Saturday 16 June 2012

The Life of Saint Columba by Saint Cuimine the Fair Part 1

Some modern scholars have questioned the existence of a separate Life of Saint Columba by Saint Cuimine the Fair, suggesting rather that it is no more than a later abridgment of the more famous Saint Adamanan's Life. Canon O'Hanlon's entry for Saint Cuimine in his Lives of the Irish Saints includes a long discussion about the various Lives of Saint Columba published by Colgan and the Bollandists, and their authorship. Whatever the case, below is the text of the Life attributed to Saint Cuimine the Fair and published in W. M. Metcalfe's Lives of the Scottish Saints (Paisley, 1895):


The Nativity of Columba. An Angel appears to his Mother bearing a Mantle Adorned with Flowers.

THE nativity of Columba, sprung from a nations of saints for the salvation of many, is known to have had its beginning on this wise! One night between his conception and his birth, an angel of the Lord appeared to his mother in dreams, and standing beside her gave her a mantle of marvellous beauty, on which, sooth to say, the lovely colours of every flower seems to be depicted. After a little, however, he demanded it back, took it from her hands, and raising it, spread it out, and sent it away through the empty air. But she, terrified at the mantle being taken from her, then addressed the man of venerable mien: "Why takest thou away from me the delightful mantle so soon!" He immediately replied: "Because this cloak is of such exceeding honour that it can no longer be kept with thee." At these words, the woman saw the aforesaid mantle recede further and further from her in its flight, and as it grew in size she beheld it exceed in breadth the plains, and surpass in extent the mountains and wooded valleys. At the same time she heard the following words: "O woman, be not grieved, for to the man to whom thou art bound in the bonds of wedlock, thou art about to bear a son of like beauty, who will be numbered among the prophets of the Lord as one of them! he is predestinated by God to be the leader of innumerable souls to the heavenly land." On hearing this the woman awoke.

A Globe of Fire appears over the Face of Columba.

AFTER the birth of the child, a priest, a man of blameless life, to whose care the blessed youth had been confided, on returning home from church, after Mass, found his whole house lit up with a bright light, and saw a globe of fire resting over the face of the sleeping child. As soon as he beheld it he shook with fear, and lay prostrate on the ground in amazement, perceiving that the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the child from above.

An Angel His Companion.

ON a certain occasion the Saint, while a young man, went to visit the holy Bishop Finnian, his master, who was then an old man. S. Finnian, when he saw him approaching, beheld likewise an angel of the Lord acting as his companion on the journey, and made known the fact to certain brethren who were standing by, saying: "Behold, see now S. Columba coming! he has been deemed worthy to have an angel of the Lord as the companion of his journey."

He Turns Water into Wine.

IN those days the Saint crossed over into Britain with twelve disciples and fellow soldiers. He arrived on a certain holy day, as his holy teacher and bishop Finnian was celebrating Mass, when it chanced that no wine could be found for the sacrificial mystery. On hearing the ministers at the altar complaining of this among themselves, he took a pitcher, and went to the fountain, in order that as a deacon he might draw spring water for the holy ministries of the Eucharist. The water being drawn, he said to the ministers: "You have now wine, which the Lord has sent for the celebration of his mysteries." On this being known, the holy Bishop with the ministers gave exceeding thanks to God. But the holy youth was wont to ascribe this miracle not to himself but to Bishop S. Finnian.

He Consecrates Aidan King, and foretells future things concerning his Son.

AT another time the holy man, while staying in the Island of Hynba (Eilean-na-Naoimh), one night, when in an ecstacy of mind, saw an angel of the Lord sent unto him, who held in his hand the glass book of the ordination of kings. This book he received from the hand of the angel, and began to read. Refusing to ordain Aidan king as he was directed (for he loved his brother more), the angel suddenly stretched forth his hand and smote the Saint with a whip, the mark of the bruise whereof remained on his side all the days of his life. He also addressed to him this word: "Know for certain that I am sent by God, in order that thou mayest ordain Aidan king, which if thou wilt not do, I will smite thee again." The angel of the Lord giving him the same things in charge concerning the ordination of Aidan on three consecutive nights, the Saint sailed over to the Island of Iona, and Aidan coming thither, he ordained him king. Moreover, during the words of ordination, he foretold the future of his sons, and grandsons, and great-grandsons, and laying his hand upon his head, ordained and blessed him, and spake forth these words: "Believe unhesitatingly, O Aidan; none of thine adversaries shall be able to resist thee, until thou first act unjustly towards me and my posterity. Tell these words to thy sons, lest they lose their kingdom. Because if they hearken not, the scourge which, because of thee I have endured from the angel of God, will be turned against them." And so it came to pass, for transgressing the commands of the man of God, they lost the kingdom.

He sees the soul of a monk received into Heaven.

