Out of Time

Alabaster relief in the British Museum, showing the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Tag reads: “Alabaster showing Becket’s martyrdom.” and “About 1450-1500, England, Alabaster. PE 1890.0809.1”.

You think me reckless, desperate and mad.
You argue by results, as this world does,
To settle if an act be good or bad.
You defer to the fact. For every life and every act
Consequence of good and evil can be shown.
And as in time results of many deeds are blended
So good and evil in the end become confounded
It is not in time that my death shall be known;
It is out of time that my decision is taken
If you call that decision
To which my whole being gives entire consent.
I give my life
To the Law of God above the Law of Man.

T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral, p. 74.

Agnus Deo Immolandus

Alabaster relief in the British Museum, showing the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Tag reads: "Alabaster showing Becket's martyrdom." and "About 1450-1500, England, Alabaster. PE 1890.0809.1".
Alabaster relief in the British Museum, showing the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Tag reads: “Alabaster showing Becket’s martyrdom.” and “About 1450-1500, England, Alabaster. PE 1890.0809.1”.

Cantuariae, in Anglia, natalis sancti Thomae, Episcopi et Martyris, qui, ob defensionem justitiae et ecclesiasticae immunitatis, in Basilica sua, ab impiorum hominum factione percussus gladio, Martyr migravit ad Christum.

Roman Martyrology, 29 December.

(80.) Postquam autem intra fores ecclesiae monachi se receperant, jam dicti milites quatuor cursu rapidissimo post terga secuti sunt. Affuit inter illos subdiaconus quidam, eadem qua milites armatus malitia, Hugo Malus-clericus merito suae nequitiae cognominatus, qui nec Deo nec sanctis reverentiam exhiberet; quod sequens factum probavit. Intranti vero monasterium sancto archiepiscopo, omissis vesperis quas Deo libare inceperant, occurrunt monachi glorificantes Deum quod patrem suum, quem exstinctum audierant, vivum cernerent et incolumem. Valvas etiam ecclesiae repagulando hostes a nece pastoris arcere festinant. Ad quos conversus athleta mirabilis imperat ecclesiae januas aperiri, “Non decet,” inquiens, “orationis domum, ecclesiam Christi, turrem facere, quae, etsi non claudatur, suis sufficit ad munimen; et nos patiendo potius quam pugnando triumphabimus hostem, qui et pati venimus, non repugnare.” Nec mora, sacrilegi gladiis evaginatis ingrediuntur domum pacis ac reconciliationis, solo quidem aspectu et armorum strepitu non modicum horroris cernentibus ingerentes. Turbatisque qui aderant ac tumultuantibus, (jam enim qui vespertinis intenderant laudibus ad lethale spectaculum accurrerant,) in spiritu furoris milites exclamaverunt, “Ubi est Thomas Beketh, proditor regis et regni?” Quo non respondente, instantius vociferati sunt, dicentes, “Ubi est archiepiscopus?” Ad hanc vocem intrepidus quidem et, ut scriptum est, “Justus quasi leo confidens absque terrore erit,” occurrit e gradu quo delatus fuerat a monachis metu militum, et satis audibili sermone respondit: “Ecce adsum, non regis proditor, sed sacerdos; quid me quaeritis?” et qui se eos non timere jam antea dixerat, adjunxit, “Ecce praesto sum in nomine Ejus pati qui me sanguine suo redemit; absit ut propter gladios vestros fugiam, aut a justitia recedam.” Quo dicto divertit in dextram sub columna, hinc habens altare beatae Dei genetricis et perpetuae virginis Mariae, illinc vero sancti confessoris Benedicti; quorum exemplo et suffragiis crucifixus mundo et concupiscentiis ejus, tanta animi constantia ac si in carne non esset, quicquid carnifex inferebat, sustinuit ac superavit. Quem insecuti carnifices, “Absolve,” inquiunt, “et communioni restitue quos excommunicasti, et caeteris officium redde qui suspensi sunt.” Quibus ille, “Nulla,” ait, “satisfactio praecessit, nec eos absolvam.” “Et tu,” inquiunt, “modo morieris, suscipiens quod meruisti.” “Et ego,” ait, “pro Domino meo paratus sum mori, ut in meo sanguine ecclesia libertatem consequatur et pacem; sed meis, sive clerico sive laico, in nomine Dei omnipotentis interdico ne in aliquo noceatis.” Quam pie suis, quam prudenter sibi, providit martyr egregius, ne videlicet laederetur proximus, innocens opprimeretur, ne gloriam properantis ad Christum proximi casus tristior obfuscaret! Decuit plane Ducis sui militem martyrem Salvatoris inhaerere vestigiis, qui cum quaereretur ab impiis, “Si me,” inquit, “quaeritis, sinite hos abire.”

