The book “COMING OF THE SAINTS”
by J.W. Taylor
THE STORY OF RABANUS
T saw a vision of a woman, where
Night and new morning strive for domination;
Incomparably pale and almost fair And sad beyond expression.
Her eyes were like some fire-enshrining gem, Were stately like the stars and yet were tender;
Her figure charmed me like a windy stem Quivering and drooped and slender.
I stood upon the outer barren ground,
She stood on inner ground that budded flowers;
While circling in their never-slackening round Danced by the mystic hours.
But every flower was lifted on a thorn,
And every thorn shot upright from its sands
To gall her feet; hoarse laughter pealed in scorn With cruel clapping hands.
She bled and wept, yet did not shrink; her strength
Was strung up until daybreak of delight; She measured measureless sorrow toward its length,
And breadth, and depth, and height.
Then marked I how a chain sustained her form -A chain of living links not made nor riven:
It stretched sheer up through lightning, wind and storm, And anchored fast in heaven.'
C. Rossetti, from 'House to Home'
IN the Magdalen College Library at Oxford there is a remarkable old manuscript Life of St. Mary Magdalene. 1
1 At the time that Rabanus was writing, fantastic miracle tales were circulating throughout the Churches of the Continent. Some of these are unpleasant to Protestant readers, but we consider that the local history contained in these quotations from Rabanus is of such importance as to make the publication of them of value. (Ed.)
This manuscript, which professes to be the copy of an original Life of St. Mary Magdalene compiled by Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mayencc, who was born in 776 and died in 856, is supposed by a former librarian to date from the earlier part of the fifteenth century, before the foundation of the College, which was in the middle of the century. 2
No history is known of the manuscript. It is very neatly written on parchment and is prettily illuminated in colours and gold. The writing and illumination is very similar to that of the manuscript copy of the Tertius Opus of Roger Bacon in the Bodleian, and this is generally considered to date from the end of the fourteenth or beginning of the fifteenth century.
The title is in red at the top of each page, and was probably inserted or added after the text had been completed, for it has left an occasional impression on the opposing leaf. The handwriting, however, of both tide and text exactly corresponds and cannot be distinguished. Moreover, at one part of the chief illumination at the beginning of the manuscript some of the blue colouring of the initial letter 'D' has left a similar impression on the opposing fly-leaf of the bound volume, so that the impressions may be simply the effect of damp and pressure.
That this copy of the Life of St. Mary (presumably by Rabanus, and the only copy known) is written by a professional scribe is abundantly evident by the careful 'illumination', by various errors of copying, and by the fact that immediately at the close of the work the writer goes on to transcribe a homily of Origen on St. Mary Magdalene. The bound volume contains six manuscripts, and the binding probably dates from the sixteenth century or rather later (?).
The original work of which this is a copy was undoubtedly written either by Rabanus himself, or its author must have made considerable use of the Homilies of Rabanus, for the general style and composition of the work (as M. Faillon has well shown) closely follows that of its reputed author.
The book has been recognized as a work of Rabanus in the past, 3 and appears as such in the well-known list or catalogue of William Cave (Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Historia Literaria, vol. ii, p. 38 fol., Oxford, 1740-1743).
2. 'Mr. Madan, of the Bodleian, is inclined to think it is not later than 1450, and would, I think, be inclined to put it rather earlier than the second quarter of the fifteenth century - from 1400 to 1425, rather than from 1425 to 1450' (letter from the Revd. H. A. Wilson).
3. It is quoted by John de Cella (?) in the earlier part of the Chronicles of Matthew of Paris (about 11 go).
I am inclined to think that the manuscript is altogether too important, and the indications of the authorship of Rabanus too frequent and too marked, for the work to be a forgery; and if originally written by Rabanus Maurus we can certainly trust his statement in the 'Prologus' that it was compiled by him from then existing records and manuscripts of still older date. 4
By the kindness of the College authorities and of the librarian, I am able to reproduce here the first page of the manuscript, and (through the publication of the deciphered text in the work of Faillon) to add a detailed account of its contents, translating some of the more interesting paragraphs or chapters in full.
The work, which is a Life not only of St. Mary Magdalene, but also of her sister St. Martha, is divided into fifty chapters and preceded by a Prologus or 'Preface' (which may be read from the original text in the accompanying reproduction). The 'Prologus' runs as follows:
The contemplative life of the most blessed Mary Magdalene, named with the highest reverence as the sweetest chosen of Christ, and by Christ greatly beloved, and the active life of her glorious sister, the minister of Christ, St. Martha, and the friendship and resurrection with which our Lord honoured their venerable brother Lazarus, do not stand on some tradition of modern times recently found, but on the authentic testimony of the four Evangelists, and the Catholic Church throughout the whole world devoutly believes and esteems these facts as they have been preached from the very beginning of our Faith.
A belief so justified by the Divine oracles has therefore no need of human advertisement.
'Who hath ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches' by the mouth of the blessed Evangelist, St. John, concerning the great love, the many associations and sweet companionship which took place between the Son of the Glorious Virgin and His friends Martha and Mary and Lazarus.
