Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 7

APOSTLE TO THE SUEVI, FOUNDER OF NUMEROUS MONASTERIES, and archbishop of Braga, St. Martin of Braga (ca. 520 - 580) had ample reason in his pastoral duties to consider the Golden Rule. In this posting, we will focus on his sermon De correctione rusticorum, On the Correction of the Rustics, a sermon that takes aim at the pagan superstitions that still prevailed among the peasants of his diocese in an effort to overcome them.

St. Martin of Braga was highly regarded in his age. Gregory of Tours, in his History of the Franks [V.38], called Martin plenus virtutibus and stated that in tantum se litteris imbuit ut nulli secundus sui temporis haberetur. We may accept Gregory of Tours assessment that St. Martin was full of virtue, and that he was second to none of his contemporaries in his absorption of the learning of that age.
St. Martin of Braga (Martinus episcopus Bracarensis)
from the Códice Albeldense, Monasterio de El Escorial

In this excerpt from his sermon against the superstitions and practices of the pagans in the countryside, St. Martin speaks of the practical need for the members of his flock to access the Sacrament of Confession, and to will to amend their lives by the practice of the Golden Rule, a rule which he states in both its affirmative and negative formulations, and which he equates as being the same as following the commandments of God. The Golden Rule will not only lead the Christian to not violating the precepts of the Decalogue, it will also lead him to engage in the Works of Mercy. In the course of this sermon, St. Martin has a very beautiful notion of God awaiting, anticipating the penitence of a sinner, as if solicitous in his welcoming Mercy. St. Martin thinks of God in terms of the Father of Christ's parable of the Prodigal Son.
If therefore you would recognize, dearly beloved sons, all these things which we have said, if anyone knows that he himself has done these things after having received baptism and that he has broken the faith in Christ, let him not despair of himself nor should he say in his heart: "Because I have done so many evil things after baptism, perhaps God will not forgive me my sins." Do not doubt the mercy of God. Only make in your heart an agreement with God, that you will no more honor the worship of demons, nor adore anything else but the God of heaven, nor commit murder, nor adultery nor fornication, nor rob nor perjure. And when you promise this to God with your whole heart and commit these sins no more, faithfully hope for pardon from God, because God says through prophetic scripture: In whatever day the wicked should forget his iniquities and do justice, I will not remember his iniquities [Ezech. 18:21-22]. For God awaits the penance of the sinner. [Paenitentiam ergo peccatoris Deus expectat.] This however, is true penitence, that a man should do no more the evils that he has done, but that he should seek indulgence for past sins, and should not care for the future lest he return again to them, but on the other hand, he should in particular do good works. He should show mercy to the starving pauper, refresh the tired stranger, and should do to another whatever he wises done to him by another. And what he does not wish done to him, let him not do this to another, because in this word the commandments of God are fulfilled.

Si ergo agnovistis, dilectissimi filii, omnia ista quae diximus, si quis se cognoscit post acceptum baptismum haec fecisse et fidem Christi rupisse, non desperet de se nec dicat in corde suo: “Quia tanta mala feci post baptismum, fortasse non mihi indulget deus peccata mea.” Noli dubitare de misericordia Dei. Tantum tu fac in corde tuo pactum cum Deo, ut iam amplius culturas daemonum non colas, nec praeter deum caeli aliquid adores, neque homicidium facias, neque adulterium aut fornicationem, non furtum facias, non periures. Et cum hoc Deo ex toto corde tuo promiseris et ulterius peccata ista non feceris, fiducialiter veniam de deo spera, quia sic dicit deus per propheticam scripturam: In quacumque die iniustus oblitus fuerit iniquitates suas et fecerit iustitias, et ego obliviscar omnes iniquitates eius. Paenitentiam ergo peccatoris Deus expectat. Paenitentia autem ista vera est, ut iam amplius homo non faciat mala quae fecit, sed de praeteritis peccatis indulgentiam petat, et de futuro caveat ne ad ipsa iterum revolvatur, sed magis econtrario bona opera exerceat, ut esurienti pauperi elemosynam porrigat, hospitem lassum reficiat, et quicquid sibi ab alio vult fieri, hoc alteri faciat, et quod sibi non vult fieri, hoc alteri non faciat, quia in hoc verbo mandata dei complentur.
De corr. rust., 17. (English trans., Roberta Anderson and Dominic Aidan Bellenger, eds., Medieval Worlds: A Sourcebook (New York: Routledge, 2003)259

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

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