Wednesday 1 February 2012

On the Life of Saint Brigid - a Homily from the Leabhar Breac

Hi sunt, etc. These are the folk that follow the unpolluted Lamb, whatsoever way He may wend.

John, son of Zebedee, Jesus bosom-fosterling, heir of theVirgin, he it is that wrote these words, and that left them in the Church Christian in memory of the reward and guerdon which God hath given to the third grade of the Church, namely, to the Virgins, that is, the following of the unpolluted Lamb.

Inde Johannes, etc. Now this is the parallel part of the declaration by John, as far as where he previously said in his Gospel (sic) Nemo potest, etc. There cometh not to any one on earth to make unto the Lord meet praise or fitting quire-song, save only of a surety one of the all-fullness of either Church, who hath been brought up in chastity and in virginity, and hath been redeemed with the price of Christ s blood.

Virgines enim sunt. For those are the virgins assuredly. So on the track of these words John saith Hi sunt, etc. Nihil enim prodest, etc. It profiteth not any one to have the flesh a virgin if he be corrupt in mind. Virginitas enim, etc.

Hoc est enim in Evangelio, etc. For this is in the Gospel, that these are the virgins that have not oil in their vessels, namely,the virgins that do not keep (to themselves) the approbation of the Lord, but (make) boasting before every one.

Haec est falsa castitas, etc.

Now Patriarchs fulfilled the testament of virginity in prefiguration of Christ. And apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ son of the living God, fulfilled it also, the martyrs and anchorites of the Lord, the saints and holy virgins of the world besides, even as the holy, venerable virgin fulfilled it, she that hath a festival and a commemoration on the occasion of this season and this time, to wit, sancta virgo Dei Brigida, for then it is that the Christians celebrate the feast and festal day of this holy Brigit, to wit, the Kalends of February as to the day of the solar month.

Here then is related in the churches of the Christians some what of her miracles and marvels, and of her birth according to flesh.

Brigit (was the) daughter of Dubthach, son of Demre (or Dreimne), son of Bresal, son of Den, son of Conla, son of Artair (?) son of Art Corb. son of Cairpre the Champion, son of Cormac, son of Oengus the Dumb, son of Eochaid Find Fuathnart, son of Fedlimid the Lawgiver, etc.

Now that Dubthach son of Demre bought a bondmaid, named Broicsech, daughter of Dallbronach of Dal Conchobair in the south of Bregia. Dubthach united himself in wedlock to her, and she became pregnant by him. Thereafter Dubthach's consort grew jealous of the bondmaid (Brechtnat Blaithbec was the name of Dubthach's wife), and the queen said "unless thou sellest this bondmaid in far-off lands, I will demand my dowry of thee, and I will go from thee." Dubthach did not at all desire to sell the bondmaid.

Dubthach went, and his bondmaid along with him, in a chariot past the house of a certain wizard. When the wizard heard the noise of the chariot, this he said : "See, O gillie, who is in the chariot, for this is the noise of a chariot under a king. Said the gillie, “Dubthach is therein." Then the wizard went to meet the chariot, and he asked whose (was) the woman who was biding in the chariot. Said Dubthach, That is a bondmaid of mine," quoth he, Maithgen was the wizard s name, and from him Ross Maithgen is named. The wizard asked by whom the bondmaid was pregnant. "By Dubthach." says the bondmaid. Said the wizard, “Marvellous will be the offspring, the like of her will not be in (all) the land.

Said Dubthach, " My consort did not allow me not to sell this bondmaid."
Said the wizard through his gift of prophecy, "Thy wife's seed shall serve this bondmaid's seed, for the bondmaid will bring forth a daughter, noble, revered, before the men of the earth. As sun shineth among stars, (so) will shine the maiden's deeds and merits."

Dubthach and the bondmaid rejoiced thereat, (and) Dubthach said, "Since I have (already) sons, I should like to have a daughter." Then Dubthach went (back) to his house and his bondmaid with him. The wife however was still jealous of the bondmaid.

