translated by G. S. M. WalkerElectronic edition compiled by Ruth Murphy
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In the light of more recent scholarship, some texts formerly attributed to Columbanus are now no longer regarded as his writings. In particular Neil Wright, in his article 'Columbanus's Epistulae' in Lapidge 1997 (see no. 133 below) has cast doubts on the Columbanus's authorship of Letter VI. It is included here as it forms part of Walker's edition. [We are grateful to Dr Damian Bracken for this information].
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Marcos Bale (capture)
Grace and peace to thee from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Gal. 1.3). It is my desire, Holy Father, (let it not be extravagant in your sight) to ask about Easter, in accordance with that canticle, Ask thy father and he will show thee, thy elders and they will tell thee.
(Deut. 32.7)For although, considering my insignificance, when my poverty writes to your distinction, I might be branded with that unusual remark of a certain philosopher, which he is said once to have made at the sight of a painted harlot, I do not admire the art, but I admire the cheek
(cf. Ecclus. 9.8.); yet trusting in the faith of your evangelical humility I dare to write to you, and subjoin the matter of my grief. For there is no pride in writing when necessity demands a letter, though it be addressed to one's superiors.
What then do you say about an Easter on the twenty-first or twenty-second moon, which already (yet let it be said without offence to you) is proved to be no Easter, considering its darkness, by many laborious scholars? For as I believe, it does not escape your diligence, how scathingly Anatolius, a man of curious learning
(Hieron. De Viris Illustr. 73)as St. Jerome says, excerpts from whose writings Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, inserted in his ecclesiastical history, and St. Jerome praised this same work on Easter in his cataloguehow scathingly Anatolius reasons about this period of the moon; who recorded a terrible judgement against the Gallican authorities in their error, as he maintains, concerning Easter, saying Certainly if the moon's rising shall have delayed until the end of two watches, which marks the middle of the night, light does not prevail over darkness, but darkness over light; which is certain to be impossible at Easter, so that some part of darkness should rule over the light, since
p.5the festival of the Lord's resurrection is light, and there is no communication of light with darkness
(cf. 2. Cor. 6. 14). And if the moon has begun to shine in the third watch, there is no doubt that the twenty-first or twenty-second moon has arisen, on which it is impossible for the true Easter to be offered. For those who determine that Easter can be celebrated at this period of the moon, not only cannot maintain this on the authority of holy scripture, but also incur the charge of sacrilege and contumacy, together with the peril of their souls, when they maintain that the true light, which rules over all darkness, can be offered under conditions where darkness rules to some extent. And we also read in the book of sacred dogma: Easter, that is the festival of the Lord's resurrection, cannot be celebrated before the passing of the Spring equinox, the beginning of the fourteenth moon
(Gennad. De Dogm. Eccl. 87), namely to avoid its preceding the equinox. Victorius has certainly broken this rule in his cycle, and thus has long since introduced error into Gaul, or to speak more humbly, has strengthened its growth. For on what principle can either practice stand, namely that the Lord's resurrection should be celebrated prior to His passion, which is ridiculous even to be thought of, or that the seven days
(cf. Exod. 12. 15)ordained by the Lord's bidding in the law, on which alone the Lord's Passover is commanded to be eaten legally, which are to be reckoned from the fourteenth moon up to the twentieth, should be exceeded contrary to law and right? For the twenty-first or twenty-second moon is outwith the jurisdiction of light, since at that point of time it has arisen after the middle of the night, and with darkness prevailing over light it is illegal, as they say, for the festival of light to be held.
Why then, with all your learning, when indeed the streams of your holy wisdom are, as of old, shed abroad over the earth with great brightness, do you favour a dark Easter? I am surprised, I must confess, that this error of Gaul has not long since been scraped away by you, as if it were a warty growth; unless perhaps I am to think, what I can scarce believe, that while it is patent that this has not been righted by you, it has met with approval in your eyes. Yet your statesmanship can be excused in another and more honourable way; perhaps while you fear to be stamped as an innovator like Hermagoras, you are content with your predecessors' authority, and especially with that of Pope Leo. Refrain, I beg you, from relying in such a dispute only on humility or seemliness, which are often deceived; perhaps in this riddle a living dog
p.7is better than a dead Lion
(sq. Eccles. 9. 4); for a living saint can right what by another and greater one has not been righted. For you must know that Victorius has not been accepted by our teachers, by the former scholars of Ireland, by the mathematicians most skilled in reckoning chronology, but has earned ridicule or indulgence rather than authority. Wherefore in my anxiety, as a stranger rather than a savant, I beg you to favour me with the support of your judgement, and not to scorn sending in good time the mark of your approval, for the quelling of this storm that surrounds us; for I am not satisfied, after reading such weighty authorities, with the single judgement of those bishops who can only say, We ought not to hold Easter with the Jews
(cf. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. v. 22). Bishop Victor also said this once, but no one in the Eastern Church accepted his falsehood; but our soporific sting of Dagon has drunk in this erroneous tumor. What, I ask, is this so frivolous and so uneducated judgement, which is based on no proofs from holy scripture: We ought not to hold Easter with the Jews? What relevance has it to reality? Are we really to believe that the reprobate Jews hold Easter now, considering that they are without a temple, outside Jerusalem, and that Christ then prefigured has been crucified by them? Or are we really to believe that the Easter of the fourteenth moon is rightly theirs, and not rather to confess that it is the Passover of God Himself Who instituted it, and Who alone clearly knows the mystery by which the fourteenth moon was chosen for the Exodus? This may perhaps shed some light for scholars and persons like yourself. And let those who oppose this, though without authority, reproach God, because He did not before this in His foreknowledge then guard against the Jews' obstinacy, in such a way as to appoint nine days of unleavened bread in the law, if He did not wish us to hold Easter together with them, so that even the beginning of our festival should not post-date their festival's end. For if Easter is to be celebrated on the twenty-first or twenty-second, nine days will be reckoned from the fourteenth up to the twenty-second, that is, seven appointed by God, and two added by men. But if men are permitted to add anything of themselves to the divine appointment, I question whether it may not perhaps seem contrary to that judgement of Deuteronomy: Behold [it says] the word which I command thee, thou shalt neither add to it, nor diminish from it
(cf. Deut. 4. 2).
But while I write this with more presumption than humility, I realize that I have brought upon myself the straits of a most grievous impudence, without knowing that they must yet be crossed. For it befits neither place nor station that your great authority should be at all
p.9questioned by the appearance of debate, and that you, who indeed lawfully occupy the chair of Peter the apostle and bearer of the keys, should ludicrously be troubled about Easter by my letters from the West. But in this matter you should not pay so much attention to my insignificant person, as to the many dead and living teachers who maintain these same conclusions I have noted, and you should imagine yourself to be prolonging the debate with them; for you must know that I am opening my voluble mouth from pious motives, though it be out of turn and out of measure. Do you then either exonerate or condemn your Victorius, knowing that if you commend him, a question of credibility will be raised between yourself and the aforesaid Jerome, who indeed commended Anatolius his opposite, so that the follower of one cannot accept the other. Then let your attentive consideration ensure that, in weighing the credibility of the two authors aforesaid, who are mutually opposed to each other, there be no discord between yourself and Jerome in pronouncing judgement, lest we should be straitened on both sides, whether to agree with you or him. Spare the weak in this, lest you disclose the scandal of disunion. For I admit to you simply, that anyone impugning the authority of St. Jerome will be a heretic or reprobate in the eyes of the Western Churches, whoever that man may be; for at all points they repose an undoubted confidence in the holy scriptures. But let this suffice for Easter.
Concerning those bishops, however, who ordain uncanonically, that is for hire, I ask what you decree; Gildas the writer set them down as simoniacs and plagues
(Gildas, De Excid. Brit. 67). Are we really to communicate with them? For many, which is too serious a matter, are known to be such in this province. Or concerning others who, defiled as deacons, are later elected to the rank of bishops? For some exist, whose confessions I have heard on this, and who, discussing the matter with my poor self, wished to know for certain, whether after this they could without peril be bishops, that is to say, after buying orders for money, or after a secret adultery as deaconsyet I mean adultery committed with their wives; which among our teachers is reckoned to be of no less guilt.
In the third part of my inquiry, please tell me now, if it is not troublesome, what is to be done about those monks who, for the sake of God, and inflamed by the desire for a more perfect life, impugn their vows, leave the places of their first profession, and against their abbots' will, impelled by monastic fervour, either relapse or flee to the deserts. Finnian the writer questioned Gildas about them, and he sent a most polished reply; but yet through the zeal for learning anxiety grows ever greater.