(81.) Igitur facto impetu manus sacrilegas injecerunt in eum, durius illum contrectantes et trahentes, ut extra fores ecclesiae aut jugularent, aut vinctum inde asportarent, sicut postmodum confessi sunt. Sed cum facilie non posset a columna moveri, unum ex ipsis acrius insistentem et accedentem propius a se repulit, lenonem appellans, dicensque, “Non me contingas, Reinalde, qui fidem ex jure debes et subjectionem; insipienter agis cum tuis complicibus.” Miles vero pro repulsione furore terribili totus incanduit, ensemque vibrans contra sacrum verticem, “Non fidem,” ait, “non tibi subjectionem debeo contra fidelitatem domini mei regis.” Cernens igitur martyr invictus horam imminere quae miserae mortalitati finem imponeret, paratam sibi et promissam a Domino coronam immortalitatis jam proximam fieri, inclinata in modum orantis cervice, junctis pariter et elevatis sursum manibus, Deo et sanctae Mariae et beato martyri Dionysio suam et ecclesiae causam commendavit.

(82.) Vix verbum implevit, et metuens nefandus miles ne raperetur a populo et vivus evaderet, insiliit in eum subito, et summitate coronae, quam sancti chrismatis unctio dicaverat Deo, abrasa, agnum Deo immolandum vulneravit in capite, eodem ictu praeciso brachio haec referentis. Is etenim, fugientibus tam monachis quam clericis universis, sancto archiepiscopo constanter adhaesit, et inter ulnas complexum tenuit, donec ipsa quam opposuit praecisa est. Ecce simplicitatem columbae, ecce serpentis prudentiam, in hoc martyre, qui corpus percutientibus opposuit, ut caput suum, animam scilicet vel ecclesiam, conservaret illaesam [-um?], nec contra carnis occisores, quo magis hac necessitate careret, cautelam vel insidias machinatus est! O pastorem dignum, qui, ne oves laniarentur, seipsum luporum morsibus tam confidenter opposuit! et quia mundum abjecerat, mundus eum volens opprimere nescius sublimavit. Deinde alio ictu in capite recepto adhuc quoque permansit immobilis. Tertio vero percussus martyr genua flexit et cubitos, seipsum hostiam viventem offerendo, dicens submissa voce, “Pro nomine Jesu et ecclesiae tuitione mortem amplecti paratus sum.” At tertius miles ita procumbenti grave vulnus inflixit, quo ictu et gladium collisit lapidi, et coronam, quae ampla fuit, ita a capite separavit, ut sanguis albens ex cerebro, cerebrum nihilominus rubens ex sanguine, lilii et rosae coloribus virginis et matris ecclesiae faciem confessoris et martyris vita et morte purpuraret. Quartus miles supervenientes abegit ut caeteri liberius ac licentius homicidium perpetrarent. Quintus vero, non miles, sed clericus ille qui cum militibus intraverat, ne martyri quinta plaga deesset, qui in aliis Christum fuerat imitatus, posito pede super collum sancti sacerdotis et martyris pretiosi, (horrendum dictu,) cerebrum cum sanguine per pavimentum spargens, caeteris exclamavit, “Abeamus hinc, milites, iste ulterius non resurgent.”

— Edward Grim, Vita S. Thomæ, Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi et Martyris, in Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, James C. Robertson, ed. No. 67, vol. 2 in Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores. London, 1876.

Continue reading “Agnus Deo Immolandus”