Great was the honour in which God held this girl. For two bishops of the Britons came to her from Alba to prophesy of her and to sanctify her, to wit, Bishop Mel and Melchu nomina eorum. So Dubthach gave them a welcome and the bondmaid served them and tended them. Now Dubthach's consort was mournful thereat, and Bishop Mel asked her the cause of her sadness. Said the wife, "Because Dubthach hath distinguished his bondmaid from me."Said Bishop Mel, " Thus shall it be as thou sayest, for thy seed shall serve the seed of the bondmaid, but her seed shall be profitable unto thy seed." She was angry with him. So the bishop asked her," How many sons hast thou ?" Said the wife,"Six sons." Dixit Bishop Mel, " Thou shalt bear the seventh son, and he will be the worst of them, and the other sons will be bad unless the bondmaid's seed ennobles them, and thou thyself shalt be accursed, because of the cruelty which thou shewest to the bondmaid."

After these words there came to Dubthach's house, out of the border of Hui-Maiccuais, another wizard who had been gathering treasures. Now when the wizard knew that the bondmaid was the cause of the anger of Dubthach's wife, he said, "Wilt thou sell the bondmaid?" "I will sell," saith Dubthach. Quoth the bishops,"Sell the bondmaid, but sell not the child that is in her womb." Thus did Dubthach.

The wizard went forth and the bondmaid with him. The wizard with his bondmaid arrived at his house.

A certain poet came out of the province of Conaille to the house of the wizard aforesaid in order to buy a slave or a bondmaid. The wizard sold him the bondmaid, but sold him not the offspring. Then it came to pass that the wizard made a great feast, and bade the king of Conaille to the feast, and it was then the time for the king's wife to bear a child. There was a prophet along with the king, and a friend of the king's asked him what hour would be lucky for the queen to bring forth the royal offspring. Dixit propheta," The child that shall be brought forth to-morrow at sunrise shall overtop every birth in Ireland." Now the queen's travail came on before that hour, and she brought forth a dead son. Then the poet asked the prophet what hour would be lucky for the bondmaid to bring forth? Said the poet, "The child that shall be brought forth to-morrow at sunrise, and neither within the house nor without, shall surpass every child in Ireland."

Now on the morrow, at sunrise, when the bondmaid was going with a vessel full of milk in her hand, and when she put one foot over the threshold of the house inside and the other foot outside, then did she bring forth the girl, to wit, Brigit.

The maid-servants washed the girl with the milk that was in her mother's hand. Now that was in accord with the merits of Saint Brigit, to wit, with the brightness and sheen of her chastity. On a Wednesday and in the eighth moon was Brigit born in Fothart Murthemni. Still, to the south-east of the church is the flagstone whereon Brigit was born, and the girl was taken straightway after her birth to the queen's dead son, and when Brigit's breath came to him he swiftly arose out of death.

Then the wizard and the bondmaid with her daughter went into the province of Connaught: her mother (was) of Connaught, her father out of Munster, her abode with the Connaughtmen.

On a certain day the bondmaid went to her island, and covered up her daughter in her house. Certain neighbours saw the house wherein was the girl all ablaze, so that a flame of fire was made of it from earth to heaven. But when they went to rescue the house, the fire appeared not, and this they said, that the girl was full of the Holy Spirit.

One day the wizard went with his bondmaid to visit the cattle. The cow-dung (?) that lay before the girl was seen ablaze. But when the wizard and the bondmaid stretched down their hands to it, the fire appeared not.

Once upon a time when the wizard was sleeping, he saw three clerics in white garments, to wit, three angels of heaven, and they poured oil on St. Brigit s head, and they, completed the order of baptism. And the third cleric said to the wizard " This shall be the name of this holy maiden : Sancta Brigita". The wizard arose, and told what he had beheld.

Now this holy virgin, namely, Brigit, was nourished with food and like to her compeers (?) besides, and she rejected the guidance of the, wizard and used to give it (the food) away. The wizard meditated on the girl, and it seemed to him that it was because of the impurity and the corruption of his food. Then he enjoined a white red-eared cow to give milk to Brigit, and he enjoined a faithful woman to milk the cow. The virgin took her fill of that.