With more humility and clarity all these questions, and many more
p.11which the brief scope of a letter does not permit, should have been asked in person, did not bodily weakness and the care of my fellow-pilgrims keep me tied at home, though I desire to journey to you, to drink that spiritual channel of the living fountain, and the living stream of wisdom which flows from heaven and springs up unto eternal life
(Ioann. 4. 14). And if body followed mind, Rome would again suffer a real scorning of herself, so that, just as we read in the narrative of learned Jerome, how some men once came to Rome from the last confines of the strand of Hyele, and, wonderful to tell, sought something other than Rome
(Hieron. Epist. liii), so I too would seek, desiring now, not Rome, but you, saving the reverence due to the ashes of the saints; for though I confess myself to be no scholar but athirst, this same thing would I do, if I had leisure.
I have read your book containing the pastoral rule, brief in style, pregnant in doctrine, replete with sacred lore; I confess that the work is sweeter than honey to the needy; wherefore in my thirst I beg you for Christ's sake to bestow on me your tracts, which, as I have heard, you have compiled with wonderful skill upon Ezekiel. I have read six books of Jerome on him; but he did not expound even half. But if you see fit, send me something from your lectures delivered in the city, I mean the final expositions of the book; send too the Song of Songs from that passage in which it says, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense
(Cant. 4. 6), right up to the end; treat it, I pray, either with others' comments or with your own in brief; and in order to expound all the obscurity of Zechariah, open up his secrets, so that in this a blind Westerner may render thanks to you. My demands are pressing, my inquiries large, who knows it not? But you too have large resources, since you know well that from a small stock less must be lent and from a great one more
(cf. Luc. 12. 48).
Let charity move you to reply, let not the roughness of my letter restrain your exposition, since wrath is distracted into error
(cf. Horat. Epist. i. 2. 62), and it is my heart's desire to pay you honour due; my part was to challenge, question, ask; let it be yours not to deny what you have freely received
(cf. Matt. 10. 8), to lend your talent to the seeker
(cf. Luc. 6. 30; Matt. 14. 16-17), and to give the bread
(cf. Luc. 6. 30; Matt. 14. 16-17)of doctrine according to Christ's command. Peace to you and yours; please pardon my rashness, holy father, for having written so boldly, and I beseech you to pray for me a most wretched sinner even once in your holy prayers to our common Lord.
I think it quite unnecessary to commend to you my own, whom the Saviour enjoins to be received
(cf. Matt. 10. 40)as walking in His name.
And if, as I have heard from holy Candidus your officer, you wish to make this reply, that what has been confirmed by long passage of time cannot be changed, clearly the error is of long standing; but truth has always stood longer, and is its refutation.
I render thanks to my God, that for my sake so many holy men have been gathered together to treat of the truth of faith and good works, and, as befits such, to judge of the matters under dispute with a just judgement, through senses sharpened to the discernment of good and evil. Would that you did so more often; and though you have not always leisure to maintain this canonical practice
(Nicaea can. 5; Turon. (567) can. 1)once or twice a year, in view of the stormy discords of this age, yet as speedily as may be, though it be too seldom, you should be imbued with this as your chief study, that all the dilatory might be made afraid and the zealous be encouraged to greater progress. Yes, I say, thanks be to God, that even on my account the occasion of a holy synod has been produced for you over the Easter controversy. May our Lord Jesus Christ, that prince of pastors
(1 Pet. 5. 4.), vouchsafe that your council be of use to the profit of His church; and may God Himself, Who is wont to stand in the congregation of the gods
(Ps. 81. 1), with His presence inspire the hearts of His people entirely to obey His will through strength of the commandments, so that you may not only treat of the affair of Easter, which has already been long discussed and long decided in diverse ways by different authorities; but also of all the necessary canonical observances, marred as they have been by many, which is a more serious matter, and while the day of judgement is now nearer than it was, you might embark upon some still severer precept of the evangelical religion and apostolical tradition; for if you carefully consider the commandments of the gospel, I am not surprised that they are found to contain the contrary to some men's characters.
But let it be enough to have indicated that each will need to be moulded to the example of his redeemer and the pattern of the true shepherd, Who first preaching humility
(Matt. 4. 17; Matt. 11. 29), and adding seven beatitudes to the first, which is poverty of spirit
(Matt. 5. 3), taught man so fully to follow [His] footsteps
(cf. 1 Pet. 2. 21), that by following after righteousness
(Matt. 5. 10)he might attain to the true circumcision of the eighth day; since the eighth beatitude concludes with martyrdom
(cf. Hieron. In Matt. 5 10), for the reason that a man is not only righteous by his
p.15acts, but also a martyr by his suffering for righteousness' sake, seeing that he is desirous of the heavenly kingdom, and he is crowned
(cf. 2 Tim. 2. 5)with those who strive alike. Thus when, as it is written, He who says that he believes in Christ, ought also himself to walk even as Christ walked
(1 Ioann. 2. 6)that is, both poor and humble and ever preaching truth under the persecution of mankindand again, They that will live a godly life in Christ, shall suffer persecution
(2 Tim. 3. 12), and that Faith without works is dead in itself
(Iac. 2. 17 et 20), and the Lord replies to fools who rely on faith alone, That I have not known you
(Matt. 7. 23), and to those who believe well and keep saying Lord, Lord
(Matt. 7. 21), He declared, that they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and when men cannot be His disciples [or worthy of Him], who have not abandoned all that they possess
(Luc. 14. 33), let each examine himself, whether he has firmly fulfilled or borne these duties, lest he should be estranged from the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, since the son should not be degenerate, and the disciple should not contradict the master in his preaching; For he that does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep is a thief and a robber
(Ioann. 10. 1), and he who shuns
(cf. Ioann. 10. 13)the toil of chastising and opposing sinful men is a hireling
(cf. Ioann. 10. 13), not a son ever to abide in the church.
I have touched these matters briefly for this reason, that if you are willing for us juniors to teach you fathers, you may ever keep in work and word this saying of the true shepherd, which His sheep knowfor they do not hear the voice of strangers, but flee from him
(Ioann. 10. 5)whose voice they know not, which, unless it be exemplified in practice, does not agree with the voice of the true shepherd. Nor can a discourse proceeding from the mouth of a hireling effectually enter the minds of those whom he instructs, for it bears this token, that he does not himself first hear the word that coming from his mouth is heard not; and what the master begins by slighting in his actions, he cannot with bare speech transmit for an example of obedience.
Therefore let us all together, whether clergy or monks, first frankly execute these true and unique rules of our Lord Jesus Christ, and thus thereafter, laying aside the swelling growth of pride, seek to record a unanimous verdict on the rest. If we all choose to be humble and poor for Christ's sake, Who for our sakes became poor though He was rich
(2 Cor. 8. 9), then, with our various lusts laid aside and our mortal cares cast out from the sinful clay, by humility and by the willing poverty which the gospel teaches, as it were with the causes of disagreement and difference cut off, all the sons of God shall mutually enjoy between themselves a true peace and entire charity, by the likeness of their characters and the agreement of their single will. For great harm has been done and is done to the church's peace by difference of character and diversity of practice; but yet if, as I have said, we first hasten by the exercise of true humility to heal the poisons of pride and envy and vain glory, through the teaching
p.17of our Saviour Who says for our example, Learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart
(Matt. 11. 29), and so on, then let us all, made perfect with no further blemish, with hatred rooted out, as the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, love one another
(cf. Ioann. 13. 35)with our whole heart. And if there be some variety of traditional practice, as there is over Easter, while the humble cannot strive, nor does the church have such a custom
(1 Cor. 11. 16), while those will soon know more truly, who with the same purpose and the same desire of knowing truth seek jointly what they may more rightly follow, when none is vanquished except error, and when none boasts in himself but in the Lord; let us then seek together, I beseech you, my most loving fathers and brethren, and let us see which be the more true traditionyours, or that of your brethren in the West. For, as I have noted in the book of my reply, which I have now sent you, though it was written three years ago, all the churches of the entire West do not consider that the resurrection should take place before the passion, that is, Easter before the equinox, and they do not wait beyond the twentieth moon, lest they should hold a sacrament of the New Testament without authority of the Old. But this I leave to another time; for the rest, I have informed the holy father in three books of their opinions upon Easter, and in a short pamphlet I have further ventured to write the same to your holy brother Arigius.