For, as it is written, T love them that love Me', so St. John writes, 'Now, the Lord Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus.' This is the testimony of John the disciple, who loved Jesus more than the rest of the disciples. It is the testimony of the
4. A recent writer (Mr. Gaskoin, in Alcuin, his Life and Work, London, 1904) says the work of Rabanus Maurus: 'The writings of the Fathers on which (his) commentaries were based, were literally produced, the share of the compiler in the composition being designedly and almost ostentatiously reduced to the smallest possible proportions.'
Apostle who at the Last Supper reclined on the breast of Jesus. It is the testimony of the Evangelist to whom Ghrist on the cross committed the care and keeping of His Virgin Mother.
O! happy saints, to whom the Holy Gospel gives such great glory, such pre-eminence, such testimony!
In order that the facts may be set forth more thoroughly I have thought it wise to write in one narrative the Divine accounts of the evangelists, and then to add faithfully the events affecting these friends of our Saviour which took place after His ascension according as our fathers have told us and according to the accounts they have left for us in their writings.
And to pursue our work more easily and to avoid repetition we will endeavour at once shortly to set forth what the ancient histories tell us of the origin, birth, education and talents of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, to the praise of God our Saviour and to the honour and glory of His friends.
The 1st chapter accordingly opens with a short history of the family of Bethany:
In the territory of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, at fifteen stadia to the east of the Holy City, is situated the little town of Bethany, the country of Mary Magdalene, of Lazarus and of Martha. Here was born the blessed Martha, the venerable hostess of our Lord.
Her mother, whose name was Eucharia, was descended from the royal family of the House of Israel. Her father, Theophilus, was a Syrian prince and governor of the maritime country.
St. Martha had a sister of great beauty named Mary and a young brother called Lazarus. All these were noted for their fine character and intelligence, and for their knowedge of the language of the Hebrews, in which they had been well instructed.
In the 2nd chapter we are further told that they possessed a rich patrimony of lands, of money, and of slaves, that a great part of the city of Jerusalem (beside the village of Bethany) belonged to them, and that they also had lands at Magdala (on the left side of the Lake of Galilee), and at another Bethany (or Bethabara), the scene of the preaching of St. John the Baptist.
The three lived together, and Martha as the eldest of the family had the administration of their property. As the younger sister grew up she moved from Bethany and took up her residence at Magdala, either on her own property there, or as the wife or mistress of one of the rich inhabitants who dwelt on the borders of the lake.
There, for a time, she lived a life of sin, in conscious disobedience to the command of God and to the wishes of her family until aroused by the preaching of our Lord and pardoned by Him in the house of Simon the Pharisee.
The latter is said to have been related to St. Martha 'by the ties of blood and of friendship'. (If this means that Martha, who is described as being much older than the other children, was only half-sister to them and specially related to Simon, it is interesting to note that Mary, in coming to his house to see the Saviour, was also, at the same time, in a certain sense returning home.)
From the 5th to the gth chapter we read of the first anointing and conversion of St. Mary, the account closely following the narrative in the Gospels.
In the 9th chapter we read of the women who followed our Lord as He went about with the twelve Apostles declaring the coming of the Kingdom of God, of Joanna, of Susannah, and of Mary Magdalene. Some of the miracles belonging to this portion of our Lord's history are related in detail, and notably that of the Phoenician woman who was cured of her haemorrhage by touching His garment. We are told that she was of Caesarea Philippi, and that her name was Martha. An account is also given of the statue erected in honour of this miracle at Caesarea Philippi; the account of this being very similar to that given by Eusebius the historian.
In the 10th chapter we are told that it was at Magdala, at the estate of Mary Magdalene, where Martha and Mary Magdalene entertained our Lord and His disciples as recorded by St. Luke (10:38).
In the company of the Saviour were the twelve Apostles, the seventy disciples and a large following of illustrious women, so that it was natural that St. Martha, as the elder sister and chief hostess, should have been somewhat worried with the preparation for so large a gathering. In this chapter we are introduced to Marcella, the servant or stewardess of the house who, together with St. Martha, Joanna and Susannah, waited on the guests.
At this time our Saviour often came to Magdala to the house of St. Mary and St. Martha and lodged there, and when He was gone on any distant journey, and they could not accompany Him, refreshments and other necessities were sent from the sisters to Him, either by the hands of the servants of the house or by Judas Iscariot, who had charge of the money and provisions.
From the narrative it appears to have been at this house at Magdala that Jesus was teaching the multitude when His mother and brethren came seeking Him (as recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke, 11 :27), and it was Marcella, 'a woman of great devotion and faith', who exclaimed: 'Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked.'
At times our Saviour is said to have frequently used the other residences of Martha and Mary as His resting-places - Bethany near Jerusalem and the other Bethany on the Jordan; and it was at this second Bethany in Galilee that our Lord was staying when news was brought of the illness of Lazarus at the Bethany near Jerusalem.
The next chapters (from the 14th to the 16th) deal with the resurrection of Lazarus, closely following the Bible story. The 16th chapter finishes with an interesting homily on the analogous loosing of a man from the death of sin, declaring that if a man truly repents of his sins and yet is prevented from having recourse to the usual channel of confession and (priestly) absolution (confidenter pronuntio'), 'I confidently pronounce that if the confession is not wilfully neglected but prevented by necessity, the Sovereign Priest finishes what the mortal one cannot finish, and God holds as done that which the sinner would truly do but is unable to perform.
