this head, the inmost mind, which is anointed in the fast, when one delights in it spiritually. Or does it seem strange to you, to say the head is anointed by the fast? I say more: It even grows fat. Have you never read what is written, He nourishes them in their hunger? (Psalm 32:19). The fast of the body is therefore the anointing of the head. The abstinence of the flesh is feasting for the heart. Why ever not say anointing—seeing that it both heals wounds and soothes troubled consciences? Let a hypocrite therefore buy the oil of the sinner by his fast; I do not sell my fast meanwhile—for this very fast is to me the oil with which I shall be anointed. Anoint, he says, your head, lest any grumbling or impatience should steal in. Not only that, but also glory in your trial, just as the Apostle says (Romans 5:3). Glory, I say, but without any pursuit of vanity, that your face may be clean of the oil of the sinner.

Sermon 2. How we should turn to the Lord.

1. Turn to me in your whole heart, in fasting, in tears, and in lament; rend your hearts, not your garments, says Almighty God (Joel: 2-3). What does ths mean, dear people, that the Lord commands us to turn to Him. For He is everywhere, and fills all things, and He embraces the whole world of them. Whither should I turn myself, to turn to You, Lord my God? If I ascend into Heaven, You are there, If I go down into Hell, you are there (Psalm 138:8). What do you command? Whither should I turn to you? above? below? to the right? to the left? This is a close counsel, my brothers, a secret entrusted only to friends. It is the mystery of the kingdom of God—revealed (in their ear) to the Apostles, since nothing can be said to the crowd except in parables. Unless you turn, He says, and become as this little child, you will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). I see plainly where he wants us to turn. It is necessary to be turned toward the Child, that we should learn from Him, since He is mild and humble of heart. Since indeed it was for this that a Child was given us. Clearly this same Child is also great (but great in the City of the Lord) for whom it is said: Exult and praise, house of Sion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 12:6). Why are you puffed up, O man? Why are you elated without cause? Why think lofty thoughts? Why turn your eyes to every eminence, which will come to no good for you? Lofty indeed is the Lord, but this is not what is laid down for you: His greatness is to be praised, not imitated. His magnificence is on high, and you will not be capable of itnot even if you strain yourself to breaking will you lay hold on it. Man, says the Psalm, will yield to his high heart, and God will be exalted (Psalm 63:7-8). Since indeed, The Lord is on high and regards lowly things, and knows deep things from afar (Psalm 137:6). Be humbled, and you have hold of it already. Surely this is the law of mercy, and because of this law I have held up beside you, Lord. Even if a way of loftiness were set before us, and a path to that summit where the salvation of God would be revealed—what great things would men do to be exalted!? How cruelly they would lay each other low, trample each other! How shamelessly they would crawl and, struggle upward on hands and feet to set themselves upon the heads of others! No doubt anyone who strives to walk over his neighbors, will encounter many difficulties, will have many rivals, will suffer many nay-sayers rising against him. But there is nothing easier for anyone who wants to, than to humble himself. This is a word, dear people, which renders us altogether without excuse, so that we are not allowed—not even a little—to slip under cover.

2. But now let us look at the means by which it is necessary turn to this little Child, to the Teacher of mildness and lowliness. Turn yourselves to Me, He says, in your whole heart. Brothers, if he had said, Turn yourselves, adding nothing else, perhaps we would be free to reply, It is done, now give another instruction. But now a spiritual conversion (so I hear it) is indicated to us, not a thing to be carried out in one day—Would it could be fulfulled even in the whole life we spend in this body! For if there is only a turning of the body, there will be no conversion. That is the form of conversion, not its truth, a gesture of piety empty of virtue. Wretched man, thrown into the pursuit of those things which are without, oblivious of his inward being, thinking he is something, when he is nothing, he seduces his own self! I am poured out like water, says the Psalmist in the person of a such a man, and all my bones are scattered (Psalm 21:15). Another Prophet too says, Strangers have eaten away at his strength, and he knew it not (Hosea 7:9). Looking at the superficial exterior, he may think he is thoroughly sound, unaware of the secret worm that gnaws within. His tonsure remains, his cowl is still as always, he keeps the rule of fasting, he prays Psalms at the appointed hours—but his heart is far from me, says the Lord (Mark 7:6).

