27 November 2009

The Shipwreck, or Salvation May Not Be What You Think

Like many converts to Orthodoxy, I have family who are firmly Protestant and, moreover, make use of opportunities of family gatherings to challenge me (or, as they would put it, save my soul from the cult I've joined). As a catechumen, and the first year or so after reception into the Church, I--somewhat shamefully--took great delight in these arguments and heated discussions over the festive dinner table. This was wrong, I regret it deeply, and, unfortunately, it has set a now hostile tone for whenever certain members of my family are present.

However, at yesterday's American Thanksgiving celebration (held this year at the home of my parents, and prepared almost exclusively my yours truly and my mother, the handmaiden of God, Ita), I found myself once again set upon by those who think that I have damned my soul by joining the Orthodox Church. It is, after all, too "Catholic" (because of the liturgical worship, priests, going to Confession); it is also, simultaneously, too "pagan" (because we pray to the Saints, who are leftover pagan gods, and worship Mary as a mother-goddess). Sigh. Now, interspersed among the fundagelicals and pentecostals in the family, there are also a few mainline protestants (primarily of the Methodist stripe), who are about as broadly and ecumenically minded as it comes. We have different issues than I have with the other family members, but, God bless my Methodist grandmother, she sought to deliver me from the post-dressing harangue by saying "As long as he believes in Jesus and is saved, that's good enough for me, and should be good enough for anyone who calls themselves a Christian."

Of course, this prompted one of my mother's first cousins to ask me if I was "saved."

I should have just said "Yes." Lord help me, I should have and ended it right there. But, instead, I have an honest answer with "Not yet, but I'm working on it."

Instead of giving you the blow by blow account of what I said (for, unlike Plato, I am no good at writing dialogues), I shall simply summarize my thoughts on the matter in straight prose, with, I hope, fewer words and less digressions from the main topic:

In thinking about salvation, let us leave aside proof texts for a bit. As Abelard pointed out, the Bible is just a text, from which one can get a yes and a no answer for almost any question. That is to say, it is a text that is not meant to be used as a systematic treatise; one gains one's understanding of the instructional material therein (especially St. Paul's Epistles, from which any argument on salvation would draw) through the eyes of interpretation, whatever interpretive framework to which one may subscribe. Since this would not be fruitful, let us begin another method of understanding...one that looks at the point of such stories as we may find, and try to tease out the symbolic meaning therein. That is, after all, the primary method through which the Lord taught those who did not understand Him.

On the topic of "salvation" one story, in particular, stands out to me from the New Testament. In The Acts of the Apostles, the twenty-seventh chapter, St. Paul is on a ship on the way to Rome to be judged. The ship encounters a terrifying storm, but St. Paul assures all aboard that, while he was praying, an angel appeared to him and assured him that all the people on the ship would be saved.

As you may recall, after he made this declaration, the ship continued being battered by the winds and tossed by the waves for some fourteen days. Most of the cargo had been tossed overboard, trying to keep the ship afloat, and the scriptures tell us that the men on board had not eaten for many days. St. Paul instructed them to eat (for which he gave thanks to God--perhaps even performed the Eucharistic service?), after which, the rest of the food on board was thrown into the sea. After this most desperate action, the sighted land; attempting to anchor the ship in a bay, the ship ran aground and was wrecked. The centurion in charge commanded everyone to jump overboard and to swim to shore. And all aboard were, indeed, saved.

But note here that God did not calm the seas, as He had for His disciples upon the Sea of Galilee; nor did He even provide them a safe harbor in which to anchor their ship. Instead, the ship was wrecked, and the people swam to land. One could even say, they saved themselves with their efforts. Does this mean that St. Paul lied? Surely the same angel that God sent to tell him they would be saved could have saved them in a more direct fashion? Was it mere human agency and determination that got those men to the shore?

Perhaps it was. But it was also God who did what He said--no one who was on the ship was drowned or lost at sea. Human agency and Divine agency cooperated together to accomplish the Divine will. There is no contradiction here. These men could not have been saved from the sea if God had not willed it; nor could they have been saved from the sea if they had refused to swim.

This is the context, then, in which I answer questions about my salvation. I have been ordered to jump overboard and swim. I am swimming--somewhat fitfully and taking on a lot of water from time to time, but that is the nature of the contest. If I were to give up, and let myself sink, I would not be saved. But, having faith means believing that God will give me the strength to continue to swim, if I continue to swim. This is what St. Paul meant when he said to the Church at Philippi "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13).

It is God's good pleasure for us to be saved, and it is for us to work toward that salvation, through the power of God at work in us (that would be, the Holy Spirit, through communion with the Church). So no, I am not "saved." It would be presumptuous in the extreme for me to say so. But I am working toward salvation--badly, falling constantly, failing to keep even the simplest of the Lord's commandments--but refusing to give up or give in, because to stop would bring the only certainty a man can have, which is being given up over to sin and death.

14 November 2009

My (and the Blog's) Patronal Feast!

from The Synaxarion:

Saint Justinian, a major figure in the history of the Byzantine state, was also a great champion of Orthodoxy, a builder of churches and a Church writer, and he was of Slavic descent -- born in Bulgaria. During his reign (527-565) Byzantium won glory with military victories in Persia, Africa, Italy, -- as a result of which paganism was decisively rooted amongst the Germanic Vandal and West-Goth tribes. By command of the emperor Justinian the pagan schools in Athens were closed. With the aim of spreading Christianity through the regions of Asia Minor, Justinian sent there the bishop of Ephesus John, who baptised more than 70 thousand pagans. The emperor gave orders to build 90 churches for the newly-converted, and he generously supported church construction within the empire. His finest structures of the time are considered to be the monastery at Sinai, and the church of Saint Sophia at Constantinople. Under Saint Justinian many a church was built in the name of our Most Holy Lady Mother of God. Being a man of quite diverse an education, Saint Justinian assiduously concerned himself over the education of clergy and monks, ordering them to be instructed in rhetoric, in philosophy and in theology.

The right-believing sovereign devoted much attention and effort into the struggle with the Origenists of his time, who then were reviving the Nestorian heresy. Against their heretical speculations was composed the Church-hymn "Only-Begotten Son and Immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation...", and he commanded its singing as obligatory in the churches. From that time through the present day this hymn is sung in the Divine Liturgy before the Small Entrance [i.e. 2nd Antiphon]. At the command of the sovereign, in the year 553 was convened the Fifth Ecumenical Council, censuring the teachings of Origen and affirming the definitions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. The holy Emperor Justinian about orderly rule and law within the realm. Under his guidance and supervision was compiled a complete compendium of Roman laws, which has come down to us as a codex of law known as "the Justinian Codex". The "Novellae" (i.e. "Church-laws") of Justinian find inclusion in all the variants of the Russian Church-law Nomo-Kanon Books.

In his personal life, Saint Justinian was strictly pious, and he zealously fasted quite often. The holy Emperor Justinian died in the year 565.

13 November 2009

The Feast of St. John Chrysostom

Troparion of St John Chrysostom (Tone 8)

Grace shining forth from thy lips like a beacon hast enlightened the universe,

thou hast revealed to the world the riches of poverty and shown to us the height of humility.

Teaching us by thy words, O Father John Chrysostom,
before the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.

Kontakion of St John Chrysostom (Tone 2)

From the heavens hast thou received divine grace,

and by thy lips thou dost teach all men to worship the one God in Trinity.
O John Chrysostom, all-blessed and righteous one,
rightly do we acclaim thee;

for thou art our teacher, revealing things divine.

Today's Lectionary Readings:

1 Thessalonians 2:14-19

14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things from your own countrymen, even as they [have] from the Jews: 15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. 17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. 18 Wherefore we would have come to you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. 19 For what [is] our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? [Are] not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

Luke 13:31-35

31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying to him, Go out, and depart hence; for Herod will kill thee. 32 And he said to them, Go ye and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third [day] I shall be perfected. 33 Nevertheless, I must walk to-day and to-morrow, and the [day] following: for it cannot be that a prophet should perish out of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee; how often would I have gathered thy children, as a hen [gathereth] her brood under [her] wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left to you desolate. And verily I say to you, ye shall not see me, until [the time shall] come when ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

One of the Prayers in Preparation for Holy Communion, by St. John Chrysostom:

O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficient that thou shouldest enter under my roof into the habitation of my soul, for it is all deserted and in ruins, and thou hast not a fitting place in me to lay thy head. But as from the heights of thy glory thou didst humble thyself, so now bear me in my humility; as thou didst deign to lie in a manger in a cave, so deign now also to come into the manger of my mute soul and corrupt body. As thou didst not refrain from entering into the house of Simon the leper, or shrink from eating there with sinners, so also vouchsafe to enter the house of my poor soul, all leprous and full of sin. Thou didst not reject the sinful woman who ventured to draw near to touch thee, so also have pity on me, a sinner, approaching to touch thee. And grant that I may partake of thine All-holy Body and Precious Blood for the sanctification, enlightenment and strengthening of my weak soul and body; for the relief from the burden of my many sins; for my preservation against all the snares of the devil; for victory over all my sinful and evil habits; for the mortification of my passions; for obedience to thy Commandments; for growth in thy divine Grace and for the inheritance of thy Kingdom. For it is not with careless heart that I approach thee, O Christ my God, but I come trusting in thine infinite goodness, and fearing lest I may be drawn afar from thee and become the prey of the wolf of souls. Wherefore I pray thee, O Master, who alone art holy, that thou wouldest sanctify my soul and body, my mind and heart and reins, and renew me entirely. Implant in my members the fear of thee, be thou my helper and guide, directing my life in the paths of peace, and make me worthy to stand at thy right hand with thy Saints; through the prayers and intercessions of thine immaculate Mother, of thy Bodiless Servitors, of the immaculate Powers, and of all the Saints who from all ages have been well-pleasing unto thee. Amen.

11 November 2009

St. Justin Popovitch: The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church

From "Orthodox Tradition," Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9, translated from the Serbian by the Reverend Gregory Telepneff

Without doubt, matter is represented in the human body in a manner which is most puzzling, most mysterious, and most complex. The brain: What wondrous mysteries pass between its physical and spiritual parts! How vast is the experience of the human race. In no manner can one ever fully comprehend or grasp these mysteries. Indeed, little of this is accessible to the human senses or intellectual investigation. So it is also with the heart of man, formed as it is entirely and solely from cosmic mysteries. So formed, too, are every cell, every molecule, every atom. Everyone and all are set on their mystical path toward God, toward the God-Man.

Inasmuch as it was created by God, the Logos, matter possesses this same theocentricity. Moreover, by His advent into our earthly world, by His all-embracing condescension as God and Man for the redemption of the world, the Lord Christ clearly demonstrated that not only the soul, but matter also was created by God and for God, and that He is God and Man; and for it, matter, He is all and everything in the same manner as for the soul. Being created by God, the Logos, matter is, in its innermost core, God-longing and Christ-longing.

The most obvious proof of this is the fact that God the Word has become Incarnate, has become man (St. John 1:14). By His Incarnation, matter has been magnified with Divine glory and has entered into the grace- and virtue-bestowing, ascetic aim of deification, or union with Christ. God has become flesh, has become human, so that the entire man, the entire body, might be filled with God and with His miracle-working forces and powers. In the God-Man, the Lord Christ, and His Body, all matter has been set on a path toward Christ —the path of deification, transfiguration, sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim. And all of this takes place and will continue to take place through the Divine and human Body of the Church, which is truly the God-Man Christ in the total fullness of His Divine and Human Person, the fullness "that fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). Through its Divine and human existence in the Church, the human body, as matter, as substance, is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and in this way participates in the life of the Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendent, divine meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man.

The holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace- and virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man. In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body. The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified. Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body. Our pious veneration of the Saints' relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint. Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace- and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues. It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God's grace. When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety. By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father. Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.

The pious veneration of holy relics, based on their miraculous nature, originated from Divine Revelation. Even in the Old Testament God deigned to celebrate with miracles the holy relics of certain of those who were well-pleasing to Him. Thus, by the touch of the holy relics of the Prophet Elisea, a dead man was resurrected. The tomb and bones of this Prophet, who had prophesied to Jeroboam the destruction of idolatrous altars, were greatly revered in Judea. The Patriarch Joseph also left a testament to the sons of Israel to preserve his bones in Egypt and, during their exodus, to carry them to the promised land (Genesis 50:25).

The New Testament raised the human body to the sublime and divine heights, endowing it with a glory which the Cherubim and Seraphim do not possess. The Good News of the New Testament concerning the body—the significance and goal of the human body—is that, together with the soul, it achieves and inherits immortal life in Divine eternity. The Lord Christ has come to deify, to make Christ-like, the entire man, that is, the soul and body, and this by the resurrection, insuring thereby victory over death and eternal life. No one ever elevated the human body as did the Lord Christ by His bodily resurrection, the ascension of His body into heaven, and its eternal session at the right hand of God the Father. In this way, the Resurrected Christ extended the promise of resurrection to the nature of the human body—"having made for all flesh a path to eternal life." Thus man now knows that the body is created for eternity through union with the God-Man and that his divine work on earth is to struggle, with the soul, for eternal life; to struggle, with all those means that convey grace and virtue, to make himself grace-filled, fulfilled by Divine grace, and created anew as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Living God.

Bearing in mind that this New Testamental notion of the human body has been achieved and realized in the persons of the Saints, Christians show a pious veneration for the bodies of the Saints, towards holy relics, the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who by God's grace abides within them. But Holy Revelation indicates that by God's immeasurable love for man, the Holy Spirit abides through His grace not only in the bodies of the Saints, but also in their clothing. So it is that the handkerchiefs of the holy apostle Paul healed the ill and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 19:12). With his mantle the Prophet Elias struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan, and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisea (IV Kings 2:8). The prophet Elisea did the very same thing, himself, with the same mantle, after the taking-up of Elias into heaven (IV Kings 2:14). All this has its verification and source in the Divine power that rested in the garments of the Savior, which encompassed His most pure and Divine body. Moreover, by His inexpressible love for man, the Divine Lord allows the servants of His Divinity to work miracles not only through their bodies and clothing, but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with the holy apostle Peter: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16).