Brecbannoch

The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

BRECBANNOCH. Between the years 1204 and 1211, King William the Lion granted to the monks of Arbroath “custodiam de Brechbennoche,” and “cum predicta Brachbennoche terram de Forglint datam Deo et sancto Columbe et le Brachbennache,” on the tenure “faciendo inde servicium quod michi in exercitu debetur de terra ilia cum predicta Brachbennache.” This grant is recited in the charter of Arbroath, passed by the same king in 1211-1214; and substantially repeated in a confirmation by King Alexander II. in 1214-1218. In 1314 the convent grants to Malcolm of Monimusk “totam terram nostram de Forglen que pertinet ad Bracbennach cum omnibus pertinenciis suis una cum jure patronatus ecclesie ejusdem terre.  . . . Dictus vero Malcolmus et heredes sui facient in exercitu domini Regis nomine nostro servicium pro dicta terra quod pertinet ad Bracbennach quociens opus fuerit.” From the Monimusks the lands of Forglen, with the custody of the Bracbennach, passed by inheritance to the Urrys and the Frasers, in the latter of which families they were found in 1388. In 1411 they were surrendered to the convent, and about 1420 they were conferred on Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. In 1847 [sic; perhaps 1478?] they had passed to his grandson, who held them of the abbot and convent by service of ward and relief, “ferendi vexillum de Brekbennach in exercitu Regis,” and the payment of the annual rent of 40 shillings. In 1481 Alexander Irvine did homage for these lands and purtenances to the abbot, who “dixit et constituit ut tenentes regalitatis dicti monasterii de Aberbrothoc ubicumque existentes cum dicto Alexandro ad exercitum domini nostri Regis sub le Brecbennoch videlicet sub vexillo dictorum abbatis et conventus meabunt et equitabunt cum requisiti fuerint per dictum dominum abbatem et conventum dicti monasterii et suos successores pro defensione Regis et regni.” In 1483 Alexander Irvine had a charter of the lands of Forgone, the the advowson of the church “faciendo in exercitu domini nostri Regis servicium de le Brekbannach debitum et consuetum.” And lastly, in 1494 it was found that Alexander Irvine was the lawful heir of Alexander Irvine of Drum, his father, in the lands of Forglen, with the advowson of the church, held as above. From these notices we learn that this reliquary was a banner, and held so sacred in the beginning of the thirteenth century that it was named in the dedication clause of the earliest charter. Also, that it was coupled with St. Columba’s name, not because the abbey of Arbroath was under his invocation, for it was under that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; nor because he was patron saint of the parish, for St. Adamnan was reputed to be so; but, as we may conceive, because this banner was in some way connected with St. Columba s history, either by use or blessing. Possibly it was like the Vexillum Sancti Cuthberti, so fatal to the Scots at Neville’s Cross.

Ther did appeare to Johne Fossour, the Prior of the Abbey at Durham, a vision commanding him to take the holie Corporax Cloth, which was within the corporax, wherewith Saint Cuthbert did cover the chalice, when he used to say masse, and to put the same hole relique, like unto a Banner, upon a spare point.

The name Brecbannach seems to be formed from breac beannaighthe, “maculosum benedictum,” and denoted something like the bratacha breac-mergeada, pallia maculatorum vexillorum, which were carried in the battle of Magh Rath. The Brecbannach probably served a double purpose, being, like the Banner of Cuthbert, “shewed and carried in the abbey on festivall and principall daies,” and also “presented and carried to any battle, as occasion should serve.” Whence King William obtained the reliquary is not stated. Probably it had been kept in the parish of Forglen by the hereditary tenants of the church lands. Between 1172 and 1180 the king granted to the Canons of Holyrood the rights, tithes, and obventions of four churches in Cantyre, which had previously been enjoyed by the abbey of Hy; and his grant of this reliquary, with its appurtenances, to Arbroath, may have been a transfer of a like nature.

— Dr. William Reeves in the Introduction to his translation of St. Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba, 1874.

 

Manfully to Triumph Over Tyrannical Madness

Reliquary of St. Thomas Becket. Champlevé copper, engraved, chased, enameled and gilt. Limoges, ca. 1190–1200. From Palencia, region of León, Spain. Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, France.
Reliquary of St. Thomas Becket. Champlevé copper, engraved, chased, enameled and gilt. Limoges, ca. 1190–1200. From Palencia, region of León, Spain. Musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, France.

O God, who hast not without reason mingled the birthday of the glorious high-priest, Thomas, with the joys of thy nativity, by the intervention of his merits, make these thy servants venerate thy majesty with the reverence of due honour. Amen. And as he, according to the rule of a good shepherd, gave his life for his sheep, so grant thou to thy faithful ones, to fear no tyrannical madness to the prejudice of Catholic truth. Amen. We ask that they, by his example, for obedience to the holy laws, may learn to despise persons, and by suffering manfully to triumph over tyrannical madness. Amen.

— Prayer for the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, listed under the heading “Proper Benedictions for the Circuit of the Year,” from a pontifical of Anianus, Bishop of Bangor (1268).

For the Name of Jesus and the Protection of the Church, I Am Ready to Embrace Death.

St. Thomas Becket enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury; from a Nottingham Alabaster in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
St. Thomas Becket enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury; from a Nottingham Alabaster in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?

— King Henry II of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

December, A.D. 2012

December (1/2), My Book of the Church’s Year, Enid M. Chadwick.
December (2/2), My Book of the Church’s Year, Enid M. Chadwick.

Images courtesy of Project Canterbury.