Always Craving

John Keble.

St. Paul has ranked even personal liberty, liberty opposed to the condition of a slave, among other temporal blessings, as an object, comparatively speaking, below the serious concern of a redeemed immortal being. “Art thou called being a slave? care not for it: but even if thou mayest be made free, put up with it rather.” That is, “make the best of your condition as it is, rather than grasp, with eager anxiety, at every chance of emancipation.” And what he says of personal liberty, is true, I suppose, a fortiori, of civil liberty as opposed to subjection. “Care not for it,” says the inspired Voice: “let it be your tendency, in this as in all things, rather to improve existing opportunities, than to be always craving after a change of condition.”

But what says the Christian world to this? Do not men, somehow, think of liberty, as of something unlike other outward blessings, such as health, riches, domestic comfort? something, the mere pursuing of which, for its own sake, is a part of virtue? Contented slavery in either kind, are they not apt to pronounce it meanness?

All this being calmly considered, and compared with what our Lord and His Apostles have said; or rather, with what they have left unsaid, (for there is a silence more significant than words;) I think one must own, that civil liberty, high as it may stand among earthly blessings, is usually allowed to fill a space in our thoughts, out of all proportion to that which it fills in the plan of happiness drawn out in the Bible. Though men commit things worthy of death, yet if they be done for freedom’s sake, the world finds pleasure in them that do them.

Sermon V. Danger of Sympathizing with Rebellion. Preached by John Keble before the University of Oxford, 30 January 1831.

Caput Apri Defero

Arms of Queen's College, Oxford: Argent, three eagles displayed gules, beaked and legged or, on the breast of the first, a mullet of six points of the last.
Arms of The Queen’s College, Oxford: Argent, three eagles displayed gules, beaked and legged or, on the breast of the first, a mullet of six points of the last.

The Boar’s Head at Oxford.

The ancient ceremony of serving up a boar’s head in the hall of Queen’s College, Oxford, at Christmas, is still observed with much pomp and ceremony. The boar’s head is borne on the shoulders of two of the college servants, preceded by the Provost and Fellows of the society, and followed by a procession of choristers and singing men, who sing the following ballad, the Precentor of Queen’s taking the solo part:–

The boar’s head in hand bring I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary,
And I pray you my masters be merry.
Quot estis in convivio,
Caput estis in convivio
Reddens laudes Domino.

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all the land:
Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland,
Let us servire cantico
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

Our stewards hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss,
Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi Atrio,
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

After the ceremony, the decorations of bays, rosemary, holly, artificial flowers, &c. are distributed among the visitors, the monster head is then placed upon the high table, and the members of the society proceed to dine. The origin of serving up the boar’s head at Queen’s College is somewhat obscure, but we glean from Pointer’s Oxon[i]ensis Academia that “it is in memory of a noble exploit, as tradition goes, by a scholar (a tabarder) of this College in killing a wild boar in Shotover Wood.” Having wandered into the wood, which is not far from Oxford, with a copy of Aristotle in his hand, and being attacked by a wild boar, who came at him with extended jaws, intending to make but a mouthful of him, he was enabled to conquer him by thrusting the Aristotle down the boar’s throat crying, “Græcum Est!” The animal, of course, fell prostrate at his feet, was carried in triumph to the College, and no doubt served up with an “old song,” as Mr Pointer says, in memory of this “noble exploit.”

— John Timbs, Notabilia, or Curious and Amusing Facts about Many Things, London: Griffith and Farran, 1872.

Attachment to the Cause of Our Injured King

Portrait of King Charles I in his robes of state (1636) by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641).
Portrait of King Charles I in his robes of state (1636) by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641).

It is easy enough, no doubt, for any one who is so inclined, to neutralize all that the Church can say, by a dexterous use of party-feeling: easy, to call it a device of the State for upholding a particular set of opinions. But the matter may be brought to a short issue. If attachment to the cause of our injured King, and sympathy with his high-minded patience, were not in entire harmony with the principles inculcated in all other parts of the Prayer-Book: if Sanderson, Hammond, and Taylor, those Restorers of our fallen Church, spoke otherwise on the duty of subjects, than as former generations of true Churchmen had spoken: then we might perhaps have cause to fear, that Feeling had got the better of Reason, in this one portion of our yearly solemnities. But if they “all speak the same thing, and there be no division among them;” and (what is infinitely more) if what they speak be altogether scriptural: if the doctrine of submission and loyal obedience be only one inseparable branch of the universal doctrine of resignation and contentment—an ingredient of that unreserved Faith, without which it is impossible to please God—then let us bless our Preserver, for not leaving us without special witness to a part of our duty, where all experience has proved us so likely to go wrong. Let us trust our civil welfare to the Gospel rule of non-resistance, as fearlessly as we trust our domestic happiness to the kindred rule of filial obedience. Such conduct, if universal, would be a perfect security to liberty: inasmuch as the same principle which forbids illegal resistance, would equally forbid being agents in illegal oppression. And they who abide by it, be they many or few, have for their warrant the general tenor and express word of Revelation, the example of our Blessed Lord, His Apostles, and His suffering Church. In every case, the burthen of proof lies wholly on those who plead for resistance.