One thing therefore I request of your holiness, that with peace and charity you bear my ignorance and, as some say, my proud impudence in writing, which has been extorted by necessity, not pride, as my very baseness proves; and since I am not the author of this difference, and it is for the sake of Christ the Saviour, our common Lord and God, that I have entered these lands a pilgrim, I beseech you by our common Lord, and entreat you by Him Who is to judge the quick and the dead
(2 Tim. 4. 1), if you deserve His recognition Who shall say to many, Amen I say to you that I never knew you
(Matt. 7. 23), that I may be allowed with your peace and charity to enjoy the silence of these woods and to live beside the bones of our seventeen dead brethren, even as up till now we have been allowed to live twelve years among you, so that, as up till now we have done, we may pray for you as we ought. Let Gaul, I beg, contain us side by side, whom the kingdom of heaven shall contain, if our deserts are good; for we have one kingdom promised and one hope of our calling in Christ, with Whom we shall together reign
(cf. 2 Tim. 2. 12 (et Rom. 8. 17)), if indeed we first suffer here with Him, that also together with Him we may be glorified. I know that to many this verbosity of mine will seem excessive; but I judged it better that you too should know what we here discuss and ponder amongst ourselves. For these are our rules, the commands of the Lord and the apostles, in these our confidence is placed; these are our weapons, shield and sword,
p.19these are our defence; these brought us from our native land; these here too we seek to maintain, though laxly; in these we pray and hope to continue up till death, as we have seen our predecessors do. But do you, holy fathers, look what you do to your poor veterans and aged pilgrims; as I judge, it will be better for you to comfort them than to confound.
I however did not venture to appear before you, lest perhaps when present I might strive contrary to the apostle's precept when he says, Do not strive with words
(2 Tim. 2. 14), and again, If any man is quarrelsome, we have no such custom nor has the church of God
(1 Cor. 11. 16); but I admit the inmost convictions of my conscience, that I have more confidence in the tradition of my native land in accordance with the teaching and reckoning of eighty-four years and with Anatolius, who was commended by Bishop Eusebius the author of the ecclesiastical history and by Jerome the holy writer of the catalogue, for the celebration of Easter, rather than to do so in accordance with Victorius who writes recently and in a doubtful manner, and without defining anything where it was needed, as he himself bears witness in his prologue, and who, after the age of great Martin and great Jerome and Pope Damasus, under Hilary covered a hundred and three years with his compilation. But do you yourselves choose whom you prefer to follow, and whom you rather trust, in accordance with that saying of the apostle, Prove all things, hold what is good
(1 Thess. 5. 21). Far be it then that I should maintain the need to quarrel with you, so that a conflict among us Christians should rejoice our enemies, I mean the Jews or heretics or Gentile heathenfar be it indeed, far be it; for the rest, we may agree in some other way, so that either each should remain before God
(1 Cor. 7. 20)in the condition in which he was called, if both traditions are good, or else both books should be read over in peace and humility without any argument, and what agrees better with the Old and New Testament should be maintained without ill-will at any. For if it is of God that you should drive me hence from the place of seclusion, which I have sought from overseas for the sake of my Lord Jesus Christ, it will be my part to use that prophetic speech, If on my account this storm is upon you, take me and cast me into the sea, that this tempest may recede from you in calm
(Ion. 1. 12); yet let it first be your part like those mariners to seek to save the shipwrecked by the bowels of godliness, and to draw the ship to land, as they, though Gentiles, did, according to the scripture, which says, And the men sought to return to land and could not, for the
p.21sea ran and the swell increased the more
(sqq. Ion. 1. 13). Finally as my last word I advise, admittedly with presumption, that, since many [walking on] the roomy and broad roadway
(cf. Matt. 7. 13-14)of this age hasten towards the narrow crossing, if some few
(cf. Matt. 7. 13-14)are found, who pass through the strait and narrow gate, that leads to life
(cf. Matt. 7. 13-14)according to the Lord's command, you should rather help them on to life than hinder them, lest perhaps you also with the Pharisees be smitten by the word of the Lord, saying, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, since you shut the kingdom of heaven before men
(Matt. 23. 3), and Neither do you enter yourselves, nor do you allow them that are entering to enter
(Matt. 18. 3).
But someone will say; Are we really not entering the kingdom of heaven? Why can you not by the Lord's grace, if you become as little children
(Matt. 18. 3), that is, humble and chaste, simple-hearted
(cf. Rom. 16. 19)and guileless in evil, [yet] wise in goodness
(cf. Rom. 16. 19), easy to be entreated and not retaining anger in your heart? But all these things can very hardly be fulfilled by those who often look at women and who more often quarrel and grow angry over the riches of the world. Thus our party, once renouncing the world, and cutting off sins' causes and strifes' incentives at the start, consider that they may more easily fulfil the Lord's word in nakedness than wealth. For before the acquisition of these four qualities there is no entrance to the kingdom of heaven, as St. Jerome witnesses to three and Basil to the fourth, who expound the character of children in accordance with the tenor of the gospel saying, For a child is humble, does not harbour the remembrance of injury, does not lust after a woman when he looks on her, does not keep one thing on his lips and another in his heart
(Hieron. In Esaiam 8. 18, In Matt. 18. 3; Basil. (transl. Rufin.) Interrog. 161 et 163). And these, as I have said, will be better maintained by one who is still and sees that God Himself is Lord
(cf. Ps. 45. 11), than by one who sees and hears all manner of things. Let none disparage the benefits of silence; for unless they grow lax, the secluded live better than the social, except for that still stricter life which has the greater reward; for where the battle is more stubborn, there is found a crown of higher glory. But yet, as says St. Gregory, they are not credited with private virtues who do not avoid notorious ills
(Greg. Reg. Past. iii. 35). Therefore knowing this, St. Jerome bade bishops imitate the apostles, but taught monks to follow the fathers who were perfect
(Hieron. Epist. lviii. 5). For the patterns of clergy and of monks are different, and widely distinct from one another. Let each maintain what he has grasped; but let all maintain the gospel, and both parties, like single harmonious members of one body, follow Christ the head of all
(cf. Eph. 1. 22)by His own commands, which were revealed by Him to be accomplished in charity and peace. And these two cannot be perfectly accomplished, save by truly humble and unitedly spiritual men, who fulfil Christ's commands, as the Lord Himself bears witness, If ye love Me, keep My commandments
(Ioann. 14. 15), this is My
p.23commandment, that ye love one another, as I also have loved you
(Ioann. 15. 12), for in this shall all know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another
(Ioann.13. 35). Thus unity of minds and peace and charity then can be assured, spread abroad in the bowels of believers by the Holy Ghost, when all alike long to fulfil the divine commands; for the fiction of peace and charity between the imperfect will be such as is the measure of disagreement in their practical pursuits. Therefore, that we may love one another in charity unfeigned
(2 Cor. 6. 6), let us carefully ponder the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, and hasten to fulfil them when understood, that by His teaching the whole church may hasten to the heavenly places with one impulse of unbounded zeal. May His free grace afford us this, that we all may shun the world and love Him only and long for Him with the Father and the Holy Ghost, to Whom is the glory unto ages of ages.
For the rest, fathers, pray for us as we also do for you, wretched though we be, and refuse to consider us estranged from you; for we are all joint members of one body, whether Franks or Britons or Irish or whatever our race be. Thus let all our races rejoice in the comprehension of faith and the apprehension of the Son of God
(Eph. 4. 13), and let us all [hasten to] approach to perfect manhood, to the measure of the completed growth of the fulness of Jesus Christ
(Eph. 4. 13), in Whom let us love one another, praise one another, correct one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, that with Him in one another we may reign and triumph. Pray pardon my verbosity and presumption as I toil beyond my strength, most long-suffering and holy fathers and brethren all.