Both the matter and the method of this passage appear to be very consonant with its reputed authorship, while no one reading the narrative in the original could imagine that it was an interpolation.
The nth chapter brings us to the Sabbath before the Passion, when our Lord, who had been staying in a town called Ephrem, came to Bethany near Jerusalem and attended the feast in the house of Simon the leper. This and the following chapter deal mainly with the second anointing of St. Mary. On this (Saturday) evening He is said to have slept at Bethany. On the following day (on Palm Sunday) occurred the triumphal procession to Jerusalem, but no one offered our Saviour a lodging in the city. Accordingly (as we are told also in the Gospels), He and all the twelve Apostles returned to Bethany, obtaining with Martha and Mary and Lazarus the hospitality which was denied them in Jerusalem.
The following day (Monday) He is said to have cursed the barren fig-tree as He went into Jerusalem. All this day He spent teaching within the Temple precincts returning to Bethany in the evening.
The next day (Tuesday) He again spent in Jerusalem. His Apostles were with Him and noticed the withered fig-tree as they passed. Again our Lord slept at Bethany, returning to the Temple at Jerusalem early in the morning (Wednesday) and speaking there to His Apostles regarding the end of the world and all that must be accomplished. It is said to have been at the close of this day that He said, 'Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the true Lamb, the Son of man, shall be delivered to be crucified.'
After this saying He left the Temple and returned to Bethany, sleeping for the last time at the house of Lazarus, of Martha and of Mary.
All the earlier part of the next day (Thursday) He is said to have spent at Bethany, taking leave of His hosts, however, before the evening. As evening drew near He went into Jerusalem to the house of the upper chamber (on the Hill of Zion), where the Passover had been prepared for Himself and His Apostles.
The 20th and 21st chapters contain an account of the Passion and crucifixion of our Lord, in strict accordance with, and closely following, the record in Holy Scripture.
In the 22nd chapter, containing an account of the embalming and burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, a detailed description is given of the mausoleum and sepulchre of St. Joseph, which he had made for his own body. St. Joseph is called 'nobilis decurion', which probably means that he had an officer's position in the Judean or Roman army, and accounts for his friendship, or rather acquaintance, with Pilate.
The sepulchre is described as consisting of two chambers, an outer room (afterwards the 'Chapel of the Angel'), which was of sufficient height so that 'a man with his hand raised could scarcely touch the roofing of it', and an inner chamber, where the body of the Saviour was laid. In both the entrance is said to have faced eastwards, and the body of the Lord is said to have been placed in a recess to the north side of the second or inner chamber, His feet directed to the east, His head to the west, and His left side touching (or lying against) the rock wall of the tomb.
Mary Magdalene and her companions are depicted as weeping in the Judgment Hall on the way to Calvary, as suffering acutest agony at the crucifixion, as waiting at the tomb, and then, in the little time remaining before the Sabbath, hurrying to purchase balms and spices for that third anointing of the Holy Body, which appears to have been rendered unnecessary or impossible by the great resurrection. Mary Magdalene, Mary Cleopas, Mary Salome, Joanna and Susannah are mentioned as carrying the spices on the resurrection morning.
The chapters from the 24th to the 30th are occupied with an account of the resurrection from the various descriptions of the Evangelists, special references being made to the appearance of the angels. Mary Magdalene is noticed as the only visitor to the tomb who saw the two angels, and as the first to see her risen Lord. Her commission from Him to the holy Apostles is fully recognized and enforced, and this portion of the Life closes with a review of the chief incidents which marked the piety and love of St. Mary Magdalene for her Saviour, and the reward which she received.
In the 31st chapter an account is given of the ascension of our Lord.
Forty days after His resurrection, desiring once more to be visibly present with His disciples, we are told that our Saviour appeared to them as they sat at meat and partook of the final meal with them. The company is said to have included the Blessed Virgin, all the eleven Apostles, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Lazarus, Mary Cleopas, Salome, Joanna and Susannah. All appear to have received at this time the commission to preach the Gospel - first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and then to all the world, and our Lord was accompanied not only by these, but by a great multitude of disciples as He led them forth as far as Bethany - there, in the presence of about one hundred and twenty persons, He said, 'Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the ages', and, lifting up His hands, He blessed them, and was seen of all to arise up into the heavens, a luminous cloud receiving Him out of their sight.
With Him also are said to have ascended the thousands of holy souls who had been waiting since the beginning of the world, and those who (as we are told in Holy Scripture) 'came out of their graves after His resurrection, and went into the Holy City and appeared unto many' (St. Matt. 27 153), and were witnesses of our Lord's resurrection-life.
The 34th chapter contains the narrative of the day of Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Ghost. It also tells of the life of the early Church, and of the honour and esteem in which St. Mary Magdalene and the holy women, with whom she had been so much associated, were held by the Apostles. In doing this, reference is made to the dispute recorded in Acts 6:1, as arising from some jealousy of the preference accorded to these by the holy Apostles. It was for this reason (in the first place) that the seven deacons were appointed - Stephen and Philip, Parmenas and Timon, Prochorus, Nicanor and Nicholas.
This and the succeeding chapter narrate how Lazarus, Martha and Mary sold their properties in Jerusalem, Magdala and the Bethanies, the house at Bethany near Jerusalem alone being preserved, and brought the amount to St. Peter as chief of the Apostles.