ON another occasion, when staying in the Island of Iona, the holy man saw a monk, who was fruitful in good works, reduced to the last extremity. When he visited him in the hour of departure, the man of God, after standing for a little beside his couch, blessed him, and then quickly left the house, being unwilling to witness the death of him who at that moment was passing from among them. Then, indeed, the holy man, while walking in the court of his monastery, with his eyes fixed on heaven, was astonished and greatly amazed. One of the brethren, who at the same time was alone with him, ventured to ask the cause of his amazement, when the Saint replied: "Just now I saw the holy angels warring against the opposing powers, and I give thanks to Christ, our Judge, because the victorious angels have received the soul of this pilgrim. But I beseech thee, that while I live, thou wilt reveal this secret to no one."

The Death of Saint Brendan revealed to him.

LIKEWISE on a certain day at the first dawn, the Saint called to him his servant, Diormit, and addressed him on this wise: "Let the services of the Holy Eucharist be at once prepared; for to-day is the natal day of the blessed Brendan." "Wherefore," said the servant, "orderest thou such things; for no messenger from Ireland has announced his death." "Go," replied the Saint, "obey my order; for during the night I saw the heavens suddenly open and choirs of angels, by whose bright and surpassing glory the whole world was in that moment illuminated, descend to meet the soul of S. Brendan."

The Death of S. Columban, Bishop in Leinster, revealed.

ON another day, again, when the brethren were about to set out to their manual labour, the Saint, on the contrary, ordered the day to be spent in rest, the rites of the Holy Oblation to be prepared, and some addition to be made to their dinner. "I must needs celebrate," he said, "the mysteries of the Holy Eucharist for the holy soul which was last night carried among the angels." The brethren obeyed, spent the day in rest, and went with the holy Abbot to the Church as on a holy day. During the sacred mysteries of the Holy Sacrifice, the Saint said, "Today prayer must be made for the holy Bishop Columban." Then understood the brethren who were standing by, that Columban, Bishop of the people in Leinster, the dear friend of Columba, had departed to the Lord. A short time after, some persons coming from the province of Leinster brought tidings that the Bishop died on the night the Saint said.

Columba fights with demons.

NOW the Saint sought a place among the woods more remote from men and suitable for prayer. And there, when on a certain day he was praying, he suddenly saw before him an exceedingly black host of demons fighting with iron spits, who, as had been revealed to the holy man by the Spirit, were desirous of assailing his monastery and slaying many of the brethren with darts. But he fought against them, and so on both sides the battle was waged during the greater part of the day. But though innumerable, and he one, they were unable to overcome him, till at last the angels of God came to his aid, and through fear of them the demons fled from the place, as the Saint himself afterwards told the brethren.

While staying in Iona he comes by the help of an Angel to the relief of a brother who is falling from the top of a house in Ireland.

AT another time, when the man of God was sitting in his hut writing, his countenance was suddenly changed, and he cried out from a pure heart, saying, "Help! help!" Two brethren, who were standing at the door, asked the reason for this sudden cry; and the man of God gave them the following answer: "I commanded the angel of the Lord, who was just now standing in our midst, to go quickly to the help of one of the brethren who was falling from the roof of a house which is being built." And the Saint immediately added: "Wonderful, indeed, and almost indescribable is the swiftness of the angelic flight; equal, I should think, to the speed of lightning. For that heavenly being who but now flew hence from us to that man as he was beginning to fall, came up, as if in the twinkling of an eye, and supported him before he touched the earth; nor did he feel any shock. How amazing, I say, and how timely the aid, which swifter than a word could be rendered so quickly over so many intervening lands and seas."

He converses with Angels.

ON a certain occasion, on one of the days when the brethren were assembled together, the Saint of God, Columba, said to them: "Today I wish to go alone to the western plain of our island; but none of you follow me." They complied with his request, and he went out alone as he wished; but a certain brother, a crafty spy, following another path, hid himself on the top of a hill, anxious to spy out what he might and did see, but not without the permission of God, who was magnifying his Saint. For he saw him standing on a hill and praying with his hands opened out to heaven, and lifting up his eyes on high. Wonderful to say: lo! a marvellous sight suddenly appeared. Straightway holy angels, clothed in white raiment, flew towards the holy man with wondrous speed, and began to stand around him as he prayed, and joined in intercourse with the blessed Saint; but as if conscious of him who was spying them, they flew back on high. The blessed man, after the angelic meeting, betook himself to the monastery, and, the brethren being assembled, sought for him who was guilty of the transgression with a stern reproof. He, then, who knew within himself that he was the inexcusable transgressor, confessed his guilt and on bended knees prayed for pardon; and the Saint leading him aside, charged him, as he knelt, with a heavy threat to tell no man during his life-time what he had seen. For a time the brother obeyed, but after the Saint's death, he related with many protestations to the brethren what he had seen. Moreover the scene of this angelic assembly is called to this day the Mount of the Angels.

A ball of fire rises from his head.

MOREOVER, on another occasion, four brethren came from Ireland for the sake of visiting S. Columba, who was then residing in the Island of Hinba (Eilan-na-naoimh). With one consent they besought the Saint with prayers to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries; which also he did one Lord's Day. But after the reading of the Gospel they saw a certain ball fiery and very bright, blaze from the crown of the holy Columba's head, while he stood before the altar consecrating the Sacred Oblation, and beheld it rise upwards, in the form of a column, until the same Sacred Mysteries were ended.

Continue reading Part II here.

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