The eternal good news of Holy Revelation about sacred relics and their pious veneration is proved, and is continually being proved, by Holy Tradition from Apostolic times to the present day. Innumerable are the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God throughout the Orthodox world. Their miracles are innumerable. The pious veneration of these relics by Orthodox Christians is everywhere to be found. And without doubt this is because the holy relics, through their miracles, incite the Orthodox toward their pious veneration. From the very beginning, in Apostolic times, Christians piously preserved the honored relics of the Holy Forerunner and the holy Apostles, so that these could be preserved even for us. As well, during the times of persecution the sacred remains of the bodies of the holy Martyrs were taken away by Christians and hidden in their homes. From that time until now, the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God have, by their miracles, poured forth the immortal joy of our faith into the hearts of Orthodox Christians. The proofs concerning this are countless. We shall cite only several.

The way that the holy relics of the Saints were translated and greeted is in a touching manner described by St. Chrysostomos in a eulogy on St. Ignatios: "You, inhabitants of Antioch, have sent forth a bishop and received a martyr; you sent him forth with prayers, and received him back with crowns; and not only you, but all the cities which lay between. For how do you think that they behaved when they saw his remains being brought back? What pleasure was produced! How they rejoiced! With what laudations on all sides did they beset the crowned one! For as with a noble athlete, who has wrestled down all his antagonists, and who comes forth with radiant glory from the arena, the spectators receive him, and do not suffer him to tread the earth, bringing him home on their shoulders and according him countless praises. So also every city in turn received this Saint from Rome, and bearing him upon their shoulders as far as this city, escorted the crowned one with praises, hymning the champion.... At this time the holy Martyr bestows grace to the very same cities, establishing them in piety, and from that time to this day he enriches this city."

Speaking of the miraculous power of holy relics, Saint Ephraim the Syrian relates the following concerning the holy Martyrs: "Even after death they act as if alive, healing the sick, expelling demons, and by the power of the Lord rejecting every evil influence of the demons. This is because the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the holy relics."

During the finding of the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, St. Ambrose, in speaking to his listeners, relates this with pious enthusiasm: "You know—indeed, you have yourselves seen—that many are cleansed from evil spirits, that very many also, having touched with their hands the robe of the Saints, are freed from those ailments which oppressed them. You see that the miracles of old times are renewed, when through the coming of the Lord Jesus grace was more abundantly shed forth upon the earth, and that many bodies are healed as it were by the shadow of the holy bodies. How many napkins are passed about! How many garments, laid upon the holy relics and endowed with the power of healing, are claimed! All are glad to touch even the outside thread, and whosoever touches it will be made whole."

Speaking of the miracles produced by holy relics, the blessed Augustine says: "To what do these miracles witness, but to this faith which preaches Christ risen in the flesh and ascended with the same flesh into heaven? For the martyrs themselves were martyrs, that is to say, were witnesses of this faith.... For this faith they gave their lives, and can now ask these benefits from the Lord in whose name they were slain. For this faith their extraordinary constancy was exercised, so that in these miracles great power was manifested as the result. For if the resurrection of the flesh to eternal life had not taken place in Christ, and were not to be accomplished in His people, as predicted by Christ..., why do the martyrs who were slain for this faith which proclaims the resurrection possess such power? ...These miracles attest this faith which preaches the resurrection of the flesh unto eternal life."

Saint Damascene, summarizing the life-giving teaching of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition concerning the pious veneration of holy relics, preaches in a Cherubic manner from the altar of his God-bearing and Christ-like soul: "The Saints have become according to grace that which the Lord Christ is according to nature. That is, they have become gods according to grace: pure and living habitations of God. For God says: 'I will dwell in them, walk in them, and I will be their God' (II Corinthians 6:16; Leviticus 16:12). The Holy Scriptures likewise say: 'the souls of the righteous are in God's hand, and death cannot lay hold of them' (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1). For death is rather the sleep of Saints than their death. Further: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints' (Psalm 119:6). What, then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is life and light, and those who are in God's hand are in life and light. Further, that God dwells even in their bodies in a spiritual manner the all-divine Apostle attests: 'Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?' (I Corinthians 3:16). And, 'the Lord is Spirit' (II Corinthians 3:17). Thus, the evangelical truth: 'If anyone destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy—for the temple of God is holy, and ye are that temple' (I Corinthians 3:17). Surely, then, we must ascribe honor to the living temples of God, the living dwelling-places of God. These, while they lived, stood with boldness before God. The Lord Christ granted us the relics of the Saints to be fountains of salvation unto us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in sweetly fragrant oil. Let no one disbelieve this! For if water burst in the desert from the steep and solid rock according to God's will (Exodus 17:6), and from the jawbone of an ass to quench Samson's thirst (Judges 15:14-19), is it then unbelievable that fragrant oil should spring forth from relics of the holy Martyrs? By no means, at least to those who know the omnipotence of God and the honor which He accords to His Saints. According to the Old Testament law, everyone who touched a dead body was considered impure (Numbers 19:11). However, the Saints are not dead. For from the time when He Who is Himself Life and the Author of life was counted among the dead, we do not call those dead who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and with faith in Him. For how could a dead body work miracles? And how, through the holy relics, are demons driven off, diseases dispelled, the sick made well, the blind restored to sight, lepers cleansed, temptations and tribulations overcome; and how does every good gift come down from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17) to those who pray with sure faith?"

The universal faith of the Church concerning the pious veneration of holy relics was confirmed by the God-bearing Fathers of the Seventh Ĺ’cumenical Synod in its decrees: "Our Lord Jesus Christ granted to us the relics of Saints as a salvation-bearing source which pours forth varied benefits on the infirm. Consequently, those who presume to abandon the relics of the Martyrs: if they be hierarchs, let them be deposed; if however monastics or laymen, let them merely be excommunicated."

....That a pious veneration of the holy relics is a constituent part of the salvation rendered by the God-Man is also evidenced by the following facts: from the depths of sacred antiquity, churches were built on the graves and relics of Saints, and the holy Liturgy is performed only on antimensia, in which are placed parts of the holy relics. Moreover, the divine service books, especially the Menaion, are replete with prayers and hymns which refer to the pious veneration of holy relics....

All in all, the mystery of holy relics is at the heart of the universal mystery of the New Testament: the incarnation of God. The full mystery of the human body is explained by the incarnation, the embodiment of God in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, then, the Gospel message concerning the body: "The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). And through a human body also the entire creation, all of matter, received its divine significance, the universal meaning of the God-Man. By man, who is sanctified in the Church by the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, the creation and even matter are sanctified, united to Christ. There accrues to this also a joy—the myrrh-streaming property of many relics. This wonder of myrrh has been given to the holy relics in order to indicate that Christians are truly "a sweet-savour of Christ unto God" (II Corinthians 2:15), sweet-smelling to God and to heaven. The truth of the Gospel is that the sin of man is a foul odor before God and every sin pleases the devil. Through the holy mysteries and holy virtues, Christians become "a sweet-savour of Christ unto God." For this reason, then, the holy relics of the Saints pour forth myrrh.

09 November 2009

Icon of the Mother of God, "She Who Is Quick To Hear

Troparion (Tone 4)

Let us who are in a state of affliction run to the Theotokos,
and now fall down before her icon
calling out with faith from the depths of our hearts:
Make speed to hearken unto our prayer, O Virgin,
as Thou art called 'Quick to Hear.'
For in necessities Thy servants have Thee as a ready Helper.

06 November 2009

St. Illtud of Llantwit Major

Composed in Cemis, Pembrokeshire, in the 12th C. Found in the British Museum Cotton MS Vespasian A xiv.

§ 1. Of the union of his parents and the birth of the boy.

Victorious Letavia (that is, Lesser Britannia, Brittany), a rich and successful province, powerful in arms, none greater in warlike fame, took its origin from its mother, Britannia. The daughter was taught by the mother; full success in war attends the daughter. British princes full of vigour, noble leaders, but formerly most noble heirs; afterwards being disinherited they lost their own, as aliens. Of these Bicanus was distinguished, a most famous soldier, illustrious by race and in military prowess. All his kindred were descended from conspicuous princes, but none was less of those who went before, for as the first were, so too was the last. Born so high and so famous from such, he must needs rejoice, because he came of most noble ancestors. He flourished and excelled in the service of his king, loved by king and queen, for they all magnified him, lavishing praises. So great a man of highest nobility desired to marry and to be succeeded by sons; he fulfilled his wish, marrying the daughter of Anblaud, king of Britannia, Rieingulid, called by this British name; when latinized it means regina pudica, modest queen. The most worthy name was bestowed in accordance with her desert, for before legal marriage she clung not to another attachment. Despising games, keeping to her chamber, she ever obeyed her mother's behest. For whatever she said was apt, and in everything she did she acted advisedly, an excellent maiden, without reproach, marriageable, of ripe age, worthy of a husband. The people knew not of any more worthy of betrothal. Therefore messengers crossed the Gallic sea, they bring back the maiden, as a pearl precious and excelling in beauty, and her whom they brought back most lovely and most docile they entrust to the aforesaid prince in nuptial honour. These things being legally performed, as lawful wife she conceived, and after conception happily brought forth a son, as a fruit-bearing tree gives forth a most excellent blossom. In baptizing the boy and after the washing of regeneration the infant was named Iltutus, Illtud, to wit, ille, he, who is tutus, safe, from every fault. Blameless was he in the five stages of life, praised and beloved by all his fellow-citizens. His parents vowed to dedicate him to literature, and they dedicate him so vowed to be instructed in the seven arts. After instruction and after the knowledge taught was known to him, he laid aside the study of literature, applying himself to military training, not forgetting, however,through any negligence, anything which he had learnt. He was a man of such memory that once hearing an instruction of his master, he retained it in his heart ever after. To him were fully given the five keys, whereby he was wisely able to make known the unknown. None was more eloquent throughout Gaul than Illtud, the soldier, in discoursing philosophic eloquence.

§ 2. Of his visit to the court of king Arthur and Poulentus.

In the meantime the magnificent soldier hearing of the magnificence of his cousin, king Arthur, desired to visit the court of so great a conqueror. He left what we call Further Britannia, Brittany, and arrived by sailing, and here he saw a very great company of soldiers,being also honourably received in that place, and being rewarded as regards his military desire. His desire to receive guerdons being also satisfied, he withdrew very pleased from the royal court. Journeying he came to Poulentus, king of the Glamorgan folk, accompanied by his very honourable wife, Trynihid. The king, perceiving that he was a court soldier and honourable retained him with much affection, loving him before all of his household and rewarding him bounteously. So he remained with very great honour until he merited to be chosen and to preside over the royal household. He ruled the household without any strife, a peaceful governor and second from his master. Gospel precepts were stored (or hidden) in the soldier's breast; incessantly he strove to recount them to those keeping them. The things recounted directed the hearers to perfect works; the perfect works raised those who fulfilled them to a heavenly reward. A soldier he was outwardly in soldier's dress, but inwardly the wisest of British-born. Wherefore he was by king Poulentus made master of the soldiers for his very fine fluency and incomparable mind. No contemporary could be compared with him for his intelligence; this has been proved and confirmed by the testimony of learned men.

§ 3. Of the household of king Poulentus, which the earth swallowed up, and of the promise made to adopt the clerical habit after military service at the advice of St. Cadog.

It happened on a certain day, when he was conducting the royal household for hunting through the territory of saint Cadog, while it rested, it sent to the renowned abbot in stiff terms that he should prepare for it a meal, otherwise it would take food forcibly. Saint Cadog, although the message seemed to him improper owing to the harshness of the words, as though demanding tribute from a free man, nevertheless sent to the household what sufficed for a meal. This having been sent, the household sat down with a will to take the meal, but the willing came short of the eating. For on account of the unlawful demand and sacrilegious offence the earth swallowed up theunrighteous throng, which vanished away completely for such great iniquity. But Illtud the soldier and master of the soldiers escaped, because he would not consent to the unjust demand, nor was he present in the place where the household had been in order to wait for the food, but was far off holding a she-hawk which he frequently let go and incited after birds. When Illtud saw this miracle he feared; being affected after the sight with compunction for past faults, he hastened his steps to saint Cadog, inquiring and asking counsel of him on his knees to make amends for what faults he had done. And he, becoming to him a salutary counsellor, advised him first to set aside the secular habit, then to seek again the clerical habit which he had discarded, and to serve the supreme Creator for the rest of his life for the sake of eternal repayment. He humbly obeyed the advice given, promising firmly to perform it in the future. Then having returned to king Poulentus, he, having received permission, withdrew himself from secular service. Then the king grieving, the queen too, and all, owing to his withdrawal, he came at length to the margin of the river Naudauan, accompanied by his wife and his armour-bearers. It was summer time, wherefore from a reed-thicket he constructed a covering that it might not rain on his bed. The horses pasture in the meadows, and both lie down in the night sleeping through drowsiness, their eyes being heavy.
§ 4. Of the first arrival of an angel to admonish Illtud.

