Monday, 1 June 2015

Vita Sancti Columbae :an apt miracle.



Mediaeval literature abounds in miracle stories and when reading such stories I wonder whether such texts were believed by their readers or listeners. Of course, as long as creationists are still walking on the earth and have not become an extinct species, the capacity of the human mind to believe contra facts must not be underestimated. Still, I think it is unfair to set mediaeval people aside as credulous believers. Belief in miracles must have had a soothing effect in an environment largely erratic and uncontrollable.
The power of performing miracles is also a sign of holiness and of being a man or woman of God. The following extract from the Vita Sancti Columbae tells how Columba (521-597)  while still a young man (adhuc juvenis) visited a monastery in Ireland (Scotia). At some occasion it appeared that there was not enough wine for celebrating mass. While the priests were quarrelling amongst each other (inter se conquerentes), the young saint decided to take a drastic action and turned water into wine. This was the first proof of his virtue (protum virtutis documentum) and many would follow. This miracle was also the first Jesus performed and so Adomnán (624-704), author of the Vita, is drawing a parallel between Jesus and Columba.

Adomnán, Vita Sancti Columbae, Book 2, chapter 1.

Caput 1: De Vino Quod De Aqua Factum Est

ALIO in tempore, cum vir venerandus in Scotia apud sanctum Findbarrum episcopum, adhuc juvenis, sapientiam sacrae Scripturae addiscens, commaneret, quadam solenni die vinum ad sacrificale mysterium casu aliquo minime inveniebatur: de cujus defectu cum ministros altaris inter se conquerentes audiret, ad fontem sumpto pergit urceo, ut ad sacrae Eucharistiae ministeria aquam, quasi diaconus, fontanam hauriret: ipse quippe illis in diebus erat in diaconatus gradu administrans. Vir itaque beatus aquaticum, quod de latice hausit, elementum, invocato nomine Domini Jesu Christi, fideliter benedixit, qui in Cana Galileae aquam in vinum convertit: quo etiam in hoc operante miraculo, inferior, hoc est aquatica natura, in gratiorem, videlicet vinalem, per manus praedicabilis viri conversa est speciem. Vir itaque sanctus, a fonte reversus, et ecclesiam intrans, talem juxta altare urceum intra se habentem deponit liquorem; et ad ministros, Habetis, ait, vinum, quod Dominus Jesus ad sua misit peragenda mysteria. quo cognito, sanctus cum ministris episcopus eximias Deo referunt grates. Sanctus vero juvenis hoc non sibimet, sed sancto Vinniano adscribebat episcopo. Hoc itaque protum virtutis documentum Christus Dominus per suum declaravit discipulum, quod in eadem re, initium ponens signorum in Cana Galileae, operatus est per semetipsum.

vir venerandus: Columba
addisco addidici: to learn (Mediaeval Latin often uses prefixed verbs without any distions with the simplex.)
commaneo = maneo (again an example of this tendency as commoneo is not found in CL.)
solemnis dies: a day in memory of a saint or some other ecclesiastical celebration
sacrificale mysterium: the holy mass
casu aliquo: for some reason
ministros altaris: the priests responsible for the mass
sumpto urceo: a jar (urceus) being taken
quasi diaconus: as deacon (an official of minor rank.
haurio hausi haustum: to draw out
quippe: namely
diaconatus, -us (m.): the office of deacon
aquaticum elementum: that part of water
latex laticis (m.):  water, spring, well
Jesu, qui
quo etiam in hoc operante miraculo: by which thus in this miracle being performed
inferior, hoc est aquatica natura, in gratiorem, videlicet vinalem, per manus praedicabilis viri conversa est speciem = inferior, hoc est aquatica natura, in gratiorem speciem, videlicet vinalem, conversa est per manus praedicabilis viri
inferior: something inferior
vinalem: belonging to wine, of wine
praedicaliis viri: of the famous man (= Jesus)
talem juxta altare urceum intra se habentem deponit liquorem = juxta altare urceum habentem intra se talem liquorem deponit (Note how the emphasis is put on talem liquorem by putting the sub clause between these words.)
eximius, special, abundant
Vinnianus: Saint Finnian of Clonard (470-549), an Irish saint. He was a teacher of Columba.
In eadem re: in the same way, at a likewise occasion

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