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vigor, was much indebted to the superior knowledge of the clergy. It would seem that their authority, too, was consentaneous; for he who relapsed into idolatry was amenable to the civil power, which punished him “by the forfeiture of his estate and disgrace of the pillory, unless redeemed by the contributions of his friends.” Perhaps the name of St. Columba— hallowed by succeeding ages—will give us no inappropriate idea of the spirit and character of the age; and remind the titled sons of power, how worthless are the applause and favors of worldly wealth, compared with the lustre which lives with him whose life has been dignified by heroic virtue. Columba irradiated the distant isles with the inspiration of a true and fervent Christianity; and “his memory was long cherished with every testimony of veneration by the northern nations.” He was the founder of a monastery, far offin the seagirt isle of Iona, the works of which were honorably noticed by Bede, and theinfluence of which was felt throughout Christendom. Nor was Columba the only one of royal race, who thus devoted himself to solitude, and usefulness, and immortality. Princesses, leaving the homes of their ancestral splendor, eagerly hastened to the cloistered halls of some distant abbey beyond the foaming waves, or, with pious zeal, erected and endowed monasteries in their own domains. Thus, while “crowds resorted to Faremontier, Chelles, and Audeli; Whitby, Coldingham and Ely were soon thronged by those illustrious for station and piety.” Eauswilde, Mildrede, and Elthelburge, among the Southern Saxons, in Northumbria Hein, Hilda, and numerous others, have been remembered.
“The monasteries were held in the highest estimation: the most distinguished of the Saxon female saints, and many of the most eminent prelates were educated in them; and so edifying was the deportment of the greatest part of these communities, that the breath of slander never presumed to tarnish their character. The monastery of Coldingham alone forms an exception.” (P. 83.)
With our ancestors, monastic chastity was venerated.
“To the Saxons, in whom, during the tide of conquest, the opportunity of gratification had strengthened the impulse of the passions, a life of
chastity appeared the most arduous effort of human virtue; they revered its professors as beings of a nature in this respect superior to their own; and learned to esteem, a religion which could elevate man so much above the influence of his inclinations. As they became acquainted with the maxims of the Gospel, their veneration for this virtue increased; and whoever compares the dissolute manners of the pagan Saxons with the severe celibacy of the monastic orders, will be astonished at the immense number of male and female recluses who, within a century after the arrival of St. Augustine, had voluntarily embraced a life of perpetual continency.” (P. 85.)
Monastic industry was equally conspicuous. While their churches were adorned and elegantly furnished, the wild luxuriance of nature was not less subdued “by the unwearied industry of the monks.”
“The forests were cleared, the marshes drained, roads opened, bridges erected, and the waste lands reclaimed. Plentiful harvests waved on the coasts of Northumbria, and luxuriant meadows started from the fens of the Giroii. The superior cultivation of several counties in England, is originally owing to the labors of the monks, who at this early period were the parents of agriculture as well as of the arts.” (P. 95.)
It is impressive to reflect on the harmony and beauty of the ceremonies attendant upon the consecration of a nun, in AngloSaxon Britain—more impressive still to know that they ever regarded their vows, and dispensed a light as cheering and effective as it was pure and illuminating. (Cap. vii. p. 135.)
How comprehensive and simple the injunction to the candidate for holy orders. After all preliminary ceremonies were concluded, the bishop,
“Having placed the ‘stole’ across the left shoulder of each, as they successively knelt before him, put in his hand the book of the Gospels, saying, ‘Receive this volume of the Gospels; read and understand it; teach it to others, and fulfil it thyself.” Then holding his hands over their heads he thus continued: “O Lord God Almighty, the giver of honors, distributor of orders, and disposer of functions, look with complacency on these thy servants, whom we humbly ordain to the office of deacons, that they may always minister in thy service. We, though ignorant of their judgment, have examined their lives, as far as we are able. But thou, O Lord, knowest all things; the most hidden things are not concealed from thy eyes. Thou art acquainted with all secrets; thou art the searcher of hearts. But as thou canst ex
amine their conduct by thy celestial light, so canst thou also purify their souls and grant them the graces necessary for their functions. Send, therefore, on them, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit, that, in the execution oftheir ministry, they may be strengthened by the seven-sold gift of thy grace, May thy precepts shine in their conduct; may thy people learn to imitate the chastity of their lives; and may their fidelity in their present station raise them to a higher dignity in thy church.” He then completed their ordination by anointing them with oil and chrism, praying, “ that through the merits of Christ, whatever they should bless, might be blessed, and whatever they should hallow, might be hallowed.’” (Cap. vii., p. 139.)