St. Mary Magdalene is represented as specially devoted to the service and care of the Blessed Virgin and, because of this, is said to have rejoiced with her in the vision and ministry of angels who were sent from time to time for the succour and consolation of the Virgin Mother.
The house at Bethany near Jerusalem, where the Saviour had so often slept or watched through the long summer nights, appears to have been retained by the Apostles as a house of prayer, and was subsequently consecrated, Lazarus being appointed priest or bishop of the Church there. When, however, the persecution of the Jews arose Lazarus left Bethany for Cyprus, and there preached the Kingdom of God, becoming the first Christian bishop in Cyprus.
The 36th chapter is as follows:
After the death of Stephen, the first martyr, Saul was called from heaven to the Faith, but was not named Paul until twelve years later. Those who were dispersed abroad with St. Philip and the other companions of St. Stephen went everywhere preaching the Kingdom of God. They came finally to Antioch, where a great Church of disciples was gathered together. There the name of 'Christian' took its origin; there the patriarchal seat was established by the blessed Peter, and there afterwards he ordained Euodius as bishop, when he returned to Jerusalem to the rest of the Apostles. These all, according to the Saviour's command, continued for the space of twelve years preaching only to the twelve tribes of the Hebrews.
In the thirteenth year after the ascension (a.d. 47), James, the brother of John, was killed by the sword; Peter was cast into prison; and Saul, called to the Apostleship of the Gentiles by the Holy Spirit, departed on his mission. At this time he took the name of Paul.
The following year (the fourteenth after the ascension, a.d. 48) the following division was made of the Apostles:
Thomas and Bartholomew were allotted to the care of the east.
Simon and Matthew to the south. Philip and Thaddaeus to the north.
Matthew and James to the centre of the world ('Medium mundi).
John and Andrew to the provinces of the Mediterranean, and
Peter and Paul to the kingdoms of the West.
At the same time Paul came to Jerusalem to see Peter, both giving and receiving from James and John and Peter due recognition of their union in the apostolate. He then departed with Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Syria and Illyricum.
St. Peter chose from among the eldest and best of the disciples of Christ certain preachers of the Gospel for those regions of the West which he could not himself visit; for the regions of the Gauls, in which there were seventeen provinces, a similar number of priests, and for the Spanish provinces, of which there were seven, a similar number of teachers.
Of these twenty-four older disciples Maximums was the first and foremost. He was one of the seventy disciples of our Lord and Saviour, illustrious both by his power of miracles and of teaching, and chief of the Christians next to the Apostles.
Mary Magdalene, who was united by the ties of love to the religion and holiness of this disciple, determined not to be separated from his company or conversation wherever it should please God to call him.
As ten of the Apostles had already departed, however great the attachment of the disciples for the Apostles, it was impossible for them to remain together after the hate of the Jews had aroused the persecution against the Church, after Herod had cut off the head of St. James, had cast St. Peter into prison, and had chased the Christians out of his borders.
At the going of the disciples the noble matrons and widows, who had ministered to them in Jerusalem and the East, accompanied them. Among these was St. Martha, whose brother Lazarus was already bishop of Cyprus; Marcella, the stewardess and follower of Martha; St. Parmenas, the deacon, full of faith and of the grace of God, who was also of the number of His disciples.
It was to his care that St. Martha committed herself in Christ, even as St. Mary had already committed herself to the care of St. Maximin.
By an achnirable counsel of Divine providence these took their way to the regions of the West; God willing that not alone through the Gospel the praise of the blessed Magdalene and her sister should be known in all the world, but that as the East had until then been favoured by the example of their holy conversation, so the coasts of the West should be made famous by their presence, and sanctified by the deposit of their most holy relics.
Therefore the chief, St. Maximums, the blessed Parmenas, the Archdeacon; Trophimus and Eutropius, bishops, and the rest of the leaders in this Christian warfare, together with the God-renowned Mary Magdalene and her sister, the most blessed Martha, departed by way of the sea.
Leaving the shores of Asia and favoured by an east wind, they went round about, down the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Europe and Africa, leaving the city of Rome and all the land of Italy to the right. Then, happily turning their course to the right, they came near to the city of Marseilles, in the Viennoise province of the Gauls, where the River Rhone is received by the sea. There, having called upon God, the great King of all the world, they parted; each company going to the province where the Holy Spirit had directed them; presently preaching everywhere, 'the Lord working with them, confirming the word with signs following'.
The chief, St. Maximinus, went to Aix (Aquensem), the capital of the second Narbonnaise - where, too, Mary Magdalene finished the course of her wanderings.
Paul to Narbonne ('Narbonam'), the capital of the first province of the Narbonnaise.
Austregisilus to Bourges ('Bituricam'), the capital of the first province of Aquitaine.
Hirenaeus to Lyons ('Lugdunum'), the capital of the first Lugdunoise.
Gratian to Tours ('Turonem'), the capital of the third Lugdunoise.
Sabinus and Potentianus to Sens ('Senonas'), the capital of the fourth Lugdunoise.
Valerius to Treves ('Treverim'), the capital of the first Belgic province.
Feroncius to Besancon ('Bisuntium'), the capital of the greatest province of the Sequanae.
Eutropius to Saintes ('Sanctonas'), a city of the second Aquitaine.
