“Claw for claw,” as St Conan said to the devil. The expression “blow for blow” occurs in Waverley, and in a note the following explanation is given of it.
In the Irish ballads relating to Fingal, or Fion, there occurs, as in the primitive poetry of most nations, a cycle of heroes, each of whom has some distinguishing attributes. Upon these qualities and the adventures of those possessing them many proverbs are formed which are still current in the Highlands. Amongst other characteristics Conan is distinguished as in some respects a kind of Thersites, but brave and daring even to rashness. He had made a vow that he would never take a blow without returning it, and having like other heroes of antiquity descended into the infernal regions he received a cuff from the Arch-fiend who presided, which he instantly returned, using the expression in the text. Sometimes the proverb is rendered thus–‘Claw for claw, and the devil take the shortest nails.’
We should be very unwilling to believe that St Conan and Thersites–the evil-minded, “scurrilous Grecian”–had anything in common, and though in those rough early days even a churchman–with little law to look up to or to help him–might now and then have to take it into his own hands, he could not well be a brawler, and at the same time retain the reputation for piety which we know was attached to St Conan. The Conan of the ballad of Fion may have been a Thersites, and the saying may have originated in his time, and may have been appropriated and applied to their master by the monkish scribes. At anyrate, one of them gives the following explanation of it: It appears that at one period of the saint’s earlier life the Evil One had great power in Argyllshire. We find in everyday life that one man, when disputing with another, will now and then find it politic to bargain and perhaps give way a little, even when he knows himself to be in the right, rather than provoke a contest in which he is not sure he will altogether be the victor, and so the good monk found it necessary to temporise with the Devil. There were many very bad characters–so says the old chronicler–in those days in the district of Lorn, or what we call Lorn now, to whom St Conan could not altogether deny the Fiend a right; some of whom were hopelessly wicked, and the latter was about sweeping them all, middling, bad and very bad, into his net. St Conan gave up the last and offered to draw alternately for the others, stating his determination if this proposal was refused of fighting most desperately for them all. The Devil, knowing how very formidable an opponent the saint would prove, agreed. The very black ones were raked away, and then the champions took in turn the souls of the remainder. It was while they were thus engaged that the saint made use of the memorable expression, for his great enemy grew so terribly excited in the grim game that he could not keep his turn, and was continually stretching out his awful hands for his prey. “Keep your turn,” thundered the saint, “play fair, claw for claw.”
— The Highland Monthly, Vol. II, no. 18, September 1890.
Sexto, dicendum est de supersticionibus contumeliosis, quarum quedam sunt contumeliose Deo, quedam proximo. Deo contumeliose sunt supersticiones que divinos honores demonibus attribuunt, vel alicui alteri creature, ut facit idolatria, et ut faciunt misere mulieres sortilege que salutem petunt adorando sambucas vel offerendo eis, contemnendo ecclesias vel sanctorum reliquias, portando ibi pueros suos vel ad formicarios vel ad res alias, ad sanitatem consequendam. Sic faciebant nuper in diocesi Lugdunensi, ubi, cum ego predicarem contra sortilegia et confessiones audirem, multe mulieres confitebantur portasse se pueros suos apud sanctum Guinefortem. Et cum crederem esse sanctum aliquem, inquisivi, et audivi ad ultimum quod esset canis quidam leporarius, occisus per hunc modum. In diocesi Lugdunensi, prope villam monialium que dicitur Novile, in terra domini de Vilario, fuit quoddam castrum cujus dominus puerum parvulum habebat de uxore sua. Cum autem exivissent dominus et domina a domo et nutrix similiter, dimisso puero solo in cunabulis, serpens maximus intravit domum, tendens ad cunabula pueri; quod videns leporarius, qui ibi remanserat, eum velociter insequens et persequens sub cunabulo, evertit cunabula, morsibus serpentem invadens, defendentem se et canem similiter mordentem; quem ad ultimum canis occidit et a cunabulis pueri longe projecit, relinquens cunabula dicta cruentata, et terram et os suum et caput, serpentis sanguine, stans prope cunabula, male a serpente tractatus. Cum autem intrasset nutrix et hec videret, puerum credens occisum et devoratum a cane, clamavit cum maximo ejulatu; quod audiens, mater pueri similiter accurrit, idem vidit et credidit, et clamavit similiter. Similiter et miles, adveniens ibi, idem credidit, et, extrahens spatam, canem occidit. Tunc, accedentes ad puerum, invenerunt eum illesum, suaviter dormientem; inquirentes, inveniunt serpentem canis morsibus laceratum et occisum. Veritatem autem facti agnoscentes, et dolentes de hoc quod sic injuste canem occiderant sibi tam utilem, projecerunt eum in puteum qui erat ante portam castri, et acervum maximum lapidum super eum projecerunt, et arbores juxta plantaverunt in memoriam facti.