For long now my spirit desires the consolation of a visit to each occupant of the apostolic chair, prelates most dear to all the faithful and fathers most reverend by the meed of apostolic honour, but up till now, through the various clashes of this age and the turbulent treasons of the tribes that lie between, as though I were shut in upon a vessel of the sea, I have not been able to satisfy my wishes, opposed by the really ungentle and uncrossable swell, which you best know, of a sea that is not so much material as intellectual. Thus once and again Satan hindered the bearers of our letters once written to Pope Gregory of blessed memory and annexed to this, which are forwarded by our poverty to be presented to you and discussed, not so much in a proud, devilish presumption (as
p.25their words show) as in needful proof of the true calculation of our region's rite and observance, when the same terms are not measured by the books of our province and the book of your Frankish friends, which is not accepted by our people because of two passages in the master, as in the letters of our littleness to the aforesaid blessed pope, so far as we were able, though arrogantly, we have tried to the best of our ability to show. So lest, if I were to repeat the same in writing also to yourself, I should rather engender boredom than disclose to you, as I ought to prove it, the true nature of both authorities; with the proper courtesies of greeting I only pour out my prayers to you (by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and by the unity of the mutual faith that is between us, by which we believe with the heart and confess with the tongue that our one Father Who is in heaven, of Whom are all things
(cf. Matt. 6. 9), and our one Redeemer, the Son of God, through Whom are all things
(cf. Rom. 11. 36), and the one Holy Spirit, in Whom are all things
(cf. Rom. 11. 36), is one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, each Person being fully Lord, and all three Persons being one Lord) that you would grant to us pilgrims in our travail the godly consolation of your judgement, thus confirming, if it is not contrary to the faith, the tradition of our predecessors, so that by your approval we may in our pilgrimage maintain the rite of Easter as we have received it from generations gone before. For it is admitted that we are in our native land, while we accept no rules of your Frankish friends, but dwelling in seclusion, harming no one, we abide with the rules of our predecessors, to defend which, whether it be to you apostolic fathers, as I have said, or to your brethren our neighbours and our fathers in Christ, we have written those letters which this note commends to you, so that, since we seek in good time the favourable vote of your authority, while we cannot do justice to the merits of the case, as our opponents indulge in more rage than reason, we may with a judgement live amongst your friends in the peace of church unity, even as the holy fathers taught, Polycarp, I mean, and Pope Anicetus, without offence to the faith, nay, abiding in entire charityeach preserving what he had received and abiding in the condition in which he had been called
(cf. 1 Cor. 7. 20).
Farewell, Pope most dear in Christ, mindful of us both in your holy prayers beside the ashes of the saints, and in your most godly decisions following the hundred and fifty authorities of the Council of Constantinople, who decreed that churches of God planted in pagan nations should live by their own laws
(cf. Constant. I, can. 2), as they had been instructed by their fathers.
Peace be to you
(Ioann. 20. 19), as was the Lord's wish when He spoke to His disciples, and salvation and eternal charity. With Him may the Trinity grant you these three gifts, and preserve them amongst you with my prayer. The greatness of my zeal for your salvation is known to Him alone Who gave it, and my longing for the advance of your instruction; but since, in accordance with the Lord's teaching, Tribulation and persecution have arisen for the word's sake
(Matt. 13. 21), no other advice is now fitting for you, save that you beware lest you be that stony ground
(Matt. 13. 5), which through the poorness of its soil cannot nourish the seed which it receives, lest the Lord say of you also, But when tribulation and persecution have arisen for the word's sake, forthwith they take offence
(Matt. 13. 21). We ourselves know that we have received the Lord's word with gladness and enthusiasm; let us beware now lest we be short-lived. Patience is needful [for us], that the proof of our faith [as it is written,] may be more precious than gold
(1 Pet. 1.7). Know that an unclaimed inheritance is the object of the strife; for it is no new thing that the kingdom of heaven
(cf. Matt. 11. 12)should be the object of strife and contention. And do not hope that it is men alone who persecute you; there are devils in those who envy your possessions; against them take up that armour of God
(cf. Eph. 6. 13-17)to which the apostle points, and make a path to heaven, hurling these arrows, as it were, of earnest prayers. For whatever you ask with faith and complete agreement, shall be given to you; but look to it that you be one heart and one mind
(Act. 4. 32), so that you may receive as a present reward whatever saving grace you seek from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the common Father of us all, in accordance with our Lord's promise when He said, If two of you agree upon earth concerning anything that they seek, it shall be done for them by My Father Who is in heaven
(Matt. 18. 19). Otherwise if you do not possess one and the same purpose and aversion
(cf. Sallust. Cat. 20. 4), it is better that you do not dwell together. Therefore I command you that all, whose heart's desire is to consent with me, and who know and love my sentiment, remain with my true follower Attala, and let it be for him to choose whether he remain there or wish to come after me; for he senses the peril of your souls; do you obey him. But if he wishes to come, let Waldelenus be prior, since he can quickly, with God's help, reach a settled understanding; but meanwhile beware, lest there be any with you who does not possess one
p.29purpose with you, whoever he may be; for we have been more harmed by those who were not of one mind amongst us.
You know, my dearest Attala, those who are a trouble to your feelings; depose them at once; yet depose them in peace and agreement with the rule; only honour Libranus and keep Waldelenus always; if he is there with the community, may God deal well with him, may he be humble, and give him my kiss, which then in his hurry he did not receive. But you have long known my purpose of instilling character; if you see some progress of souls with you, stay there; if you see dangers, come thence; but the dangers I mean are the dangers of disagreement; for I fear lest there too there be disagreement on account of Easter, lest perhaps, through the devil's tricks, they wish to divide you, if you do not keep peace with them; for now without me you seem to stand less firmly there. Therefore be wary, considering the time when they do not endure sound doctrine
(2 Tim. 4. 3). Instruct yourselves and any who will hear; only let there be none amongst you who is not at one. For you (Attala) must make provision chiefly for peace, ever anxious to preserve unity of spirit in the bond of peace
(Eph. 4. 3). For what advantage is it to have a body and not to have a heart? I confess that I am broken on this account while I wished to help all, who when I spoke to them fought against me without cause
(Ps. 119. 7), and while I trusted all, I have been almost driven mad. Thus do you be wiser; I do not wish you to undertake so great a burden
(cf. Horat. Serm. i. 9. 21, Epist. ii. 1. 169), under which I have sweated; for you know already the smallness of my knowledge, like a drop, you have learnt that all advice is not suitable for all, since natures are diverse and men's types differ widely from each other. But what am I doing? I shall soon incite you to that huge toil from which I fly myself; if I begin on the many sides of instruction, I shall be introducing qualifications; therefore do you be many-sided and adaptable for the direction of those who obey you with faith and love; but you must fear even their very love, because it will be dangerous to you.
But there are troubles on every side, my dearest friend; there is danger if they hate, and danger if they love. You must know that both are real, either hatred or love from their side; peace perishes in hatred, and integrity in love. Hold yourself therefore to the impulse of the one desire which you know my heart desires. You know I love the salvation of many and seclusion for myself, the one for the progress of the Lord, that is, of His church, the other for my own desire; but these are longings in me rather than achievements; but in yourself let them be fulfilled, I pray, since in my absence you will be able to know both at least in part; yet I do not write as a command. Know then my bidding to all; and since I have felt the desires of many to differ in respect of maintaining the strictness of the rule, I have bound the branches to the root, when in
p.31their frailty they have fallen from my small degree of strictness, that is, have departed from the truth of my instruction. For let those who have preserved my sentiment, so serve God, always electing for themselves the wiser and more godly, provided they be humble and compassionate. Whoever are rebellious, let them depart away; whoever are obedient, let it be they who become my heirs. Do you and all that are wholly mine observe these precepts; and for the sake of unity and humility, however many you be when Christ increases and multiplies your numbers, let all have regard to him who ministers to God beside the altar that was blessed by the holy bishop Aid. Therefore do you also, if I by the persecution of our enemies [gap: manuscript damage/extent: 1 word].
I have written this because of the uncertain outcome of events. It was in my wish to visit the heathen and have the gospel preached to them by us, but when Fedolius just reported their coolness he quite took my mind from that.
