Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Tree of White Birds

Today is the feast of St. Brendan the Navigator, best known for the legendary stories told about him in The Voyage of St. Brendan. A summary of an interesting episode from the Voyage, as condensed by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the third Marquess of Bute:

On the south shore of this island they found a river a little broader than the ship, and up this they towed her for a mile, when they came to the fountain-head of the stream. It was a wondrous fountain, and above it there was a tree marvellously beautiful, spreading rather than high, but all covered with white birds, so covered that they hid its foliage and branches. (The notion is perhaps taken from a tree loaded with snow.)... And [a bird] said, "We are of that great ruin of the old enemy; but we have not fallen by sinning or consenting; but we have been predestinated by the goodness and mercy of God, for wherein we were created, hath our ruin come to pass, through his fall and the fall of his crew. But God the Almighty, Who is righteous and true, hath by His judgment sent us into this place. Pains we suffer not. The presence of God in a sense we cannot see, so far has He separated us from the company of them that stood firm. We wander through the divers parts of this world, of the sky, and of the firmament, and of the earths, even as other spirits who are sent forth [to minister]. But upon the holy days of the Lord, we take bodies such as Thou seest, and by the ordinance of God we dwell here, and praise our Maker...." And when the bird had so spoken, it rose from the prow, and returned unto the others. And when the hour of evening came, they all began to flap their wings, and to sing as it were with one voice, saying, "Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Zion, and unto Thee shall the vow be performed in Jerusalem, through our ministry." And they repeated that verse even for the space of an hour, and the song and the sound of their wings was like harmony (carmen cantus) for sweetness. Then holy Brendan saith unto his brethren, "Refresh your bodies, since this day the Lord hath satisfied your souls by His Divine rising again." ...So by day and by night these birds gave praise to God.'

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