Castro autem divina voluntate destructo, et terra in desertum redacta est, ab habitatore relicta. Homines autem rusticani audientes nobile factum canis, et quomodo innocenter mortuus est pro eo de quo debuit reportare bonum, locum visitaverunt, et canem tanquam martyrem honoraverunt et pro suis infirmitatibus et neccessitatibus rogaverunt, seducti a diabolo et ludificati ibi pluries, ut per hoc homines in errorem adduceret. Maxime autem mulieres que pueros habebant infirmos et morbidos ad locum eos deportabant, et in quodam castro, per leucam ab eo loco propinquo, vetulam accipiebant, que ritum agendi et demonibus offerendi et invocandi eos doceret eas, et ad locum duceret. Ad quem cum venirent, sal et quedam alia offerebant, et panniculos pueri per dumos circumstantes pendebant, et acum in lignis, que super locum creverant, figebant, et puerum nudum per foramen quod erat inter duos truncos duorum lignorum [introducebant], matre existente ex una parte et puerum tenente et proiciente novies vetule que erat ex alia parte, cum invocatione demonum adjurantes faunos, qui erant in silva Rimite, ut puerum, quem eorum dicebant, acciperent morbidum et languidum, et suum, quem secum detulerant, reportarent eis pinguem et grossum, vivum et sanum. Et, hoc facto, accipiebant matricide puerum, et ad pedem arboris super stramina cunabuli nudum puerum ponebant, et duas candelas ad mensuram pollicis in utroque capite, ab igne quem ibi detulerant, succendebant et in trunco superposito infigebant, tamdiu inde recedentes quod essent consumpte et quod nec vagientem puerum possent audire nec videre; et sic candele candentes plurimos pueros concremabant et occidebant, sicut ibidem de aliquibus reperimus. Quedam etiam retulit mihi quod, dum faunos invocasset et recederet, vidit lupum de silva exeuntem et ad puerum euntem, ad quem, nisi affectu materno miserata prevenisset, lupus vel diabolus in forma ejus eum, ut dicebat, vorasset. Si autem, redeuntes ad puerum, eum invenissent viventem, deportabant ad fluvium cujusdam aque rapide propinque, dicte Chalarone, in quo puerum novies immergebant, qui valde dura viscera habebat si evadebat nec tunc vel cito post moreretur. Ad locum autem accessimus, et populum terre convocavimus, et contra dictum predicavimus. Canem mortuum fecimus exhumari et lucum succidi, et cum eo ossa dicti canis pariter concremari, et edictum poni a dominis terre de spoliacione et redempcione eorum qui ad dictum locum pro tali, causa de cetero convenirent.
— Étienne de Bourbon, Anecdotes historiques, légendes et apologues tirés du recueil inédit d’Étienne de Bourbon dominicain du xiiie siècle, édition de Albert Lecoy de la Marche, Paris: Henri Loones, 1877, no. 370, p. 325-328.
God is silence, and the devil is noisy. From the beginning, Satan has sought to mask his lies beneath a deceptive, resonant agitation. The Christian owes it to himself not to be of the world. It is up to him to turn away from the noises of the world, from its rumors that run headlong in order to turn better toward what is essential: God.