I wanted to write you a tearful letter; but for the reason that I know your heart, I have simply mentioned necessary duties, hard of themselves and difficult, and have used another style, preferring to check than to encourage tears. So my speech has been outwardly made smooth, and grief is shut up within. See, the tears flow, but it is better to check the fountain; for it is no part of a brave soldier to lament in battle. It is not a new thing that has happened to us; this was what we chiefly preached each day. Long ago a certain philosopher, wiser than the rest in this, that against the opinion of all men he declared God to be one, was thrust into prison. The gospels are full of this matter, and of it they are chiefly composed; for this is the truth of the gospel, that the true disciples of Christ crucified should follow Him with the cross. A great example has been shown, a great mystery has been declared; the Son of God willingly (for He was offered up because He Himself willed it
(Isai. 53. 7)) mounted the cross as a criminal, leaving to us, [as it is written,] an example, that we should follow His footsteps
(cf. 1 Pet. 2. 21). Blessed then is the man, who becomes a sharer in this passion and this shame. For there is something wonderful there concealed; for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men
(1 Cor. 1. 25). Strangely is
p.33immeasurable wisdom discerned in foolishness, and in weakness incomparable strength. Thus are hidden there all choice consolations, the secrets of salvation; but they are difficult in order that they may be precious; they are veiled in order that they may be merited by few; merited indeed by few, since they are too wonderful. Therefore let us patiently bear all adversities for truth's sake, that we may be sharers in the Lord's passions; for if we suffer together with Him, together we shall reign
(cf. 2 Tim. 2. 12 et Rom. 8. 17). What needs to be added to this save perseverance? For he who perseveres up to the end shall be saved
(Matt. 10. 22). For it is at the end that judgement holds its session, and at the outcome that praise is sung. But that he should be persevering, let each constantly beseech the help of God with all humility of mind; for it is not of him that willeth, we are told, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy
(Rom. 9. 16), since the mercy of God is greater and better than man's life
(Ps. 62. 4), however good life may be; for none merit mercy, save those who confess themselves to be wretched before God, and feel themselves unworthy of salvation in themselves, unless the sole mercy of God should snatch them from such dangers. And though they are conscious in themselves of good works, yet fearing the judgements of God and lamenting that they have committed many injustices, they humbly trust in the gentleness of God alone; and their perfect fear is more pleasing, the more it practises humility; for God's good pleasure is upon them that fear Him and on those who hope upon His mercy
(Ps. 146. 11). So none will be saved by his own right hand (according to the Lord's word to Job, in which to some extent He derided his defence by some proofs of power, saying, And then I shall confess that thy right hand can save thee
(Iob 40. 9)) except him who humbly uses his capacities, which are themselves gifts, with fear and trembling in the will of God, often praying, Cast me not away from Thy face
(Ps. 50. 13), and Reject me not from Thy commandments
(Ps. 118. 10), since, as someone says, the greatness of certain men's good character has often been the cause of their damnation, those I mean who, the more distinguished they are in good qualities, have fallen from the station of humility. Therefore it is written, The more distinguished you are, come down, arise and sleep with the uncircumcised
(Ezech. 32. 19); as if the proud spirit were told in other words: since by your holiness you have lifted yourself up in pride, now come down from it and be reckoned amongst sinners, since what is done with pride counts as nothing before Me. Narrow, [you see,] is the gate
(Matt. 7. 13), and trodden by few is the highway of perfection, which avoids the vices on the left hand, and on the right the evils of vanity and pride. Therefore must we pass by the royal road to the city of the living God, through affliction of the flesh and contrition of the heart, through bodily toil and spiritual humility, through our practice, the substance of our lawwful duty, not the meed of merit, and, what is greater than these, through Christ's grace, faith, hope, and charity. Observe the many dangers; learn the cause of war, the
p.35greatness of the glory; do not ignore the enemy's strength, and freewill in between; understand that the gate is open to our foes from the north; thus Jerusalem too is open from the north, for that reason the enemy watches on that side dwelling in the north, for that reason it is written, From the north are evils kindled over all the earth
(cf. Ierem. 1. 14). If you remove the foe, you remove the battle also; if you remove the battle, you remove the crown as wellif these stand, where they are it is needful that there be goodness, watchfulness, zeal, patience, fidelity, wisdom, steadfastness, prudence, and if not; destruction must ensueand, to conclude, if you remove the freedom, you remove the worth.
See what adversities surround us, and what as it were tumultuous eddies wash us round, my dearest disciple, not to speak of those which lurk within and daily fight against us in ourselves. Thus in the midst of so great dangers to will and to run, though it be your duty, is not in your power; for human goodness is not strong enough to reach the goal it wishes between so many opposing forces, unless the mercy of God also provide the willthat the pilgrim's desires should be fulfilled and have free course, and by his avoiding the slips and stumbles and opposing chances of good fortune, that his course should be completed without stumbling. Wherefore humility of mind is the cause of merit, for without help it cannot be assisted; the proud man does not merit it; he is left alone and hardened; he is unthankful, unprayerful, irreligious. The idle servant is beaten in life, his service is despised; despaired of, he is even considered to be most worthy of disdain by men. What then are we to say to this, wretched as we are, who before we deserve release from evils beguile ourselves with goods, and before the removal of vices hope to have perfection? We desire to know all; we tire of doing all we know, hoping that words can count instead of deeds. Perhaps here below they may; for above they clearly cannot in God's sight, since there it is not he who has spoken, but he who has acted
(cf. Matt. 7. 21), that shall be saved.
Now as I write a messenger has reached me, saying that the ship is ready for me, in which I shall be borne unwilling to my country; but if I escape, there is no guard to prevent it; for they seem to desire this, that I should escape. If I am cast into the sea like Jonah, who himself is also called Columba in Hebrew, pray that someone may take the place of the whale to bring me back in safe concealment by a happy voyage, to restore your Jonah to the land he longs for.
But now my parchment letter is already forced to reach its end, though the greatness of my subject requires a more extensive treatment; love does not keep order, hence my missive is confused. I wished to say everything in short, but could not manage everything. What I wanted to write, I would not in view of the difference of your desires. Perhaps my
p.37own desire is not devoid of pandering, let God's will be done in all things; if He will, He knows my prayer. Do you examine your consciences, whether you are more pure and holy in my absence; do not seek me through love, but through necessity alone. May you not be the poorer by this event, and do not by this separation seek a freedom that would reduce you to bondage to the vices. He who loves unity is mine; he is not mine who divides; for he who does not gather with Me, says the Lord, scatters
(Luc. 11. 23). Otherwise if you see perfection farther removed from you than before, and fate has kept me away from you, and Attala is not strong enough to govern you; since your brethren are here in the neighbourhood of the Britons, unite yourselves all together in one party, whichever is the better, that you may the more readily strive against the vices and wiles of the devil; and meanwhile let him be your leader whom you all have chosen, since, if I am free to do so, by God's will I shall make provision for you. But if the situation pleases you and God builds with you there, may you increase [there with His blessing] to thousands of thousands
(Gen. 24. 60). Pray for me, my beloved children, that I may live to God.
Who could listen to a greenhorn? Who would not say at once: Who is this bumptious babbler, that dares to write such things unbidden? What apostle of scrupulous justice would not immediately break out into that old abusive speech, the retort to Moses of the Hebrew that was doing wrong to his brother: Who made thee a lord or judge over us?
(Exod. 2. 14)To such a man I answer before he speaks, that there is no impudence where there is an agreed need for the edification of the church; and if he takes exception to my person, let him consider not the character of the speaker, but the matter of my speech. For how shall a foreign Christian suppress what your neighbour Arian has long been shouting? Better [indeed] are the wounds of a friend than the treacherous kisses of a foe
(Prov. 27. 6). Others gladly cavil in private; I in my sorrow and woe shall dispute in
p.39public, but my theme shall be the evils of deadly schism, not the goods of ungodly peacemakers. So it is not for vainglory or for impudence that I, a creature of the meanest station, dare to write to such exalted men; for grief rather than pride drives me to suggest to you with the humblest indication, as befits me, that the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through your mutual contest.
Indeed I grieve, I confess, for the disgrace of St. Peter's chair; yet I know that the affair is beyond me, and that at the first blush I am, as the saying goes, thrusting my face into the fire. But what care I for saving face before mankind, when zeal for the faith must needs be shown? Before God and the angels
(1 Tim. 5. 21)I shall not be dismayed; it is praiseworthy to be dismayed for God's sake before men. If I am heard, all shall share the profit; if I am set at naught, mine shall be the reward. For I shall speak as a friend, disciple, and close follower of yours, not as a stranger; therefore I shall speak out freely, saying to those that are our masters and helmsmen of the spiritual ship and mystic sentinels, Watch, for the sea is stormy and whipped up by fatal blasts, for it is not a solitary threatening wave such as, even across a silent ocean, is raised to overweening heights from the ever-foaming eddies of a hollow rock, though it swells from afar, and drives the sails before it while Death walks the waves, but it is a tempest of the entire element, surging indeed and swollen upon every side, that threatens shipwreck of the mystic vessel; thus do I, a fearful sailor, dare to cry, Watch, for water has now entered the vessel of the Church, and the vessel is in perilous straits. For all we Irish, inhabitants of the world's edge, are disciples of Saints Peter and Paul and of all the disciples who wrote the sacred canon by the Holy Ghost, and we accept nothing outside the evangelical and apostolic teaching; none has been a heretic, none a Judaizer, none a schismatic; but the Catholic Faith, as it was delivered by you first, who are the successors of the holy apostles, is maintained unbroken. Strengthened and almost goaded by this confidence, I have dared to arouse you against those who revile you and call you the partisans of heretics and describe you as schismatics, so that my boasting
(cf. 1. Cor. 9. 15), in which I trusted when I spoke for you in answer to them, should not be in vain
(cf. 1. Cor. 9. 15), and so that they, not us, might be dismayed. For I promised on your behalf (as the disciples should so feel for their master) that the Roman Church defends no heretic against the Catholic Faith. Therefore do you accept with willing mind and dutiful ears my necessarily presumptuous interference; for whatever I say that is useful or orthodox will redound to you; for the master's praise lies in the doctrine of his disciples; thus if a son [speaks] wisely his father will rejoice
(cf. Prov. 10. 1, 15. 20); and yours will be the credit, since, as I said, it was delivered by you; for purity is due, not to the river, but the spring. But
¶41] if you find some thoughtless words of a zeal that seems excessive, either in this letter or in the other against Agrippinus, who provoked my pen, set it down to my tactlessness, not pride.
