Wednesday, 12 February 2014

'They find St Julian’s house, which wayfaring men earnestly seek'


Since today is the feast-day of St Julian the Hospitaller, patron saint of pilgrims and travellers, I was reminded of the following passage from Ancrene Wisse, the thirteenth-century guide for anchorites. This comes from the beginning of Part 6.

Threo manere men of Godes i-corene livieth on eorthe: the ane mahe beon to gode pilegrimes i-evenet; the othre, to deade; the thridde, to i-hongede with hare gode wil o Jesuse rode. The forme beoth gode; the othre beoth betere; the thridde best of alle.

To the forme gredeth Seinte Peter inwardliche, Obsecro vos, tanquam advenas et peregrinos, ut abstineatis vos a carnalibus desideriis, que militant adversus animam. "Ich halsi ow," he seith, "as el-theodie ant pilegrimes, thet ye withhalden ow from fleschliche lustes the weorrith ayein the sawle." The gode pilegrim halt eaver his rihte wei forth-ward. Thah he seo other here idele gomenes ant wundres bi the weie, he ne edstont nawt as foles doth, ah halt forth his rute ant hiheth toward his giste. He ne bereth na gersum bute his speonse gnedeliche, ne clathes bute ane theo thet him to neodeth. This beoth hali men the, thah ha beon i the world, ha beoth th'rin as pilegrimes ant gath with god lif-lade toward te riche of heovene, ant seggeth with the Apostle, Non habemus hic manentem civitatem, set futuram inquirimus - thet is, "nabbe we na wununge her, ah we secheth other." Beoth bi the leaste thet ha mahen, ne ne haldeth na tale of na worltlich frovre, thah ha beon i worltlich wei - as ich seide - of pilegrim, ah habbeth hare heorte eaver toward heovene, ant ahen wel to habben. For other pilegrimes gath [i] muche swinc to sechen ane sontes banes, as Sein James other Sein Giles, ah theo pilegrimes the gath toward heovene, ha gath to beon i-sontet, ant to finden Godd seolf ant alle his hali halhen, liviende i blisse, ant schulen livien with him i wunne buten ende. Ha i-findeth i-wis Sein Julienes in, the wei-fearinde men yeornliche bisecheth.

Nu beoth theose gode, ah yet beoth the othre betere, for allegate pilegrimes, as ich ear seide, al gan ha eaver forth-ward, ne bicumen burh-men i the worldes burh, ham thuncheth sum-chearre god of thet ha seoth bi weie, ant edstuteth sum-deal, thah ha ne don mid alle, ant moni thing ham falleth to hwer-thurh ha beoth i-lette, swa thet - mare hearm is! - sum kimeth leate ham, sum neaver mare. Hwa is thenne skerre, ant mare ut of the world then pilegrimes? - thet is to seggen, then theo men the habbeth worltlich thing ant ne luvieth hit nawt, ah yeoveth hit as hit kimeth ham, ant gath untrusset, lihte as pilegrimes doth toward heovene? Hwa beoth betere thene theos? Godd wat, theo beoth betere the the Apostle speketh to, ant seith in his epistle, Mortui estis et vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo. Cum autem apparuerit vita vestra, tunc et vos apparebitis cum ipso in gloria. "Ye beoth deade ant ower lif is i-hud mid Criste. Hwen he thet is ower lif eadeaweth ant springeth as the dahunge efter nihtes theosternesse, ant ye schulen with him springen schenre then the sunne into eche blisse." The nu beoth thus deade, hare lif-lade is herre, for pilegrim eileth moni-hwet. The deade nis noht of, thah he ligge unburiet ant rotie buven eorthe. Preise him, laste him, do him scheome, sei him scheome - al him is i-liche leof. This is a seli death thet maketh cwic mon thus, other cwic wummon, ut of the worlde. Ah sikerliche hwa-se is thus dead in hire-seolven, Godd liveth in hire heorte. For this is thet te Apostle seith, Vivo ego iam non ego. Vivit autem in me Christus. "Ich livie - nawt ich, ah Crist liveth in me" thurh his in-wuniende grace, ant is as thah he seide, "worltlich speche, worltlich sihthe, ant euch worltlich thing i-findeth me deade. Ah thet te limpeth to Crist, thet ich seo ant here, ant wurche i cwicnesse." Thus riht is euch religius dead to the worlde ant cwic thah to Criste.