Our busy, ultra-technological age has made us even sicker. Noise has become like a drug on which our contemporaries are dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids looking oneself in the face and confronting the interior emptiness. It is a diabolical lie. The awakening can only be brutal.
I am not afraid to call on all people of good will to enlist in a form of resistance. What will become of our world if it cannot find oases of silence?
In the turbulent floods of easy, hollow words, keeping silent assumes the appearance of weakness. In the modern world, the silent man becomes someone who does not know how to defend himself. He is a “subhuman” with respect to the self-proclaimed strong man who crushes and drowns the other in the floods of his talk. The silent man is one man too many. This is the deep reason for modern men’s disdain and hatred of silent beings, for their abominable crimes against unborn children, the sick, or persons at the end of life. These human beings are the magnificent prophets of silence. With them, I am not afraid to declare that the priests of modernity, who declare a sort of war on silence, have lost the battle. For we can remain silent in the midst of the biggest hodgepodge, despicable disturbances, in the midst of the din and shouting of those infernal machines that invite us to activism by snatching any transcendent dimension and any interior life away from us.
Robert Cardinal Sarah from interview in La Nef, October 2016, on the occasion of the publication of his book, La Force du silence (The Strength of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise).
In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God. Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counterchurch which will be the ape of the Church, because he, the Devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ…
Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril Company (1948).
Quarundam Ecclesiarum consuetudinis est etiam Draconem deferre primis duobus diebus ante Crucem, & Vexillum, cum longa, & inflata cauda: tertio vero die post Crucem, & Vexilla, cum cauda depressa. Hic est Diabolus, qui nos per tria tempora, ante legem, sub lege, sub gratia fallit, aut fallere cupit. In primis duobus erat quasi Dominus Orbis, ideoque Princeps, vel Deus Mundi vocatur, inde est quod in primis duobus diebus, cum inflata cauda procedit, in tempore vero gratiæ per Christum victus fuit, nec audet regnare patenter, sed homines seducit latenter. Inde est quod in ultimo die sequitur cum cauda depressa.
On a time that Columcille was in Iona, the Adversary set on a certain woman of his congregation to bestow on him passing great love, to see if it might come to pass through her that he should entice him to sin with her; for of himself could he not overcome or tempt him, or bring him ever to do sin, small or great, in things pertaining to his body. And the love the woman had for him passed all bounds, so that she would liefer die than not come to reveal her love to Columcille, to try if she could get him to fulfill her desire touching the matter of having ado with her fleshly.
And she went to him to declare her purpose to him. And when this was perceived by that man that loved chastity, that subdued demons, that did strongly maintain the commands of God, that did tear out every flaw from himself and from every other, he knew the reason of her coming to him afore she told it him.
And he spake to her and said: “Woman,” saith he, “think on the judgment of Doom, and consider that it is from the dead thou hast come, and to the dead thou shalt return.”
And he did bless and consecrate her then from where he stood, and it came to pass by virtue of the blessing of Columcille, that when she heard from him the words of God, and his exhortation, all the evil desires that surrounded her love withdrew from her and her pure love remained within her, and she received from him faith and piety. So that woman became holy in the end, whereby the names of God and Columcille were magnified.
Et signum magnum apparuit in caelo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim: et in utero habens, clamabat parturiens, et cruciabatur ut pariat. Et visum est aliud signum in caelo: et ecce draco magnus rufus habens capita septem, et cornua decem: et in capitibus ejus diademata septem, et cauda ejus trahebat tertiam partem stellarum caeli, et misit eas in terram: et draco stetit ante mulierem, quae erat paritura, ut cum peperisset, filium ejus devoraret. Et peperit filium masculum, qui recturus erat omnes gentes in virga ferrea: et raptus est filius ejus ad Deum, et ad thronum ejus, et mulier fugit in solitudinem ubi habebat locum paratum a Deo, ut ibi pascant eam diebus mille ducentis sexaginta. Et factum est praelium magnum in caelo: Michael et angeli ejus praeliabantur cum dracone, et draco pugnabat, et angeli ejus: et non valuerunt, neque locus inventus est eorum amplius in caelo. Et projectus est draco ille magnus, serpens antiquus, qui vocatur diabolus, et Satanas, qui seducit universum orbem: et projectus est in terram, et angeli ejus cum illo missi sunt.