Watch therefore for the Church's peace, succour your sheep, who already tremble at what seem the terrors of the wolves, and who also fear yourselves with too much trembling as they are driven into various folds. Thus they are in doubt, partly coming, but partly going, and as they come so they return, and ever are in fear. Then use, dear Pope, the call and known voice of the true shepherd, and stand between sheep and wolves, so that, shedding their fear, they may then first fully acknowledge you as shepherd. For the people that I see, though it maintains many heretics, is zealous and quickly troubled like a trembling flock, and so is not quickly pacified, since Italy has had so many wolves, whose cubs can scarcely all be exterminated, while indeed so many have been reared at home. But may God destroy such a progeny
(cf. 1 Reg. 24. 22), and nourish His flock and fight with you; do you fulfil your pastoral duty with all vigilance, standing on your guard
(cf. Isa. 21. 8)day and night, that you may see that almond staff
(cf. Ierem. 1. 11)which afterwards you may deserve to see in the shape of a crook at the time of gathering the true fruits. Therefore, that you may not lack apostolic honour, maintain the apostolic Faith, establish it by testimony, strengthen it by writing, defend it by a synod, that none may lawfully resist you. Do not despise a foreigner's word of counsel, as being the teacher of him who is zealous for your sake. The world is already in its latter days; the chief of shepherds hastens; beware lest He find you heedless and striking your fellow servants [with the blows of a bad example] and eating and drinking with the drunken
(Matt. 24. 49), lest carelessness receive the consequent reward; for he who disregards shall be disregarded
(1 Cor. 14. 38). It is not enough for you, who have undertaken responsibility for many, to be careful for yourself; for to whom more is entrusted, from him will more be demanded
(cf. Luc. 12. 48).
Watch therefore, I beg you, Pope, watch, and again I say, watch; since perhaps Vigilius was not very vigilant, whom our friends, who lay blame on you, describe as the main stumbling-block. Watch first for the Faith, then for bidding works of faith and for spurning vices, since your watchfulness will be the salvation of many, just as on the other side your carelessness will be the destruction of many. May Isaiah send you to the mountain, who publish good tidings to Zion
(cf. Isa. 40. 9), rather may God through Isaiah place you on the watch-tower of true contemplation, according to the meaning of your name, and there, as it were placed above all mortals and made near to the heavenlies, may you lift up your
p.43voice like a trumpet and proclaim their sins to the people [of your Lord, committed to you by Him], and to the house of Jacob their iniquities
(sqq. Isa. 58. 1). Do not fear to be blamed for falsehood; for you have a message that you ought to proclaim; for many (which is too serious a matter) are cast down in these parts through the carelessness of their shepherds, and many are beguiled by the prosperity of a most unhappy wealth. Then, since according to the Lord's warnings the blood of so many will be sought for at the hands of their shepherds, careful watch must be kept, that is, the word of the Lord must be often preached, and preached by the shepherds, by the Church's bishops and teachers, that none may perish through ignorance; for if he perishes through lack of heed, his blood will lie on his own head.
But my reason for too scathing a recitation of these matters, long known to all, I shall subjoin in the sequel. For these also have a bearing on the declared outlines of my first proposal, since both are linked together; for on these the rest depend; and thus your troubles must first be eliminated; for none is concerned with the mistake who is not concerned with our religion; for here the entire controversy centres, here the whole case takes its stand; here must the nerves be cut back to the bone by that twice-sharpened sword, which reaches even to the separation of flesh and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and which is a discerner of the heart and of its thoughts
(Apoc. 1. 16 et Heb. 4. 12). Hence is our speech seasoned with [divine] salt
(Coloss. 4. 6), since with salt every sacrifice is commanded to be sprinkled; hence as they fall may the sparks from that divine fire
(Luc. 12. 49), which the Lord came to cast upon the earth
(Luc. 12. 49), consume wood, straw, stubble
(1 Cor. 3. 12), which many wrongly build upon this [marvellous] foundation
(1 Cor. 3. 12), on which all we Christians are built, over which none can set anything apart from what is set, which is Jesus Christ
(1 Cor. 3. 11). Oh, what fuel for hell-fire is everywhere made ready from these unhappy buildings, on the burning of which that sparkling word of the Lord, describing the vastness of that ever-living fire, fell with the saying, Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be hardened in wine-bibbing and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you unawares; for as a snare shall it come on all who dwell over the face of the entire earth
(Luc. 21. 34-35).
You see the terror by which the Lord awakens our sleep and deadly sloth to watchfulness, lest we be found unready. Therefore I said: Watch, dear Pope, it is time to arise from sleep, [the Lord] approaches
(Rom. 13. 11-12), and already we stand almost at the end in the midst of perilous times. See, the nations are troubled, the kingdoms are moved
(Ps. 45. 6); therefore soon shall the Most High utter His voice, and the earth shall be shaken
(Ps. 45. 6). I, like a trembler, while I am no brave soldier, since I see that our enemies' army has surrounded us, try to awaken you as the chief of our leaders with cries that I admit to be importunate; for it is you that are concerned with the danger of the Lord's whole army in these regions, sleeping
p.45rather than fighting on the field, and partly (which gives even more cause for tears) surrendering rather than opposing the foe. You are awaited by the whole, you have the power of ordering all things, of declaring war, arousing the generals, bidding arms to be taken up, forming the battle-array, sounding the trumpets on every side, and finally of entering the conflict with your own person in the van; since for long, alas, as is obvious in this district, even we Christians are conquered in this spiritual warfare, first by our carnal vices and proud way of life, and then by the weakness of our wavering faith, whose feebleness is the reason for our being surrounded unawares by our enemies in triple ranks, who have been given us to punish our luxurious ease. For prosperity's blind ease is the cause of all the evils.
I am surprised, I must confess, at such ease, and at the source of this mortal sloth which has almost overwhelmed us all; I know not the hearts, ears, senses, that the Lord's own fiery words have failed to arouse into the watchfulness of an ever-burning zeal, into scorn for the world, into the poverty of Christ, even as thus they have trained many races. For I, coming from the world's end, where I have seen spiritual leaders fighting the Lord's battles, and formerly hoping to behold stronger and more skilful leaders of this holy warfare, and finding the position just as if I were some beholder of the corpses on the battlefield, bedewed and spattered after the fight, I am astounded and in grief and fear I look to you only, who are the sole hope
(cf. Sedul. Carm. Pasch. i. 60)among the chiefs in your power that flows from the honour of St. Peter the Apostle, as I bewail the slaughter of so great an army. But since my mind's frail bark
(cf. Cassian. Conl. i, Praef.)is not so much drawn into the deep
(Luc. 5. 4), according to the Lord's word, but rather would stick fast in one spot (for paper cannot contain all that my thoughts for various reasons would enclose in the confines of a letter) I am next asked by the king to mention to your godly ears item by item the matter of his grief; for the division of his people is grief to him, for the sake of the queen, of their son, and perhaps for his own sake also; for he is said to have remarked, that if he knew for certain, he also would believe.