This is an heh steire, ah yet is thah an herre. Ant hwa stod eaver th'rin? Godd wat, the the seide, Michi absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini mei, Jesu Christi, per quam michi mundus crucifixus est et ego mundo. This is thet ich seide th'ruppe: "Crist me schilde for-te habben eani blisse i this world bute i Jesu Cristes rode, mi Laverd, thurh hwam the world is me unwurth, ant ich am unwurth hire, as weari the is ahonget." A, Laverd, hehe stod he the spec o thisse wise. Ant this is ancre steire thet ha thus segge, Michi autem absit gloriari, et cetera. "I na thing ne blissi ich me bute i Godes rode, thet ich tholie nu wa ant am i-tald unwurth as Godd wes o rode." Lokith, leove sustren, hu this steire is herre then eani beo of the othre. The pilegrim i the wor[l]des wei, thah he ga forth-ward toward te ham of heovene, he sith ant hereth unnet, ant speketh umbe-hwile, wreatheth him for weohes, ant moni thing mei letten him of his jurnee. The deade nis na mare of scheome then of menske, of heard then of nesche, for he ne feleth nowther, ant for-thi ne ofearneth he nowther wa ne wunne. Ah the the is o rode ant haveth blisse th'rof, he wendeth scheome to menske ant wa into wunne, ant ofearneth for-thi hure over hure. This beoth theo the neaver ne beoth gleade i-heortet bute hwen ha tholieth sum wa other sum scheome with Jesu on his rode. For this is the selhthe on eorthe, hwa-se mei for Godes luve habben scheome ant teone. Thus, lo, rihte ancres ne beoth nawt ane pilegrimes, ne yet nawt ane deade, ah beoth of theos thridde. For al hare blisse is for-te beon ahonget sariliche ant scheomeliche with Jesu on his rode.

'Three kinds of men of God’s chosen ones live on earth: one may be likened to good pilgrims; another to the dead; the third to men who are voluntarily hanged on Jesus’ cross. The first are good, the second are better, and the third are best of all.

St Peter cried out to the first sort from the heart, Obsecro vos, tanquam advenas et peregrinos, ut abstineatis vos a carnalibus desideriis, que militant adversus animam. I implore you, he says, as foreigners and pilgrims, abstain from carnal lusts, which wage war against the soul. The good pilgrim always keeps on the direct road forward. Although he may see or hear idle games and marvels along the way, he does not stop, as fools do, but keeps on his road and hastens towards his lodging. He does not carry any treasure except his frugal expenses, and no clothes except only those which are necessary to him. These are holy men who, though they live in the world, live in it as pilgrims, and travel in a good way of living towards the kingdom of heaven, and say with the apostle, Non habemus hic manentem civitatem, set futuram inquirimus; that is, we do not have a dwelling here, but we seek another. They make do with the least they can, and do not set any store by earthly comfort, though they are on the worldly road, as I said, as pilgrims; but their hearts are always directed towards heaven, and well they ought to be. For other pilgrims travel with great labour to seek the bones of a single saint, such as St James or St Giles, but these pilgrims, who travel towards heaven, go to be made saints and to find God himself and all his holy hallows living in glory, and will live with him in joy without end. They truly find St Julian’s house, which wayfaring men earnestly seek.

Now these men are good, but the other sort are still better: because invariably pilgrims, as I said before, although they keep going forwards and do not become residents in the city of the world, on occasion something they see by the road looks attractive to them and they stop for a while, though not permanently, and many things happen to them by means of which they are hindered, with the result – more’s the pity! – that some get home late, and some never at all. Who then is holier and more out of the world than pilgrims? That is to say, than those men who have worldly possessions and do not care for them, but give them away as they come to them, and travel light, unburdened, as pilgrims do towards heaven? Who are better than these? God knows they are better whom the apostle speaks to, saying in his epistle, Mortui estis et vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo. Cum autem apparuerit vita vestra, tunc et vos apparebitis cum ipso in gloria. You are dead and your life is hidden in Christ. When he who is your life appears again and rises like the day after the darkness of the night, you will rise with him, brighter than the sun, into eternal glory. The life of those who are now dead in this way is more exalted. For many things afflict pilgrims. It does not matter to the dead man if he lies unburied and rots above the ground – praise him, blame him, mistreat him, revile him, it is all equally dear to him. It is a blessed death which makes living men like this, or living women, separate from the world; but certainly whoever is dead in this way, God lives in her heart, for this is what the apostle says, Vivo ego iam non ego. Vivit autem in me Christus: I live; not I, but Christ lives in me through his indwelling grace; and it is as though he said, earthly speech, earthly vision and every earthly thing finds me dead; but that which belongs to Christ, that I see and hear and do in lively fashion. To this extent every religious person is dead to the world and yet alive to Christ.

This is a noble level, but there is one still more exalted. And who always stands there? God knows it is he who said, Michi absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini mei, Jesu Christi, per quam michi mundus crucifixus est et ego mundo; this is what I said previously, Christ keep me from having any joy in this world except in the cross of Jesus Christ my Lord, through whom the world is worthless to me and I am worthless to it, like a criminal who is hanged. Ah, Lord, he stood high who spoke thus! And this is the level of an anchorite who has said in this way: Michi autem absit gloriari, et cetera: I glory in nothing except the cross of God, so that I now endure pain and am considered worthless as God was on the cross. Look, dear sisters, how this level is higher than any of the others is. The pilgrim on the way of the world, though he travels forward towards his home in heaven, sees and hears – and speaks, at times – what is unprofitable, and becomes angry because of injuries; and many things may hinder him from his journey. The dead man cares no more for shame than for honour, for the rough than for the smooth, because he feels neither; and so he earns neither grief nor joy; but he who is on the cross and has glory on that account, he turns shame into honour and grief into joy, and earns an outstanding reward thereby. These are the people who are never glad at heart except when they are suffering some pain or some shame with Jesus on his cross. And so this is bliss on earth, to have shame and hurt for God’s love. See then, true anchorites are not pilgrims, nor yet one of the dead, but they are of the third kind: because all their joy is to be hanged painfully and shamefully with Jesus on his cross.'

