An Ineffable Fragrancy

Dormition of the Virgin; plaque from a triptych (?) then from a binding. Ivory, Constantinople, late 10th century–early 11th century; Musée national du Moyen Âge.
Dormition of the Virgin; plaque from a triptych (?) then from a binding. Ivory, Constantinople, late 10th century–early 11th century; Musée national du Moyen Âge.

It has been above said, that the holy Pulcheria built many churches to Christ at Constantinople. Of these, however, there is one which was built in Blachernæ, in the beginning of Marcian I’s reign of divine memory. These, therefore, namely, Marcian and Pulcheria, when they had built a venerable temple to the greatly to be celebrated and most holy mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, and had decked it with all ornaments, sought her most holy body, which had conceived God. And having sent for Juvenal, Archbishop of Jerusalem, and the bishops of Palestine, who were living in the royal city on account of the synod then held at Chalcedon, they say to them, “We hear that there is in Jerusalem the first and famous Church of Mary, mother of God and ever Virgin, in the garden called Gethsemane, where her body which bore the Life was deposited in a coffin. We wish, therefore, her relics to be brought here for the protection of this royal city.” But Juvenal answered, “In the holy and divinely inspired Scripture, indeed, nothing is recorded of the departure of holy Mary, mother of God. But from an ancient and most true tradition we have received, that at the time of her glorious falling asleep, all the holy Apostles who were going through the world for the salvation of the nations, in a moment of time borne aloft, came together at Jerusalem. And when they were near her, they had a vision of angels, and divine melody of the highest powers was heard: and thus with divine and more than heavenly glory, she delivered her holy soul into the hands of God in an unspeakable manner. But that which had conceived God being borne with angelic and apostolic psalmody, with funeral rites, was deposited in a coffin in Gethsemane. In this place the chorus and singing of the angels continued for three whole days. But after three days, on the angelic music ceasing, since one of the Apostles had been absent, and came after the third day, and wished to adore the body which had conceived God, the Apostles, who were present, opened the coffin; but the body, pure and every way to be praised, they could not at all find. And when they found only those things in which it had been laid out and placed there, and were filled with an ineffable fragrancy proceeding from those things, they shut the coffin. Being astounded at the miraculous mystery, they could form no other thought, but that He, who in his own person had vouchsafed to be clothed with flesh, and to be made man of the most holy Virgin, and to be born in the flesh, God the Word, and Lord of Glory, and who after birth had preserved her virginity immaculate, had seen it good after she had departed from among the living, to honour her uncontaminated and unpolluted body by a translation before the common and universal resurrection.”

— Narrative of a certain Euthymius, whose report was inserted into a homily of St. John Damascene (hom. II in dormit. B. V. M., 18, P. G., XCVI, 748).

Wall Tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod

Wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 1528.
Wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, 1528.

Reputed to be the finest medieval wall tomb in Scotland, the monument to Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief of Clan MacLeod of Harris, is located on the south side of the choir of St. Clement’s Church (Tùr Chliamhainn in Gàidhlig or “Clement’s Tower”), Rodel, Harris.

Effigy of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, in full armour and with sword, in his elaborate wall tomb, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.
Effigy of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, in full armour and with sword, in his elaborate wall tomb, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.

Over a carved effigy of the chief, four angels circle above the Virgin Mary and two bishops, the chief’s castle at Dunvegan, and his birlinn (galley); below is a hunting scene, the weighing of the chief’s soul, and an inscription. The tomb is crowned by an arch bearing carvings of the Twelve Apostles, two angels, and God the Father holding the Cross, surrounded by the beasts of the Four Evangelists.

Detail of a bishop, wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.
Detail of a bishop, wall tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, St. Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris.

The 9th Chief of Clan MacLeod, Alasdair’s son William, had his tomb prepared in the south wall of the nave of Tùr Chliamhainn in 1539. In the south transept, there is a third grave probably belonging to John MacLeod of Minginish, the 10th Chief. There are five more grave slabs leaning against the wall of the north transept. The graveyard surrounding St. Clement’s Church contains a number of additional MacLeod tombs.

According to Donald Munro, High Dean of the Isles, in his work, Description of the Western Isles of Scotland (1549), St. Clement’s Church itself was built for the MacLeods of Harris.

Within the south pairt of this ile lyes ane monastery with ane steipell, quhilk was foundit and biggit by M’Cloyd of Harrey, callit Roodill.

How Hedged About with Secrecy

Esteem no man for his good looks, nor for his outward show despise him; yonder bee is an inconsiderable creature, and yet there is a world of sweetness in the harvest she wins. Plume not thyself when thou goest bravely clad, nor pride thyself in thy brief hour of greatness. Of wonder and of praise what else is worthy, but the doings of the most High? And these, how hedged about with secrecy! Kings a many have lost their thrones, to pretenders they never dreamed of; great ones a many have fallen full low, and their glory has passed to others.

Ecclesiasticus xi. 2-6.

To Whom Should We Go?

Statue of the saint in St. Peter's Square.
Statue of the saint in St. Peter’s Square.

With demoralising “off-the-cuff” interviews emanating from Rome now seemingly every other week, it is good to be reminded… portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam (St. Matt. xvi. 18.).