We shall trace other fragments evincing the spirit and social culture of those distant days. Such was the Anglo-Saxon EpiscoSynod, which is still appropriately paralleled by the House of Convocation. Howinteresting to the enthusiast, who looks far into the future, must have been the spectacle when the bishops and mitred abbots—venerable by the weight of indiviual excellence, as well as the sacredness of their official character—gave the first and most harmonious specimen of a true legislative body, ere Anglo-Saxon energy had evolved and consolidated such an organization in its political relation. From the church were derived the most valuable impressions of popular equality; it was a pure democracy, realizing itself in, and incorporated with the most useful suggestions for the arrangement of popular assemblies. True, the Wittena-gemote was typified in their ordinary “assemblies” before the diffusion of Christianity; but none the less did the church concentrate its fragmentary evolutions, and infuse into them an improved and elevated spirit. (Cap. v. p. 98.) The mutations of society have abolished the rule which prevailed in regard to the dower of a widow, (for in those simple days, it was the whole of her husband's estate, if they had issue; if not, the half;) but the form in use at the matrimonial ceremony, has come down to us since the beginning of the thirteenth century. (Pp. 133–135.) We annex the following to show how nearly the coronation oath of the AngloSaxon kings, corresponds with that now established in England, after the lapse of almost nine hundred years. We shall be surprised to see how carefully the spirit of
that handed down from the records of dim antiquity has been preserved, and almost imbodied in the nairete of language by which it is presented.
“The ceremony began with the coronation oath. Its origin may be traced to Anthemius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose zeal refused to place the crown on the head of Anastasius, a prince of suspicious orthodoxy, till he had sworn to make no change in the established religion. But the oath of the Anglo-Saxons was more comprehensive: it was a species of compact, between the monarch and people, which the bishop, as the representative of Heaven, ratified with his benediction. “Rectitudo est regis noviter ordinati, et in solium sublevati, haec tria praecepta populo Christiano sibi subdite praecipere: imprimis ut ecclesia Dei, et omnis populus Christianus veram pacem servent in omni tempore. AMEN. Aliud est, ut rapacitate et omnes iniquitates, omnibus gradibus interdicat. AMEN. Tertium est, ut in omnibus judiciis acquitatem et misericordiam praecipiat, ut per hoc nobis indulgeat misericordiam suam clemens et misericors Deus. AMEN.” A portion of the Gospel was then read; three prayers were recited to implore the blessing of God; and the consecrated oil was poured on the head of the king. While the other prelates anointed him, the archbishop read the prayer: “O God, the strength of the elect, and the exaltation of the humble, who by the unction of oil didst sanctify thy servant Aaron, and by the same didst prepare priests, kings, and prophets, to rule thy people Israel; sanctify, Almighty God, in like manner, this thy servant, that like them he may be able to govern the people committed to his charge.” “At the conclusion of the prayer the principal thanes approached, and, in conjunction with the bishops, placed the sceptre in his hand. The archbishop continued: ‘Bless, O Lord, this prince, thou who rulest the kingdoms of all kings. AMEN. “‘May he always be subject to thee with fear: may he serve thee: may his reign be peaceful: may he with his chieftains be protected b thy shield: may he be victorious without bloodshed. AMEN. “‘May he live magnanimous among the assemblies of the nations: may he be distinguished by the equity of his judgments. AMEN. “Grant him length of life for years; and may justice arise in his days. AMEN. “‘ Grant that the nation may be faithful to him; and his nobles may enjoy peace, and love charity. AMEN. “‘Be thou his honor, his joy, and his pleasure; his solace in grief, his counsel in difficulty, his consoler in labor. AMEN. “‘May he seek advice from thee, and by thee may he learn to hold the reins of empire, that
his life may be a life of happiness, and he may hereafter enjoy eternal bliss. AMEN.” “The rod was now put into his hands, with a prayer, that the benedictions of the ancient patriarchs, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, might rest upon him. He was then crowned, and the archbisbop said, ‘Bless, O Lord, the strength of the king, our prince, and receive the work of his hands. Blessed by thee be his lands with the precious dew of the heavens, and the springs of the low-lying deep ; with the fruits brought forth by the sun, and the fruits brought forth by the moon; with the precious things of the aged mountains, and the precious things of the eternal hills; with the fruits of the earth, and the fullness thereof. May the blessing of Him who appeared in the bush rest on the head of the king: may he be blessed in his children, and dip his foot in oil: may the horns of the rhinoceros be his horns; with them may he push the nations to the extremities of the earth. And be He who rideth on the heavens his helper forever.” Here the people exclaimed thrice, “Live the king forever. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN.’ They were then admitted to kiss him on his throne. The ceremony concluded with this prayer: ‘O God, the author of eternity, leader of the heavenly host, and conqueror of all enemies; bless this, thy servant, who humbly bends his head before thee: pour thy grace upon him : preserve him with health and happiness in the service to which he is appointed, and wherever and for whomsoever he shall implore thy assistance, do thou, O God, be present, protect and defend him, through Christ, our Lord. AMEN.’t
By those who linger among the shadows of far antiquity—who venerate whatever comes gifted with the spells of mysticism because its origin is scarcely perceptible—the East has ever been considered as the land of religious favor; but may it not be equally just to regard it as the soil where (par eminence) error has been most incessantly grafted on Christianity; where dimeyed philosophy has been resorted to, and adored, for merging with and polishing the doctrines of religion? But the converts among the northern nations were more simpleandlessinquisitive. “Without suspicion they acquiesced in the doctrines taught by their missionaries, and carefully transmitted them as a sacred deposit to the veneration of their descendants.” Two hundred years after Christianity had been planted, the prelates of Cloveshoe made a “confession of their faith,” worthy of record by the side of
* Taken from Deuteronomy, c. xxxiii. f Lingard, pp. 143–5.