Pilgrims (Canterbury Cathedral)

The anonymous author of Ancrene Wisse is a superb writer of prose, with a flexible style which moves fluidly between high rhetoric and the rhythm and syntax of everyday speech, between the technical language of theology and ordinary English diction. Rhetorically speaking, this is my favourite bit:
Nu beoth theose gode, ah yet beoth the othre betere, for allegate pilegrimes, as ich ear seide, al gan ha eaver forth-ward, ne bicumen burh-men i the worldes burh, ham thuncheth sum-chearre god of thet ha seoth bi weie, ant edstuteth sum-deal, thah ha ne don mid alle, ant moni thing ham falleth to hwer-thurh ha beoth i-lette, swa thet - mare hearm is! - sum kimeth leate ham, sum neaver mare. Hwa is thenne skerre, ant mare ut of the world then pilegrimes? - thet is to seggen, then theo men the habbeth worltlich thing ant ne luvieth hit nawt, ah yeoveth hit as hit kimeth ham, ant gath untrusset, lihte as pilegrimes doth toward heovene?

Now these men are good, but the other sort are still better: because invariably with pilgrims, as I said before, although they keep going forwards and do not become residents in the city of the world, on occasion something they see by the road looks attractive to them and they stop for a while, though not permanently, and many things happen to them by means of which they are hindered, with the result – more’s the pity! – that some get home late, and some never at all. Who then is holier and more out of the world than pilgrims? That is to say, than those men who have worldly possessions and do not care for them, but give them away as they come to them, and travel light, unburdened, as pilgrims do towards heaven?
I love the thought of pilgrims going 'untrussed', unburdened by the things of the world. His unidealised view of pilgrims - heading to heaven, but easily distracted by 'idle games and marvels' beside the roadside - is appealing and recognisable. But the extract which reminded me of this passage today was:
For other pilegrimes gath i muche swinc to sechen ane sontes banes, as Sein James other Sein Giles, ah theo pilegrimes the gath toward heovene, ha gath to beon i-sontet, ant to finden Godd seolf ant alle his hali halhen, liviende i blisse, ant schulen livien with him i wunne buten ende. Ha i-findeth i-wis Sein Julienes in, the wei-fearinde men yeornliche bisecheth.

For other pilgrims travel with great labour to seek the bones of a single saint, such as St James or St Giles, but these pilgrims, who travel towards heaven, go to be made saints and to find God himself and all his holy hallows living in glory, and will live with him in joy without end. They truly find St Julian’s house, which wayfaring men earnestly seek.

The distinction is between going to seek 'ane sontes banes' and going 'to beon i-sontet' (to seek saints and to be 'sainted', i.e. 'made saints'); the contrasting emphasis falls beautifully on the little words, ane and beon.

The author's discussion of the three kinds of model which a holy person can follow - pilgrim, dead man, sufferer on the cross - is based on a sermon by Bernard of Clairvaux, but the saints' names here are his own addition. James, Giles and Julian were the three saints most closely associated with pilgrimage in the thirteenth century - James in particular, the archetypal pilgrim with his scrip and cockle-shell. St Julian was known instead as an accommodator of pilgrims, as a result of the legend about his life which grew up in the thirteenth century. There's a useful overview of his story here. According to the Golden Legend, Julian learned as a young man that he was destined to kill his parents. Trying to escape his fate, he fled his home (that never works, Julian!) and settled in a distant country. He got married, but one day when he was away from home his parents arrived at his house and his wife, fatally hospitable, gave them her own bed to sleep in. When Julian returned and saw the sleeping couple, he thought it was his wife in bed with another man, and so he killed them both. In penance for his sin he built hospitals and lodgings for travellers, and ferried pilgrims across the river - on one occasion, as depicted at the top of this post and below, he ferried Christ in disguise as a leper, and was told by him that his sin was forgiven.


St Julian therefore became a patron of pilgrims and travellers, a byword for hospitality - Chaucer says of his Franklin, who loves sharing the pleasures of the table and keeps open house for half the neighbourhood, that 'an housholdere, and that a greet, was he; Seint Julian was he in his contree'. And so in Ancrene Wisse 'St Julian's house' is heaven, the destination of wayfarers, a permanent lodging-place for those who pass as strangers and pilgrims through this world. Pilgrims travel to their 'home in heaven', but that journey is best made, Ancrene Wisse argues, not by travellers by anchorites, who seek God in one fixed and steadfast place. In that dwelling, as a later English anchorite - another Julian - wrote, they find the union with God which means he becomes infinitely intimate, homely, with the soul: 'for in us is His homeliest home'.

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