Let us return to the book, which we left on one side. Then, lest the old Enemy bind men with this very lengthy cord of error, let the cause of division, I beg, be cut off by you immediately, so to say with St. Peter's knife, that is, with a true and synodical confession of faith and with an abhorrence and utter condemnation of all heretics, so that you may cleanse the chair of Peter from every error, if any, as they say, has been introduced, and if not, so that its purity may be recognized by all. For
p.47it is a matter for grief and lamentation, if the Catholic Faith is not maintained in the Apostolic See. But, to speak my entire mind, lest I should seem to flatter even you beyond your due, it is also a matter for grief that you in zeal for the faith, as has long been your duty, have not first condemned outright or excommunicated the party withdrawing from you, after first demonstrating the purity of your own faith, seeing that you are the man who has the lawful power; and for this reason they even dare to defame the chief See of the orthodox faith. For you know how bitter were the remarks with which the fathers at the holy synod of Nicaea condemned the accusers of the innocent. But while I say this, not forgetting that in a vociferous, shrill, and uproarious crowd there are many reasons which prevent a clear and complete investigation of these matters, it is not because I believe them, but because action is now imperative, that I have spoken. If there are any rebels against truth among your fellow Italians, let your censure include these alone; for a mouth that is filled with flour or another substance cannot blow up the fire; for everything is harmed by the proximity of its opposite; therefore I beg you for Christ's sake, rescue your good name which is being torn to shreds among the Gentiles, lest rivals attribute it to your treachery if you longer hold your peace. Then do not longer hide your mind, do not hold your peace; but rather sound the note of the true shepherd, which his sheep know, who hear not the voice of others but flee from such
(Ioann. 10. 4-5).
I summon you, my fathers and my own patrons, to dispel confusion from before the face of your sons and disciples, who are confounded for your sakes, and (what is more than this) to remove the cloud of suspicion from St. Peter's chair. So call a conference, that you may clear the charges laid against you; for it is no mere racing game with which you are charged. For, as I hear, you are alleged to favour hereticsGod forbid men should believe that this has been, is, or shall be true. For they say that Eutyches, Nestorius, and Dioscorus, old heretics as we know, were favoured at some Council, at the fifth, by Vigilius. Here, as they say, is the cause of the whole calumny; if, as is reported, you also favour thus, or if you know that even Vigilius himself died under such a taint, why do you repeat his name against your conscience? For everything which is not of faith is sin
(Rom. 14. 23). Already it is your fault if you have erred from the true belief and made your first faith void
(1 Tim. 5. 12); justly do your subordinates oppose you, and justly do they hold no communion with you, until the remembrance of the damned is blotted out and consigned to oblivion. For if these things are rather true than fabled, with changed roles your sons are turned into the head
(cf. Deut. 28. 44), while you become the tail
(cf. Deut. 28. 44), which is a grief even to suggest; thus too shall they be your judges
(Luc. 11. 19), who have always kept the orthodox faith, whoever these may have been, even
p.49if they seem to be your subordinates; but they themselves are the orthodox and true catholics, since they have never favoured or supported any heretics or suspect persons, hut have remained in eager love of the true faith. Therefore if your party are not also of such a character, with the result that their greater guilt deprives their seniority of the right to judge, then let them eagerly in their turn seek pardon for such long disharmony and let neither party defend any contrary to reason, neither heretics on your side nor suspect persons on theirs, but inasmuch as both are guilty do you the more speedily agree.
But you must pardon me as I handle such rough passages, if any of my words have caused outward offence to godly ears, since the inner nature of the sequence of events allows me to omit nothing from my inquiry, and the freedom of my country's customs, to put it so, has been part-cause of my audacity. For amongst us it is not a man's station but his principles that matter; yet love for the peace of the gospel compels me to say all, to shame you both, who ought to have been one choir, and this motive is joined by the greatness of my concern for your harmony and peace; for if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it
(1 Cor. 12. 26). For we, as I have said before, are bound to St. Peter's chair; for though Rome be great and famous, among us it is only on that chair that her greatness and her fame depend. For although the name of the city which is Italy's glory, like something most holy and far removed from heaven's common climes, a city once founded to the great joy of almost all nations, has been published far and wide through the whole world, even as far as the Western regions of earth's farther strand, miraculously unhindered by ocean's surging floods, though they leaped and rose beyond measure upon every side, yet from that time when the Son of God deigned to be Man, and on those two most fiery steeds of God's Spirit, I mean the apostles Peter and Paul, whose dear relics
(cf. Verg. Ecl. viii. 92)have made you blessed, riding over the sea of nations troubled many waters
(cf. Horat. Carm. iv. 4. 43, Ovid. Met. iii. 475)and increased His chariots with countless thousands of peoples, the Most Highest Pilot of that carriage Who is Christ, the true Father, the Charioteer of Israel, over the channels' surge, over the dolphins' backs, over the swelling flood, reached even unto us. From that time are you great and famous, and Rome herself is nobler and more famed; and if it may be said, for the sake of Christ's twin apostles (I speak of those called by the Holy Spirit heavens declaring the glory of God
(Ps. 18. 2), to whom is applied the text, Their voice is gone out into every land and their words to the ends of the earth
(Ps. 18. 4)) you are made near to the heavenlies
(cf. Origen. (transl. Rufin.) Homil. in Gen. i. 13), and Rome is the head of the Churches of the world, saving the special privilege of the place of the Lord's Resurrection. And thus, even as your honour is great in proportion to the dignity of your see, so great care is
p.51needful for you, lest you lose your dignity through some mistake. For power will be in your hands just so long as your principles remain sound; for he is the appointed key-bearer of the Kingdom of Heaven, who opens by true knowledge to the worthy and shuts to the unworthy; otherwise if he does the opposite, he shall be able neither to open nor to shut.
Therefore, since these things are true and are accepted without any gainsaying by all who think truly, though it is known to all and there is none ignorant of how Our Saviour bestowed the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven upon St. Peter, and you perhaps on this account claim for yourself before all others some proud measure of greater authority and power in things divine; you ought to know that your power will be the less in the Lord's eyes, if you even think this in your heart, since the unity of faith has produced in the whole world a unity of power and privilege, in such wise that by all men everywhere freedom should be given to the truth, and the approach of error should be denied by all alike, since it was his right confession that privileged even the holy bearer of the keys, the common teacher of us all; it should be lawful even for your subordinates to entreat you for their zeal in the faith, for their love of peace, and for the unity of the Church our common mother, who is indeed torn asunder like Rebekah in her maternal womb, and grieves for the strife and civil warfare of her sons, and in sorrow bewails the discord of her dearest. There is more need in this for tears than words, how the enemy of the Christian name has increased after the living words of the Son of God, after the fulness of the gospels, after the apostolic teaching, after the recent writing of orthodox authorities, who from the Old and New Testament have expounded in varied speech the mysteries of faith. To divide the Body of Christ and separate His members and part the vesture, which means unity
(cf. Cypr. De Unit. Eccl. 7, Aug. Tract. in Ioann 13. 13), of the very Son of God, the Saviour of the worldyours, Satan, is this craft, but may Christ our peace, Who has made both one,
(Eph. 2. 14)defeat you.
Then quickly, my dearest friends, agree and meet together and refuse to argue over ancient quarrels, but rather hold your peace and commit them to eternal silence and forgetting; and if any things are doubtful, reserve them for God's judgement; but the things that are clear, on which men can make decision, decide these justly without favouritism
(1 Pet. 1. 17), and let there be peaceful judgement in your gates
(Zach. 8. 16), and pardon one another, that there may be joy in heaven
(Luc. 15. 7)and on earth for your peace and concord. Why should you uphold anything other than the catholic faith if you are true Christians on both sides? For I cannot understand for what reason a Christian can strive about the faith with a Christian; but whatever has been said by the orthodox Christian, who rightly glorifies the Lord, the other will reply Amen, because he also loves and believes alike. Thus do you all say and mean one thing
(sq. cf. 1 Cor. 1. 10), that
p.53you may both be one
(sq. cf. Ioann 17. 11), all Christians. For if, as I have heard, some do not accept two natures in Christ, they are to be accepted as heretics rather than as Christians; for Christ Our Saviour is true God eternal without time, and true man without sin in time, Who in His divinity is co-eternal with the Father and in His humanity is younger than His mother, Who born in the flesh never left heaven, remaining in the Trinity
(cf. Antiphon. Benchor. fol. 5 v)lived in the world; and thus, if it was written at the Fifth Council, as someone has told me, that a man who adores two natures has his prayer divided, the writer is divided from the saints and separate from God
(Constant. II, anathema 9). For we, in respect of the unity of the Person, in Whom it pleased the fulness of deity to reside bodily
(Coloss. 2. 9), believe one Christ, His divinity and humanity, since He Who descended is Himself He Who ascended above every heaven that He might fill all things
(Eph. 4. 10). If any think otherwise about the Lord's Incarnation, he is a foe to the faith, and fit for scorn and anathema from all Christians, of whatever order, position, or rank he may have been; for none should honour a man in despite of God; thus I beseech you for Christ's sake, spare none who has tried to separate you from Christ; but rather resist him to the face
(cf. Gal. 2. 11), if any, refusing to believe rightly, has wished to recall you from the Catholic faith.