While he slept an angel suddenly stood before him, admonishing him with these admonitions. 'Thou wast formerly a very celebrated soldier, rewarded by many kings. But now I bid thee to serve the King of kings and no more to love transitory things. Remember how thy parents dedicated thee to a clerical pursuit; thou didst study, devoted to a divine comradeship. Then thou didst despise what was not despicable, giving thyself to spear and sword. These (other) arms were not given thee from an armoury, but the five keys were conferred on thee under tutorship. Therefore seek again what thou hast left, lest thou be taken, caught by the plots of an unseen foe. For the plotter is nigh, who tries to beguile thee, desiring with all effort to damn thee. He sees thee, thou seest not him with the bodily eye; unless thou be on thy guard and ward him off, he will be able to destroy thee. Be not therefore unwary and deceived by the enemy of God and men, for he envies the inhabitants of earth and of heaven, because he lost his heavenly seat. He, fiercer than a lion, swifter than a bird, invisible poisoner, steals and takes away; and what he takes he refuses to restore; under punishment he punishes. Banish poison after medicine like a physician, that no scar appear after healing. Love of wife also possesses thee that thou turnest not to the Lord. What, pray, is carnal love but a horror and the source of sins? One who loves much burns as the burning of fire, a hurtful thing, an odious thing which leads to punishment. Let it not burn thee, neither let lust incite thee, a beast of poison. Thy wife is comely, but better is chastity. Who would choose for such to forgo things eternal? For if thou shouldst see her naked, thou wouldst not love her as before. Look on this woman and after sight thou wilt then esteem her of less worth. What profit and how lucrative the felicity in such intercourse? He who shall abstain and forbear from sexual unions, shall be exalted and set on an everlasting seat. To-morrow when thou hast risen, quickly betake thyself to a certain woody valley towards the west, where thou shalt have a dwelling-place. For so is the will of God, since that place is convenient, very fertile, and habitable. For this cause have I come from the supreme Creator, being sent on this message, to announce such things with good will. I have announced the things to be announced for fulfilment and let there be no delay in fulfilling them.'

§ 5. Of his arrival to lead the eremitical life in the Hodnant valley, and of his mode of life in conformity with the angelic exhortation.

After these words the angel disappeared. After a little while saint Illtud, having waked, recalled to memory the angelic discourse, and also revolved in his mind that precept of the Lord, 'He who loves father and mother, brothers and sisters, wife and children, more than me, is not worthy of me' and so forth. Meditating on such things, he bade his wife rise; he commanded her on rising to see to the horses, the moon's light then shining, that he might know how they had been kept by their keepers that night. She went out naked with her hair loose that she might see, and that she might fulfil what the angel had ordered. She returned after the inspection, and on her return the blessed Illtud saw her naked body, the blowing wind dispersing her hair about her woman s side. He grieved when he looked at it; he deemed the female form as of little value; he deeply regretted having loved such a thing. He vows to leave her; he promises to fulfil his vow in words of this kind, 'The woman now of little worth, once beloved, agreeable, a daughter of luxury, fatal source of ruin, breeds punishment, because if anyone have loved it the now beautiful form of a woman becomes exceeding loathsome.

§ 6. Of his first dwelling in the valley of Hodnant.

These things being done as related, the aforesaid woman wished to enter the bed; Illtud drove her off so wishing as the poison of a serpent, declaring he was leaving her, and saying 'Thou shalt not cling to me further.' He reached out to her her clothes; she putting on what was handed to her sat down, yet although clothed she feigned with trembling heart that she was cold, thatby this plea she might lie again in the bed by his side. But he knew the reason to be feigned; he strengthens his purpose with the firmness of virtues; he gains the victory. A solitary wayfarer, whom God accompanied, having abandoned all secular things, he kept on his way until he arrived at the aforesaid valley, called Hodnant, which not without reason means in Latin uallis prospera, prosperous valley. About it stood no mountains or steep unevenness, but a most fertile open plain. There was a very thick wood, planted with diverse trees, which was the crowded abode of wild beasts. A very pleasing river laved its two banks, and wells intermixed with rills along their pleasing courses. After he had rested and examined everything, the delectable spot pleased him, as the angel had indicated before in dreams. Here is the woody grove, a sunny spot to those who tarry there; here too about the plains is rich fertility. Through the midst there runs a flowing stream of waters. This I know may be said, it is the most beautiful of places.

§ 7. Of the penance imposed on him, and of the reception of the clerical habit, and of his manner of watching and fasting, and of the first building of a church, and of the sow seen with six porklings.

Such things having been seen and being pleasant to him, the servant of God, the most blessed Illtud, went to Dubricius, bishop of Llandaff, who imposed penance on him for past faults. He shaved his beard, he cut his hair, he blessed his crown. Then, having taken the clerical habit in accordance with the angelic command as revealed in the dream, he returned tonsured to the same place, building at once first a habitation, the bishop Dubricius marking out the boundary of a cemetery, and in the midst, in honour of the supreme and undivided Trinity, the foundation of an oratory, where he had previously seen the lair of a sow and porklings. These having been duly marked out, he founded a church, a quadrangular rampart of stone being made above the surrounding ditch. After these things were done and before they had been undertaken, he watched and fasted assiduously, he prayed without ceasing, expending his goods bounteously on all who asked. He worked with his own hands, a most religious hermit, not trusting in the labours of others. In the middle of the night before mattins he used to wash himself in cold water, remaining so as long as the Lord's Prayer could be said three times. Then he would visit the church, kneeling and praying to the omnipotence of the supreme Creator. So great was his religion that he was never seen engaged in any business except in God's service. His whole concentration was on Holy Writ, which he fulfilled in daily works. Many to be taught resorted to him; they were trained to a thorough knowledge in the seven arts.

§ 8. Of the stag tamed by saint Illtud, and of the king's wonderful meal on fish and water.
When king Meirchion, surnamed the Wild, was one day hunting, he set his hounds on a stag. Roused, it ran on in flight until it entered the sleeping place of saint Illtud, as if seeking sanctuary with him after the manner of men. After entering, it lay down tamed at the feet of the astonished man, wearied on account of the dogs and full of fear. The barking dogs, however, were waiting outside for it to come forth, but then ceased from their barkings. The king on hearing the last bark followed up, wondering greatly at the sudden cessation of barking. On coming up he arrived at the hermitage, beholding there the hounds quiet and the stag, and, what was more wonderful, that from a wild animal it had become tame and domestic. He was very angry with the occupant, because without his permission he had occupied the waste, which in his judgement was more fit for hunting. He began to demand the stag, but what was demanded saint Illtud was unwilling to surrender, yet he conceded leave of entrance, if he would accept of it. He, filled with respect on seeing the very great piety of the most blessed man and such great wonders performed before him in person, although angry, entered not in, but rather bestowed on him the gift first presented from heaven, which he gratefully accepted. The same stag, tamed by saint Illtud, drew vehicles, and in the vehicles timber for building. After these things the aforesaid king, being hungry, desired to breakfast, whom saint Illtud invited to a breakfast. Being invited he descended humbly, and sat down, pacified from the madness which was wont to possess him. He sent a servant to a neighbouring pond to catch fish; he straightway drew in in his net a fish fat and fine of good weight. Taken and broiled they placed it before the king; when placed before him he would not taste it, because it seemed to him unbecoming that it should be placed before him without bread and salt. But Illtud not having that hour bread and salt, prayed (or said), saying, 'The author of all creatures, and the giver of gifts, is able to bring it to pass that, if thou shalt taste what is placed before thee, thou shalt have from me, in the fish so tasted, what thou desirest to have.' These requests being heard, the king dared not rebelliously refuse, but did eat, and had the tastes of divers kinds of foods in one sort. Having had enough and being thirsty he asked jeeringly for wine or mead to be set before him. But he, lacking both, ordered a draught of well water to be given him, and offered again the same prayers, which he had uttered before, that the desire of the asker should be fulfilled from a drink of water. He drank; the drink pleased him, and the tastes of divers liquors, especially wine and mead, he found in water alone.

§ 9. Of the coming of an angel to admonish king Meirchion and for his reproof.

After the wonderful drinking the aforesaid king slept in sleep; to him sleeping came an angel from heaven, admonishing and rebuking. The angel reproved him, saying, 'Thou hast been hither to a mad and very wicked king, and remainest so now. Amend, so I advise thee, and defer not thy amendment. Thou wouldst rather that useless beasts should dwell here than worshippers of God, who ought to occupy it. Forbid them not, but permit them to remain to cultivate this destined and conceded place. If thou refuse to concede what ought to be conceded, thou shalt be destroyed without length of days and without progeny. Grant them therefore leave to remain, because this valley shall be inhabited to the end of time. Who would dare to offend and to expel a most religious man and one engaged in the catholic life from his desired abode? God has chosen him and sent him hither, that he might serve him in the eremitical life. He will, moreover, be an abbot, venerable, distinguished, and exalted. Whososoever shall injure him, unless he amends, will perish for ever. Beware, therefore, lest thou perish; from now let thy obstinacy do him no injuries. Goliath of old was very stark, yet humble childhood overcame the most brave. He employed spear and sword, but David a tiny sling in battle. The small boy confiding in the supreme Conqueror, was victor by trusting to a cast of a sling in his hands. So this Illtud, the most humble servant of God, trusts that he may conquer by humility so as to remain here and to possess secure stability. He fights not with visible arms, he strives better with invincible virtues. A virtuous man, not fearful in a contest, he drives off his foes in the armour of righteousness. None throughout the whole of Britannia is holier than the most blessed one present, because he lives according to rule in accordance with monastic rule. Many will be brought together by his manner of life, he will be a refuge and a support, like a pillar supporting a standing house. His protection will be inviolable with kings and with princes in this kingdom. Kings and princes will heed his instruction, subject peoples will abide by his counsel. Pacific and more gentle than a gentle dove, he will give light as a most bright candlestick, and as a lamp.'

§ 10. Of the awakening of the king and of his grant of habitation.

When these things had been said by the angel, the king, corrected from his maliciousness, was aroused from sleep, declaring to those who heard them such words as these, 'O servant of God, most blessed Illtud, I grant thee this solitude freely for a high and heavenly recompense. I have seen a vision useful to us both, an angel's voice commanding that it is by no means right that thou shouldst quit this valley. As long as I shall reign, I shall not offend thee; most freely mayest thou hold this district. Appoint husbandmen over thins territory, for this territory is meet to be cultivated, and there is none more fertile throughout the country. Tilled it abounds in harvests; it is seen to be flowing with honey and fragrant with flowers. Italy is fertile, abounding in fruits of the earth, this is more abundant and more temperate without its excessive heats. Too much cold does not destroy the crops, superfluous heat does not parch the fruits. It speedily ripens them at a suitable time; the reapers rejoice, more joyful than the reapers of Italy. Rejoice thou, therefore, to abide in such a territory; thou oughtest to rejoice, so I prophesy, for innumerable folk will rejoice in thy manner of life. So profitable a manner of life was not in these regions; thou wilt preach, directing wanderers by thy heavenly doctrines. Magistral care has been granted thee by the bishop, this also I concede and confirm by royal grant. Your school will be revered, vassals will serve thee and all born in the country. Many will flow together from divers parts, may they be instructed in liberal education. Although thou art now unknown thou wilt be known, I shall make thee known, and thou wilt be glad.' Then the placid saint Illtud, not more joyful but holding himself under control, gave thanks to almighty God, and cheerfully accepting what the king offered, beseeching the divine clemency that it would condescend to pity unto the forgiveness of the past crimes which he committed. After that that the angel had said such things, the king was mollified from wrath by the angelic reproof. He returned to his own court, magnifying and praising the omnipotence of the supreme Creator through the open miracles which he had seen.

§ 11. Of the establishment of agriculture and the great number of his household.

Therefore the venerable abbot, Illtud, being at that time hindered by none, remained at peace. He tills and sows, he reaps and lives by his own labour. He appoints labourers, cultivators of husbandry throughout his fields. They increase seed, they duly perform labours with great profit. He feeds the poor, he covers the naked, he visits the sick and those cast into prison. He had a hundred in his household, as many workmen, clerics, and a hundred poor persons daily. He was hospitable, most ready, never refusing hospitality to those who required it. He gave bountifully whatever was put in his hands, not entrusting it to any guardians to be kept. In his bountiful heart there was no hurtful pride, but rather humility, kindness, and pure and undefiled religion. Very many scholars were attracted to him, of whose number these four, to wit, Samson, Paulinus, Gildas and Dewi (that is, David) studied with him, instructed in wisdom, and others, very many, like them.

§ 12. Of ecclesiastical orders he received, and his rise to be an abbot.

His affairs increasing prosperously, and he having taken ecclesiastical orders and, moreover, having received the order of monk through his holiness and grace, and being appointed abbot the venerable man appointed fifty canons, who at suitable times and fixed hours visited the church, having each of them his prebend, to wit, each his own homestead with profits, which were given by the people to keep in memory their souls. Yearly rents were paid to the abbot; what was paid he divided by commot custom. Yearly entertainments were prepared for him; and to what was prepared he invited a multitude of poor people, whon regularly he bade to partake of it, until what was bestowed ran short.

§ 13. Of the breach of the ditch, the sea rushing in, and of the recession of the sea, and of the springing of a well by mean of saint Illtud.