Trophimus to Aries ('Arelatem'), now capital of the Viennoise province.
These ten provinces of the Gauls believed through the preaching of these ten disciples.
Other teachers preached - not in the remaining seven provinces, but in seven provincial towns:
Eutropius at Orange ('Aurasicum').
Frontinus at Perigeux ('Petrogoras').
Georgius at Veliacum.
Julianus at Mans ('Cenomanum').
Martialis at Limoges ('Lemovicas').
Saturninus at Toulouse ('Tolosam'), where he was thrown down
from the capitol for the faith of Christ.
Parmenas at Avignon ('Avenicorum').
With St. Parmenas went the venerable servant of our Lord and Saviour, St. Martha, and Marcella, her servant, Epaphras and Sos-thenes, Germanus, Euchodia and Syntex.
In addition, these are the names of those who were sent by the Apostles into Spain - Torquatus, Thesiphum, Secundus, Indalecius, Coecilius, Esicius and Euphrasius. These united the seven provinces of Spain to the Christian Faith. 5
St. Maximin, having gone to Aix, began to sow the good seed of the heavenly doctrine in the hearts of the Gentiles, giving himself, night and day, to preaching, prayer and fasting, so that he might bring the unbelievers of that country to the knowledge and service of God.
Soon the preaching of the Gospel produced a new harvest of the faith, and the blessed Maximinus at the head of his Church at Aix, shone forth by the many and Divine excellences of his miracles.
With him, and in the same Church, St. Mary Magdalene, the special friend of the Saviour, gave herself to contemplation; for since she had chosen, with so much wisdom, the better part which she found at the feet of her Lord, this, as He had promised, was never taken from her.
But, full of anxiety for the salvation of the souls for whose sake she had come Westward to the very ends of the earth, she often desisted from the joys of contemplation, in order to preach to unbelievers or to confirm the Christians in their faith. 'Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh', and this made her
5 It will be noticed that these names of the early missionaries, though apparently directly referring to the 'seventeen' and the 'seven' of a previous page, are mentioned rather as the first priest-bishops than as necessarily coming together with St. Mary and St. Martha.
The name 'Hirenaeus' associated with Lyons appears to point to the great Irenaeus, who was not bishop of Lyons until about a.d. 179. This must, therefore, be a marked anachronism unless it refers to another and earlier Hirenaeus who may have preceded Pothinus in the bishopric. That this may not be impossible appears from a passage of Gregory of Tours (Hist. Franc, bk. i. cap. 22), who speaks of the great persecution of a.d. 177 as following the time of Irenaeus,, but he, like many more of the old writers, appears to be hopelessly at fault in the matter of dates (See also 'Appendix D', where Irenaeus writes of his predecessors.)
preaching a true Divine meditation. She herself was ever an example to sinners of genuine conversion - to penitents of the certain hope of forgiveness - to the faithful of loving sympathy, and to all Christian people a proof of the Divine compassion.
She would point to her eyes as those which had washed with her tears the feet of her Saviour, and had seen Him first when He rose from the dead - to her hair which had wiped His sacred feet - to her lips which had kissed them, not only during His life here, but even after His death and resurrection - to her hands which had touched them and anointed them.
But why should I further recount here these things? As Jesus Himself has said : 'Verily, I say unto you, wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also which she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her' (Mark 24 :9).
St. Martha also, with her companions, preached the Gospel of the Saviour to the people in the cities of Avignon and Aries, and among the towns and villages which were on the borders of the Rhone in the province of Vienne. She chiefly bore testimony to all that she had seen touching the person of our Lord - to what she had heard or learnt from His lips when publicly teaching-to what He had disclosed concerning heavenly powers - joining these with wonders (or miracles) of her own. First had been given to her, when necessity demanded, by prayer or by the sign of the Holy Cross, to cleanse the lepers, to cure the paralytics, to quicken the dead, to heal the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the lame, and all who were in any way diseased.
Similar powers were granted to St. Mary who performed miracles with an inexpressible graciousness when these were needed either to establish the truth of her words or to incite the faith of her hearers.
Both St. Mary and St. Martha possessed a noble beauty, an honourable bearing and a ready grace of language that was captivating. Rarely or never did any one come away from their preaching incredulous or without tears. Their very look appeared to be able to inflame others with the love of Christ or to fill them with true contrition.
They were abstemious in food and drink and discreet in their clothing; Mary, indeed, providing herself with too little food and clothing after losing the corporal presence of the Lord of salvation. The matrons, however, Who lived with her and had a great affection for her, provided sufficiently for her necessities.
From this arose (in all probability) the apocryphal account that she was daily lifted into the air by angels and refreshed by them with celestial food. Understood in a mystical sense this is not altogether incredible (but not otherwise). Further, the account that, after the ascension of the Saviour, she fled into the desert of Arabia, and there lived unknown and without clothing in a cave, where, being visited by some priest, she demanded from him his vestment, 'these and other similar particulars are altogether false, and made up from fictitious fables regarding the acts of the penitent of Egypt'.
In the 40th chapter we find an account of the dragon - a species of crocodile - which at that time was found on the banks of the Rhone near Tarascon, and greatly alarmed the people.
These are represented as saying that if the Messiah preached by St. Martha had such infinite power, why could it not be shown in the destruction of this beast?
