Wednesday 1 February 2012

Homily from the Leabhar Breac - Conclusion

Brigit, and certain virgins with her, went to Bishop Mel, in Telcha Mide, to take the veil. Glad was he thereat. For humbleness Brigit staid, so that she might be the last to whom the veil should be given. A fiery pillar arose from her head to the ridgepole of the church. Bishop Mel asked: "What virgin is there ?" Answered MacCaille : "That is Brigit," saith he. "Come thou, O holy Brigit," saith Bishop Mel, " that the veil may be sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, that the form of ordaining a bishop was read over Brigit. Mac Caille said that the order of a bishop should not be(conferred) on a woman." Dixit Bishop Mel: " No power have I in this matter, inasmuch as by God hath been given unto her this honour beyond every woman." Hence, it is that the men of Ireland give the honour of a bishop to Brigit's successor.

In the eighth (day) of the lunar month (?) was she born. On the eighteenth did she take the veil on her head. On the twenty-eighth did she go to heaven. Together with eight virgins was Brigit consecrated. According to the number of the eight beatitudes of the gospel did she fulfil (her course).

This was one of Brigit's miracles. When the solemnity of Easter drew nigh, Brigit set up, shortly before Maunday-Thursday, in a certain place near unto Bishop Mel. Brigit desired, through (her) charity, to brew ale for the many churches that were around her, and it was not usual to brew ale at that time. Brigit possessed only one measure of malt, and Brigit's family had no vessels save two troughs. They made a tub of one of the two vessels, and they filled the other vessel with the ale, and the virgins kept taking the ale from Brigit to the churches, and still the vessel before Brigit remained full. And thus the produce of one measure of malt, through Brigit's blessing, supplied (?) seven churches of Fir Telach for Maunday-Thursday and for the eight days of Easter.

When the solemnity of Easter was fulfilled, Brigit asked her maidens whether they had the leavings of the Easter ale. Replied the virgins: "God will give food," say they. Then two maidens came in with a tub full of water. " The Virgin's Son knoweth," says Brigit, "that there is good (ale) there." She thought that it was ale. Quicker than speech, as she said that, the water was turned into choice ale forthwith.

Brigit went to a certain church in the land of Teffia to celebrate Easter, when Brigit took to washing the feet of the old men and the feeble folk who were in the church. Four of the sick people there, were a maimed man, a madman, a blind man, and a leper. Brigit washed the feet of the four, and they were straightway healed from every disease that was on them.

Once Brigit was in a house as a guest, and all went out, save a stripling of fourteen years. He had never spoken, nor moved foot or hand, and Brigit knew not that he was thus. So then came guests into the house to Brigit. Said Brigit to the stripling : "Attend on the guests." "I will do so," saith the stripling. He got up at once and did service to the guests, and he was quite whole thenceforward.

Then there came to pass a meeting of the men of Ireland in Tailtin,in the place where Patrick abode, with a synod of Ireland's clerics around him. Now Brigit and Bishop Mel went to the meeting, and a certain woman (also) went thither with a babe on her arm, and she said that the babe was by Bishop Bron. The Bishop, however, denied that. Brigit asked the woman by whom the child had been conceived, and told her not to utter a lie. And the woman answered: It is by Bishop Bron. Then a swelling straightway filled her tongue, so that she was unable to speak. Brigit made the sign of the cross over the infant's mouth and asked it : "Who is thy father ?" The infant answered and said : "A wretched man who is in the outskirts of the assembly, that is my father," saith he. So in that wise Bishop Bron was saved through the grace of Brigit.

