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rather we may say that toil at the bench or writing desk, in the fields or on the sea, was thought of as part of their religion. And what wonderful things they accomplished, on the island itself, and in the places near and far to which they went as missionaries ! Iona became a centre of education and civilization as well as of evangelization. In the scriptorium of the monastery, beautifully illuminated Bibles and prayer books were made for the use of the people who, all over Scotland and the north of England, were being brought to the faith of Christ through the preaching of Columba's monks. At Iona, too, the art of healing was studied ; and from across the narrow sound that separated the island from Mull, there was heard, often during the night, the shout of some one calling for medical assistance to be sent to the sick. There was frequent coming and going of visitors, some being from Ireland, bringing news of the monasteries and old friends there, others being perfect strangers, come to ask the advice and blessing of the saint, or wanting shelter during a storm in the course of their voyaging. And for all there was a kindly welcome and generous hospitality, the monks themselves being allowed more ample fare than usual when a guest was being entertained.
All this, and much more, is told by Adamnan. His book is a kind of Odyssey, so full is it of the salt tang of the sea, and of the spirit of comradeship and bold adventure. Very interesting is the account it gives of the three voyages of Columba's friend Cormac in search of a suitable island on which to found a monastery. Cormac and his men, we are told, ventured " beyond the bounds of human discovery," and passed through the gravest perils. On one of their voyages they touched
at the Orkneys, whereof the inhabitants were still apparently pagans. On Cormac's safe return on each occasion to Iona, there was much joy and thanksgiving at the monastery; and we can imagine what eager interest would be taken in his story, and in hearing what were the prospects, so far as he could see, for the extension of the kingdom of God and of his Christ in the faroff places to which he had been.
But even more remarkable than the general human interest of the book is the beautiful religious spirit that pervades it like an atmosphere. It is fragrant with the love of God and mankind, and with the reverence and affection in which the saint was remembered. And it is the memory of him that has made the little western isle one of the holy places of the world. Dr. Samuel Johnson visited Iona in the autumn of 1773, and his words about it are still the fittest that have been spoken. “We were now treading that illustrious island which was once the luminary of Caledonian religions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of the senses ; whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona !"
ST. BERNARD'S LETTERS
AMONG the most precious writings that have come down to us from the past are some which are in the form of letters. A large part of the New Testament consists of writings of this kind.
St. Paul in some of his letters deals with matters of immediate and personal interest to himself and his readers ; in others, which are in fact treatises in epistolary form, he rises to the height of great arguments, and seeks to justify the ways of God and the faith of Christ to men.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux is separated from St. Paul by the lapse of eleven hundred years, and the conditions of his life were very different from those of the Apostle. But he had St. Paul's vivid interests and sympathies and ardent temperament, and his letters, like St. Paul's, were “ weighty and strong.” As in the case of Paul too, some of Bernard's letters developed into treatises and were published as such.
Bernard was born at his father's castle near Dijon in the year 1991. He was a boy of five when the First Crusade took place at the instance of the bare-footed monk, Peter the Hermit; and as he grew up the crusading movement became one of the dominant interests of his life. At the age of 23 he entered the monastery of Cîteaux, taking with him about thirty of his com
panions, including his own brothers, whom he had inspired with something of his own enthusiasm for the monastic ideal. Two years later he was made an Abbot, and was sent forth with a band of monks to found a new monastery of the same strict and laborious Cistercian order. This, after the greatest hardship, he succeeded in doing at Clairvaux, which henceforth became the centre of his amazing activities. Attracted by his personality, many joined the monastery. He lived to see one of his monks on the papal throne, six others appointed cardinals, and over thirty chosen as bishops in various parts of Christendom; and he himself became the most outstanding figure in the life of his time, directing the conduct of popes and princes from his monastic cell. “By a vow of poverty and penance," says Gibbon, “by closing his eyes against the visible world, by the refusal of all ecclesiastical dignities, the Abbot of Clairvaux became the oracle of Europe and the founder of one hundred and sixty convents."
Bernard first came into prominence in connection with the controversy about the papal succession. After the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130, two rival popes were elected at Rome within a few hours of each other, and the dispute as to which of them was the rightful occupant of the chair of St. Peter lasted for eight years. Largely through the efforts of Bernard the claims of Innocent II were finally acknowledged. Later, Bernard drew upon himself the eyes of all Christendom, and the blessings of all orthodox Christians, by putting to confusion the redoubtable Abelard. Later still, he took up the role of Peter the Hermit and preached the Second Crusade, rousing immense enthusiasm by his
word and presence wherever he went. But that Crusade ended in dismal and distressing failure, and he never got over the grief and disappointment which its failure caused him. He died in 1153, in his sixty-fourth year.
But Bernard's title to the veneration of Christendom does not rest on the conspicuous part he played in deciding the papal succession, which might as well perhaps have been decided differently ; nor on his victory over Abelard, which was more apparent than real; nor on being the moving spirit of the Second Crusade, which ended so disastrously. It rests rather on his writingshis sermons, hymns and letters. In them there are some accents of the Holy Ghost that the world has not lost, nor is likely to lose.
It seems somewhat strange that Bernard, who was the most active man of his time, should have come to be looked upon as the type of the contemplative life. It is as such that he appears in the Paradiso of Dante. After the poet has climbed to the ninth heaven, Beatrice, who had been his guide thus far, had left him in order to take her place in the Rose of Paradise; and when he turns round he finds that instead of her St. Bernard is now at his side. And Dante recalls with what intense interest he looked on the saint, comparing himself to some one who has come from far to see a famous Veronica-a true likeness of Christ-and who gazing upon it exclaims "My Lord Jesus Christ, true God, and was this, then, the fashion of thy semblance ?"
“Such was I, gazing upon the living love of him who in this world by contemplation tasted of that peace.”'1
1 Canto XXXI, Wicksteed's translation.