Such agreeableness of position as the aforesaid pleased him who dwelt there, level grounds on every side surrounding a plain, and a wood unfelled between. Yet he was troubled by the frequent inundation of the sea and a fluvial approach towards his cemetery. Therefore moved by grief and fear, lest it should invade and occupy further the whole valley, he built an immense dyke, a mixture of mud and stones, which should beat back the inrushing wave, that was wont to swell beyond measure, the river only having room to flow to the sea through the middle of it. After the work was done the force of the waves broke the dyke. A second time he renovated it, and the second operation the surge broke anew. A third time he repeated the task, nor did the repetition avail, but came to ruin. Saint Illtud grieved, sayin such words as these, 'Here I will dwell no longer; most willingly I might wish it, but troubled on account of this marine molestation I shall not be able. It will destroy my buildings, it will flow into the oratories which we constructed laboriously.' He invokes and beseeches the heavenly Protector for aid, to consider how he might avoid quitting the convenient place which he had chosen. In the meanwhile, arranging to withdraw on the morrow, the preceding night whilst he anxiously slept an angelic voice addresses the sleeper in this wise, 'I command thee and forbid thee to leave what thou wishest to leave, for God is not willing that thou shouldst withdraw from this valley, because your praye have been heard by the supreme Auditor, who delivers all who confide in him and pray. He will deliver thee from this injurious and troublesome anxiety. Tomorrow, after that thou comest from the oratory, take thy bachall and hasten thy steps towar the restless sea, which thou shalt drive back by divine power from thy threatening bachall. It will fly before thee continuously without return of flow, going again to its wonted quarters, as a fugitive will fear before a pursuing enemy.' So in the early morning, as the angel had commanded him in his sleep, he took his course to the wave-driven sea. He began to go forward, the sea began to retreat, as though it were become capable of feeling and life. Its wavering became still, and its stopping-place was on the shore. And when the shore showed dry, he pierced it with his bachall, and thereupon as quickly a very clear fountain flowed out and one beneficial for expelling sicknesses, which continues to flow without deficiency, and, what is more wonderful, although it is near the sea, it emits fresh water. These things being performed, the most blessed Illtud kneeling prayed to the Lord of heaven, saying, 'I beg of thee, Creator supreme, and Giver of all gifts, who confirmest thy gifts with increase, that on this shore may be the boundary of the sea, and that it return not to that place, where I have chosen the fixed seat of my dwelling. Let not hurt, let it not disturb, here may it rest, here may there continue a landing-place for ships.' Thus it happened as he asked, because that marshy land having become dry was fertile for agriculture, and what was not arable, the clergy had in meadow and fodder abundance for cattle. Then the elect servant of God returned, giving thanks to almighty God, and living quietly and prosperously, free from the disturbance, which through the power of God and the prayer found blameless of the most holy Illtud no longer plagued or hurt him, he himself saying words of this sort concerning the marvellous performance, 'No am I able to dwell here, I was desirous to go away, I do not wish it now. The sea will not disturb me; after the neighbourhood had been overwhelmed, it has receded. Wherefore I was very fearful; from henceforth there is no room for fear. I wish to build, wherefore I am not fearful.'

§ 14. Of the complaints of the corn-filching birds held in custody by their scarers.

In the autumn, when the crops were ripening, birds began to destroy the corn of saint Illtud and to leave the ears almost empty. When he discovered this, saint Illtud grieved for his loss, and ordered his scholars to guard the corn every day in their turn by constantly casting stones throughout the whole day with a sling. Now the disciple Samson, when he was taking his turn, wishing from good will (or obedience) to fulfil his master's command, kept guard as best he could; nevertheless I prevailed not to keep the corn safe and intact. He seeks divine counsel and help that he might confine the multitude of birds, not knowing how otherwise to defend the corn on account the swarm of destroyers. He consulted with himself, inspired by divine counsel, and found by reflexion what ought to effect it. It was given to him from heaven to drive the birds from the corn without their flying. They try to fly and are unable by any exertions. The kindly Samson, seeing this, compelled them to withdraw before him of their own will, like tame animals. Driven they came to the open barn door and entered; like horses or sheep they precede those that follow, like sheep or horses they become gentle as they progress. The birds remain in complete confinement held without a net. Divine power, which keeps the stars in their order, tamed them. They caw mournfully, hungry, they fast, they pour forth mournful songs in a merited prison. There was lamentation in this company for the liberty they sought, they repented of having so greatly wasted the corn. Illtud frees the multitudes grieved with their imprisonment. They injured him no more after the performance of these wonders.

§ 15. Of the election of Samson to be a bishop and of the springing up of a fountain from his tears and of the conveyance of his body by divine command.

After this miracle had become known everywhere, messengers came from Letavia (that is, Lesser Britain, Brittany) to elect Samson, a most noble youth and blameless in all his life, and to appoint him when elected bishop of Dol, also to ask leave of his master Illtud for him to go, because of the tranquil confidence which he enjoyed amongst his countrymen, for at that time the aforesaid church needed an episcopal representative. He being asked was unable to refuse. Grieving and weeping he prepared to migrate with the messengers, though preferring to live in subjection under the master's rod than to enjoy pontifical honour in the altitude of an ecclesiastical see. Whilst he rested a little time in the upper part of the valley, talking with his teacher about many past affairs, dwelling on his last words for solace before parting from the society of his instructor, he began to shed tears, until his tears fell to the ground in an excessive tearful flow, whence a fountain burst forth on the spot, and flowed out, running down as the flow of a river, which was called by the name of the same wondrous Samson. Also, on account of the extraordinary love which he had for his dearest teacher, he ordered that his body after death should come should be brought to the monastery of saint Illtud and buried in his general and delightful cemetery. These things being so done, they proceeded to Dubricius, bishop of the church of Llandaff, that from him he might receive the first ecclesiastical orders and the diaconate. And while he was being ordained, there appeared to the pontiff Dubricius and to the abbot Illtud a pigeon, whiter than snow, sitting (or standing) on the head of the young man at his ordination. After these things he sailed, ordained, to Letavia, and was elevated to the episcopal chair according to catholic custom. And after the appointed end of his life, his body was placed in a sarcophagus, which a strong wind put in motion and lifted up and conducted seawards with very swift movement by divine power. Then it came upon the waves, darting along like a flying coot, and descending touched land safe and sound, like a ship crossing, in Illtud's harbour (or creek). The Lord performed what he wished to accomplish, because he had promised concerning his body, to wit, that it should be conveyed and buried in that same cemetery. In the meantime sailors seeing and smelling the odoriferous sarcophagus, informed saint Illtud what wonderful thing they had seen. And he, remembering the last charge of his most beloved Samson respecting his body, wept and prayed and went hurriedly in sorrow to the sea harbour. Then the body was taken and honourably carried by the clergy, and buried in the midst of quadrangular stones standing upright in the cemetery, a stone cross being placed above and the insignia of a bishop inscribed below, whose soul rests free from future burning.

§ 16. Of the visit of the wife of saint Illtud, and the loss of her sight, and its recovery through the same saint.

The wife formerly of the blessed Illtud, named Trinihid, the chastest of women, passed her life subject to chastity on account of separation from her husband, desiring no conjugal intercourse, so her mind strove, so was the bent of her intention, constant in prayer, temperate in speech, keen on every good work. Christ was consolation to her, Christ was nourishment, daily at the ninth hour she broke her fast on barley bread and water. She rejected courses of food, she tasted no sweet fare. Love of the holy Trinity was her sweetness, which she enjoyed inwardly. She liked mountain solitude, and elected to dwell there, there she built a dwelling, she founded an oratory, where most faithfully she prayed to the Lord Redeemer. She prayed constantly, being found blameless and irreprehensible in all her manner of life, remaining a nun, comforting innumerable widows and nuns and poor people in her charge. In the meantime she desired to visit saint Illtud, and, undertaking the journey, she visited him, when she saw the industrious digger, of muddy countenance owing to his constant delving; leanness too had attenuated the contours of his countenance. She sought from him sweet discourse, her request displeased him who heard it, being sought he returned no response, he did not wish to see her or to be seen, nor to hear her discourse or be heard. She beheld his mean garb, clothed as he was with goat's hair and skins, not as she had seen him formerly, a handsome soldier. Owing to her improper visit she lost her sight, she grieved heavily to have lost it deservedly. Nevertheless saint Illtud, being asked, implored the Lord's compassion that she might recover her former vision. His prayers being heard by God, she saw clearly; afterwards she returned corrected by such a correction. Nevertheless her countenance was not afterwards so fair as before, affected with spots and pallor, and pallid as though ill with fever. Therefore she remained in the aforesaid place, never again visiting saint Illtud, because she was unwilling to displease God and the most beloved of God.

§ 17. Of the steward, Cyflym, who melted like wax before fire, because he had offended Illtud.

The steward of Meirchion king of the Glamorgan folk was a malevolent person, Cyflym by name, which in Latin means totus acutus, very acute, really living up to this which he was called. For most sharply he accused the king's subjects to king Meirchion in order that they might lose their goods; he protected none who ought to be protected. His stewardship was hateful to all, his whole life was abominable. He frequently displeased the abbot Illtud, he also annoyed his clergy. Many things unjustly snatched away by him he feigned to have been demanded by his master, the latter being ignorant of the matter and not having given the order. He was angry with all, and all spoke ill of him; he a single individual, whom his own evil deeds condemned, was most harsh against all. He exalted himself by controlling the bishop's office; nay rather he kept himself back, because he loved villainy. Yet the man exalted by evil doing is restrained and thrust back, remaining in danger. Dangerous was his governance while seeking to rule; he governed not whilst he himself overthrew those whom he first ought to govern and direct. He deserved, therefore, to be overthrown whilst he caused the saint to be afflicted, who, when afflicted by the malevolent man was pacifically courteous. But God, the supreme avenger, caused him to melt like wax softened and melted by heat of fire, and so to cease from his malice, he not appearing any more, for he had wished the holy and most free Illtud to become tributary and to send his tributes to the king's fortress. He a man who enjoyed greatest liberty was unwilling to suffer these things of his own accord, or to allow so great an injury or to be angry, but poured forth diligent prayers that God might grant pardon to the malevolent man. For he strove to fulfill the gospel precept which thus enjoins, 'Pray for those who persecute and speak evil of you', and again, 'Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness' sake.'

§ 18. Of the flight of the man of God to a cave owing to king Meirchion's persecution.

The sacrilegious steward having melted away, king Meirchion was moved with excessive wrath, wishing to kill the innocent man Illtud, and to destroy the place and its clergy, as he greatly repented having permitted the occupying of the waste, for he preferred rather the beasts to dwell there than that the elect servants of God should do service in honour of the holy and undivided Trinity. He speedily takes arms, he bids his soldiers arm themselves, and armed they proceed together to the holy place and endeavour to take revenge both on the abbot and the occupants of the place. These things being heard, the most blessed Illtud shunned the malevolent troop, shunning both it and the excited people, who caused hindrance to his prayers. He wished to shun them, going afar off on the earth, and feared to be sought and found, and being found to be brought back again unwillingly to his abbacy. He seeks everywhere for secret security, where he might hide his face. After inquiring he arrives at length at the bank of the river Ewenny, where he saw a very secret cave. Seeing it, he entered, and occupied it for the space of one year and for the space of three days and nights in addition. The whole night he lay on a cold stone, as he desired, so fulfilling such a penance as he had imposed on himself, as if he were saying, 'This stone for a bed is placed beneath my breast, this is my delight, I will lie down in accordance with the divine will; pleasant will be the blessed reward which will come to one who is blessed, a reward laid up in heaven for me, when I shall reach it.'

§ 19. Of the heavenly food in the cave, and the general lamentation after Illtud, and of the bell sent to him by saint David which sounded at God's direction, and of his return from cave to monastery.

The blessed Illtud prayed then incessantly, fasting daily. Every ninth hour there was sent to him from heaven one loaf of barley bread, and one portion of fish, wherewith he was refreshed. After a temperate meal he visited a neighbouring well, drawing water for himself in the hollow of his hands, as Paul and Antony, the first hermits, performed their drinking. Then he returned to the cave, guarding against being seen by anyone at his entering. He was diligently looked for in woods and in forests, and in the retreats of deep valleys, and was not found after assiduous searchings. As long as he lay hid so, the powerful were distressful, not knowing whither he had gone, the poor and the widows mourned miserably, exclaiming, 'Who will be our protection? Who with overflowing heart will dispel our poverty? He gave bountifully, to no one did he refuse his substance. Affectionately he administered assistance to all who asked aught of him, for indeed he was the general stay of all the needy. He grieved with those who grieve, he rejoiced with those who rejoice. Incessantly he sowed apostolic precepts, multiplying the seed a hundredfold. To those who were to be punished and to those who had suffered punishment he was a frequent source of relief, redeeming them by prayer and fasting and bounteous gifts. If he still lives in this world, he is held fast in a subterranean prison. If he has quitted this life, may he live, as we do wish, in eternal repose. While such things and many others were being said, a certain wayfarer passed by, who was a messenger of Gildas the historian, carrying a brazen bell made by the same Gildas, that he might bear it for presentation to saint Dewi (that is, David), the bishop, in memory of past fellowship and love. As he passed by the cave which was near the public road, the bell sounded, being moved without human agency. Saint Illtud, hearing the sweet sound, came up to the person who was carrying it, and swung it thrice being pleased with its very sweet melodiousness, asking the man where he was going, or where he was carrying that beautiful thing, superior to gold. He answering says, 'I go and am carrying this bell to saint Dewi (or David) at the bidding of the renowned Gildas.' Having thus spoken, he went on his way, and arriving at the Valley of Mynyw, presented the bishop with the gift as mentioned. Being presented with the bell, he shook it; it rendered no sound with the motion. The bishop, wondering at that marvel, asked the messenger whether it had been moved or tested by anyone along the way during his messengership. He being asked told him what had happened as above, and the bishop believed it to be truly told, saying, 'I know that our master, Illtud, wished to possess it for the sweetness of its sound, but he was unwilling to ask for it, hearing that it was to be sent to me by the donor, Gildas. God is unwilling that I should have this. Return without delay to the cave, and restore to saint Illtud the thing meant for him which he desired.' The messenger returned to Illtud, and executed the bishop's order, leaving there the occupant lonely, were it not for the frequent visitation of angels. Afterwards the messenger mentioned in the monastery what he had seen and what had happened to him. When these things were heard, the monks joyfully went to the aforesaid place, and there they found their most beloved abbot. The brethren rejoice in the discovery of their most pious abbot, and he too rejoices, knowing that he could not be found nor have returned except by the divine will. All their compatriots assembled, giving thanks for the return of their master, saying such things as these, 'Heretofore were we sad, now are we joyful and secure from every adversity and peril. We fear none besides God who is to be feared in this refuge. No one will dare to oppose us under so great a rule. Kings and princes will obey the virtuous abbot; this monastery will be first among the monasteries of this pagus, cantref. Our joys lay hid in a secret cave, they do not spread throughout our borders without past sorrow. That cave was not dark but full of light, for while Illtud occupied it, it ceased not to shine with angelic splendour.'