Brigit went to converse with Patrick in Mag Lemne while he was preaching the gospel. And Brigit fell asleep at the preaching. Dixit Patrick : "Wherefore hast thou slept ?" Brigit bent her knees thrice and said : "I saw a vision," quoth she. Dixit Patrick : "Tell us the vision." "I saw," quoth she, "four ploughs in the south-east, and they ploughed the whole island, and before the sowing was finished the harvest grew up, and clear wellsprings and shining streams came out of the furrows, and white garments were round the sowers and the ploughmen. I beheld four other ploughs in the north, and they ploughed the island athwart, and before the harvest came again, the oats which they had sown grew up at once and ripened, and black streams came out of the furrows, and black garments were on the sowers and on the ploughmen. And I am sorrowful thereat," quoth Brigit. Dixit Patrick : "Be not in sadness, for good is that which thou beheldest. The first four ploughs which thou beheldest, those are I and thou. We sow the four books of the gospel with seed of faith and confession. The harvest which appeared to thee, that is the perfect faith of those men-folk. The four other ploughs, those are the false teachers and the liars, and they will overturn the teachings that we sow, and those we shall not uplift. But we, I and thou, shall then be in the presence of the Creator."

Then Brigit went to Dunlaing to ask him to forfeit to her father the sword which he had given to him while he was in the door-way of the fortress. Then a slave of the slaves of the King came to speak with Brigit and said to her : "If thou wouldst save me from the servitude wherein I am, I would become a Christian, and I would serve thee thyself." Brigit said : "I will ask that of the King." So Brigit went into the fortress and asked her two boons of the King the forfeiture of the sword to Dubthach, and his freedom for the slave. Said Brigit to the King: "If thou desirest excellent children and a kingdom for thy sons and Heaven for thyself, give me the two boons that I ask." Said the King to Brigit : "The kingdom of Heaven, as I see it not, and as no one knows what thing it is, I seek not, and a kingdom for my sons I seek not, for I shall not myself be extant, and let each one serve his time. But give me length of life in my kingdom and victory always over the Hui Neill, for there is often warfare between us. And give me victory in the first battle, so that I may be trustful in the other fights." And this was fulfilled in the battle of Lochar, (which he fought) against the Hui Neill.

Once upon a time the King of Leinster came unto Brigit to listen to preaching and celebration at Easter-day. After the ending of the form of celebration, the King fared forth on his way and Brigit went to refection. Lomman, Brigit's leper, said he would eat nothing until the weapons of the King of Leinster were given to him both spears and sword and shield. A messenger went from Brigit after the King. From mid-day to evening a thousand paces until the weapons were given by him, and bestowed on the leper.

Once upon a time Bishop Ercc and Brigit were in the land of Leinster. She said to Bishop Ercc : "There is at present a battle between thy tribe and its neighbours." Dixit a student of Bishop Ercc's family : "We think not," saith he, "that that is true." Brigit sained the student's eyes. Said the student: "I see my brothers a-slaughtering now." Then the student repented greatly.

Once upon a time a certain leper came to Brigit to ask for a cow. Dixit Brigit to him : "Which wouldst thou prefer, to carry off a cow or to be healed of the leprosy ?" The leper said, that he would rather be healed of his leprosy than have the kingdom of all the world, for every sound man is a king, saith he. Then Brigit made prayer to God and the leper was healed and served Brigit afterwards.

Now, when Brigit's fame in miracles and marvels had travelled throughout all Ireland, there came unto Brigit for their healing two blind men from Britain, and a little leper boy with them, and they put trust in Bishop Mel to get them healed. Said Brigit : "Let them stay outside just now till mass is over." Said the Britons (for those people are impatient), " Thou healedst folk of thy own race yesterday, though thou healest not us to-day." Brigit made prayer and the three were healed at once.

Brigit went afterwards with her virgins to Ardachad of Bishop Mel. The king of Teffia was at a feast near them. There was a vessel covered with many gems in the king's hand. And a certain careless man took it out of his hand, and it fell and broke into pieces. That man was seized by the king. Bishop Mel went to ask for him, but nothing could be got from the king save his death. However, Bishop Mel asked that the broken vessel might be given to him by the king, and then he had it and took it with him to the house wherein was Brigit. And Brigit made prayer to the Lord, and the vessel was restored in a form that was better than before, and then it was taken to the king, and the captive was loosed. And Bishop Mel said : "Not for me hath God wrought this miracle, but for Brigit."

