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THE ANCIENT CHURCH.
'Along the mountain ledges green
The desert's spicy stores:
The Christian Year.
AMONG the holy brethren of Iona, the most notable were St. Oran, St. Columba's dear friend, from whom the isle of Oransay received its name ;—St. Cormac, the navigator, the passion of whose heart was to find a desert island where he might devote himself to an eremitic life, and who thrice sailed the northern ocean in this search, but who, in consequence of an apparently trivial act of self-will, was always unsuccessful in finding a retreat to his mind ;—St. Baitan, the cousin-german and immediate successor of St. Columba, who in a vision saw three chairs in heaven, made respectively of gold, silver, and glass, which Columba destined to Ciaran (another Celtic saint), to Baitan, and to himself;—St. Machar, who with twelve companions was sent forth to preach the gospel in Pictavia, and who having been directed not to halt till he reached a river with windings resembling the figure of a bishop's crosier, proceeded till in the river Dee there appeared the indicated form, and here built a church, where in time to come the cathedral of Aberdeen was dedicated in his name ;—St. Donnan, confessor and abbot, who lived in the isle of Eigg, one of the smaller Hebrides, after whom many places in the Western Highlands are called Kildonnan, and who with fifty disciples suffered martyrdom at the hand of a fierce woman ;—St. Molio, who has a cave, a bath, and a chair assigned to him by immemorial tradition in the bay of Lamlash. Besides these, there belonged to the Pictish age of our temporal history, and to the Columban age of our Church, an innumerable company of saints, men and women, many of whom left the stamp of their characters, and their individual developments of Christianity, to be influential from generation to generation. Each holy name has its own share of legends and traditions, and its own churches, or caves, or holy wells, dedicated in its memory. Pre-eminent among them are St. Baldred, a disciple of St. Kentigern, who became the hermit of the Bass Rock; St. Blane of Bute; St. Kenneth; St . Nathalan, the famous saint of Deeside, who combined farming with his prayers; St. Fursey, whose great vision of the life of the world to come 'contributed much to define the conceptions of men with regard to that mysterious region on which every man enters after death ;'l St. Boniface, who is said to have departed from Rome on a mission to Albania, with a retinue of devoted persons, to have founded a church at the mouth of the river Gowrie, in Pictavia, and whose name belongs to the churches of Invergowrie, Tealing, Restennet, Meigle, Abernethy in Mar, and Rosemarkie; St . Fillan, from whom Strathfillan is named, and whose pastoral staff and bell are still in existence; St. Maelrubha, who founded a religious establishment at Apercrossan, on the shores of Ross, and used to escape for solitude and prayer
to the beautiful loch which has been called after him, Loch Maree; and among the holy maids were St. Modwenna, the illustrious foundress of seven churches, who ' gained a bright pure victory ;' and St. Brigida, of extraordinary reputation both in Ireland and Scotland.
Our ancient Church, which these holy souls represented, held the Catholic faith as contained in the Bible and expressed in the Creeds in its integrity. Of the Christian life, union with the Eternal Son of God, by way of the holy Eucharist, was the sun and centre. Jesus was the begining and the end of every devoted life; and to the soul sinning after baptism there was held out absolution, on condition that it should 'go and sin no more.' The clergy lived in perpetual continence, and the primary sacrifice of the religious life was virginity offered to God. From a few fragments of liturgies it is believed that, although possessing a necessarily poorer ritual, and diversified by certain local singularities, the rites and usages were essentially derived from the venerable Church of the East. There was one particular wherein it stood alone, and two wherein, with the other British communions, it differed in practice from the rest of Christendom. The first was the position of the abbot of Iona; the two last, the time of the observance of Easter, and the fashion in which the clergy shaved their heads. We have seen that according to the unusual constitution of the abbatical Church, the primatial presbyterabbot of Iona was above the bishop in regard to jurisdiction, in some sort even episcopal authority succumbing to that of the great superior whose every command was imperative throughout his wide territory, yet that those attributes had no respect to the spiritual functions of a presbyter as opposed to those of a bishop. The abbot and his council pointed out, indeed, the persons to be ordained, but the bishop proceeded to the act of ordination. Easter was celebrated from the thirteenth to the twentieth day of the moon, instead of, as in the Roman Church, from the fifteenth to the twenty-first (both terms included), which fell next after the 21 st day of March. The tonsure was worn in the form of a crescent, instead of the ring of hair which surrounded the shaven heads of the Roman priests; and this crescent having been the head-dress of the followers of the archheretic Simon Magus, it was nervously abhorred by the Roman priests as savouring of unsoundness somewhat, while the coronal tonsure was approved in memorial of the crown of thorns. The first symptoms of the 'great and frequent controversy' arising out of these usages, showed themselves in the seventh century, when they were temporarily suppressed by the determined resistance of Segenius, abbot of Iona, to any deviation from the way of his fathers.1 With the exception of this dispute, the work of Iona went on and prospered steadily under a succession of faithful abbots; the gospel was diligently preached in isle and glen, and in the middle of the seventh century the Scottish convent sent a great mission across the Borders. It had been in England as in Caledonia: to the Roman conquest had succeeded the introduction of the faith, and that faith had brought forth more than one martyr, and had routed the heathen hordes with Alleluias long before St. Augustine, the apostle of England, arrived to repair the varied ravages of the Saxon barbarians and the Pelagian heretics. He had been sent by Pope St. Gregory the Great. 'Ever since the day when, visiting the slave-market in Rome, he had come in contact with the fair, light-haired Saxon youths, and had asked after their place of birth, the name of their nation, the
1 Cummian, a monk, as is supposed, of the Colurabite monastery of Durrow, distinguished himself at this time by writing a very learned apology on the Roman side.
province from which they came, and the name of their prince, playfully putting a new meaning on their replies— How could the Author of Darkness possess men of countenances so fair? Were they called Angles? It was well, since they possessed angelic faces, and would soon be coheirs with the angels in heaven. Was their province called Deira? Truly they were rescued de ira. Was their king called Aella? Then soon would Alleluia to the praise of the Creator resound in his realm. Ever since that memorable day, Gregory could never forget his much-loved Angles, and was haunted by the desire to win them to Christ. Once he had formed the scheme of setting out on a mission to them himself, but had been unable to carry it out . . . . But at length Augustine had been despatched, and Kent had been won by his preaching.'1 Into the north of England, however, Christianity had not penetrated, when from the midst of civil strife, Oswald, the young prince of Northumbria, sought refuge at Iona. He lived there fifteen years, and lasting peace was sealed between him and his northern hosts; his brother, Eanfred, became the husband of a Pictish princess, and their son, Talorcan, was numbered amongst the Pictish kings ; but better still, Oswald was baptized. On his return to his kingdom he did not forget the Columban brethren from whom he had received so long a quiet home and the gift of his Christianity, but for the sake of unhappy Northumbria he prayed that they would send him a bishop. Accordingly, the convent of Iona provided a prelate, who having tried but failed, Bishop Aidan, 'a man of singular meekness, piety, and moderation,'8 undertook the enterprise, which called for the full exercise
1 The See of Rome in the Middle Ages. By Rev. Oswald J. Reichel, pp. 24, 25. a Baeda, Hist. Eccles., lib. iii. c 3.