Sunday, March 1, 2009

David of Wales (500-589) March 1

Around 1090 Rhygyvarch (sometimes spelled Rhygyfarch) (1056–1099) wrote a Life of Saint David. All the surviving manuscripts of The Life of David of Wales may be traced to Rhygyvarch's text as their ultimate source.
Rhygyvarch was in a unique and ideal position to write David's Life. As the son of a bishop of the Bishop who occupied David's monestary, he had free access to the texts that survived the many ninth and tenth century Viking raids along the Welsh coast. Rhygyvarch says he wrote his account from the text of "very old writings" he found.
The narrative is a simple, well ordered text and a masterful hagiography in which miracles abound and historical details are ever subordinated to them.
Below are two excerpts from Rhygyvarch's life of David:

When the solemnities of Easter were over, the holy father, Saint David, goes to the refectory to a meal with the brethren. There met him his former disciple, Scutinus, who told him all the things which had been done against him and what the angel had enjoined concerning him. They joyfully recline together in the refectory, giving thanks to God. When prayer was ended, up rose the deacon, who had been wont to minister to the father, and placed on the table the bread prepared with poison, the cellarer and the prior consenting to the same. Scutinus, who has also another name, Scolanus, stood up and said, "Today, brother, you will perform no service to the father, for I myself will do it." The deacon withdrew in confusion, being conscious of the crime, and rigid with astonishment. And holy David took the poisoned bread, and dividing it into three parts, gave one to a little dog which stood outside by the door, and as soon as it had tasted the bit it died a wretched death, for in the twinkling of an eye all its hair fell off, so that its entrails burst forth, its skin splitting all over; and all the brethren who saw it were astonished. And holy David threw the second part to a raven, which was in its next in an ash, which was between the refectory and the river on the south side, and as soon as it touched it with its beak, it fell lifeless from the tree. But the third part holy David held in his hand, and blessed, and ate it with giving of thanks, and all the brethren looked at him, amazed with wonder, for about three hours. He dauntless preserved his life intact, no sign of the deadly poison appearing. And holy David told his brethren everything which had been done by the three men aforesaid. And all the brethren stood up and lamented aloud, and cursed those treasonous men, to wit, the prior, the cellarer, and the deacon, and damned them and their successors, declaring with one voice that they should never have a part in the heavenly kingdom throughout eternity.

As his merits increased, his offices of honour increased also. For one night an angel visited him, and said to him, "Tomorrow you will gird yourself. Put on your shoes. Start to go to Jerusalem. Undertake the desired journey. But two others will I call also to be your companions on the way, to wit Eiludd," who is now commonly called Teilo, who formerly was a monk in his monastery, "and Padarn," whose life and miracles are contained in his history. The holy father, wondering at the word of command, said, "How shall this be, for the comrades whom you promise are at a distance of three days, or s many more, from us and from themselves? By no means, therefore, shall we come together tomorrow." The angel informs him, "I will go this night to each of them, and they shall assemble at the place appointed, which I now show." Saint David, making no delay, settled what was necessary for the monastery, received the blessing of the brethren, and started on his way early in the morning. He arrives at the appointed place, finds there the promised brethren, and together they enter on the journey. Their pilgrimage is on terms of equality, for none in mind is prior to another, each of them being servant, each being master. They persevere in prayer, and water the way with tears. The further the foot proceeded, the reward increased, they being one as to their mind, one in joy, one in sorrow.

graphic: statue of st David

for more see Living water from an ancient well thumb nail life of David of Wales

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