Once upon a time Brigit went to watch over a certain virgin, namely, Brigit, the daughter of Congaile, who used to work many miracles. And when Brigit and her virgins were at dinner, Brigit paused in the middle of the meal, and she said to a certain virgin : "Make thou Christ's cross over thy face and over thine eyes that thou mayest see what I see." So then the virgin beheld Satan beside the table with his head down and his feet up, his smoke and his flame out of his gullet and out of his nostrils. Said Brigit to the demon that he should answer her : "I cannot, O nun, be without conversing with thee, for thou keepest God's commandments and thou art .... to God's poor and to His family." "Tell us," saith Brigit, "why thou art hurtful in thy deeds to the human race ?"
Said the demon : "That the race may not attain unto Paradise." Said Brigit to the demon : "Wherefore hast thou come to us among our nuns ?"
"A certain pious virgin is here," saith the demon, " and in her company am I." Said Brigit to the virgin: "Put Christ's cross over thine eyes." And the virgin beheld at once the hideous monster there, and great fear seized the virgin when she beheld the demon." Wherefore shunnest thou," saith Brigit, "the fosterling whom thou hast been cherishing (?) for long seasons ?" Then the virgin repented, and she was healed of the devil of gluttony and lust that had dwelt in her company.

Once upon a time Brigit went over Teffia, and there were great hosts along with her. There were two lepers behind them, who quarrelled on the road. The hand of him that first raised his hand withers, and then the hand of the other leper withered. Thereafter they repented and Brigit cured them of their leprosy.

Once upon a time Brigit, with her virgins, was at Armagh, and two went by her bearing a tub of water. They came to Brigit to be blessed, and the tub fell behind them and went back over back from the door of the Rath as far as Loch Lapan. And it brake not, and not a drop fell thereout. It was well known to every one that Brigit's blessing had caused this, and Patrick said : "Deal ye the water throughout Armagh and Airthir." So it was dealt, and it cured every disease and every anguish that was in the land.

Brigit went into the province of Fir Ross to loosen a captive who was in manu with the King of Fir Ross. Said Brigit : "Wilt thou set that captive free for me ?" The King replied : "Though thou shouldst give me the realm of the men of Breg, I would not give him to thee. But go not with a refusal," saith the King. "For one night thou shalt have the right to guard his life for him" Then Brigit appeared at the close of day to the captive and said to him : "When the chain shall be opened for thee repeat this hymn, Nunc populus, and turn to thy right hand and flee." Thus it is done, and the captive flees at the word of Brigit.

Brigit one day came over Sliab Breg. There was a madman on the mountain who used to be destroying the companies. Great fear seized the virgins who were near Brigit, when they saw the madman. Said Brigit to the demoniac : "Since thou hast gone there, preach the word of God to us."
"I cannot," he saith, "be ungentle to thee, for thou art merciful to the Lord's family, to wit, to the poor and to the wretched." So then said the madman : "Reverence the LORD, O nun, and every one will reverence thee; love the LORD, and every one will love thee ; fear the LORD, and every one will fear thee!" Then the madman went from them and did no hurt to them.

Brigit was once journeying in Mag Laigen, and she saw running past her a student, namely, Ninnid the scholar. "What art thou doing, O Sage! " saith Brigit, "and whither art thou wending (so) quickly?" "To heaven," saith the scholar. "The Son of the Virgin knoweth," saith Brigit, "that I would fain fare with thee !" Dixit the scholar : "O nun," saith he, "hinder me not from my road ; or, if thou hinderest, beseech the Lord with me that the journey to heaven may be happy, and I will beseech God with thee that it may be easy for thee, and that thou mayst bring many thousands with thee to heaven."

Brigit repeated a Paternoster with him, and he was pious thenceforward ; and Brigit said that neither gallows nor punishment would be for him ; and he it is that afterwards administered communion and sacrifice to Brigit.

Brigit went to Bishop Ibair that he might mark out her city for her. So they came thereafter to the place where Kildare is to-day. That was the season and the time that Ailill son of Dunlaing, with a hundred horse-loads of peeled rods, chanced to be going through the ground of Kildare. Two girls came from Brigit to ask for some of the rods, and they got a refusal. Forthwith all the horses were struck down under their loads against the ground. Stakes and wattles were taken from them, and they arose not until Ailill son of Dunlaing had offered unto Brigit those hundred horse-loads ; and thereout was built Brigit's house in Kildare. Then said Brigit -

“........................................ my house
Let the kingship of Leinster for ever be
From Ailill son of Dunlaing.

