Quotes, Beginnings, The Church

August 20th to 26th


The Cantor of St. Illod’s being far too enthusiastic a musician to concern himself with its Library, the Sub-Cantor, who idolised every detail of the work, was tidying up, after two hours’ writing and dictation in the Scriptorium. The copying-monks handed him in their sheets—it was a plain Four Gospels ordered by an Abbot at Evesham—


This is the opening passage of “The Eye of Allah“, in Debits and Credits.

An artist monk, a skilled illuminator of sacted texts, brings back from Spain to his English monatersy a microscope, a Muslim invention, which enables his to see the teeming bacterial ife in a drop of water. These are fascinating images, whuch  in his paintings.

But the Abbot, in the sane tradition as the Catholkic critics of Galileo four hundred years later,rules that this is dangerous knowledge, and smashes the instrument.

Her cinnabar-tinted topsail, nicking the hot blue horizon, showed she was a Spanish wheat-boat hours before she reached Marseilles mole. There, her mainsail brailed itself, a spritsail broke out forward, and a handy driver aft; and she threaded her way through the shipping to her berth at the quay as quietly as a veiled woman slips through a bazaar.


This is the opening passage of “The Manner of Men” in Limits and Renewsals.

It tells of a ship, bearing Paul of Tarsus, to Rome for execution, which was wrecked off the coast of Malta. The captain of the vessel  had never forgotten his courage, resolve, and leadership in the face  of danger.

His mother, a devout and well-born Roman widow, decided that he was doing himself no good in an Eastern Legion so near to free-thinking Constantinople, and got him seconded for civil duty in Antioch, where his uncle, Lucius Sergius, was head of the urban Police.


This is the opening passage of “The Church that was at Antioch, in Limits and Renewals.

Valens, a young Roman officer is responsible for policing the streets of the citty.  There are riots between  Greek and Hebrew Christians, and a fanatic tries to assassinate him. He lets the man go for the sake of peace, but later he tries again, inflicting a death wound.

The Roman Prefect plans  hard reprisals against the Christians, but Valens deters him, saying that the man did not know what he was doing.

Paul suggests that they should baptize the dying Roman.  But Peter, recalling the words of Jesus on the Cross, replies 

“Think you that one who has spoken Those Words needs such as we are to certify him to any God?’”