§ 20. Of the most vile Cyfygydd, the steward of king Meirchion, whom marshy ground swallowed up.

In the meantime he ruled his abbacy peaceably, admonishing the brethren and all in general to true religion, praying and fasting in the proper time of fasting. Nevertheless a certain steward, Cyfygydd by name, began to oppose and to offend the saint and clergy very frequently by enclosing pastures and very often by impounding cattle and herds. He used to hold cattle for three days, unwilling through perversity to take bail from their owners. When they were let loose, leanness appeared in their flanks, nor is it a wonder, however thin they were, after a three days fast. Therefore Illtud, although very frequently hurt by the most injurious steward, was yet unwilling to curse him, but rather he was wont to bless him in return for his frequent persecutions and injuries, praying that he might be reformed and converted from iniquity, lest he might end his life, being most vile, in the way of malice. But the supreme Avenger in heaven, seeing that he was unwilling to amend what wrong he had done, caused that a marshy land should swallow him up, and that his vile spirit should enter torments worthy of his acts. That same marsh is till now apparent to human sight as a sign of the villainy of an ill doer for his ill deed.

§ 21. Of the stirring of the wrath of king Meirchion the mad, whom the earth swallowed up.

King Meirchion, full of madness, hearing that such misfortune had happened in his loss of his trusty steward, grieved, and being infuriated desired to rush against saint Illtud either to kill him or to expel him outright from his dominion. He puts on his arms like a warlike soldier in battle array. From his fortress he rides quickly to the gate of the monastery. Whilst he remained so prepared to perpetrate homicide, as he had often done previously, the earth absorbed the malevolent man, so that he no more appeared in the sight of his household. And for such huge ill deeds that he had done, his spirit went to be punished in that place where the souls of the unrighteous are punished without any remedy. After some interval of time saint Illtud was burdened by the multitude of people who came to him, and hindered in his prayers, for which reason he went to the cave of Llwynarth, remaining there the space of three years in vigils and fastings, receiving every ninth hour food for himself from heaven brought to him by an angel and placed on a rock within, where he saw a marvel worthy of veneration.

§ 22. Of the miracle seen in the cave at Llwynarth.

One day as he was sitting at the mouth of the cave, he saw a skiff coming and approaching the shore. When it had reached the shore, he saw two very honourable men in the skiff rowing, and one altar supported by the divine will above the form of the skiff. Saint Illtud went to meet it, uttering words of welcome with gladness. And they after a little conversation gave the sweet smelling body of a certain most holy man to saint Illtud, revealing his name, and after revealing they forbade him ever to divulge it. And so, the body having been consigned to the blessed Illtud, they returned. These things done, he took the body and the altar which had been above the form of the most holy man, and buried it honourably in the cave, the altar being placed over the buried body held up by the divine will as it had been before, by means of which numerous miracles were performed on account of its sanctity.

§ 23. Of two robbers transformed into two stones.

One night two robbers from the district of Brycheiniog stole a herd of swine belonging to saint Illtud. Driving them from their sty, they proceeded to woody places. Judging they were keeping to the right path they deviated from it, wandering all night long, until they returned with the herd, when dawn was breaking, to the same place which they had left. The herd, however, being fatigued rested until the third hour, whilst the swine-herd wondered at the prolonged sleep of the swine. After having taken rest the herd proceeded, as had been its wont, to its food. When night approached, the herd returned to their sty, when the same most wicked ones, of whom we have before said, came again, and driving the swine from the same place departed, straying as previously to a distant mountain, and were out of their course, as inexperienced persons and as if they had never been informed in the knowledge of their journey. At length wandering about they returned unwittingly to the aforesaid place, for it then happened to them in the same manner as before. But the heavenly King and supreme Corrector, seeing that those evil doers would not return from their ill-will, changed their bodies into two stones, and let their spirits, as they had deserved, go to infernal torments. This memorable miracle is credited by posterity, for even till now there is seen the place of the sty, which is called by Illtud's name. Till now too are seen the immovable stones called by the name 'Two Robbers'. Believe thou the robbers were changed into hard stones, deservedly remaining so, a witness to their iniquity. On account of the herd of swine the bodies of the two were changed; lifeless they continue beneath snow, beneath rain, beneath hail.

§ 24. Of the three granaries, whose abundance of corn was conveyed from Britannia to Llydaw, which formerly was called Armorica.

The most blessed Illtud, wishing to visit the Church of saint Michael in Mons Tumba, having in his possession three barns full of corn, ordered his stewards before his departure that they should cause all the corn to be thrashed, and when thrashed to be placed in granaries, and reserved against his return from his inheritance Llydaw, that is, Minor Britannia, Brittany. The master's order was obeyed; moreover, his desire to visit was fulfilled. Now after his visitation he began to return; in returning he saw men afflicted almost to death with hunger, and, unless he relieved them, soon to die. He was afflicted at the sight of such need as this; he felt for them, he besought the heavenly Helper to render help. His prayers being heard in the heavenly hall, the aforementioned corn was conveyed from on high, as he had wished it in his prayers to be carried, and was afterwards found in a harbour of Llydaw on the shore, whence the whole of Llydaw (that is, Britannia Minor, Brittany) fed itself, and moreover, sowed its cultivated lands. They magnify and render thanks to their helper, by whose prayers they had been defended from dangerous famine. Then he returned by sail over the Gallic sea, all the people standing on the shore and unanimously commending a prosperous passage. A more fortunate arrival there never was in Llydaw. The citizens could have wished that he departed not, but that he remained in his fatherland. Nevertheless he himself willed not to remain in answer to such great desires, but chose to dwell in Britanma although an exile from his paternal stock. Now when the time had approached, wherein the Lord had decreed to remunerate the labours of his favourite, the blessed Illtud, with the hundredfold recompense, the promise to his elect, he returned again, as we think by divine impulse to his native soil, to wit, Llydaw, which we call Minor Britannia, Brittany, and there at the monastery of Dol, his days being determined for him beforehand by his own Creditor, who has fixed for mortals the limits, which they will not be able to pass, his virtues and sanctity being accomplished, renowned for his miracles and celebrated for his signs and wonders, commending his body to the ground and his spirit of a truth to the Lord, departing from this mournful life on the eighth day before the Ides of November, and being born to a lasting and celestial existence, and rejoicing to be about to live for ever, he passed over to the Lord, to whom is honour, power, and dominion for ever and ever, Amen.

§ 25. Of the booty that was returned and the similarity of horses.

Edgar, king of the English, moved by raging fury, moved his army on account of the disobedience of the Glamorgan folk and led it to that same region, violating the territories of the saints and their very churches, and leaving not a homestead inviolate throughout the whole of that country. And so it was that in this invasion the bell of saint Illtud was taken away from his church, and carried off by a certain looter to English soil. Also, whilst the army was returning, it was placed and tied about the neck of one particular horse, which on the Golden Mount took the lead in the royal and equestrian herd. Golden Mount that place was called, namely, on account of an assembly there of people standing in the army who glittered in golden raiment and gilded arms. At the hour of noon, whilst the king rested in a field-tent put up on a plain, and the immense booty was being divided, it seemed to the king that some terrible soldier had pierced his breast with a spear, and after the piercing he was seen of none. Grieving sorely he revealed what he had seen, whilst all denied that they had seen what he assured them was seen by himself. Wherefore he knew that he was culpable and a violent plunderer. Full of dread he bade his sacrilegious army to restore to God and to the most holy Illtud all the plunder, promising thereafter amendment, and in honour of the same saint he built a church, and to those serving in the church he granted the territory in which it stood. This amendment, however, profited his spirit, for he departed from this life on the ninth day as punishment for his wickedness. In the meantime the aforesaid horse, carrying the bell, went forward towards the west in the presence of all who there remained and none compelling him, whilst the whole equestrian herd followed the sweet melodiousness of the bell, which was wonderful and admirable to one who heard and saw so great a miracle. More wonderful than this is that he was able to cross the Severn; he came to this bank which he sought without loss. The courageous troop of horses follows the sound; it loves to hear its call full of sweetness. Then speedily along beaches, mountains, and woods it reaches where was the way to Glamorgan, all the horses hearing and following the sweet sound. And so when the horses had reached the bank of the river Taff, the sound of the bell was heard by the clergy. Whereupon the clergy are merry, and come to meet the horse, which went before and bore forward that same little bell as far as the door of the Church of saint Illtud. When he had brought it, he placed it down on the spot, being loosened roughly from his neck, and it fell on a stone, and by the fall it received a fracture of one part, which is shown to this day in remembrance of this extraordinary miracle. Then is glorious psalmody sung in the choir; how great were the joys and laudations on account of this miracle! Of the innumerable canons each had one horse, but for the horse which excelled the rest with difficulty was the quarrelling among the canons brought to an end. Wherefore each single one was saying, 'That one will be mine', whilst another was answering, 'I will not allow such a choice to be made.' A third was urging, saying, 'Not so of your own will shall you have your wish.' This contention persisted without agreement till the morrow, almost giving rise to the murder of many. On the second day, however, of the coming of the equestrian herd, the clergy came to the herd of horses, wishing to distribute them equally and peaceably. And when they were dividing them, they perceived that all the horses were equal, and that not one excelled the rest, as they had observed previously. Then the division was concluded agreeably, and the clergy were pacified by the peaceful distribution. By such means, for the love of Illtud, God sent back the stolen bell, and the whole of the plunder to the most sacred church of the same.

§ 26. Of the victory of the clergy of saint Illtud over lawless men and in the fortress of Meirchion.

When William, king of the English, was reigning throughout Britain, and prince Robert fitz Hamon was ruling Glamorgan, the Northern Britons began zealously to resist the king, and afterwards in common and firm confederacy with them the Southern Britons. They wasted and burnt villages and towns. The foe came from the woods to injure their English-born and Norman- born fellow-countrymen. They laid waste and returned to distant mountains and to woods with immense plunder. In the meantime an army was put in motion by the Welsh of about three thousand armed horsemen and footsoldiers to waste and burn Glamorgan. When this was heard, the clergy of saint Illtud with the inhabitants of their district, on account of the hostile attack, fortified themselves by means of a ditch and by means of a hedge firmly made above the sea shore, and so fortified they entered, endeavouring to protect their wealth by defence. This being done, the incautious foe came by night before the gate, for if they had come by day, they would have had success. Therefore a nocturnal fight began between the two battle-fronts, until many fell dead from the hurling of stones and the vibration of spears, and others, very many, wounded, suffered greatly, groaning in the contest. Whilst such things were being done, thick sparks frequently appeared in the air between the church of saint Illtud and the fortress of king Meirchion, near which was the battle. They shone intensely like lightning, to protect the catholic people; angelic signs they appeared to be. The more the two battle-fronts attacked, the more ardently did the fiery figures blaze in the upper air. The refuge of God and of the most holy Illtud was violated, wherefore three thousand were overcome before the fortress by a smaller number. Unarmed women administered arms to the combatants; weak boys were not inactive within. Hostile shields were broken by stones cast at them; terrific outcries were poured forth by the enemy; few were wanting bloody countenances. Divine power was present there, when the paucity of the fighters within put to flight and overcame three thousand. Smooth might the ascent to triumph have become, but brave Illtud granted no ascent. If they had attacked by daylight, they would have ascended most smoothly, but the supreme Light and the true Light was unwilling to allow this. There is no virtue or vigour where wickedness abides; this was clearly proved, when fled the army of Gwynedd (Snowdonia).

Here it ends.

Troparion of St Illtyd (Tone 6)
O wise Illtyd, thou wast noble by birth and noble in mind and didst train many saints in the way of holiness. Pray to Christ our God to raise up saints in our days to His glory and for our salvation.

03 November 2009

The Life of the Virgin-Martyr and Confessor Winefride

excerpted from The Life of Saint Winefride Virgin and Martyr:


In the western portion of the island of Great Britain, is the province called Wales, bounded on one side by the frontier of the kingdom of England, on the other by the sea. This region was in old times the abode of a multitude of saints, of great and diverse merit, and is adorned to this day with innumerable privileges and memorials which recall their names. Among these saints was a holy man of great fame and eminence, whose name was Beuno, highly distinguished for sanctity even among so great a multitude of saints. Leaving his native place, trampling on the pride of the world, shunning its perilous temptations, he fled in absolute poverty, became a monk, and soon began to lead a perfect life in Christ. Having founded churches, and gathered together congregations of brethren devoted to the service of God, in more than one place, he was directed by an admonition from Heaven to go elsewhere, and seek another spot in which to dwell. Led by the Spirit of God, Who directed his steps to the future benefit and advantage of numbers yet unborn, he arrived at the seat of a powerful chieftain named Theuith, who was the son of a senator of the highest rank next to the king, named Eliuth, and who considered that he was doing honour to the traditions of his noble birth by maintaining his household and establishment in suitable elegance and splendour.