I beg you to pardon me, too hurtful and rough a speaker; on such a matter I could not write otherwise. For while in all things I have wanted to agree with truth, not without knowing that I must eat unleavened bread with bitterness, I have served only God, Who is blessed for ever. I have shown my brotherly feelings and the eagerness of my faith, when I preferred to give an opportunity to detractors, rather than in such a cause not to open my mouth, however impolite. Thus, although the triple-tongued
(cf. Hieron. Adv. Vigilant. 8)scorpion with bent blow rise up in those of whom it is written, They bent their tongue like a bow of falsehood
(Ierem. 9. 3), who judge everything however threadbare to be new, obviously making themselves out to be rich in overweening measure, and who, licking their lips like beasts(?), always oppose the deceits of a jealous recalcitrance to whatever writings they deem inelegant; but yet when a gentile King of the Lombards asks a dull Scots pilgrim to write, when the tide of the old flood is turning back, who will not wonder rather than revile? Yet I shall not tremble, nor in God's cause shall I fear the tongues of men, who lie more often then they speak the truth, while we must rather overcome modesty than submit to cowardice, when need compels.
Therefore, to return to the point from which I digressed, I ask you, since many are doubtful about your faith's integrity, that you will
p.55quickly remove this wart from the good name of the Holy See; for this report of constant caprice does not suit the weighty purpose of the Roman Church, so that any power could move it from the firmness of your faith, for which so many of its martyrs have shed their blood, preferring to die than be confounded. For surely, if in our times has come the last persecution of that hateful sea-monster, whose hide all the ships could scarcely carry, shall we not resist unto blood, striving against sin
(Heb. 12. 4), as our fathers did, I mean the apostles and so many martyrs? If persecution was severe at the beginning of the faith, how much more shall it be at the end, of which the Lord says: Think you that at His coming the Son of Man shall find faith on the earth?
(Luc. 18. 8)and again: Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved
(Matt. 24. 22). Happy is he, whom death removes before he weakens and denies. Yet He says that there will be elect souls there, of whom doubtless He made to His disciples the prophecy: Lo I am with you always, even to the end of time
(Matt. 28. 20). Thus, when the future elect, in those days more perilous even than the rest before and utterly unlike the past, shall by the Lord's strength bear greater trials, why will not we by the Lord's help bear lesser ones in these still safer and more settled times, even for the sake of our faith by which we are distinguished from Gentiles, Jews, and heretics?
But while I urge such considerations, like a man sluggish in action and speaking rather than doing (I am called Jonah in Hebrew, Peristera in Greek, Columba in Latin, yet so much is my birth-right in the idiom of your language, though I use the ancient Hebrew name of Jonah, whose shipwreck I have also almost undergone) I beg you, as I have often asked, to pardon me, since necessity rather than vainglory compels me to write, while a certain character in his letters, with which he greeted me almost on my arrival at the frontiers of this province, pointed you out to me as an object of suspicion, as if you were slipping into the sect of Nestorius. To this man in my astonishment I replied briefly, as I was able, not believing his charge; but lest I should in any way be an opponent of the truth, considering his letter and my own good opinion of you (for I believe that there is always a strong pillar of the Church at Rome) I have changed the tenor of my answer, and sent it you to read and controvert, if in any part it has attacked the truth; for I dare not claim to be amongst the faultless.
But on top of this occasion for writing, there is added the bidding of King Agilulf, whose request reduced me to amazement and manifold anxiety; since indeed I think that what I observe cannot be devoid of the miraculous. For the rulers in this province have long trampled on the Catholic faith and consolidated this lapse into Arianism; now they ask that our faith should be confirmed. Perhaps Christ now looks on us with
p.57favour, for it is by His approval that all good is born. We are terribly contemptible, if on our side the offence grows worse. Thus the king asks, the queen asks, all ask you that as soon as may be, all should be made one, that as peace comes to the country, peace should come quickly to the Faith, that everyone may in turn become one flock of Christ. Let the king follow the King, do you follow Peter, and let the whole Church follow you. What is sweeter than peace after the wars? What more pleasant than the concord of brothers long divided? How readily does a father return after many years? How sweet is the news of his arrival to the long-awaiting mother? Thus to God the Father shall His sons' peace be joy world without end, and the rejoicing of Mother Church shall be the revels of eternity. For the rest, Holy Father and brethren, pray for me, a most wretched sinner, and for my fellow-pilgrims beside the holy places and the ashes of the Saints, and especially beside Peter and Paul, men equally great captains of the great King, and also most brave warriors on a favoured field, following by their death the Crucified Lord, that we may be counted worthy to abide in Christ, to please Him and give thanks, and to praise Him unceasingly with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in your company and in the communion of all saints, here and eternally world without end. Amen.
Though I have already spoken for a long time about character and moral training, again, my son that needs instruction, you ask to be taught. You have heard what is written: the man to whom little is not enough will not benefit from more
(cf. Sulp. Sev. Dial. i 18). I wrote to you before on the subject of seriousness and modesty, and indeed, as someone says, I fear the effect on you even of what is safe
(Verg. Aen. iv. 298); but since a warning may turn into guidance for some, comfort for others, and fulfilment for others again, for those, that is, who carry out what they understand, for that reason my dearest sons must be often taught and instructed, so that by some of the delights of literature they may be able to conquer their own griefs arising out of inner conflict.
Then conquer the battle and the brutal, I mean the lusts and the taint of pride. Be helpful in humbleness and most lowly in authority, simple in faith, trained in character, exacting in your own affairs, unconcerned in those of others, pure in friendship, shrewd in cunning, hard in times of ease, easy in times of hardness, versatile in even circumstances, even in versatile ones, joyful in sorrow, sorrowful in joy, a dissenter where necessary, agreeing about truth, serious in pleasures, kindly in griefs, strong in trials, weak in quarrellings; slow to
(sqq. Iacob. 1. 19), swift to learn, slow also to speak
(sqq. Iacob. 1. 19), as St. James says, equally swift to hear
(sqq. Iacob. 1. 19); efficient in your progress, tardy in your revenge, careful in word, ready in work; friendly to the upright, rough to the dishonourable, gentle to the weak, firm to the stubborn, correct to the proud, humble to the low; ever sober, ever chaste, ever modest, patient to the point of enthusiasm, never covetous, ever generous, if not in money, then in spirit; timely in fasting, timely in watching, discreet in duty, purposeful in study, unmoved in turmoil, glad in suffering, valiant in the cause of truth, timorous in time of strife; submissive to the good, unconquerable by evil, agreeable in almsgiving, unwearied in love, just in all things; respectful to the worthy, merciful to the poor; mindful of benefits, unmindful of wrongs; a lover of moderate men, undesirous of riches, a leveller of high spirits, ready to confess your thoughts; obedient to your seniors, setting the pace for your juniors, equalling your equals, striving together with the perfect, not envying your betters, not grieving at those who outstrip you, not censorious of those who linger, ready to agree with those who call you on; though weary, yet unfailing; at once weeping and rejoicing for zeal and hope; ever fearing for the end, though making a sure advance.
Let this be your model, beloved boy and dear secretary; if you be such, you shall be most blessed; for you will be the same through good times and through bad
(cf. Senec. Epist. 66. 6), ready for all things, coping with each, restraining your conduct, nourishing qualities that should grow, destroying those that should wither, smoothing the rough places, rough-hewing the defective ones; ever concerned, ever growing, ever making increase; ever aiming at the lofty, ever running to the mark; ever longing for heavenly things, ever thirsting for the things divine. There is my teaching; do you provide the disposition to follow, if you can, that you may enjoy happiness and strength, when by fleeing youthful lusts you have thus brought the body under the power of the spirit, and have made yourself surety for your sins, serving a brief period for the wages of eternity. Happy, blessed, admirable boy, if you fulfil all this. For if you are busily occupied with mind and hand in all of these things, you will have no leisure for vain, wandering, or wicked thoughts; but, as though ever at a new beginning, you will gather for yourself those fruits which you shall enjoy for ever, and you will deserve the name of a single-minded man, a seeker after the one reward, an outstanding merchant of the eternal kingdom. Then turn yourself entirely to these things, since you have opportunities on which to exercise your youth, virtue, competence and strength, lest these good qualities which seize the Kingdom of Heaven
(cf. Matt. 11. 12)by force should perish, if they are put to the opposite use.