Sed licet nos aut angelus de cælo evangelizet vobis præterquam quod evangelizavimus vobis, anathema sit. Gal. i. 8.
Two religions confront each other; we are in a dramatic situation and it is impossible to avoid a choice, but the choice is not between obedience and disobedience. What is suggested to us, what we are expressly invited to do, what we are persecuted for not doing, is to choose an appearance of obedience. But even the Holy Father cannot ask us to abandon our faith.
We therefore choose to keep it and we cannot be mistaken in clinging to what the Church has taught for two thousand years. The crisis is profound, cleverly organized and directed, and by this token one can truly believe that the mastermind is not a man but Satan himself. For it is a master-stroke of Satan to get Catholics to disobey the whole of Tradition in the name of obedience. A typical example is furnished by the “aggiornamento” of the religious societies. By obedience, monks and nuns are made to disobey the laws and constitutions of their founders, which they swore to observe when they made their profession. Obedience in this case should have been a categorical refusal. Even legitimate authority cannot command a reprehensible and evil act. Nobody can oblige anyone to change his monastic vows into simple promises, just as nobody can make us become Protestants or modernists. St. Thomas Aquinas, to whom we must always refer, goes so far in the Summa Theologica as to ask whether the “fraternal correction” prescribed by Our Lord can be exercised towards our superiors. After having made all the appropriate distinctions he replies: “One can exercise fraternal correction towards superiors when it is a matter of faith.”
If we were more resolute on this subject, we would avoid coming to the point of gradually absorbing heresies. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the English underwent an experience of the kind we are living through, but with the difference that it began with a schism. In all other respects the similarities are astonishing and should give us cause to ponder. The new religion which was to take the name “Anglicanism” started with an attack on the Mass, personal confession and priestly celibacy. Henry VIII, although he had taken the enormous responsibility of separating his people from Rome, rejected the suggestions that were put to him, but a year after his death a statute authorized the use of English for the celebration of the Mass. Processions were forbidden and a new order of service was imposed, the “Communion Service” in which there was no longer an Offertory. To reassure Christians another statute forbade all sorts of changes, whereas a third allowed priests to get rid of the statues of the saints and of the Blessed Virgin in the churches. Venerable works of art were sold to traders, just as today they go to antique dealers and flea markets.
Only a few bishops pointed out that the Communion Service infringed the dogma of the Real Presence by saying that Our Lord gives us His Body and Blood spiritually. The Confiteor, translated into the vernacular, was recited at the same time by the celebrant and the faithful and served as an absolution. The Mass was transformed into a meal or Communion. But even clear-headed bishops eventually accepted the new Prayer Book in order to maintain peace and unity. It is for exactly the same reasons that the post-Conciliar Church wants to impose on us the Novus Ordo. The English bishops in the Sixteenth Century affirmed that the Mass was a “memorial!” A sustained propaganda introduced Lutheran views into the minds of the faithful. Preachers had to be approved by the Government.
During the same period the Pope was only referred to as the “Bishop of Rome.” He was no longer the father but the brother of the other bishops and in this instance, the brother of the King of England who had made himself head of the national church. Cranmer’s Prayer Book was composed by mixing parts of the Greek liturgy with parts of Luther’s liturgy. How can we not be reminded of Mgr. Bugnini drawing up the so-called Mass of Paul VI, with the collaboration of six Protestant “observers” attached as experts to the Consilium for the reform of the liturgy? The Prayer Book begins with these words, “The Supper and Holy Communion, commonly called Mass…,” which foreshadows the notorious Article 7 of the Institutio Generalis of the New Missal, revived by the Lourdes Eucharistic Congress in 1981: “The Supper of the Lord, otherwise called the Mass.” The destruction of the sacred, to which I have already referred, also formed part of the Anglican reform. The words of the Canon were required to be spoken in a loud voice, as happens in the “Eucharists” of the present day.