After this, many of his disciples went back to their old ways, and walked no more in his company. Whereupon Jesus said to the twelve, Would you, too, go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom should we go? Thy words are the words of eternal life; we have learned to believe, and are assured that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.

St. John vi. 67-70.

An Order of Malediction

The Cathach of St. Columba.
The Cathach of St. Columba.

Adomnán has also set down an order of malediction for them, to wit, a psalm for every day up to twenty days and an apostle or a noble saint for every day to be invoked with it, to wit, “Quare” and Peter, “Domine quid multiplicati” and John, “Verba mea” and Philip, “Domine Deus meus” and Bartholomew, “Dixit insipiens” and Thomas, “Deus, Deus meus respice” and Matthew “Iudica me Domine innocentium” and Jacob “Dixit iniustus” and Simon “Domine ne in furore” and Thaddeus, “Dixi custodiam”  and Mattias, “Deus deorum”  and Mark, “Quid gloriaris” and Luke, “Dixit insipiens”  and Stephen, “Exurgat deus” and Ambrose, “Salvum me” and Gregory of Rome, “Deus, venerunt gentes” and Martin, “Deus, quis similis” and old Paul, “Deus laudem” and George, “Audite caeli quae loquor,” “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo,” &c.

— Cáin Adamnáin, xxxii.

Now I Know of a Surety

The Liberation of St Peter, 1616-18, by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656); oil on canvas, 129 x 179 cm; Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
The Liberation of St Peter, 1616-18, by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656); oil on canvas, 129 x 179 cm; Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

About that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

— Acts xii. 1., The Epistle for the Feast of St. Peter from the Book of Common Prayer.

The Sustenance of Life and the Example

Ancient Seal of City of Glasgow, Depicting St. Mungo. Mitchell Library, Glasgow City Council.
Ancient seal of City of Glasgow, depicting St. Mungo. Mitchell Library, Glasgow City Council.

He established the seat of his cathedral in the town called Glesgu, which is translated “Beloved Family,” and is now called Glasgow. And there he gathered together many servants of God, a family beloved and well known to God, who lived in abstinence following the pattern of the primitive church under the Apostles, without possessions and in holy discipline and divine service.

And the diocese of that episcopate extended to the borders of the Cambrian kingdom, and that kingdom stretched continuously from sea to sea, just like the earthen wall built by the Emperor Severus. After the advice and counsel of the Roman legions, in order to prevent the Picts from rushing into the country, a wall was constructed in this same place that was eight feet wide and twelve feet tall, and it reached up to the river Forth, and divides Scotland from England as a boundary line. And this Cambrian region over which Kentigern now was placed with episcopal honor, had received the Christian faith (as had the whole of Britain) during the time of Pope Eleutherius, when King Lucius ruled. But when the pagans had attacked the island during various times, and having dominion over it, the islanders had thrown away the faith they had received by falling into apostasy. Many also were not yet washed in the health-giving water of baptism, and many were stained by the contagion of manifold heresies. Many, only Christian in name, were wrapped up in the hog pool of multiple vices. Very many had been taught by ministers inexperiened in and ignorant of the law of God. And for these reasons, all the inhabitants of the province had a need for the counsel of a good shepherd, and the cure of a good ruler. Therefore God, the Disposer and Dispenser of all good things, provided, preferred, and proposed Saint Kentigern as a healing remedy, as the sustenance of life and the example, for all the diseases of all the people.

— Jocelin of Furness, Life of St. Kentigern, Chapter XI.

Princeps Apostolorum

Statue of the saint in St. Peter's Square.
Statue of the saint in St. Peter’s Square.

Beatus Petrus, apostolus et princeps apostolorum, Antiochenus, filius Iohannis, prouinciae Gallileae, uico Bethsaida, frater Andreae, primum sedit cathedram episcopatus in Antiochia annos VII. Hic Petrus ingressus in urbe Roma, Nerone Cæsare, ibique sedit cathedram episcopatus ann. XXV m. II d. III. Fuit autem temporibus Tiberii Cæsaris et Gaii et Tiberii Claudi et Neronis.

— Liber Pontificalis.

The Oath Against Modernism

The Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City.
The Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City.

Given by His Holiness Pope St. Pius X

September 1, 1910.

To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.

I N. firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (cf. Rom. 1:19-20), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated: Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our Creator and Lord.

Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality — that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact — one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history — the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way. I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God…

Dreikönigsschrein

Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne Cathedral; Parts of the shrine were designed by the famous medieval goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun, who began work on it in 1180 or 1181. It has elaborate gold sculptures of the prophets and apostles, and scenes from the life of Christ. The shrine was completed circa 1225.
Shrine of the Three Kings, Cologne Cathedral; parts of the shrine were designed by the mediæval goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun, who began work on it in 1180 or 1181. It bears elaborate gold sculptures of the Prophets and Apostles, and scenes from the life of Christ. The shrine was completed circa 1225.

Temporibus domini Philippi episcopi, qui successit Reinoldo, fabricata est eis capsa … sicut nobis narraverunt qui presentes erant eorum translatoni …

Floss, Dreikoenigenbuch, 1864, page 116-122 (Latin); copy in MGH 25, 108.