those in the councils of Nice and Chalcedon. The language is so choice, so elevated, that we transcribe it here:—
“Notum sitp. tua, quod sicut primitus a sancta Romana, et apostolica sede, beatissimo papo Gregorio dirigente, exorata est, ita credimus.” (An 800, p. 117.)
The influence of their religion over the civil concerns of society in the aggregate, was not superior to that which it bore in the simple scenes of domestic life.
“Among our ancestors religion was not a dry and lifeless code of morality: she constantly interested herself in the welfare of her children ; she took them by the hand at the opening, she conducted them with the care of a parent to the end of life.”
In addition to “the three great sacraments” of baptism, the Lord's Supper and penance, they were wont to regard the imposition of hands by the bishop, ordination, marriage and the extreme unction with much veneration. It was, indeed, something remarkable to find that the idea of death presented no terror to minds so well cultivated and reposing with such unquestioning earnestness in the triumphs of the Christian faith.
“The directions of St. James were religiously observed; the prayer of faith was read over the dying man, and his body anointed with consecrated oil.”
Such was St. Cuthbert's death. The last rites of one to whose zeal and success We have previously alluded, are thus described by Bede –
“Ecce sacer residens antistes ad altar, Pocula degustat vitae, Christique supinum Sanguine munit iter.vultusque adsidera et almas Sustallit gaudens palmas, animamque supernis Laudibus intentam laetantibus indidit astris.” P. 119.
Nay, more—after their spirits had fled with pardonable zeal, they desired to b entombed in the monasteries founded b their wealth, and dignified with their pro tection.
“Such were the sentiments of Alcuyn, the ealdoman of East Anglia, and one of the founders of Ramsey. . . Warned by frequent infirmities of his approaching death, he repaired, accom
panied by his sons Edwin and Ethelward, to the abbey. The monks were speedily assembled. ‘My beloved,” said he, §." will soon lose your friend and protector. My strength is gone; I am stolen from myself. But I am not afraid to die. When life grows tedious death is welcome. To-day I shall confess before you the many errors of my life. Think not that I wish you to solicit a prolongation of my existence. My request is that you protect my departure by i. prayers, and place your merits in the alance against my defects. When my soul shall have quitted my body, honor your father's corpse with a decent funeral, grant him a constant share in your prayers, and recommend his memory to the charity and gratitude of your successors.’ At the conclusion of this address, the aged thane threw himself on the pavement before the altar, and, with a voice interrupted with frequent sighs, publicly confessed the sins of his past years, and earnestly implored the mercies of his Redeemer. The monks were dissolved in tears. As soon as their sensibility permitted them to begin, they chanted over him the seven psalms o penitence, and the prior Germanus read the prayer of absolution. With the assistance of Edwin and Ethelward he arose; and supporting himself against a column, exhorted the brotherhood to a punctual observance of their rule, and forbade |. Sons, under their father's malediction, to molest them in the possession of the lands which he had bestowed on the abbey. Then, having embraced each monk, and asked his blessing, he returned to his residence in the neighborhood. This was his last visit. Within a few weeks he expired. His body was interred, with proper solemnity, in the church, and his memory was long cherished with gratitude by the monks of Ramsey.” P. 152.