3. Consider shrewdly what you love, what you dread, why you rejoice, why you grieve—and under the habit of religion, you will find a worldly spirit, under the clothes of conversion, a perverse heart. For the whole heart is in these four affections, and the commandment—Turn to the Lord in your whole heart—must be understood to refer to them. Let your love then be converted, so that you love nothing at all but Him or, to be clear, love other things for His sake only. Let your fear too be turned toward Him. For all fear of anything besides Him, or of anything except for His sake, is perverse. So too your joy, and your sorrow—let them be converted to Him. But this cannot be, unless you grieve or are glad along with Him. For what is more perverse than to rejoice in doing evil and to exult in wicked deeds? But also put to death the grief that is of the flesh. If you grieve for your sin or that of your neighbor, you do well, and this sorrow is unto salvation (2 Corinthians 6:10). If you rejoice in the gifts of grace, this joy is holya serene joy in the Holy Spirit. You ought to rejoice too in the welfare of your brothers in the love of Christ, and grieve for their adversities, as is written, Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15)
4. Not even a merely bodily conversion is to be despised though, since this is found to be no slight prop to its spiritual counterpart. And this is why, where the Lord said, In your whole heart, he added, In fasting, which surely means a fasting of the body. Nevertheless I want to remind you, my brothers, that not only must this be a fast from food, but from all lures of the flesh, and every bodily pleasure. Nay, we should much rather fast from vices than from food. But there is a bread from which I forbid to fast, lest perhaps you faint on the way—and, if you do not know, I mean the bread of tears. For He goes on, In fasting, and in tears, and in lament. For the penitance of our past conversion still wrings laments from us, and our longing for future bliss draws tears. My tears have become my bread day and night, says the Prophet, while every day it is said to me, Where is your God? (Psalm 41:4) For the newness of this life is none too pleasing to one who no longer grieves for past things, no longer grieves his acknowledged sins, no longer grieves the time he has lost. If you do not mourn, you are clearly unaware of the wounds in your soul, the hurt done to your conscience. You do not sufficiently long for future joys if you do not daily beg for them with tears. You will hardly recognize them, unless your soul will not be consoled until they come.

5. Then the Prophet adds: And rend your hearts, not your garments. By which words he clearly charges the ancient people of the Jews with hardness of heart and empty superstition. Since they were indeed accustomed to frequent rending of their garments, but not of their hearts. For when should their hearts of stone, which could not be circumcised, be rended? Rend, he says, your hearts, not your garments. Is there anyone among you, whose will is found to be too stubborn in some one thing? Let him split his heart with the sword of the Spirit, that is, with the word of God. Let him rend it, let him hasten to shatter it to splinters! There is no turning to the Lord in one's whole heart, except with a broken heart. For until you accept this one initiation to that Jerusalem whose membership is this very thing, many things will be demanded of you—and if you offend in one thing, you are found guilty of all. The Spirit of the Lord is manifold, saye the Wise man, nor can we follow the manifold without a manifold rending. Listen then to the man whom God found to be after his own heart. My heart is ready, God, he says, my heart is ready (Psalm 56:8). Ready for adversity, ready for prosperity. Ready for lowly things, ready for lofty things. Ready for whatsoever You may command. Do You want to make me a herder of sheep? Do You want to make me a King over peoples? My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. Who is like David, faithfully coming in and going out, and pressing on to Kingly authority? And this man said about sinners: Their heart is curdled like milk, but I have meditated on your law (Psalm 118: 70). For from this comes hardness of heart, and stubborness of mind, when one meditates not on the law of the Lord, but on his own will.