And what if young men—the high-born especially—instead of that degrading ambition of commencing, early, “men of the world,” would consent to shape their own conduct by the noble simplicity and downright goodness of him, whom we this day commemorate? the secret of whose excellence lay, chiefly, in two qualities, by them most imitable: consistent purity of heart and demeanour, and strict constancy in devotional duties, under the guidance of his and our Church? Does any one believe that such a change would leave society at all a loser, in point of true generosity and courtesy, or whatever else makes life engaging?

But if all this must still be unheard—if the instruction of the day be quite drowned, in men’s eager cry for what is called Freedom: at least the service answers the purpose of a solemn appeal from human prejudice, to Him, before whom king and subject must ere long appear together. To whose final and unerring decision, not, it is hoped, with presumptuous confidence, nor yet with any uncharitable thought, but in cheerful assurance that resignation and loyalty can “in no wise lose their reward,” we desire, now and always, to “commit our cause.”

Sermon V. Danger of Sympathizing with Rebellion. Preached by John Keble before the University of Oxford, 30 January 1831.

I Would Not Speak Falsehood

View from atop Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, 'fort on the [River] Add'), an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.
View from atop Dunadd, (Scottish Gaelic Dún Add, ‘fort on the [River] Add’), an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.
On a time that Columcille was in Alba, he sent holy Baithin on certain errands to Aedan son of Gabhran. Aedan inquired of him who that man was, to wit, Columcille, of the which the folk of the Western World gave such great report.

“He is a good man,” saith Baithin, “for he hath not broken his virginity, and he hath done naught, small or great, in vain-glory, and never hath he spoken falsehood.” Then Aedan bethought him how he might confute that. And he brought Columcille to him. And he let seat his own daughter Coinchenn in a chair in the presence of Columcille, and she with royal robes upon her.

“Beautiful is the maiden,” saith Aedan.
“She is in sooth,” saith Columcille.
“Were it pleasing to thee to lie with her?” saith Aedan.
“It were pleasing,” saith Columcille.

“Hearest thou him of whom it hath been said that never hath he broken his virginity, and he saying he were fain to be lying with a maiden!” saith Aedan.

“I would not speak falsehood,” saith Columcille. “And know thou, O Aedan, there is none in the world that is without the desire to sin. Natheless he that leaveth that desire, for God’s sake, shall be crowned in the Kingdom of God. And wit thou well, I would not lie with the damsel for the lordship of the world, albeit for the lust of the fleshly body that is about me, it is indeed my desire.”

If now Columcille had said at that time that he had no wish to lie with the damsel, Aedan had laid that against him as a lie, according to the word he had himself spoken, to wit, that save the human body of Jesu Christ, there hath none put on flesh that doth not have desire toward sin.

— Betha Colaim Chille (Life of Columcille),
XVII. More of the Labors of Columcille in Iona, 241;
compiled by Manus O’Donnell in 1532; edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B. 514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

All Affrighted and Adrad

Sound of Iona.
Sound of Iona.

Another time when Columcille was in lona, holy Baithin set out for that foresaid isle. Columcille warned him that in the middle of the night tofore a terrible beast had come into the harbor betwixt lona and the isle that he was bound for; and that all that should go past that harbor should be in sore peril from her.

Baithin replied, “I and the monster are in God’s hand,” saith he.

“Go,” saith Columcille, “with God’s blessing and mine. Thy stout faith shall save thee from that beast.”

Then went Baithin into his ship. And he had not been long travelling on the sea when they met the beast. Then were they all affrighted and adrad that were in the boat, save only Baithin. And he lifted his hands and eyes to Heaven and prayed God fervently to save him from the danger whereas he was. When Baithin had ended that prayer, he blessed the sea and its waters, and the beast fled before him. And she hath not been seen in that place from that time.