The venerable Beuno, coming to the house of this chief, was by him kindly and respectfully entertained. He lost no time in explaining to his host the motives of his journey, and calling him aside, said to him: "My lord, I am sent to you by an instinct which comes from on high. I have lived in many places, and have never failed to find a place of residence which suited my purpose and inclination;yet my spirit nowhere found rest ; the Spirit of God continually urged me to seek a fresh abode. Leaving, therefore, the habitations in which I took most pleasure, I come now to you, ignorant for what purpose the Divine will, which foresees that which is to come, has directed me hither. I am sure that these things are not accidental, nor is there any doubt that. All things are ordered by the command of God, that mans purpose is made the instrument of the execution of His decrees. If you will accede to my wishes, you will further your own salvation by patiently considering the proposal I am going to make. I ask you to concede to me some portion of your patrimonial estates, that I may build a church in which I may serve God, and pray daily for your salvation."

The chieftain, who had perceived him to be a man worthy of praise and veneration, was already prepared to yield to his wishes; and his reply was to this effect: "It is only right and just to pay back to God a part of the gifts He has bestowed upon us, in gratitude for His beneficence. I owe you also gratitude for making this request to me, and am not ignorant that it is in my own interest to grant it.

"Come, therefore, and take what you demand. I give you up this villa in undisturbed possession, free from all liabilities to myself or my successors, and devoted to the service of God only. I have a daughter, my only child, on whom all my joy and all my hopes have heretofore exclusively rested. I wish to commit her education to your charge, and desire you to pray the Lord to dispose her way of life to His glory and my true honour, and that I may live to rejoice in her."

Without delay he made over the estate to the holy man to build a church, and the accommodation required for the servants of God who were to reside there, removing himself and all his effects to another spot, whence he had the dwelling of the holy man in sight, and could behold it at any hour of the day. The Saint thus speedily obtained his wish.

The chief not unfrequently laboured with his own hands in the construction of the church, and constantly attended to it, supplying the expenses and encouraging the workmen. He was also often present at the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, with his wife, and with his daughter, whose name was Winefride. And when the man of God announced to the people the Divine commands, he placed the young maiden at his feet, desiring her to listen attentively to all she heard, and receive his words in her heart. And God, Who foresaw what was to come, did not permit all this to be in vain. The maiden, destined to be herself God's temple in after years, listened eagerly and affectionately to what she heard, and stored it all in her memory. She often asked and obtained permission from her parents to seek the man of God at other times, and thirstily drank in the words, sweeter than honey, which fell from his lips. And though her parents both loved her tenderly, and the only hope of the transmission of their line rested in her, yet they rejoiced to see her attend to the Saint's discourse, for the better preservation of her chastity with a view to marriage, which they contemplated for her. But the mercy of God inspired her with a nobler ambition than she yet realized. Daily she advanced in sanctity and wisdom, and God's Spirit filled her heart and mind. Gradually she resolved to put aside all thoughts of man, and long only for the embrace of God; but hesitated to make this resolution known to her parents. She thought she ought not to oppose them; and yet she knew that it was best for her to be united wholly to God. She was aware that both her parents wished her to be married for the sake of continuing the line of their house; yet she knew with still greater certainty that it was far better to offer herself a chaste virgin of Christ.

This conflict in the mind of the young girl occasioned her no little uneasiness. On one side the fear of displeasing her parents kept her from her purpose, on the other the love of God powerfully impelled her to put it in execution without delay. Her master had recited to her the words of the Lord, commanding her to leave her father and mother and follow Christ ; but she was as yet too young to take the vows. At last she resolved upon doing this, if no other way was made clear to her for the accomplishment of her holy purpose; but she thought it best to obtain the intervention of the man of God with her parents, in the hope that with the aid of God's grace she might thus bring them round to her view. She went to him, and told him her secret wish. "You have sown the seed of the Word of God," she said to him; " I wish you to see what has grown up from it. I have determined to abandon the luxury and splendour of the world, and preserve my maidenhood whole and undenled for the honour of my Heavenly Bridegroom. And for this you, most holy Father, must obtain for me the consent of both my parents."

The Saint was deeply moved by such an evidence of piety, and rejoicing that Divine grace had brought forth such fruit as this, promised to speak earnestly to her parents on the subject, and do what in him lay for the accomplishment of her wish. He found his task easier than he had expected. The parents of the girl reposed such full confidence in him that they were entirely under his guidance ; and the sweetness of heavenly things, which they ardently desired all mankind, and especially their daughter, to experience and enjoy, had taken full possession of their own minds. When they were made acquainted with his wishes, they blessed God with abundance of tears, and readily granted his request. They proceeded to lay aside a burden which had long weighed heavily upon them, their earthly possessions, which they distributed to the poor; and they expended upon the Divine Offices the sum they had set apart as a dowry for their daughter, in the event of her marriage. Freed from the cares of the world, they gave themselves up wholly to the commands of God, walking in the path of justice, and never turning aside.

The maiden herself was overwhelmed with joy at attaining the great desire of her heart. Rejoicing in the Holy Ghost, she sat for some time as a postulant at the feet of the man of God, listening eagerly to all he told her of the glory of her Heavenly Spouse. Left to do as she pleased, she ran with dilated heart in the way of the commandments of God, forgetting the things that were behind, and stretching forth to those which were before. For love of Him to Whom she had devoted herself, she allowed in herself nothing that was of earth, desiring only, like the prophet, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of her life. She did not wait for her parents to conduct her to the church, but went early in the morning to be present at the Divine Mysteries; not unfrequently she watched there all through the night. Sometimes she would break in unseasonably upon the holy man, and desire to hear more about her Bridegroom, what He was like, and what He did. Loving Him with her whole heart, she was delighted to hear any one speak of the excellency, power, and splendour of her Heavenly Lover. She took more delight in this than in any pleasure the world could afford her, and it left an unfailing sentiment of joy and delight within her heart. Young as she was, she was already grey in mind and character, and had no desire left for anything but God; girl as she was, she was a man in the perfection of every virtue. Exteriorly, as well as in her soul, she was endowed largely with the gifts of God; she was fair to see, affable to speak to, modest and composed in all her movements. Nor did these graces fail to expose her, as we shall see, to the wiles and stratagems of the cunning enemy of souls. Earnestly engaged as she was in the work of her salvation, the devil could not but perceive that his power and dominion were likely to be severely shaken through her means, and desisted not from his machinations until he thought he had prevailed, and that she could do him no further harm, which happened in this way.


THE blessed Beuno completed the building of his church, with God's help, and when it had been dedicated to God, the people in the neighbourhood began to resort to him; and the parents of Winefride came every day to hear him speak of the things of God.

One Sunday, while every one was on the way to church, and the parents of the maiden were gone to hear the preaching of the holy man and to attend Mass, their daughter, being sick, was compelled to remain at home. A young man named Caradoc, son of King Alan, entered the house, and found her seated near the fire. She recognized the king's son, and rising, gently asked him what he wanted. He inquired where her father was, and said he wished much to speak to him. She said: "My father is gone to the church, to assist at the Divine Mysteries, and if it is necessary for you to see him, you must wait a little while till he returns." She said this in perfect simplicity, and without a suspicion of any evil design on his part; but, in fact, his evil passions had brought him thither, and now hurried him on violently to the accomplishment of his wishes.

He replied: "I will wait patiently for his return if, meanwhile, you will be kind to me, and consent to what I wish. You know I am a king's son, and can endow you with wealth and honours, if you will agree to my request." She then perceived his intention and, with a blush, cast down her eyes; but with great presence of mind she pretended to be distressed because he had found her in her simple and ordinary dress. After a pause she said to him: "You are a king's son and, by God's permission, will one day be a king yourself: and I have no doubt you would surround me with every earthly happiness if I became your wife. Yet, wait till my father comes, and I, meanwhile, will go to my chamber and quickly return to you." Her only object in saying this was to get away from him for an hour. For she could see that the unhappy young man was nearly wild with his unholy passion, and almost tortured to death by it. Her parents absence made him dangerous, and she exerted all her ingenuity to find a means of escape. He permitted her to go to her room, in the expectation that she would speedily return to him more handsomely dressed. She rose, entered the chamber and, without an instant's delay, went out by another door, and ran as fast as she could towards the church, where she hoped the presence of the congregation, if not the fear of God, would afford her protection.

The ill-starred youth soon found out that she was gone and, furious at her escape, seized his sword and made after her. The house was at some little distance from the church, and he overtook her without much difficulty. Staring savagely at her, he thus addressed her: "Once I loved you, and desired to hold you in my embrace. You have fled from me when I came to you; you reject the suit I made to you. Yield now to me, or else this sword shall put an end to your life, for I will cut off your head."

The maiden looked towards the church, to see if any one would come out, but no one appeared. Then she turned to him and said: "I am betrothed to the Son of the Eternal King, the Judge of all mankind. No other spouse can I receive; no other will I have while I live. I should outrage Him otherwise. Draw your sword, and exert all your strength and ferocity; but be sure that neither terror nor flattery, promises or threats, will ever draw me away from the sweetness of His love, to Whom my own love and devotion are pledged."

The licentious prince heard that he was despised, and well knew that she would keep her word. His passion overmastered him; he felt he could never know a moment's rest while she was alive. He drew his sword from the scabbard, and cut off her head. And the moment the head fell to the ground, and on the spot it touched, a copious spring of the purest water gushed forth, and continues to flow to this day, giving healing to multitudes through the merit of this blessed maiden. The head rolled into the church, which was close by, the body falling outside, for the church was at the foot of an incline, on which the two had been standing, down which the head rolled, while the body remained where it had fallen.

The head rolled among the feet of the people standing in the church and attending at the Divine Mysteries. There was a cry of dismay and horror; all exclaimed at the enormity of the crime, and called out for vengeance on the perpetrator. The girl's parents heard the commotion and, running to the spot, asked what had happened. They saw their daughter lying dead, and her head cut off, lying at their feet, and they both fell to the ground, amid tears and lamentations, overwhelmed with horror and grief. There was great confusion in the church, all lamenting the virgin's death, and many deeply compassionating the misery of her unhappy parents.

Into the midst of the tumult the holy man came from the altar, and seeing the maiden whom he was about to consecrate to God so cruelly murdered, expressed the profoundest sorrow and compassion. The murderer still stood outside, wiping his sword upon the grass, in sight of them all. Being the king's son, he thought he could not be punished for the crime, in the commission of which he had forgotten all fear of God. This pride and hardness of heart, glorying in the deed he had done, was more than the Saint could endure, and going up to him, with the maiden's head in his hands and looking into his face, he said to him:

"Wretch, who have disgraced the generosity of youth and the honour of regal descent by so foul a murder, do you not even repent the deed? Having broken the peace, outraged the Church, horribly offended God, are you not sorry for what you have done? Then, since you spare not the Church, and have no reverence for the sacred day of the Lord's Resurrection, I pray my God that you may this instant receive the reward due to the crime you have committed." The young man fell to the ground, and instantly expired; and, to the astonishment and terror of all the beholders, his body melted away and disappeared. Many asserted that they saw the earth open and swallow him up, so that his body seemed to go down with his soul into the pit of Hell.

The Saint held the dissevered head of the young maiden in his hands and kissed it, with tears and anguish of soul. Recovering, he fitted the head to the body, which he covered with his cloak, and breathed into the nostrils. Then he desired her parents, who had all this time seemed inconsolable, to pause in their grief, and went himself to the altar and celebrated Mass. This done, he returned to the body, all earnestly regarding him and raising their hopes to God for what they hardly dared to ask. He addressed a few words to them, telling them that this blessed virgin had given her vow to God, and time only had been wanting for its fulfilment ; and that their duty now was to throw themselves on their knees in His presence and pray for her resurrection, in view of the benefits she would confer upon multitudes in generations to come. This they readily did, for they were profoundly affected by the maiden's sudden and early death and the frightful grief of her parents. They prayed long and earnestly, and then the holy man, rising from the ground and lifting his hands to Heaven, said:

"Lord Jesus Christ, for love of Whom this maiden despised the things of earth and aspired only after those which are above, mercifully listen to our prayer of devotion, and pour forth the bounds of Thy piety upon us, and by Thy power give effect, now and here, to what we desire. And, though we know full well that this maiden, who suffered death for Thee and is now resting in celestial joy, is in no want of our society, nor would wish to rejoin us here on earth, yet do Thou, most kind Father, listen to the prayer of Thy children supplicating Thee, and give assent to their petition. Let her soul, restored to her body, prove Thee Lord of body and soul alike, that returning to life she may magnify Thy name, and the years of her mortal pilgrimage fully accomplished, return with the multiplied usury of a holy life and conversation to Thee, her Spouse, the only-begotten Son of God the Father, with Whom, and the Holy Spirit, Thou livest and art glorified, God for ever and ever, through endless ages.

All answered Amen. The dead girl rose up as if from sleep, wiped the sweat and dust from her brow, and looked at them as they stood transfixed with astonishment and admiration. A slender scar like a white thread was visible all round her neck, marking the place where the head had been severed, and remained visible throughout the rest of her life, in testimony of the wonderful miracle of which she had been the subject. The people of those parts insist that she was called Winefride from this circumstance, for the syllable wen signifies white in their language, and two letters of her original name (Brewi) being changed for euphony, we thus get the name Winefride. It is also related that the white thread on the neck was plainly visible to all those to whom she was permitted to appear after her death, which is an argument to show that she was not displeased to have this name conferred upon her.