The Prayer Book was also approved by the bishops “to preserve the internal unity of the Kingdom.” Priests who continued to say the “Old Mass” incurred penalties ranging from loss of income to removal pure and simple, with life imprisonment for further offences. We have to be grateful that these days they do not put traditionalist priests in prison.
Tudor England, led by its pastors, slid into heresy without realizing it, by accepting change under the pretext of adapting to the historical circumstances of the time. Today the whole of Christendom is in danger of taking the same road. Have you thought that even if we who are of a certain age run a smaller risk, children and younger seminarians brought up in new catechisms, experimental psychology and sociology, without a trace of dogmatic or moral theology, canon law or Church history, are educated in a faith which is not the true one and take for granted the new Protestant notions with which they are indoctrinated? What will tomorrow’s religion be if we do not resist?
You will be tempted to say: “But what can we do about it? It is a bishop who says this or that. Look, this document comes from the Catechetical Commission or some other official commission.”
That way there is nothing left for you but to lose your faith. But you do not have the right to react in that way. St. Paul has warned us: “Even if an angel from Heaven came to tell you anything other than what I have taught you, do not listen to him.”
Such is the secret of true obedience.
— Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s An Open Letter to Confused Catholics.
Vatican II, inspired by Pope John and Paul VI, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to open to modern culture. The council fathers knew that opening to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with nonbelievers. After then, very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and the ambition to want to do it.
Pope Francis (or as he prefers, Bishop of Rome) in another “off-the-cuff,” 4,500-word interview with the atheist founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari, as quoted by Sandro Magister.
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Humility? Really? What unmitigated gall! Spare us, Holy Father.
Pray for our ever-so-humble Presiding Bishop of Rome!
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V. Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco.
R. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum Franciscum, quem pastorem Ecclesiae tuae praeesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quaesumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus praeest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.
In the Beginning, the Lord shaped the heaven and the earth in his Christ, Who is the beginning of all things, that is, in his Son; and after creating the elements of the whole universe, taking a frail clod he formed man after His own image and likeness, and breathed upon his face the breath of life and he was made into a living soul. And while he slept a rib was taken from him and the woman, Eve, was created. There is no doubt that this first man Adam before he sinned typified the Redeemer. For as the Redeemer slept in the stupor of suffering and caused water and blood to issue from His side, He brought into existence the virgin and unspotted Church, redeemed by blood, purified by water, having no spot or wrinkle, that is, washed with water to avoid a spot, stretched on the Cross to avoid a wrinkle. These first human beings, who were living happily amid the pleasant scenes of Paradise, were tempted by the craft of the serpent. They transgressed the divine precepts and were cast out from the abode of angels and condemned to the labours of the world.
— History of the Franks, Book I, St. Gregory of Tours.
¶ Every Scottish Celt who takes an interest in the antiquities, history, & literature of his country knows that the Marquess of Bute is a profound and sympathetic student of all that pertains to the ancient life of the Highlands. Then the noble Marquess is anxious to do what he can to awaken in the mind of others the interest in the olden days with which his own is possessed. In proof of this we need only mention his Lordship’s munificence in bearing the cost of publishing, in a style unusually splendid, Dr Clerk’s Edition of Ossian. But the Marquess of Bute is not merely on indolent patron of literature, who merely spends money and woos applause in this easy fashion, he is himself a painstaking investigator in the field of Scottish history. We need not refer more particularly to the various proofs which the different publications of his lordship gives of his patient industry and literary power. We must limit our observations to the beautiful work before us—the Altus of Columba. The noble editor has done his part in a way which is deserving of all praise, for he really elucidates his author, so that the reader, if he is at all in earnest, can easily hold fellowship with him. At the same time, let us say that Columba, or his transcribers, have tied one or two poetic knots, which not even the skill of the noble editor has been able to untie.