– Betha Colaim Chille (Life of Columcille),
XVII. More of the Labors of Columcille in Iona, 234;
compiled by Manus O’Donnell in 1532; edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B. 514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Columcille’s Three Pets

There were three pets that Columcille had; a cat, and a wren, and a fly. And he understood the speech of each of those creatures. And the Lord sent messages to him by them, and he understood all from them as he would understand an angel or human folk that might be sent with a message to him. And it happed that the wren ate the fly, and the cat ate the wren. And Columcille spake by the spirit of prophecy, and he said that it was thus men should do in a later time: the strong of them should eat the weak, that is to say, should take his wealth and his gear from him, and should show him neither right nor justice. And Columcille said that the while the Gael of Erin were thus, the power of foreigners should be over them, and whenever right and justice were kept by them, they should themselves have power again. And such love had Columcille for those little creatures of his, that he asked God to revive them for him, to get back the fly from the wren, and the wren from the cat. And he obtained that from God. And they were with him thenceforth as they were before, till they had lived out their lives according to nature. Wherefore he made this quatrain:

The deed they have done.
If God wills it, may He hear me:
May he get from my cat my wren;
May he get from my wren my fly.

— Betha Colaim Chille (Life of Columcille),
X. Of Sundry Miracles and Prophecies of Columcille and of Certain Visions, 118;
compiled by Manus O’Donnell in 1532; edited and translated from manuscript Rawlinson B. 514 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

 

In the Mansions of Bliss

Saint Columba, MS Rawlinson B. 514, 16th century. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
Saint Columba, MS Rawlinson B. 514, 16th century. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Queen of Angels, pray for us.
Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
St. Columba, greatest of Irish-born Saints, pray for us.
St. Columba, most illustrious of Irish Scholars, pray for us.
St. Columba, founder of Derry, pray for us.
St. Columba, patron of Ireland, pray for us.
St. Columba, apostle of Scotland, pray for us.
St. Columba, dove of the Church, pray for us.
St. Columba, Saint of the Eucharist, pray for us.
St. Columba, companion of the Angels, pray for us.
St. Columba, mirror of purity, pray for us.
St. Columba, model of humility, pray for us.
St. Columba, lover of temperance, pray for us.
St. Columba, father of the poor, pray for us.
St. Columba, protector of the innocent, pray for us.
St. Columba, advocate of the oppressed, pray for us.
St. Columba, friend of the children, pray for us.
St. Columba, guardian of schools, pray for us.
St. Columba, shield of our city, pray for us.
St. Oran, monk of Derry, pray for us.
All ye holy Monks of Iona, pray for us.
St. Bran, Nephew of St. Columba, pray for us.
All ye holy Dead of Derry, pray for us.
St. Martin, pray for us.
All ye Patrons and Friends of St. Columba, pray for us.

V. Pray for us, O dearest St. Columba.
R. That we may love the Sacred Heart of Jesus daily more and more.

Let us pray.

O God, Who didst vouchsafe to unveil to Thy Servant, Columba, the Angels who guard Thy Tabernacle, grant that we, whose privilege it is to pray where he knelt, may, through his intercession, be enabled to lead such lives of purity and holiness as will one day entitle us to behold those same Angels in the mansions of bliss, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

— Litany of St. Columba, Saint Anthony’s Treasury (1941).

Plain Submission and Cheerful Obedience

John Keble.

It is something, at all events, to have upon record the deliberate protest of the Church of England against these lessons of base accommodation: something, that those who are yet willing to take advice from her Prayer-Book, should find there the good old principles, of plain submission and cheerful obedience, applied to a real and near example, and a condition of society like the present. But it is more, to have the verdict of Scripture herself (for such, undoubtedly, may the History of the Passion falling on this day be considered) in favour of those, who have followed their Saviour in making resignation all their glory. Whether wise or unwise in a worldly sense, the doctrine of the Cross is on their side, and can never, surely, be misapplied, when rehearsed to encourage us in imitating them. Again; could any thing tell more significantly against the too fashionable notion of I know not what fatal necessity, suspending, as it were, men’s accountable agency, when they yield to the “spirit of the times”—could any thing more unsparingly condemn the measuring political right and wrong by mere present visible expediency—than the parable selected for the Gospel of the day: our Lord’s own expressive rebuke to the Jewish rulers, Caiaphas and the rest? They were deceiving themselves, no doubt, more than they did any one else, with the specious plea of public welfare, and the little worth of one man’s blood, set against the safety of the whole nation. There was a voice which spoke home to their consciences, when it represented the husbandmen saying, “Come, let us kill the heir, and then the inheritance surely will be ours.” And it is our duty to repeat the warning, as long as we see people doing such things, or “taking pleasure in them that do them.”

— Sermon V. Danger of Sympathizing With Rebellion by John Keble;
Preached before the University of Oxford, January 30, 1831.