Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Beda Venerabilis: repent before it is too late!



The English scholar Beda Venerabilis ( 672/673 – 26 May 735) was one of the greatest minds of the early Middle Ages . Contrary to a man like Oriosus, he was well aware that the earth is round – it is a common misunderstanding that in the Middle Ages all people were unaware of this fact.  His main work is the  Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum., an invaluable source for the history of England . What makes mediaeval historians so charming to read, is their inclusion of anecdotes, personal asides and petites histoires. In the following  extract Beda – or Bede as he is better known in English – tells of a monk personally known by him, who led a far from monastic life. We have to keep in mind that often boys and girls were sent to a monastery for receiving some education, but not all of them were fit for a life of celibacy and discipline. Neither was this man, of whom Beda does not tell us his name: an effective damnatio ex memoria!  On his sickbed the poor man calls his brethren, telling them that he has seen a place for him vacant in Hell.  `qui non vult ecclesiae ianuam sponte humiliatus ingredi, necesse habet in ianuam inferni non sponte damnatus introduci’ Is Beda’s remark `Who does not voluntary  want to enter into the door of the Church humbly, he  will be led condemned involuntarily to the door of Hell.’ His brethren urge him to repent his life, but he think it was too later now he has seen Hell open for him. Then he dies and he is buried in the farthest place of the monastery without any ritual…    


Beda Venerabilis, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, V.14:

[14] Novi autem ipse fratrem, quem utinam non nossem, cuius etiam nomen, si hoc aliquid prodesset, dicere possem; positum in monasterio nobili, sed ipsum ignobiliter viventem. Corripiebatur quidem sedulo a fratribus ac maioribus loci, atque ad castigatiorem vitam converti ammonebatur. Et quamvis eos audire noluisset, tolerabatur tamen ab eis longanimiter ob necessitatem operum ipsius exteriorum; erat enim fabrili arte singularis. Seruiebat autem multum ebrietati, et ceteris vitae remissioris inlecebris; magisque in officina sua die noctuque residere, quam ad psallendum atque orandum in ecclesia, audiendumque cum fratribus verbum vitae concurrere consuerat. Unde accidit illi, quod solent dicere quidam, quia, qui non vult ecclesiae ianuam sponte humiliatus ingredi, necesse habet in ianuam inferni non sponte damnatus introduci. Percussus enim languore, atque ad extrema perductus, vocavit fratres, et multum maerens ac damnato similis coepit narrare, quia videret inferos apertos, et Satanan demersum in profundis tartari, Caiphanque cum ceteris, qui occiderunt Dominum, iuxta eum flammis ultricibus contraditum: ‘in quorum uicinia,’ inquit, ‘heu misero mihi locum despicio aeternae perditionis esse praeparatum.’ Audientes haec fratres coeperunt diligenter exhortari, ut vel tunc positus adhuc in corpore, paenitentiam faceret. Respondebat ille desperans: ‘Non est mihi modo tempus vitam mutandi, cum ipse uiderim iudicium meum iam esse conpletum.’
Talia dicens, sine viatico salutis obiit, et corpus eius in ultimis est monasterii locis humatum, neque aliquis pro eo vel missas facere, vel psalmos cantare, vel saltim orare praesumebat. O quam grandi distantia divisit Deus inter lucem et tenebras!

utinam:  I wish that
nossem = novissem
si hoc aliquid prodesset:  if there would by any use in this  (but Bede has condemned him to  damnatio ex memoria!)
corripio correpi correptum: to reproach, blame
sedulo (adv!): busily, sedulously
maioribus loci: i.e. those who had a higher rank than monk
longanimiter: patiently
operum ipsius exteriorum: of his outward labour  (as opposed to his unwillingness of doing  inward labour of improving his character.)
fabrili arte singularis: exceptional in handwork art
ebreitas –atis (f.): drunkenness
ceteris uitae remissioris inlecebris: the further attractions of a very careless life
officina: workplace
residere…..consuerat
psallo psalli : to sing psalms
verbum vitae: the Bible
sponte: voluntarily
necesse habet + inf. : litt. `he has it necessary to’  he needs to be (This construction not uncommon in the Vulgate)
introduco: to lead into
percussus enim languore: for when he was struck down by illness
ad extrema perductus: going to his final hour
maereo: to grieve
inferi –orum: the underworld
Caiphan: Caiaphas, the Jewish high-priest who plotted the death of Jesus
eum: Satan
flammis ultricibus contraditum: delivered to flames of revenge (contrado is a Late Latin word)
ut vel tunc positus adhuc in corpore: while as yet still placed in his body
viatico salutis: a viaticum salutis is the final communion before one dies
saltim (saltem): at least
praesumo praesumpsi praesumptum: to dare (late meaning)


Translation:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.v.xiii.html

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