¶ But some of our readers may be asking what is this Altus of Columba? We answer that it is a very striking and able religious poem, composed in Latin, by the famous Abbot of Iona—the Apostle and Spiritual father of the North Highlands. There is no mystery about the word Altus. It is the first word in the poem, and so, just as we say “Scots wha hae” as a title for the song in which it occurs, so Altus became the title for the whole poem of which it is the first word. The poem is peculiar in form. It consists of a series of short poems, arranged under each letter of the alphabet, each poem beginning with its own letter. Under A we have fourteen lines, under each of the other letters twelve lines. It may be mentioned that the old classic prosody is rejected for the easier remembered accent and rhyme.
¶ This remarkable poem is really a Confession of Faith. It might have been drawn up for the instruction of King Brude, the royal Invernessian won to Christ by the saintly poet and missionary, if we could suppose the Pictish King capable of understanding Latin. This poem shows us the true miracles by which Columba overcame Celtic heathenism—the true sign of the cross which rolled back on their hinges the closed gates of the Castle of King Brude. Here we see that Columba could think clearly, and express his thinking in words that drop like manna. Then the articles of his creed were very simple and concrete, far removed from reasoned propositions ever becoming more abstract as they are drawn further away from their concrete basis. Columba sang to his Celtic converts, first, of the ineffable glory of the Most High as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in precise but poetic terms. Then follows a description of His creative energy in relation to the Angelic world. The noble editor feels that the Angelology of Columba “was not of that fixed and precise character” which it afterwards became—was different, in short, from the portentous and fantastic fabric which it grew into under the plastic subtlety of the Schoolmen… The profoundest thought in his lines on this subject is that in which he ascribes a second fall to the “devil and his satellites,” as a further punishment for seducing man from his innocence. Next in order comes Columba’s conception of the material world in which we live. To him the world was a flat disc, with the ocean for its rim or boundary. The firmament was daily replenished by water spouts from this ocean to provide rain. The ascension of these jets of water explained to his mind the tides ! Let us give here a specimen of Columba’s poetry descriptive of rain :—
Ligatas aquas nubibus
frequenter cribrat Dominus,
ut ne erumpant protinus
simul ruptis obicibus;
venis, velut uberibus,
telli per tractus istius,
gelidis ac ferventibus
diversis in temporibus,
usquam influunt flumina
¶ These terse and beautiful lines have full justice done to their merits in the translation which the noble editor gives to them, and which we subjoin as a fair sample of the translation of the Altus as a whole :—
The waters which are bound up in the clouds the Lord doth oftentimes make to to fall, as through a sieve, lest they should suddenly break through their bounds and burst out together ; and from the richer streams thereof, as from breasts, slowly Mowing through the expanses of this earth, cold and warm with the changing seasons, the rivers ever run, never failing.
¶ Whatever we may think of the science of these lines, we can have no doubt that they discover a mind keenly alive to the beauties and wonders of the world in which it was placed.
¶ The poet goes on to describe the “nether-world in the innermost parts of the earth,” where there is heard the terrible wail of Gehenna; and the place under the earth where dwell souls, who, though not in heaven, bend the knee to the Lord in prayer… Next in order comes an account of the world of the good—the Paradise which the Lord planted with the tree of life as its centre. The Paradise of Adam and Eve is part of heaven, and according to the poet still exists somewhere in this world. Clearly Columba wished to raise the earth as near heaven as possible, and to bring down heaven as far as may be to meet it, so that both should exist, not separate, but in happy fellowship. The poem concludes with a solemn account of what shall happen in the last days. Dugald Buchanan in his Day of Judgment has given fuller expression to the ideas that were in the mind of Columba. The Saint is here vivid and rapid as the lightning, and we need not be surprised that such power was followed by the spiritual transformation of a kingdom. The reader, however, is vexed and irritated by the intrusion of an obscure and mythological symbolism, which grates upon him like sand in bread; an explanation of which, notwithstanding the brave efforts of the noble editor, seems impossible. Was Columba for a moment led aside from his simplicity in deference to the maxim, still not without its malign influence among us Celts, Omne ignotum pro magnifico?