Martha replied, 'Everything is possible to those who believe', and leading a company of those who were brave enough to follow her she went to the lair of the beast and, making the sign of the cross, tied the neck of the animal with her girdle. She then permitted the people to destroy it.
The 41st chapter deals with the life of St. Martha at Tarascon, and runs as follows:
All venomous reptiles being thus expelled by the power of God from Tarascon, St. Martha chose it as her dwelling, and changed what had been formerly a hateful and noxious place into one that was both beautiful to the eye and lovely.
She made here an oratory, which she studied to enrich with virtues and good deeds rather than with dainty and useless ornaments. Here she lived alone for seven years, her food during this time being edible roots, green herbs and fruits. Yet to refresh herself with food more than once in the day she considered as wrong for herself, but not as wrong for her friends and neighbours. For considering that this daily fast without charity would only be a suffering for herself and a burden to those who stayed with her, she was ever mindful of her old hospitality.
The poor were always with her, and to these she gave largely of whatever she had for herself, always making those who were destitute take part at her table and, while reserving herbs only for herself, giving these (poor) meats for their necessities with tender solicitude, and that gentleness which was habitual with her. She did this with the greater eagerness and desire . . . remembering how He, whom she had so often received in the old days when He was on earth, and who then suffered from hunger and thirst, now had no need of these temporal aids, but still in His poor desired to be refreshed and comforted.
And the handmaid of Christ remembered how He had said to them: 'Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.' Therefore, as she had formerly served the Head of the Church, so now she applied herself to the service of its members, Showing to all the same love and kindness.
And because God loveth a cheerful giver, so He took care that like an inexhaustible fountain, the stores in her cellars, although daily emptied by her generosity, should never be exhausted : for the faithful, seeing her delight in giving, contributed so much the more; and without any care of her own, she was always able to give abundantly.
Her clothing was rough. During seven years she simply wore two garments (saccus and cilicium) gathered together by a (knotted) girdle of horsehair. Her feet were naked, and she wore on her head a white cap of camel's hair. Branches of trees and vine-leaves over which was placed a coverlet served her as a bed, while her pillow was a stone.
Her spirit, surrendered from everything to God and (often) continuing all night in prayer, was lost in Him, and He whom in time past in His humility she had seen in her own house, she now adored upon her knees as reigning in heaven.
Frequently she went into the neighbouring towns and villages, preaching to the people the faith of the Saviour, returning to her solitude with the news of many fresh companies added to the Faith.
The 42nd chapter deals with the raising to life again of a young man who had been drowned when swimming across the Rhone to hear the preaching of St. Martha.
The 43rd gives an account of the consecration of the house of St. Martha as a church:
The bishop, Maximums, the protector of St. Magdalene and director of her life, came from his province of the second Narbon-naise to Tarascon, in order to see St. Martha, the servant of Jesus Christ.
With similar intention, on the same day and at the same hour, came Trophimus, bishop of Aries, and Eutropius, the priest of Orange, none expecting the arrival of the others, but all coming together by the inspiration of God, who disposes all things delightfully.
The sainted heroine received them with honour, entertained them liberally and insisted on their stay and, on the sixteenth day of the kalends of January (which is the seventeenth day of the month of Casleu, called December among the Latins), they dedicated to our Lord and Saviour as a church the house of the most blessed Martha - a house already rendered sacred by her deeds and virtues and conversation.
And after the consecration, when the priests sat at meat, she ministered to them with great affection. Now there was a multitude of people gathered together, who sat at meat also, and there was a deficiency of wine.
The hostess of the Saviour, therefore, ordered them to draw water in the name of Jesus Christ, and to serve it abundantly to all. And when the priests had tasted it they found that the water had been changed into the best wine. They, therefore, ordered that this day should be henceforth observed reverentially, both as the day of dedication of the church and as the day when the water was converted into wine.
The bishops, having said farewell to the blessed servant of Jesus Christ, and commending themselves to her holy merits and prayers, gave and received each other's benediction, and then departed, each to his own place.
In parting with St. Maximinus St. Martha sent her salutations to her venerable sister, Mary Magdalene . . . begging her to come and visit her before she died.
When St. Mary Magdalene heard this from St. Maximinus, she returned the salutation of her sister, promising what she asked, if not in this life, then after she was dead.
Whence it is to be believed that the Saints of God remember their loved ones after death, sometimes then fulfilling the promises made while they were living.
Now, at this time a persecution arose in Aquitaine among the Gentiles, and a great number of Christians were thrust into exile. Among these, Frontinus, bishop of Perigeux, and Georgius, of Veliacum, fled together to the blessed Martha at Tarascon. She, with her usual charity, kindly received them, showed them every generosity, and honourably studied to retain them with her, until they were permitted to return to their own dioceses.
When they were just ready to depart, St. Martha said, 'O bishop of Perigueux, you must know that next year I shall leave this mortal body. I beseech, if it please you, that you will come to bury me.' To Which the bishop replied, T will come, O daughter, if God permits it, and I am still alive.'
The priests then returned to their homes, and the blessed Martha, calling her own people around her, foretold to them that the day of her death was to take place after one year from this date. She then lay down on her couch of branches, and was consumed by fever through the whole of that year, 'as gold is tried in the furnace'.