The place where her blood was spilt was originally called the Dry Valley; but from the time the fountain sprang up on the spot where her head in falling touched the ground, and which has continued to flow to this day, healing all diseases both in men and cattle, the place has been called by her name. In their language it is Ffynon Gwenflewi, the word ffynon having the same meaning as the Latin word fons, a fountain. From the blood that streamed from her body, and flowed down the hill, the stones, both in the source of the stream and on its banks, were coloured crimson; and wonderful to relate, they still retain their crimson colour, as will be seen by all that look at them. They appear as if covered with clotted blood, which, however, no industry or perseverance can wash away. The moss which adheres to them has the smell of incense. It is well known to all the dwellers in the neighbourhood, by ancient tradition, that the fountain has continued to flow just as it did at first, and the blood-stained stones remain as a witness of the virgin-martyr's merits, and of her willingness to aid and succour all who invoke her. And the men of that region who had not as yet learned to know the true God and His justice, having witnessed the miraculous resuscitation of the holy maiden, and the evident miracle of the fountain bursting forth on the spot, threw themselves at the feet of the holy man, and petitioned to learn from him the mysteries of God. He received them with kindness and piety, purified them in the laver of Baptism, instructed them in the precepts of God, and confirmed them in His service.


WE have now to describe briefly the life which the blessed Winefride continued to lead after her resuscitation, and her end, after the completion of her mortal term. On being raised from death she continued, as before, to sit at the feet of the holy man, listening to his discourse, and seeking fuller instruction in the things of God. At length, having obtained full knowledge of the rule of ecclesiastical discipline, she urged to be allowed at once to assume the veil.

"My parents," she said, "offer no opposition, and you know my mind, which is bent upon despising the pleasures of the world, and longs only for the knowledge and love of God. There is no reason for delay, or for withholding from me the blessing I desire. I shall not quit you, and cannot be torn from your feet, until by your blessing I am initiated into the mysteries of regular discipline, and my outward habit shows me to have taken my lot with God. Do not delay my wishes, holy Father, but yield to my persuasion and give me what I so earnestly desire." Then the holy man sent for her parents, laid before them their daughter's wishes, and intimated that he was ready to comply with her request. Their consent was readily and gladly given, and he received her vows and clothed her with the sacred veil in presence of a multitude of witnesses. She continued to advance to greater and greater perfection, and delighted her teacher and director by the ardour of her love to God and man. Presently he called her parents to him, and addressed them as follows:

"It is you who received me when I came, a stranger, listened to my request, gave me a place of habitation for God s service, have done all in your power to aid me in carrying it on. God's grace has richly rewarded you. A light from Heaven has shone upon you and your child. Cultivate and follow it, and walk carefully in the way it will guide you. And since God is calling me elsewhere, and you will no longer have my presence among you, attend to what your daughter says, for most assuredly not to you only, but to all people in times to come, she will be an example of salvation."

Then turning to the holy maiden: "You," he said, "are by God's command to succeed to my labours in this place, living in this spot, and following your self, and exhibiting to others, the path of life which I have pointed out to you. He has chosen you to bear the palm of conspicuous merit in His presence, that by the double example of your martyrdom and your holy life, many may be brought to love and serve Him. You must reside here and gather round you a band of maidens devoted like yourself to God. Yet you may hold it as certain that you will not here end your days. For having served God here for seven years in abstinence of body and affliction of spirit, you will under Divine direction seek another abode. God will both direct your course, and through you will illuminate the darkness of the hearts of many. And bear this in mind, that your memory will be great and celebrated in the world, and that multitudes will testify, by the healing of their sicknesses and infirmities by your intercession, how great were your merits before God."

The blessed maiden wept in great affliction when she heard of the departure of her teacher, but Beuno, taking her by the hand, led her to the fountain which had sprung up where her head had fallen to the earth, and making her stand upon the stone which is still to be seen by the fountain s side, and is called by the inhabitants St. Beuno's stone, he addressed her in these words: "Behold the traces of your passion. These stones, sprinkled with your blood, prove that you suffered martyrdom for God, for they are still freshly reddened with your blood, to your honour, and for a memorial of you to many that shall come. Now, therefore, attend to the words I am about to say, words which will be repeated with awe and reverence in the hearing of multitudes of men, and will be of service and benefit to many in the ages that are to be hereafter. Three gifts are given to you by God, which shall be the title of your praise, and imprint in the minds of posterity the love and reverence of your devotion. These stones, red with your blood, shall never cease to be spotted with that blood, but in memory of your passion will retain the hue of gore for ever, by the power of God, and in memory of the triumph of your chastity. Whoever shall at any time, in whatsoever sorrow or suffering, implore your aid for deliverance from sickness or misfortune, shall at the first, or the second, or certainly the third petition, obtain his wish, and rejoice in the attainment of what he asked for. And if at the third petition he fail to obtain it, he will know that he is shortly to terminate this mortal life, and for this reason, by the secret judgment of God, is denied his request, but for his soul's sake should persevere in his invocation of your assistance to obtain what is far better than anything he may have asked. And the third gift is this: when I leave you, I shall seek the habitation which God will provide for me on the margin of the sea; and though I shall be at a great distance from you, yet the Highest has commanded that every year a gift from you shall reach my hands. Whenever, therefore, you have ready the present you intend to send me, bring it to this fountain, whatever it may be, and committing it to God, place it confidently in the water. You shall see your deposit carried down by the stream into the great river that flows below, and the sea shall obey its Maker's will, and carry your gift to the door of my retreat, across the rolling waves and amid the stormy winds, till it safely reaches my abode. And this is to be done, so God commands, every year, as long as my life continues. And these three gifts, conferred upon you by God will be the seal and proof of the Divine favour that rests upon you, and will be wondered at and related by multitudes to the glory of your praise and name."

He conducted her to the church, and there said to her: "I leave to you this temple and the buildings round it, constructed partly by my own labour, and partly at the expense of your parents, that when I am gone away, you, and the virgins whom you gather round you, may serve God as you propose, always keeping before you the example I have set you. Know that in this spot there will take place a grand exhibition of the mercy of God, to the temporal and eternal welfare of many, and that by the example of those who dwell here multitudes will be led to the knowledge of God, despising all the emoluments of the world to make gain of Christ. Many will here be healed of ailments of body and soul, and every age and sex will here find the remedy they require. Brute animals will not lose their share of these benefits, for God's clemency will so rest upon this place that great miracles will be wrought here for the honour of your name. Therefore prove yourself an acceptable advocate with God, and so act towards all men that in you His holy Name may be glorified, and you may be a means of salvation to those who behold you. I go to serve God elsewhere, in my humble measure, and ever while I live shall retain in my heart, in sweet memory, the recollection of your devotion."

He went away, taking nothing but his staff, leaving all the furniture and whatever else God had given him by the hands of the faithful, to the blessed maid and her companions. One clerk alone accompanied him; all the others he commended to God with his farewell. But as he went he frequently stopped to look back at the blessed Winefride, tears flowing from his eyes at the thought that he would not behold her bodily presence again. His words and his departure greatly afflicted her, and her sorrow was evident in her face, as she complained that she was left alone and unaided, exposed to the assaults of wicked men, deprived of the presence and affectionate care of her shepherd. And while they endeavoured to console her, she and some others accompanied her beloved Father in God as he left the church, and as long as she kept up with him she was inconsolable, which the holy man perceiving, and being scarcely less moved himself, at length he quickened his steps and tore himself away, giving her his benediction with his right hand as he did so. She followed him with her gaze anxiously till he was out of sight, and then she turned home with her companions.

But after a time, recalling the mode of her conversion to God, her title to martyrdom, and the surprising predictions of Beuno, she took courage and abandoned her sorrow. She was the bride of Christ, and her whole desire was to live worthily of His heavenly affection and chaste embrace. A large number of young maidens soon came to put themselves under her charge, and not a few were induced by her example to take the religious vows, and assume the veil. She led them in strict observance of their rule, both by precept and example, always doing herself what she exhorted them to do, and persevering in fasting, prayers, and vigils. Numerous miracles accredited and seconded the exhortations she addressed to them, and God's grace conferred upon her a sweetness and eloquence of language which made her persuasions irresistible. They all rejoiced and glorified in a superior who was so visibly endowed with celestial grace, and upon whom there seemed to rest a light which came direct from Heaven. All the people of the neighbourhood were brought by her example to the love of devotion; those at a greater distance rejoiced in her fame and honour, and in the miracles which God wrought by her hands. The wild and untutored populations of the Welsh mountains were softened and subdued by her gentleness, and numbers fixed their residence in her immediate neighbourhood, so that the spot she dwelt in was no longer a solitude, but grew into a town.

Blessed Winefride never lost sight of the recollection of her beloved master and teacher, and as the anniversary of his departure drew near, she took care to prepare the present he had desired her to send him. She made a cloak, with the willing aid of the maidens who were under her charge, and early on the morning of the day on which it was to be sent, which was the ist of May, she repaired with many others to the fountain side, carefully wrapped the garment in a white cloth, and placed it in the water, saying that she entrusted it to the stream for conveyance to the blessed Beuno. And wonderful to relate, incredible except to faith, the parcel was not wetted by the water, and the stream carried it, dry and uninjured, down into the broad estuary of the river Dee. All that day and the following night it was borne forward by the waves, and in the morning was cast on the shore close by the spot where Beuno had fixed his habitation. In the morning, when Beuno came out of the church, he stood for some time on the shore, admiring the expanse of waters, and watching the ebb of the tide, when his eye was caught by the folded cloth left on the shore by the retreating waves. He went forward and raised it, unfolded the cloth wrapped round it, and found the cloak unharmed by the waves; even the outer cloth was perfectly dry. Reflecting on the cause of this phenomenon, the memory of the maiden Winefride, beloved of God, came into his mind, and he recognized that in obedience to his command she had sent him this present, which the waves had carried to him unharmed. He gave thanks to God, and laid up the gift in his church, for his own use and that of the other servants of God. And he rejoiced especially and greatly because she had been mindful of his words, and because her fame was spread throughout all that country. And he prayed that the Lord would bestow upon her the increase of all virtue, that whatever was pleasing in His eyes might be found abundantly in her, and that the consciences of others might through her be enkindled with devotion towards Heaven.

And it appeared by the event that these prayers were heard and answered. For the love of heavenly things carried her so far that she appeared in herself a sum of all perfection, and was like a bright ray from Heaven illumining all the country with the perfect example of a holy light, both those who saw her and those who saw her not. She had a way of persuading every one, which seemed miraculous and divine. All the people of the country abandoned whatever she warned them to abstain from, and applied themselves eagerly to the works of faith which they learned from her, and saw practised by her and the virgins under her charge, while she carefully and minutely carried out all the instructions she had received from the blessed Beuno, omitting nothing. Every year, on the first of May, she sent her present to her master, in the manner described, as long as he lived; and he always found it next morning cast up by the waves at the door of his monastery. From this circumstance the holy man obtained the name by which he is known throughout Wales, to this very day, Beuno Casul Sech, that is, Beuno of the Dry Cloak, because it was carried to him dry through the waves. After a few years he left this world, and migrated to celestial joy, at an advanced age. The story of his life and death, the actions of his earlier years, and the miracles wrought at his intercession after his death, are kept on record, and retained in the reverent and affectionate memory of the people, and are remarkable in this, that the miracles which followed his death are much more numerous than those he wrought during his life.


HAVING heard of the death of her master and teacher, St. Winefride mourned and prayed for him, and no longer sent her annual present. She began to be sensible of the loneliness of her situation and felt as if she was deprived of all human aid. Several of her companions had died; she began to be weary of the place in which she lived. Then there came into her mind the words of her beloved teacher, who had told her that after seven years she would remove elsewhere. She left off building, and all similar undertakings, and her spirit found no rest as long as she continued to dwell in that place; though she felt that she could not actually leave until the seven years were fully run out. But, when the seven years were expired, she felt herself free, and understood that she must determine her own course on her own responsibility.

She therefore addressed hersejf to God in earnest prayer, entreating Him to direct her where to go for her own advantage and spiritual profit, and that of others; and that He would send His blessing on the spot where she had lived, so that all who resorted thither, either for prayer or remedy for sickness or trouble, might obtain what they sought on invoking her name, and by the intercession of those who had devoted themselves to a spiritual and holy life in that place. How this prayer was heard is proved unmistakeably by the testimony of innumerable multitudes who have been relieved of their infirmities at that spot, as will be shown by many examples which we will proceed to cite, when we have brought this story to a close.

While the blessed Winefride was earnestly engaged in prayer, entreating God's mercy to guide her in her way, one night, while she was watching and praying, a message from Heaven sounded in her ears, to this effect: "Take one of your maidens to accompany you, and go to the blessed Deifer, who lives at the place called Botavarrus (Bodfari), and consult him as to what you are to do, and where you are to go." He was a great man before the Lord, walking in all His commandments and justifications and was blameless. It is related of him that, filled with the grace of super natural power and virtue, he made a fountain of water spring up out of the ground, and, extending his hand over it in blessing, prayed God that any sick man who bathed in that stream might return home cured and in health, and the efficacy of his prayer was proved by great numbers of people who in this way obtained restoration to health. Many miracles are recorded of him as wrought during his life, but one which occurred after his death is especially worthy of being mentioned, as exhibiting the abundant efficacy and value of his merit. A band of thieves going forth to plunder, found two horses in the cemetery where the blessed Deifer was interred, and took them away with them, thinking to escape without difficulty. The owners subsequently came to the cemetery and, not finding the horses, concluded that they had been stolen. They returned home and made some candles, with which they entered the chapel of the confessor, and placed them upon the altar. The candles were not lighted, and they had no means of lighting them, and they therefore prayed the Saint of God either to light them by a ray from Heaven, or else accept their devotion as it was intended. But the Saint, as if to show that he accepted their offering and petition, suddenly lighted the candles in their presence. This increased both their devotion to St. Deifer and their hope of recovering their lost property by his means, and in this hope they were not disappointed. For the thieves wandered all over the neighbourhood, and about midnight, having lost their way, looked about them to discover where they were. They found themselves at the fence of Deifer's cemetery. They were much disturbed at this discovery, for they knew well that if they were caught they would have a severe penalty to pay for their crime. Accordingly, they rode off again as fast and as far as they could. But the hand of God was still upon them. Day broke and they found themselves once more in front of the gate of the cemetery, where they had dismounted, and were holding their horses by their bridles; at the very moment when the owners of the lost steeds came forth from the oratory, where they had spent the night, in confidence of Divine assistance coming to them in the morning, and caught them with the stolen property on their hands. They recovered their horses, and let the thieves go; but the circumstance illustrates the merits of the holy man to whose advice the blessed Winefride was divinely instructed to have recourse.