6. Then let us rend our hearts, dear people, that we may keep our garments whole. For our garments are the virtues. Charity is a good garment. Obedience is a good garment. Blessed is he who keeps these garments: he does not go naked. Indeed, Blessed are they whose sins are covered (Psalm 31:1), and, Charity covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Let us rend our hearts, as was proclaimed, that we may keep these garments whole, even as the tunic of the Savior was kept whole. Not only does the rending of the heart keep a garment whole but also makes it reach to our ankles and trail the floor behind, like the coat which the holy Patriarch Jacob gave his son, whom he loved above the rest (Genesis 37:3). From this surely comes perseverance in the virtues, from this the many-colored harmony of a beautiful conversion. From this is that glory of the daughter of the King robed in a golden myriad of threads (Psalm 44:14-15). Nevertheless, this rending of the heart can also be understood otherwise: that, if the heart is depraved, it should be broken to remorse; if hard, to compassion. Why not lance the ulcer, and drain out the pus? Why not break open the heart, that it may well up from the bowels of pity? This rending is thoroughly beneficial in two ways. It prevents the infection of a sin shut up in the heart from escaping notice; and it stops us from shutting up the bowels of mercy to a neighbor in need, that we ourselves may win mercy from our Lord Jesus Christ who is God over allblessed be He for ever. Amen.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Saint Scholastica, Twin of Benedict

Vita S. Benedicti Abbatis
Monachorum in Occidente
Patris et Legislatoris
ex Gregorio Magno


Ex qua re necesse est, ut tibi de venerabili patre Benedicto narrem: quia fuit quiddam quod voluit, sed non valuit implere. Soror namquam eius, Scholastica nomine, omnipotenti Domino ab ipso infantiae tempore dedicata, ad eum semel per annum venire consueverat. Ad quam vir Dei non longe extra januam in possessione monasterii descendebat. Quadam vero die venit ex more, atque ad eam cum discipulis venerabilis eius descendit frater: qui totum diem in Dei laudibus sacrisque colloquiis ducentes, incumbentibus jam noctis tenebris simul acceperunt cibos. Cumque adhuc ad mensam sederent, et inter sacra colloquia tardior se hora protraheret, eadem santimonialis femina soror eius eum rogavit, dicens: quaeso te ne ista nocte me deseras, ut usque mane de coelestis vitae gaudiis loquamur. Cui ille respondit: Quid est quod loqueris, soror? Manere extra cellam nullatenus possum. Tanta vero erat coeli serenitas, ut nulla in aere nubes appareret. Sanctimonialis autem femina, cum verba fratris negantis audisset, insertas digitis manus super mensam posuit, et caput in manibus omnipotentem Dominum rogatura declinavit. Cumque de mensa levaret caput, tanta coruscationis et tonitrui virtus, tantaque inundatio pulviae erupit, ut neque venerabilis Benedictus, neque fratres qui cum eo aderant, extra loci limen quo consederant, pedem movere potuissent. Sanctimonialis quippe femina caput in manibus declinans, lacrymarum fluvios in mensam fuderat, per quas serenitatem aeris ad pluviam traxit. Nec paulo tardius post orationem inundatio illa secuta est, sed tanta fuit convenientia orationis et inundationis, ut de mensa caput jam cum tonitruo levaret: quatenus unum idemque esset momentum, et levare caput, et pluviam deponere. Tunc vir Dei inter coruscos et tonitruos atque ingentis pluviae inundationem videns se ad monasterium non posse remeare, coepit conqueri contristatus, dicens: Parcat tibi omnipotens Deus, soror; quid est quod fecisti? Cui illa respondit: Ecce te rogavi, et audire me noluisti; rogavi Dominum meum, et audivit me. Modo ergo si potes, egredere, et me dimissa ad monasterium recede. Ipse autem exire extra tectum non valens, qui remanere sponte noluit, in loco mansit invitus. Sicque factum est ut totam noctem pervigilem ducerent, atque per sacra spiritalis vitae colloquia sese vicaria relatione satiarent. Qua de re dixi eum voluisse aliquid, sed minime potuisse: quia si venerabilis viri mentem aspicimus, dubium non est quod eamdem serenitatem voluerit in qua descenderat permanere; sed contra hoc quod voluit, in virtute omnipotentis Dei ex feminae pectore miraculum invenit. Nec mirum quod plus illo femina, quae diu fratrem videre cupiebat, in eodem tempore valuit: quia enim juxta Joannis vocem, Deus charitas est, justo valde judicio illa plus potuit, quae amplius amavit. …