These were beautiful and affecting instances of attachment to the departing spirits of their friends; and this incident seems to evince a chaste and cultivated tone of moral sentiment among the AngloSaxons. No people ever became illustrious in the annals of the fine arts, or intellectually conspicuous, who failed to mark upon their souls this (not universal, as has been sometimes maintained) respect for the dead. The polished Greeks retained many of their beautiful solemnities after Christianity had taught them that the body was insensible to the fond endearments they lavished upon it; and our Anglo-Saxon forefathers were not less obedient to the voice of nature.
How gratifying to find the frail mementoes of their history confirmatory of this —to connect with it their zeal to become fully versed in all the learning of the age.
“The children of the thanes, educated in the neighboring monasteries, imbibed an early respect, if not a passion for literature. Even the women caught the general enthusiasm: seminaries of learning were established in their convents; they conversed with their absent friends in the language of ancient Rome; and frequently exchanged the labors of the distaff and needle for the more pleasing and more elegant beauties of the Latin poets.”
Nor were these efforts attended with slight results; for the whole continent was enriched by the stores of learning that had been collected, and were still clustering in the monasteries of England; particularly in the seminary at York, the list of whose works may not prove uninteresting to those who fondly hang over what the friend of Alcuin” reverently terms his “libros, caras super omnia gazas”—his guides in a darkened age.
“Illic invenies veterum vestigia patrum
Nor shall we fail to admire the taste which formed the following schedule of studies in the same seminary:—
“His dans Grammatica rationis graviterartes,
* Aelbert, Archbishop of York.
Illis rhetorica infundens refluamina lingua',
The great master-spirits of this age— at once “the types and the expression” of its better features—were St. Aldhelm Alcuin and “the venerable Bede ;” who, spurning the inglorious ease of a monastic life, passed their days in ministering to the mental cravings of their awakened countrymen. They spoke, they wrote, they taught, fervently and cheerfully;” and, having performed the work allotted them, passed away, leaving those who were worthy to succeed them; those who were quickened with the energy of piety and learning, whose souls were attuned to a grateful veneration for the benefactors whose names and virtues they ever loved to cherish. It was the age when Roman arts and Roman mind had just impressed (in the “civil codes”) their characters in Western Europe; and the Latin language was the depository of almost everything in science or religion that had escaped the shocks of barbaric invasion. To the AngloSaxon scholars, then, the Latin became familiar “as household words;” and, at a time when the wild Franks were but just roused from the sleep of ages by the energy and spirit of Charlemagne, England was irradiated by the beams of a morning whose glory has experienced no dimness, although the tide of a thousand years has changed all else. We mentioned Aelbert. He was preceded by Egbert, in whose praise we have the following effusion of Alcuin, the sweet bard of Anglo-Saxon Britain:—
Te duce deserti variis involvimur undis,
Incerti qualem mereamur tangere portum.
Sidera dum lucent, trudit dum nubila ventus,
Semper honos, nomengue tuum, laudesque manebunt.”
At the earnest solicitation of Charlemagne, Alcuin left Britain; but that he often pined for “his own loved islandhome,” that his affections fondly reverted to the land of his childhood, is evinced by the following extract from his letter to the clergy of York, (an extract whose trusting faith and innocent simplicity lend a double charm to the respect we cherish for its author:)
“Ego vester erosive in vita, sive in morte. Et, forte miserebitur mei Deus, ut cujus infantiam aluistis, ejus senectutem sepeliatis. Et si alius corpori deputabitur locus, tamen animae, qualemcunque habitaturae errit per vestras sanctas, Deo denante, intercessiones requies.” (P. 209, note.)
This desire was not secured. Far from its shores he sank to rest; and the zephyrs of a more burning clime swept over his lonely, honored tomb. Truly does he seem to have been gifted with that far-sweeping, foreseeing vision, which conld look beyond his nation's Future—to have been sustained and supported by the unwearying guidance of a Deity ever watchful of his servants. So that Charlemagne not only solicited his services, but his advice ; became his “own familiar friend;” and this condescension from one who had been the first styled “Emperor of the West,” and was the champion of the feudal system—at a period, too, when the whole Christian world acquiesced in the doctrine of “the divine right of kings”—was something of a tribute—a tribute to the Christian and the scholar. The following lines will picture forth more than we can express:–
“Mens mea mellifluo, fateor, congaudet amore,
* Opater, Opastor, vitae spes maxima nostrae: Tesine nos ferimur turbata per acquora mundi,
* As says one of them, “Semper aut discere, aut docere, aut scribere dulce habui,”
* [A. D. 800.1 Hallam, “Middle Ages,” Part I. Chap. I., pp. 21, 22.