That holy virgin was reared till she was a handmaiden, and everything to which her hand was set used to increase and reverence God. Every store of food which she saw and served used to grow. She bettered the sheep: she tended the blind: she fed the poor.

Brigit was minded to go and watch over her fatherland. And the wizard sent messengers to Dubthach, that he might come for his daughter. The messengers declared unto Dubthach the maiden's miracles and many wonders. Then Dubthach came, and the wizard bade him welcome, and gave him his daughter free.

Then they went to their country, Dubthach and his daughter Brigit, in the province of Offaly and there did Brigit work a wondrous miracle, to wit, her fostermother was in weakness of disease, and the fostermother sent the holy Brigit and another maiden with her to the house of a certain man named Boethchu, to ask him for a draught of ale. He refused Brigit. Then Brigit filled a vessel out of a certain well, and blessed it, and (the water) was turned into the taste of ale, and she gave it to her fostermother, who straightway became whole thereby. Now when they went to drink the banquet not a drop thereof was found.

This (was another) of Brigit's miracles : while she was herding Dubthach's swine, there came two robbers and carried off two boars of the flock. They fared over the plain, and Dubthach met them and bound on them the erc (mulct) of his swine. Said Dubthach to Brigit, "Is the herding of the swine good, my girl?" saith he. Dixit Brigit to Dubthach, "Count thou the swine." Dubthach counted the swine, and not one of them was wanting.

Guests, then, came to Dubthach. Dubthach sundered a gammon of bacon into five pieces, and left them with Brigit to be boiled. And a miserable, greedy hound came into the house to Brigit. Brigit out of pity gave him the fifth piece. When the hound had eaten that piece Brigit gave another piece to him. Then Dubthach came and said to Brigit : "Hast thou boiled the bacon, and do all the portions remain?" "Count them," saith Brigit. Dubthach counted them, and none of them was wanting.

The guests declared unto Dubthach what Brigit had done."Abundant," saith Dubthach, " are the miracles of that maiden." Now the guests ate not the food, for they were unworthy (thereof), but it was dealt out to the poor and to the needy of the LORD.

Once upon a time a certain faithful woman asked Dubthach that Brigit might go with her into the plain of the Liffey, for a congregation of the synod of Leinster was held there. And it was revealed in a vision to a certain holy man who was in the assembly, that Mary the Virgin was coming thereto, and it was told him that she would not be (accompanied) by a man in the assembly. On the morrow came the woman to the assembly, and Brigit along with her. And he that had seen the vision said "This is the Mary that I beheld" saith he to Brigit. The holy Brigit blessed all the hosts under the name and honour of Mary. Wherefore Brigit was (called) the Mary of the Gael thenceforward.

On a time it came into Brigit's mind, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, to go and see her mother who was in bondage. So she asked her father's leave, and he gave it not. Nevertheless, she went without permission from Dubthach. Glad was her mother when she arrived. Toil-worn and sickly was the mother and she (Brigit) for her mother, and took to bettering the dairy. The first churning that Brigit had she divided the fruit thereof into twelve shares in honour of the twelve apostles of the Creator, and she set the thirteenth portion so that it was greater than every (other) portion in honour of Jesus Christ, and she gave them all then to the poor of the Lord. Now the wizard's herdsman marvelled at the ordering that Brigit gave the butter. Then said Brigit:"Christ with his twelve apostles preached to the men of the world. In His name it is that I feed the poor, for Christ is in the person of every faithful poor man."

The charioteer (that is the herdsman) went to the wizard's house, and the wizard and his wife asked him "hath the virgin well cared for the dairy?" And the charioteer (i.e., the herdsman) said "I am thankful anyhow, and the calves are fat" for he durst not carp at Brigit in her absence. The charioteer took with him a firkin(?), eight fists in height. Said the charioteer to Brigit :"The wizard will come with his wife to fill this firkin with the butter of the dairy." "They are welcome," saith Brigit. The wizard and his consort came to the dairy, and beheld the calves fat. And Brigit made them welcome and brought them food. Then said the wizard's wife to Brigit : "We have come to know whether that which hath been entrusted to thee hath profited. Of butter what hast thou?" She had none in readiness, except the making of one churning and a half making, and she first brought the half. The wizard s wife mocked thereat and said : "This quantity of butter," says she, "is good to fill the big firkin that I have" "Fill your firkin" saith Brigit, "and God will put butter into it."