Cumque die altero eadem venerabilis femina ad cellam propriam recessisset, vir Dei ad monasterium rediit. Cum ecce post triduum in cella consistens, elevatis in aera oculis, vidit eiusdem sororis suae animam de corpore egressam in columbae specie caeli secreta penetrare. Qui, tantae ejus gloriae congaudens, omnipotenti Deo in hymnis et laudibus gratias reddidit, ejusque obitum fratribus denuntiavit. Quos etiam protinus misit, ut ejus corpus ad monasterium deferrent, atque in sepulcro, quod sibi ipsi paraverat, ponerent. Quo facto contigit, ut quorum mens una semper in Deo fuerat, eorum quoque corpora nec sepultura separaret.

From the Life of Saint Benedict, Abbot,
Father and Lawgiver of Monks in the West,
By Gregory the Great

And so I must tell you about holy Father Benedict, that he willed something he had not the power to do. His sister Scholastica, devoted to God from her girlhood, was in the habit of coming to him once a year. The man of God would come down to her in a holding of the monastery not far outside its gate. One day she came according to custom, and her brother and his followers came down to her. And, after spending the whole day in praise of God and holy conversation, now as the gloom of night was setting in, they shared a meal. While they were still sitting at table and the hour grew late in holy talk, that devout woman, his sister, besought him, saying: “I ask you not leave me this night, that we may talk till morning of the joys of the life of Heaven.” But he replied, “What are you saying, sister? By no means can I stay outside my cell.” The heavens were clear—no shade of cloud in the sky. But that devout woman, when she heard her brother's words of refusal, set her hands—fingers knitted—on the table and laid her head in them to pray Almighty God. And when she raised her head from the table, so great a power of flashing and of thunder, so great a downpour burst forth, that neither holy Benedict nor the brothers there with him could set foot over the doorsill of the place were they were lodged. No indeed, for the devout woman, laying her head in her hands, had shed streams of tears over the table, tears which changed a cloudless sky to rain. Nor did the downpour follow a little while after her prayer, but so perfectly simultaneous were prayer and deluge that she was already raising her head from the table with the thunderso that the lifting of her head and the bringing down of rain were one and the same motion. Then the man of God, seeing with consternation that he could not make his way to the monastery amidst the lightnings and the thunder and the flood of giant rain, began to complain, saying: “God Almighty spare you, sister! What have you done?” But she replied: “Look! I asked you, you would not hear me. I asked my Lord, and He did hear me. Now, therefore, leave if you can, forsake me and go back to your monastery.” But he, unable to go out from under her roof, remained in the place against his will. And so it happened that they spent the night wide awake and feasted each other with holy talk of the life of the Spirit, telling and listening in turn. For this reason I said that he willed a thing, but had no power. For if we look to the intention of the holy man, there is no doubt that he wanted the same fair weather he had come down in to continue. But instead of what he wanted he found—in the power of Almighty God from the heart of a woman—a miracle. No wonder that the woman was mightier than he on that occasion, for indeed, according to the word of John, God is Love, and by His just judgment she who loved more could do more. …

When on the next day the same devout woman had withdrawn to her own cell, the man of God returned to the monastery. But see! after staying in his cell three days, he lifted his eyes to the sky and saw the soul of his sister leave her body in the likeness of a dove and pass into the secrets of Heaven. And he, rejoicing in her surpassing glory, gave thanks to God in hymns and praises, and made her death known to his brothers. And he sent them forthwith to bring her body to the monastery, and lay it in the grave which he had prepared for himself. Whereby it happened that, as they had always been of one mind in the Lord, the grave could not part even their bodies.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

One more Larkin poem

The Whitsun Weddings

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
     Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
     For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
     The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
     Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
     Yes, from cafes
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
     The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
     I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl—and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across
     Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.