In the meantime the blessed Mary Magdalene, rapt in heavenly contemplation, guarded faithfully that better part which she had chosen; ... and when the time drew near that the earthly tabernacle of her most holy spirit should be dissolved, and she was ready to enter into those heavenly courts for which she longed, so that she might be more fully united to her Lord, the Son of God, her Lord and Saviour Himself appeared to her. For truly she saw Jesus Christ Himself, the object of her desires who, attended by a multitude of angels, called her to the glory of His celestial kingdom, gently and compassionately saying, 'Come, My chosen, and place thyself on My throne, for the King desireth thy presence. ... He to whom thou didst minister when He was on the earth among men shall receive thee to eternal life among choirs of angels, praising and excelling, world without end.'
This special friend of her Lord and Apostle of the Saviour then passed away on the eleventh day before the kalends of August, attended by rejoicing angels, being made partners with them of heavenly powers, and worthy (with them) to see the King of Ages in His beauty, and to rejoice in the glory of His eternal light.
The blessed Maximinus placed her most holy body, preserved with diverse aromatics, in a wonderful sepulchre, and then, over her blessed remains, erected a Church of noble architecture. Her tomb is shown of white (or shining) marble (alabaster?), and bears upon it the carved representation of the anointing in the house of Simon, where St. Mary found the pardon of her sins, and also the service she rendered to her Lord when she brought spices to His sepulchre.
While these things were taking place near Aix, the metropolis of the ecclesiastical province of the Narbonnaise, at the same hour near Tarascon, in the province of Vienne, the servant of the Lord, St. Martha, being detained in bed by the fever, suddenly saw a choir of angels bearing the soul of her sister Mary Magdalene to heaven. Calling together those who attended her, she related to them what she had seen, asking them to rejoice with her and saying, 'O! most happy sister, what is this that you have done ? Why have you not visited me as you promised ? And are you rejoicing without me in the embrace of the Lord Jesus whom we have loved and who has so loved us ? But I shall follow where you are going. In the meantime rejoice in that eternal life to which you have gone. But be not forgetful of her who remembers you.'
The sainted heroine, comforted by this vision, more than ever desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ, scarcely bearing any longer to remain in the flesh, but desiring to be with her sister and the angels she had seen. Knowing that her departure would not be long delayed, she continually admonished, instructed and strengthened the Christians around her. So it came to pass that the report spread that the servant of God was dying, and a great multitude of the faithful came together; and determining to stay with her until she was buried, they made tents in the neighbouring woods, and fires were lighted in all directions.
On the evening of the seventh day following St. Martha commanded her attendants to light seven candles and three lamps. And about the middle of the night those who were watching were oppressed by a deep slumber and slept. And behold there came a vehement rushing wind and put out all the candles and lamps. Which when St. Martha saw she made the sign of the cross and prayed that she might be preserved from the snares of the evil ones. Then, calling her attendants she prayed them to rekindle the lights. This they ran to do, but while they were gone suddenly a heavenly light shone all around, and in that light appeared Mary Magdalene, the Apostle of Christ our Lord and Saviour, holding in her right hand a burning torch, which presently by its heavenly radiance re-lit the seven candles and the lamps that had been put out. Then, approaching the bed of her sister, she said, 'Hail, sainted sister!' And when St Martha had returned her salutation she continued, 'Behold, I have come to visit you while still living in the body as the blessed Maxirninus asked me, and here is your loving Lord and Saviour who calls you from this vale of miseries. So also He appeared to me, before my passing, and brought me to the palace of His glory. Gome, then, and do not tarry.' Saying this, she hastened with joy to make way for her Lord, who came near to Martha, and with most gentle aspect said to her, 'I am here to whom a short time since thou didst minister devotedly with all thy powers, to whom thou didst give the most grateful hospitality, to whom after My Passion thou didst many good deeds in My members and before whom, prostrating thyself, thou didst affirm, "I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, who should come into the world." Come, then, My hostess, come from your exile and receive your crown.'
Martha, hearing these words, attempted to rise and to follow the Saviour incontinently, but He said, 'Wait awhile, for I go to prepare a place for you, and will again return and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may also be.'
Having said this He disappeared, and her sister St. Mary was no longer seen, but the light which appeared with them continued to shine. At the same time the watchers returned and were astonished to see the lights which had been put out shining with unusual brilliancy.
When the day was come St. Martha commanded her attendants to place her out of doors. Quickly as the time passed, it seemed slow to her, and the morning appeared to have the length of a thousand years. A rough couch of straw was laid down under a spreading tree, and covered with a linen pall on which the figure of the cross was made with cinders. When the sun arose the servant of Christ was carried out and placed upon the cinders and, according to her wish, an image of the crucified Saviour was set up before her. There she rested for a space, and then looking at the multitude of Christians around her, she begged them in their prayers to entreat for her speedy release, and as they broke into weeping she turned her eyes to heaven and said: 'O my Lord and Saviour, wherefore is this waiting? When shall I come and appear before Thy face? Since Thou didst speak to me at the dawning of the day my soul hath failed me; . . . confound me not, O Lord, in my desire. O my God, make no long tarrying.'
So meditating she came in the spirit to consider how Christ had expired upon the cross at the ninth hour (as she had herself formerly witnessed), and bethmking her of the book of the Passion of Christ, written in Hebrew, which she brought with her from Jerusalem, she called St. Parmenas to her, gave him the book, and prayed him to read it to her that so the tedium of her expectation might be lightened.