¶ We cordially sympathise with the desire of the Marquess to draw men’s attention to this poem for its own sake, and not for its historical interest merely. Though it will scarcely bear comparison with the Dies Irae, it is nevertheless a very marvellous and impressive poem. Columba … is the heritage of all who believe that Jesus came in the flesh. He is for mankind… We read of the Highland minister who lay all night on the grave of Rutherford that he might catch his fire. We have a nobler grave nearer home, the spirit of whose inhabitant would help us to transform misery into joy, ignorance to knowledge, to cause light to arise in the darkness—the true signs and wonders of the great in all ages. Then in the closing words of the Altus, we shall not only have fellowship with Columba and his fellows, but—
. . . Sic cum Ipso erimus
in diversis ordinibus
dignitatum pro meritis
permansuri in gloria
a saeculis in gloria.
¶ We would most earnestly draw the attention of our studious readers to this ancient poem. It is beautifully printed, and altogether worthy of the publishers, and its noble editor.
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The Altus of Saint Columba A prose paraphrase by John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute
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The Most High, the Father of all, the Ancient of days, and Unbegotten, without origin, without beginning, and without limit, was, is, and will be for ever and ever ; with Whom is co-eternal in everlasting glory of Godhead the Only-Begotten Son, Who also is the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We set not forth three gods, but say that God is One, still holding ever the faith in Three most glorious Persons.
He created the Angels in original goodness ; the Orders, and Archangels of every Principality and Throne, Might and Power ; that the goodness and Majesty of the Trinity might not be inactive in any gift of bounty, but might have heavenly creatures wherein to show graces as great as any utterance can express.
From the highest place in the kingdom of heaven, from the glorious brightness of the Angelic state, from the loveliness of his form, fell by pride the morning-star whom God had made, and in the same woeful fall of the author of vain-glory and obstinate envy went to ruin the Apostate Angels, while the others abode still in their princely dignities.
The great unclean dragon, dread and old, who also was that slippery serpent which was more subtle than any wild beast or living thing of the earth, drew with him into the pit of infernal abodes and divers prisons the third part of the stars, who had forsaken the True Light and were cast down headlong from Paradise.
The Most High having foreseen the structure and harmony of every part of the world before any of it yet existed, created heaven and earth. He made the sea and the waters, the herb also yielding seed, and the tree forming thickets, the sun, the moon, and the stars, the fire and all things needful for us, the birds, the fishes and the cattle, beasts and all living things, and at the last He made the first man to rule over them all, according to His Own fore-ordinance.
As soon as were made the constellations, the lights of the firmament, the Angels, with praiseworthy song, due and unalterable, with one consent praised for His marvellous handywork, the Lord of the vast mass, the Framer of the heavenly worlds, and in love and free-will, under no compulsion of nature, gave thanks in exquisite harmony to the Lord.
When our two first parents had been assailed and beguiled, the devil and his crew fell a second time. These ate they who by the dreadfulness of their faces and the noise of their wings would scare frail fear-stricken men, unable to gaze with fleshly eyes upon such beings. These are they who are bound in bundles in the bonds of their prison-house.
The Lord took the evil one out of the midst and cast him down. The stormy flock of his rebel followers crowdeth the air, yet still unseen, lest men should be so polluted by their evil pattern and foul acts as to defile themselves before the eyes of all, unhidden by screen or wall.
From the three deeper fountains of ocean, the three quarters of the sea, the clouds driven by the winds as they come forth from their treasure-houses, bear up sea-mists through dark-blue water-spouts into the regions of the sky, to benefit anon the crops, the vineyards, and the budding herbage, and thus each fountain emptieth those shallows of the sea whereto it correspondeth.
When the fleeting and despotic present glory of kings, which endureth but a moment in the world, hath been abrogated by the will of God, behold, the giants are proved to groan in much suffering under the waters, to burn in fire and torments, choked by the angry whirlpools of Cocytus. Hollow rocks rest on them, and the waves dash them against the stones.