The most holy maid, accordingly, committing to God's care the habitation and the companions whom she was leaving, and taking one of them with her, as directed by the oracle, sought the abode of blessed Deifer, which was about eight miles distant, and was by him kindly received. Having prayed long, they sat down, and the maiden explained the cause of her coming. The holy man answered her: "I am at present profoundly ignorant of God's design in this; but have patience, and remain here this night. Perhaps God will reveal His will to us, and fulfill your wishes."

To this she readily agreed, for the oracle from Heaven had plainly signified to her that this holy man was to direct her what to do. All that night he continued in prayer, as was his wont; and as he prayed, he heard a voice from Heaven saying:

"Tell My beloved child, the virgin Winefride, to go to the village of Henthlant (Henllan), where she will in part obtain what she wishes. She will there find a venerable man, named Saturnus, from whom she will learn more fully what to do, and where to fix her habitation." In the morning the holy Deifer called the maiden, and told her all that had been said to him, pointed out to her the route she was to follow, and bade her follow it joyfully, for it would lead her to the accomplishment of all she wished.

The blessed Winefride accordingly, rejoicing that all doubt was now removed, and that she was certainly under the protection of God, set out to visit the blessed Saturnus, who received her with every mark of kindness. He had already been warned of her approaching visit, and of its object, by a voice from Heaven, and requested her to remain there that night, promising to give her full direction in the morning. When the morning came Saturnus said to her: "There is a spot called Witheriacus (Gwytherin), honoured by the relics and the memory of many saints, and beloved by God and reverenced by men for the holy lives they are leading or have led. There it is God s will that you shall dwell for the remainder of your days, and by your example animate and inform the minds of others. The abbot, whose name is Elerius, is a man of great virtue, whom continual groaning and perseverance in prayer have so purified and set free from earthly cares that he feels no longer the ambitions or pleasures of the world, but is intent only on Heaven. To him I am commanded by God to direct you, and to assure you that you will there find all that is sufficient to satisfy in this life a soul which only longs for Heaven. There are there virgins dedicated to God, who even from their infancy have been brought up in the observances of the religious life, and attend to them with careful devotion. To these your admonitions and example, with God's blessing, will bring profit and improvement. Watchful as they are in the service of Christ, your coming among them will render them still more devout, and a brighter splendour from on high will rest upon them."

Hearing of the holy life these virgins led, she at once professed her desire to join them, and asked for a guide that she might set out without delay. St. Saturnus sent his deacon with her to show her the way, and himself accompanied her for the beginning of her journey. He told her much of the pleasantness of the new home she was seeking, and when at length he left her, at her desire, he gave her his blessing. The holy Elerius, who was notified of her approach by the Spirit of God, came quickly part of the way to meet her, and received her as a most faithful worshipper of God, while the deacon repeated all that his superior had desired him to say, and told in what way God had made manifest His will that she should seek that spot. Greeting her with great reverence and affection, the Saint first conducted her into his church, and his prayer completed, embraced and exhorted her to courage. Then taking her aside, he asked her what were her own intentions and idea. "For," he said, "although the course of your life, the way in which you were initiated into the Divine mysteries, and how you obtained the title of martyrdom by decapitation, and the shedding of your blood, all this has been made known to my humility by Divine manifestation, I wish to learn from your own lips the cause which has induced you to take the trouble to travel so far."

She replied: "He Who revealed to you the things you have condescended to tell me, has not, I think, left you totally in ignorance of what I wish and of my object in coming here. The power which revealed to you the past concerning me, can also reveal to you the future. Receive me, therefore, as one committed to your charge by Heaven, and dispose of my mode of life according to the tenour of the Divine command which foreshadows it to you." The holy man deferred his communication until the morrow, begging her to wait patiently till the time came.

St. Elerius remained all that night in prayer, and the blessed Winefride prayed with him. About daybreak the certitude of this matter was made manifest to him as he slept, and rising he came to her greatly rejoicing, and again embracing her, bade her dwell in joy and security thenceforward. Then he took her by the hand and led her into the convent, where he addressed the inmates in these words : "Attend, my beloved daughters; for what I have to say is worthy your attention. The Divine clemency has condescended to adorn and illustrate you with a great splendour. He has destined this maiden, devoted to Him, to remain and live among you, that by witnessing her life you may become more devout in His service, and her reward be given her in Heaven for the improvement she will be the means of effecting in you. This is the virgin Winefride, whose fame has often reached your ears, who to preserve her chastity inviolate despised at once the violence of the enemy and the enticements of the flatterer, and gladly suffered death to keep her virginity unharmed. Yes, this is she, the standards of whose triumph gleam throughout the Church, and in whose title of martyr all our country glories, as an honour and blessing. She alone will obtain, and is not ignorant that she will obtain, from the hand of God, the palm of a martyr and an illustrious confessor, both in one. She comes to dwell among you until the day of her death, whose merits have already reached Heaven, and for whom a place of reward among the blessed martyrs is reserved on high. Receive her joyfully, and embrace her devoutly as a celestial treasure, and in all things seek to aid and imitate her. For to this end the Highest has sent her hither, that by copying her you may lay up your merits beside hers in Heaven, and that this spot may become celebrated on her account as long as the world shall last."

Turning then towards one of them, who was his own mother and the superior of all the religious, he said to her: "To you, dear mother, I especially commit the care of this maiden, beloved of God. Follow her footsteps, imitate her deeds, follow her counsels. For know, and let it be known, to all who are seated here, that this blessed maiden has been sent hither by special command of God, on which account you are bound to show special devotion to her, and understand from this proof of it, the care which God has for your house." The holy confessor departed, and the blessed Winefride remained thenceforward with the hand maidens of God.

From that time she seemed bent on storming the very citadel of religion, and bringing every virtue to the highest perfection, as if heretofore she had been nothing but an alien to sanctity. The story of her conversion to God had already been related to her companions by the blessed Elerius, but she appeared now as if beginning her conversion over again. She practised almost perpetual abstinence, continual prayer, and humility of conversation. The other maidens accepted her as a pattern of patience and obedience, and made her their guide in all that belonged to their salvation. Every element of honour and virtue they found abundantly in her; and the veneration for her was proportionately great. The superior, and the mother of the holy confessor Elerius, whose name was Theonia, loved her with deep affection, and followed her counsels as much as her own or that of any of the other virgins in the care of the house and its consecrated inmates. Often, when speaking of her longing for the celestial kingdom, she drew tears from the mothers eyes, and would weep herself. Theonia was a woman of great authority and perfection in religion, wholly intent on works of charity and mercy; and, while she loved them all with a devotion not to be measured, she cherished the holy Winefride with glad affection and deep reverence, and did much to increase the veneration the others also bore her. St. Elerius, who served the Lord apart, with his brethren and fellow disciples, in simplicity of heart and extraordinary affliction of spirit, sometimes came to visit her, and often spoke of her to others. Also, he often spoke to her of the secrets of Heaven and sometimes of the mysteries of the Church, and found in her a complete knowledge of all that belongs to God, as well as profound good sense and wisdom in all things belonging to the necessities of exterior life. All this could not long be concealed, and, in time, the convent where she dwelt obtained wide celebrity, and was held by all men in the highest reverence. The faithful people came in troops to see the maiden who had allowed her head to be cut off for the love of Christ, and had been restored to life at the prayer of a Saint, and they loudly proclaimed the place where she dwelt to be a highly honoured and holy spot. Some of them were satisfied with seeing and speaking of her, others humbly desired to be allowed to see the mark round her neck, and this request she did not like to refuse, for fear of checking their devotion, or being herself suspected of pride. They could not keep from tears when they saw the white scar on her skin, and would return home filled with admiration and praising God for His marvels.


ONE day, the blessed Elerius entered the doors of the convent to speak to the holy virgin, Winefride, of the things of God, and their conversation turned upon the recollection of death. The Saint took the opportunity of saying something which he had often revolved in his mind.

He said: "I rejoice that God sent you to this place to lay my body in the grave, and preserve my memory after my death. I have often asked of God to send one of his servants or handmaidens here to bury me and make this place famous after my time." The blessed maiden answered to this: "It will not be so, nor is this what God has appointed. You will, indeed, commit to the earth my lady, your mother, and I shall then be living and stand by your side; then, and after a very few years, it will be your task to bury my body. Afterwards you will finish your course full of days, and being translated to your fathers, will find in the heavenly kingdom the treasures you have laid up on earth."

The holy confessor withdrew, and very soon the prediction began to be fulfilled. The blessed Theonia was seized with mortal sickness, and perceived death to be approaching. Her daughters, the virgins who had lived under her care, were profoundly affected at the approaching loss of the mother who had trained them to God's service and taught them the Divine mysteries. She consoled them, saying that such lamentations might be reasonable if a better was to be succeeded by a worse, and the rights of God were endangered by an evil succession; but where to good better succeeds, and the cause of God is in progress of advancement, they should rather accept with spiritual joy the amelioration promised them. "You ought," she said, "to bear my death patiently, since you will still have the blessed Winefride, in whom you will find all that is needed for instruction and example for your salvation. Reverence her, imitate her, follow her as a guiding star, cast upon her all your cares, not doubting that she will be in all things your helper with God, She received from the hands of her son, the holy Elerius, the life-giving Communion of the Lord's Body and Blood, and leaving this world, rendered up her spirit into the hands of the holy angels.

On his mother s death, the holy man committed the care of the convent to the blessed Winefride, who accepted it only because she feared some judgment of God if she refused. She carried her austerities, and the sufferings she inflicted on herself, to the utmost degree of endurance; but was always simple and humble in habit, and in speech so beautiful and attractive, that people of all ranks, even the highest, from all parts of Wales came to be edified with her conversation. Robbers and invaders of the property of others were struck with compunction when they saw her and heard her words, and some of them were so far converted to God as to make public confession of their crimes. No one ever spoke to her who was not better and happier for doing so. The holy Elerius often spoke of her publicly, declaring that God had appointed her for the illumination of their country, and that a virtue from on high dwelt in her. This, indeed, was the universal belief, and was attested by wonderful cures of the sick which followed her prayers.

The infirm always left her healed, the sad went away rejoicing; cares and sorrows of mind, of body, of circumstances, all seemed banished by her presence, not to return. She was so withdrawn from the love of the world that she thought the smallest luxury admitted into the house a sort of pollution; while in the care of the maidens entrusted to her charge she omitted nothing that could contribute to their spiritual welfare, and in all things showed the profoundest wisdom and discretion.

And it was while the virgin Winefride, beloved of God, was thus devoting her life to the service of the Supreme Lord of Heaven and earth, that the Lord Jesus, willing to withdraw His faithful servant from the life of labour to eternal rest, made known to her the approaching hour of her departure. The communication was made to her while she was praying in the oratory at night. She received it with the deepest joy, and did not conceal her triumph and rejoicing. She continued to watch in prayer all night and labour in charity all day. She frequently spoke of her approaching end. Her companions grieved; St. Elerius, fully sensible of the loss he was about to suffer, yet exerted himself to give her every assistance and support in her preparation for the change which awaited her.

She was taken ill with a disorder of the bowels, which occasioned her acute pain. She prayed God to take charge of her, and not leave her soul a prey to the enemy ; and, sending for Elerius, fortified herself with the Viaticum of the Lord's Body and Blood. Then, witnessing the grief of her companions, who were in dismay at their approaching loss, she said to them:

"Grieve not for my departure, my daughters, for God's mercy is removing me from present misery to the good which is highest and unchangeable. I rejoice now that I refused an earthly bridegroom, that I despised the pleasures of the world, that I determined to possess nothing of my own. I am going to Him for Whom I forsook all things, and in comparison of Whose love I counted all things earthly as nothingness and filth. I shall behold Him for ever, for Whose sake I threw away myself and all I might have possessed. Do you embrace with diligent devotion the same Lord, and keep yourselves for the celestial Bridegroom, to Whom you are betrothed and pledged. Only by His aid can you hope for safety, when your own end comes, and escape the snares of the enemy. All that carnal eyes are capable of looking upon, is slight and transitory. Care not for that which is to-day, and to-morrow is not, nor ever turn aside from the changeless good which cannot fail, in which there is peace, and safety, and joy for ever." Then, addressing herself to prayer, she laid down her spirit, to be taken up into the hands of God.

She was taken ill on the first day of November, and died on the second, having made it a request to St. Elerius that she might be interred near the body of his mother, St. Theonia. St. Elerius took care to comply with this request, and the body having been placed in the church, and the offices of religion solemnly performed, it was carried to the grave amid the lamentations of all the bystanders. The cemetery in which she was laid contains the graves of many saints and holy persons of great merit, among them the holy confessors Chebius and Senanus, of whom the former was buried at her head, the latter in the same row. They were both celebrated men, and many churches are erected in that country in their honour, in which frequent miracles have been, and still are, wrought. The blessed Theonia rests on her left hand; the names of the other occupants of the graveyard are now only known to God. For, so many holy men and women are buried in that place, that it has been found impossible to retain their names, or even their number, in memory. Large numbers of pilgrims visited the grave of St. Winefride, and numerous miraculous cures were wrought by her intercession, so that it soon became a frequented place of pilgrimage. After a few years, the blessed Elerius departed this life, full of sanctity and religion. He was buried in the church which bears his name, which is illustrated, even to this day, by many miracles.

+Saint Winefride, pray for us sinners!