On hearing him read in her own language of the Saviour's sufferings - of which she had been a witness - she buret into tears of compassion and began to weep, and forgetting for a time her own departure, she fixed her whole attention on the passion of her Lord. When the recital came to the passage where Christ, cornmit-ting His Spirit into the hands of the Father, 'gave up the ghost', she gave a deep sigh, and directly expired.
St. Martha thus slept in the Lord on the fourth day before the kalends of August, the eighth day after the death of her sister, St. Mary Magdalene, or the sixth day of the week, at the ninth hour of the day, and in the sixty-fifth year of her age. Her body being laid out and enfolded with due honour, was carried into the church of St. Martha by the friends who came with her from the East, and who, to that day, had remained with her. These were St. Parmenas, Germanus and Sosthenes, and Epaphras, who had been the companion of St. Trophimus, bishop of Aries; Marcella her servant, and Euchodia and Syntex.
These seven devoted three days to St. Martha's funeral rites, together with a multitude of people who came from all parts, and who until the third day kept watch around the holy body, praising God and making general illuminations by lighting candles in the church, lamps in the houses, and open fires in the neighbouring forest.
On the Sabbath day a tomb was prepared for the body of St. Martha in the church which had been consecrated, and on the day which is called the Lord's Day, at the third hour of the day, all came together in order to worthily bury the holy body of St. Martha. This was on the eve of the kalends of August.
At the same hour, at Petragoricus (Perigueux), a city of Aquitaine, St. Frontinus,6 the priest, being about to celebrate Mass, had fallen
6. A 'Fronto' is mentioned as a missionary Christian from Ephesus in the Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians (chap, i, 7), 'Crocus, Aresimus, Burrhus, Euplus and Fronto' being mentioned together as meeting St. Ignatius on his journey as a prisoner to Rome. Is there any relationship between this disciple and St. Front of Perigueux?
asleep in his chair when Christ appeared and said to him: 'Come, My son, do what thou didst promise and assist at the burying of Martha, My hostess.' And immediately in the twinkling of an eye both our Lord and St. Frontinus appeared in the church at Tarascon, holding books in their hands and standing, Christ at the head, and St. Frontinus at the foot of the body of St. Martha, and they alone placed it in the grave, to the wonder of those who were present. When the burial service was finished they departed.
Some of those who had attended the servant of the Saviour returned to the East - viz., Epaphras, Marcella, and Syntyche, who is buried in Philippi, and of whom the Apostle writes: Parmenas, full of faith and of the grace of God, who was found worthy of the martyr's crown, and Germanus and Euchodia. These afterwards, with St. Clement and others, helped the blessed Apostles in their work 'whose names are written in the book of life' (Phil. 4:2, 3).
Since the day of the death of St. Martha miracles without number have taken place in her church, health and soundness being restored to the blind, the deaf, the dumb, the lame, paralytics and persons suffering from fever, from leprosy and from possession of devils. Clovis, King of the Francs and Teutons, the first who bore the profession of the Christian faith, moved by the multitude and greatness of the miracles performed at the shrine of St. Martha, came to Tarascon, and as soon as he had touched the tomb of the saint was delivered from a grave disease of the kidney, which had caused him severe suffering. In grateful record of this great deliverance King Clovis gave to God three measures of lands around the church of St. Martha reaching to the farther side of the Rhone, with the towns, villages and woods situate upon them, sealing the deed with his ring. All this property the (church of the) sainted heroine possesses to this day. Robbery, pillage, sacrilege and false witness were frightfully and immediately punished here by the direct judgment of God and to the praise of the Lord Christ.
Hitherto it has sufficed to narrate the religious life and precious death of St. Martha the venerable servant of the Son of God, and this has now been done. The wonderful things done after her death, through her intercession and owing to her influence, as well as the account of the holy life and passion of her brother the blessed Lazarus bishop and martyr, these are reserved for a new volume. We shall here only briefly refer to the miracles that were done through (the intercession of) Mary Magdalene, the chosen of God, and only lightly glance at the death of the holy priest St. Maximinus.
Knowing that the time was near when he should be taken away from this world and receive the reward of his labours - as it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit-St. Maximinus ordered a place to be prepared for his burial in the church which we have already spoken of as having been built (with cunning workmanship) over the most holy body of the blessed Mary Magdalene. And he desired that his sarcophagus should be placed close to that of St. Mary, the chosen of God.
So, after he was dead, the holy body of St. Maximinus was thus honourably deposited by the faithful, and both St. Mary and St. Maximinus make beautiful the place of their burial, and by their intercession obtain miracles here for those who pray that they may gain health of soul and body.
This place has since become so sacred that no king or prince, or anyone else, however endued with power or wealth, can enter into the church here in order to ask for a blessing, except he shall have first put down his arms and set aside all animal desires and angry passions, so that, at length, he may enter in with all humility and devotion. And no woman of any condition, however high her rank or position, has had the boldness to presume to enter into this most holy temple.
This monastery-church is called the Abbey of St. Maximinus. It is situated in the county of Aix, and is greatly endowed with riches and honours. And it was on the sixth of the ides of June that the blessed priest St. Maximinus received his heavenly crown.