The waters which are bound up in the clouds the Lord doth oftentimes make to fall, as through a sieve, lest they should suddenly break through their bounds and bust out together ; and from the richer streams thereof, as from breasts, slowly flowing through the expanses of this earth, cold and warm with the changing seasons, the rivers ever run, never failing.
The Divine power of the Great God hangeth upon nothing the round earth and the appointed girth of the great deep, borne up by the strong hand of God Almighty upon pillars which uphold it like bars, headlands and cliffs immovably established upon stout foundations as it were upon bases.
No man seemeth to doubt but that there is a netherworld in the innermost parts of the earth. There, there are darkness, worms, and grievous beasts. There, there is fire of brimstone, glowing with devouring flames. There, there is roaring of men, weeping and gnashing of teeth. There, there is from of old the terrible wail of gehenna. There, there is the dreadful burning heat of thirst and hunger.
Under the earth, as we read, we know that there are dwellers, whose knee ofttimes bendeth prayerfully at [the name of] the Lord [Jesus], and among whom, albeit challenged, none was found able to unroll the book written [within and without,] sealed with seven seals, that book whereof the Same Lord alone loosed the seals, that book which He alone prevailed to open, and so fulfilled the decrees announced beforehand by the Prophets concerning His coming.
In the sublime opening of the [book of] Genesis we read that the Lord had planted a garden from the beginning, a garden from whose well-spring four rivers are flowing, a garden in whose flowery midst is set the tree of life, the leaves whereof fall not, and the leaves of that tree are for the healing of the nations, a garden whose pleasures are unspeakable and abounding.
Who hath gone up into Sinai, the appointed mountain of the Lord ? Who hath heard the thunders pealing beyond measure ? Who hath heard the voice of the trumpet sounding exceeding loud ? Who also hath seen the lightnings flash like a crown round the peak ? Who hath seen the meteors and the thunder-bolts, and the rocks striking together ? Who save Moses, the judge of the people of Israel ?
The day of the King of kings most righteous, the day of the Lord is near, a day of wrath and vengeance, a day of darkness and clouds, and a day of wondrous mighty thunderings, a day also of distress, lamentation and sorrow, a day wherein shall fail the love and desire of women, and the striving of men, and the lust of this world.
We shall all stand trembling before the judgment-seat of the Lord, and shall give an account of all that we have done, beholding our iniquities set before our eyes, and the books of conscience laid open before our faces. And then shall we break forth into right bitter weeping and sobbing, having no longer the wherewith to work.
When the wondrous trumpet of the first Archangel shall sound, every sepulchre, be it never so sealed, and every grave-yard shall suddenly open, the chill cold [of death which had stiffened the bodies] of the men of this world shall thaw, from every quarter the bones shall come together to their sockets, and the etherial spirits shall come to meet these same bones and enter in again, each into his own dwelling.
Orion leaveth the Pleiades, the brightest of constellations, and wandereth away from the turning-point, the hinge of heaven, through the bounds of the Ocean of the unknown Eastern circuit, and, anon, wheeling by certain roundabout ways he returneth where he was before, and riseth after two years, as an evening star in place of Hesperus — spiritual meanings being taken for material images used metaphorically.
When the Most High Lord Christ shall come down from the heavens, the glorious sign and banner of the Cross shall shine before Him. Then shall the two great lights be covered and the stars shall fall unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, and the surface of the world shall be as a fiery furnace. Then shall hosts hide themselves in the dens of the mountains.
By songs of praise ringing unceasingly, by thousands of Angels, shining in holy dances, and by the four living creatures all full of eyes, with the four-and-twenty happy elders who cast down their crowns under the feet of the Lamb of God, — the Trinity is praised in eternal repetitions of the hymn Thrice-Holy.
The raging fury of fire shall devour the adversaries, who will not to believe that Christ is come from God the Father : but we shall forthwith be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord, placed in everlasting ranks of exaltation and reward differing according to our deserts, and so to abide in glory, for ever and ever in glory.