On a time came two lepers unto Brigit to ask an alms. Nought else was in the kitchen save a single cow. So Brigit gave the single cow to the lepers. One of the two lepers gave thanks unto God for the cow. But the other leper was displeased, for he was haughty. "I alone," saith he, "have been set at nought with a cow ! Till to-day," saith he, "O ye nuns, I have never been counted among Culdees and amongst the poor and feeble, and I am not to be slighted with a single cow." Said Brigit to
the lowly leper : "Stay thou here to see whether God will put anything into the kitchen, and let that haughty leper fare forth with his cow." Then came a certain heathen having a cow for Brigit. So Brigit gave that cow to the lowly leper. And when the haughty leper went on his way he was unable to drive his cow alone, so he came back again to Brigit and to his comrade, and was reviling and blaming Brigit. "Not for God's sake," saith he, "bestowedst thou thine offering, but for mischief and oppressiveness thou gavest to me."

Thereafter the two lepers come to the Barrow. The river riseth against them. Through Brigit's blessing the lowly leper escapes with his cow. But the haughty leper and his cow fell into the stream, and went to the bottom, and were drowned.

Once upon a time the Queen of Cremthan, son of Ennae Cennselach, came and brought a chain of silver to Brigit as an offering. The semblance of a human shape was at one of its ends, and an apple of silver on the other end. Brigit gave it to her virgins ; they stored it up without her knowledge, for greatly used Brigit to take her wealth and give it to the poor. Nevertheless, a leper came to Brigit, and without her virgins knowledge, she went to the chain and gave it unto him. When the virgins knew this, they said, with much angry bitterness and wrath, "Little good have we from thy compassion to every one," say they, "and we ourselves in need of food and raiment." "Ye are sinning," saith Brigit : "Go ye into the church : the place wherein I make prayer, there will ye find your chain." They went at Brigit's word. But, though it had been given to the poor man, the virgins found their chain therein.

Once upon a time Brigit beheld a man with salt on his back."What is that on thy back ?" saith Brigit: "Stones," saith the man. "Let them be stones then," saith Brigit, and of the salt stones were made. The same man again cometh to (or past) Brigit. "What is that on thy back ?" saith Brigit: "Salt," saith the man. "It shall be salt then," saith Brigit. Salt was made again thereof through Brigit's word.

On a time came two lepers unto Brigit to be healed. Said Brigit to one of the two lepers : "Wash thou the other."Thus was it done, and he was quite sound forthwith. Said Brigit to the sound leper: "Bathe and wash thy comrade even as he did service unto thee." "Besides the time that we have [already] come together," says he, "we will never come together, for it is not fair for thee, O nun, (to expect) me, a sound man with fresh limbs and fresh clean raiment, to wash that loathsome leper there, with his livid limbs falling out of him." However, Brigit herself washed the poor, lowly leper. The haughty leper who had been washen first, then spake, "Meseems," saith he, "that sparks of fire are breaking through my skin." Swifter than speech he was straightway smitten with leprosy from the crown of his head to his soles, because of his disobedience to Brigit.

Another time as Brigit was going to confess to the bishop there was shewn to her a he-goat's head in the mass-chalice. Brigit refused the chalice. "Why," saith the ecclesiastic, "dost thou refuse it ?" "Not hard to say," saith Brigit, "this is why I refuse : the head of a he-goat is shewn unto me in the chalice." The bishop called the gillie who brought the imaltoir (credence-table?) " Make thy confessions, O gillie," saith the bishop. "This very morning," saith the gillie, "I went to the goat-house, and took thereout a fat he-goat, and his flesh I ate." The gillie did penance and repented. Brigit thereafter went to confession, and saw not the semblance.

Once upon a time came seven bishops to Brigit, and she had nought to give them after milking the cows thrice. So the cows were milked again the third time, and it was greater than any milking.

Once upon a time a certain nun of Brigit's family took a longing for salt. Brigit made prayer, and the stone before her she turned into salt, and then the nun was cured.

