(Dec 18th to 25th)
” … in that place, at that time, hanging on the wet, weedy edge of death, our Bishop, a Christian, counselled me, a heathen, to stand by my fathers’ Gods. I tell you now that a faith which takes care that every man shall keep faith, even though he may save his soul by breaking faith, is the faith for a man to believe in. So I believe in the Christian God, and in Wilfrid His Bishop, and in the Church that Wilfrid rules…”
This is from “The Conversion of St Wilfrid” in Rewards and Fairies. Wilfrid, Bishop of the West Saxons, had long been urging his friend Meon, their Chief, to beome a Christian.
But when they were stranded, near death, out at sea, Wilfrid had told Meon not to abandon the beliefs of his fathers in the face of danger. After they had been rescued, Meon decides that Christianity is the faith for him and his people, as he affirms here.
” … Don’t be hard on them …They get worked up ,,, They don’t know what they are doing … Promise!’ “This is not I, child. It is the Law.” “No odds. You’re Father’s brother … Men make laws—not Gods. . . . Promise! … It’s finished with me.” Valens’ head eased back on its yearning pillow. Petrus stood like one in a trance. The tremor left his face as he repeated.
‘“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Heard you that, Paulus? He, a heathen and an idolator, said it!” “I heard. What hinders now that we should baptize him?” Paulus answered promptly.
Petrus stared at him as though he had come up out of the sea…. “Quiet!” said he. “Think you that one who has spoken Those Words needs such as we are to certify him to any God?”
This is from “The Church that was at Antioch” in Limits and Renewals. A young Roman officer, Valens, is trying to keep the peace in Jerusalem between quarreling factions of Christians and Jews.
He is later murdered by a religious fanatic, whom, with Roman fair-mindedness, he had previously allowed to go free. As Peter affirms in the story, his dying words echo those of Christ on the cross.
He unscrewed the metal cylinder, laid it on the table, and with the dagger’s hilt smashed some crystal to sparkling dust which he swept into a scooped hand and cast behind the hearth.
“It would seem,” said he, “the choice lies between two sins. To deny the world a Light which is under our hand, or to enlighten the world before her time. What you have seen, I saw long since among the physicians at Cairo. And I know what doctrine they drew from it.”
This is from “The Eye of Allah” in Debits and Credits. In a Thirteenth Century Abbey the Abbot is at dinner with – among others – the scientist Friar Roger Bacon, the surgeon Roger of Salerno, and a master illuminator, John Otho, recently returned from Spain.
He has brought back an early microscope, which enables him to see extraordinary shapes of microbes in a drop of water, which he uses to make strange pictures of devils to illustrate the biblical story of the Gadarene Swine. Roger Bacon is fascinated, but the Abbot destroys the instrument, for the dangerous knowledge it brings to the world.