So she kept going still into her kitchen and carrying out of it a half making at every journey, for God did not wish to deprive her of honour, so in that wise the firkin was filled. And this is what she repeated on going into her kitchen -

O God, O my Prince
Who canst do all these things,
Bless, O God (a cry unforbidden),
With thy right hand this kitchen !
May Mary's Son, my Friend, come
To bless my kitchen !
The Prince of the world to the border,
May we have abundance with Him !

The wizard and his consort venerated the Lord because of the miracle which they beheld; wherefore then said the wizard to Brigit: "The butter and the kine that thou hast milked, I offer them to thee. Thou shalt not abide in bondage to me, but serve thou the Lord”. Brigit answered him and said: "Take thou the kine and give me my mother's freedom." Said the wizard: "Not only shall thy mother be freed,(but) the kine shall be given to thee, and whatsoever thou shalt say (that) will I do." Then Brigit dealt out the kine unto the poor and the needy of God. The wizard was baptized and was faithful, and accompanied Brigit from that time forth.

Then came Brigit, and her mother with her, to her father's house. Thereafter Dubthach and his consort were minded to sell the holy Brigit into bondage ; for Dubthach liked not his cattle and his wealth to be dealt out to the poor, and that is what Brigit used to do. So Dubthach fared in his chariot, and Brigit along with him. Said Dubthach to Brigit :"Not for honour or reverence to thee art thou carried in a chariot, but to take thee to sell thee, and to grind the quern for Dunlang MacEnda, King of Leinster.” When they came to the King s fortress, Dubthach went in to the King and Brigit remained in her chariot at the fortress door. Dubthach had left his sword in the chariot near Brigit. A leper came to Brigit to ask an alms. She gave him Dubthach's sword. Dixit Dubthach to the King: "Wilt thou buy a bondmaid, namely, my daughter?" says he. Dixit Dunlang: "Why sellest thou thine own daughter ?" Dixit Dubthach : " She stayeth not from selling my wealth and giving it to the poor." Dixit the King : "Let the maiden come into the fortress." Dubthach went for Brigit and was enraged against her, because she had given his sword to the poor man. When Brigit came into the King's presence, the King said to her : "Since it is thy father's wealth that thou takest, much more, if I buy thee, wilt thou take my wealth and my cattle and give them to the poor ?" Dixit Brigit: "The Son of the Virgin knoweth if I had thy might with (all) Leinster, and with all thy wealth I would give (them) to the Lord of the Elements." Said the King to Dubthach : "Thou art not fit on either hand to bargain about this maiden, for her merit is higher before God than before men." And the King gave Dubthach for her an ivory-hilled sword, et sic liberata est sancta virgo Brigita captivitate.

Shortly after that came a certain nobleman unto Dubthach to ask for his daughter (in marriage). Dubthach and his sons were willing, but Brigit refused. Said a brother of her brethren named Beccan unto her : "Idle is the fair eye that is in thy head not to be on a pillow near a husband."

"The Son of the Virgin knoweth," says Brigit, "it is not lively for us if it brings harm upon us." Then Brigit put her finger under her eye, and drew it out of her head till it was on her cheek ; and she said : "Lo, here for thee is thy delightful eye, O Beccan !" Then his eye burst forthwith. When Dubthach and her brethren beheld that, they promised that she should never be told to go unto a husband. Then she put her palm to her eye and it was quite whole at once. But Beecan's eye was not whole till his death.

Said Dubthach to Brigit : "O daughter, says he, "put a veil on thy head. If thou hast dedicated thy virginity to God, I will not snatch it from Him." Deo gratias, says Brigit.

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