Once upon a time a bondsman of Brigid's family was cutting firewood. It came to pass that he killed a pet fox of the King of Leinster's. The bondsman was seized by the King. Brigit ordered a wild fox to come out of the wood. So he came and was playing and sporting for the hosts and the King at Brigit's order. But when the fox had finished his feats he went safe back through the wood, with the hosts of Leinster behind him, both foot and horse and hound.

(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. She had a great band of reapers a-reaping. A rain-storm poured on the plain of Liffey, but, through Brigit's prayer, not a drop fell on her field.

(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. She blessed the table-faced man, so that his two eyes were whole.

(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. Robbers stole her oxen. The river Liffey rose against them. The oxen came home on the morrow with the robbers clothes on their horns.

(This) was (one) of Brigit's miracles. When she came to the widow Lassair on Mag Coel, and Lassair killed her cow's calf for Brigit and burnt the beam of her loom thereunder, God so wrought for Brigit that the beam was whole on the morrow and the calf was along with its mother.

Once upon a time Brenainn came from the west of Ireland to Brigit, to the plain of Liffey. For he wondered at the fame that Brigit had in miracles and marvels. Brigit came from her sheep to welcome Brenainn. As Brigit entered the house she put her wet cloak on the rays of the sun, and they supported it like pot-hooks. Brenainn told his gillie to put his cloak on the same rays, and the gillie put it on them, but it fell from them twice. Brenainn himself put it, the third time, with anger and wrath, and the cloak staid upon them.

Each of them confessed to the other. Said Brenainn: - Not usual is it for me to go over seven ridges without (giving) my mind to God." Said Brigit: "Since I first gave my mind to God. I never took it from Him at all."

While Brigit was herding sheep, there came a thief unto her and stole seven wethers from her, after having first besought her (for them). Nevertheless, when the flock was counted the wethers were found again (therein) through Brigit's prayer.

A certain man of Brigit's family once made (some) mead for the King of Leinster. When the King came to consume it, not a drop thereof was found, for Brigit had given all the mead to the poor. Brigit at once rose up to protect the host, and blessed the vessels, and they were at once full of choice mead. For everything which Brigit used to ask of the Lord used to be given to her at once. For this was her desire : to feed the poor, to repel every hardship, to be gentle to every misery.

Many miracles and marvels in that wise the Lord wrought for Saint Brigit. Such is their number that no one could relate them unless her own spirit, or an angel of God, should come from heaven to relate them.

Now there never hath been any one more bashful or more modest than that holy virgin. She never washed her hands, or her feet, or her head, amongst men. She never looked into a male person's face. She never spoke without blushing. She was abstinent, innocent, liberal, patient. She was joyous in God's commandments, steadfast, lowly, forgiving, charitable. She was a consecrated vessel for keeping Christ's Body. She was a temple of God. Her heart and her mind were a throne of rest for the Holy Ghost. Towards God she was simple : towards the wretched she was compassionate: in miracles she was splendid. Therefore her type among created things is the Dove among birds, the Vine among trees, the Sun above stars.

This is the father of this holy virgin the Heavenly Father. This is her son Jesus Christ. This is her fosterer the Holy Ghost: and thence it is that this holy virgin wrought these great innumerable marvels.

She it is that helpeth every one who is in straits and in danger. She it is that abateth the pestilences. She it is that quelleth the wave-voice and the wrath of the great sea. This is the prophesied woman of Christ. She is the Queen of the South. She is the Mary of the Gael.

Now when Brigit came to the ending-days, after founding churches and church buildings in plenty, after miracles and wondrous deeds in number (like) sand of sea or stars of heaven, after charity and mercy, she received communion and sacrifice from Ninnid the Pure-handed, when he had returned from Rome of Latium, and sent her spirit thereafter to heaven. But her remains and her relics are on earth with great honour and with primacy and pre-eminence, with miracles and marvels. Her soul is like the sun in the heavenly City among quires of angels and archangels, in union with cherubim and seraphim, in union with Mary's Son, to wit, in the union with all the Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Ghost.

I beseech the Lord's mercy, through Saint Brigit's intercession. May we all attain that union in scecula sceculorum. Amen.

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