From the book “THE COMING OF THE SAINTS” (First published in 1906)
by J. W. Taylor
THE CONNECTED STORY OF THE LEGENDS
Once in a dream I saw the flowers
That bud and bloom in Paradise;
More fair they are than waking eyes
Have seen in all this world of ours. And faint the perfume-bearing rose,
And faint the lily on its stem,
And faint the perfect violet
Compared with them.
I saw the gate called Beautiful;
And looked, but scarce could look within;
I saw the golden streets begin, And outskirts of the glassy pool.
Oh, harps, oh crowns of plenteous stars,
Oh green palm branches many-leaved -
Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,
Nor heart conceived.
I hope to see these things again,
But not as once in dreams by night;
To see them with my very sight,
And touch and handle and attain:
To have all heaven beneath my feet
For narrow way that once they trod;
To have my part with all the saints,
And with my God.
IN attempting to gather together the various threads of love, of sympathy, of work and of adventure which run through the foregoing pages, I recognize that it is quite impossible to form with them any perfect picture or story. There are serious breaks in the tapestry, and no one can tell with any certainty whether the threads should be continuous or whether some of the material may be patchwork of a later date. But one thing is clear to me: no one is likely to read the picture aright who has not some real knowledge of Christian life and character, some definite appreciation of the great work done by unnoticed lives in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus, some recognition of the profound truth contained in the passage, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The loom may be of this world, but the tapestry, the colours and the inscription upon it are only partly of this world. They belong essentially to the spiritual and the heavenly.
We read the story of the Gospels and watch the slow unfolding of the spiritual character in the various disciples, and especially (apart from 'Peter, James and John') in Salome, in Mary Cleopas, in Mary Magdalene and Martha, in Lazarus and the man born blind, and cannot readily believe that all this had but little earthly sequel.
Somewhere, whether in East or West, God, Who had called them, lived with them and taught them in the Person of His Son, must have used them as His messengers and missioners. It was not in the Holy Land or in the immediate East, or we should read of them in the Acts of then Apostles. The silences of history (as in the case of St. James the Greater) correspond with the voices of tradition. We watch the 'Seventy' proceeding two by two upon their journeys for some time previous to the crucifixion. We see them in the towns and villages of Galilee and Samaria, and in the Syro-Phoenician towns on the border.
We remember the many ties of friendship and common work between Syro-Phoenicia and Judea; we see these renewed and sanctioned by the loving presence and healing power of Jesus.
Across the ‘great sea’ of the Mediterranean we trace the various Hebrew or Phoenician and Hebrew colonies, though their greatness and activity at this time were slowly waning - in Asia Minor (as at Tarsus), in Cyprus, in Africa, in Crete, Sicily, Sardinia and Spain - and as we read authoritatively in the Acts of the Apostles of the establishments Christian missions in the great Syrian capital of Antioch and in all the eastern colonies of the Phoenicians (Cyprus, Crete, Sicily and Africa) we cannot fail to recognize that such missions (essentially Semitic, between Jews and Jews or Canaanites) must have inevitably spread before long to the more distant colonies also.
At this stage we pick up the thread of the 'Recognitions', inter-lacing, as it does, with that belonging to the historian St. Luke. We see the best-known friends of Jesus hunted out of Jerusalem, and some of these finding a temporary shelter at the Roman capital and seaport, Caesarea. Peter, Philip, Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea and the ‘Holy Women’ are of this company, and early Christian visitors from distant parts (such as Barnabas and Clement) are coming or going, calling to comfort, or be comforted by, the brethren dwelling or sheltering there.
The next important thread is one of great adventure - the mission of St. James the Greater to Sardinia and to Spain. The source of it is traditional, but the supposed date of it exactly corresponds with the almost necessary absence of St. James from Jerusalem; the tradition of it is immemorially ancient, and even adverse critics are constrained to admit its strength and importance. But if we accept this, and trace the return and martyrdom of St. James as briefly recorded in history and pictured for us here, we seem bound also to recognize another thread closely connected with this - a delicate thread of human love - which accompanies, or rather continues, the thread of adventure. We find this in the beautiful tradition of St. Mary Salome or ‘the three Maries’.
Perhaps, if we consider this portion of the tapestry or picture by itself, there may appear to be something far-fetched or unlikely in the presentation. As we watch the aged women, St. Mary Salome and St. Mary Cleopas, depicted as going with St. Mary Magdalene, and her reputed company on their long journey from East to West, the unlikeliness of such a far expatriation in the latter years of life is marked and almost startling.
But when we trace the intimate association almost certainly existing between this tradition and the tradition of the previous mission of St. James the Greater, all the difficulties vanish.
We remember how St. Salome's life was wrapped up in her sons, how she came to Jesus worshipping Him, and praying that one should sit on His right hand and the other on His left hand in His Kingdom (Matt. 20:21). We recall also that St. John had taken the blessed Mary under his special protection after the crucifixion of our Lord. Remembering these things, anyone who understands something of a mother's self-sacrificing but still not self-less love - who knows the power of the distant missionary field in calling on the love of those who have loved the labourers - will see at once the reasonableness, the naturalness, the almost inevitable consequence of the following of Salome.
Whether she undertook the journey while her son was still preaching in Spain, or whether - as some of the legends affirm - she and St. Mary Cleopas took the martyred body of her son back towards the scene of his former labours, it matters little. The spiritual love of the mother for her boy is quite enough to account for what is otherwise unreasonable in the distant journey.1
And the writings of St. Paul are, at all events, in harmony with such interpretations. If, as I have already suggested, the later labours of St. Peter and St. Paul were much more for the gathering together of the scattered Christians, for the building up and confirming of the Churches, a new light is thrown on St. Paul's anxiety to go to Spain. He knew that St. James had suffered martyrdom, and that, whatever may have been intended by those who followed him to the West, but little or no further progress had been made in Spanish missionary effort, and he would necessarily be anxious lest the interrupted work of the Apostle James, for want of the organizing and directing power of the Church, should suffer loss or be swept away as though it had never been. The coupling, too, of this work with the work he promised himself in Rome suggests a similarity in both that has certainly not received the attention it deserves.
Another thread or clue of some importance is that afforded us by the name of 'Austroclinianus' in the Acts of Barnabas. For some centuries the thread seems lost, and then it reappears in the traditions of South-Western France. In both places Austroclinian is spoken of as a convert of Antioch, and in the Acts of Barnabas we read of him as a native of Cyprus, and as having been ordained to missionary work in Cyprus. No direct mention is made of this in the French chronicles, but it is a significant fact that two other names are traditionally remembered in the same neighbourhood as missionaries from Cyprus. These are Lazarus, whose first-century (?) crypt is preserved at Marseilles, and Sergius Paulus (mentioned by St. Luke in Acts 13:7-12), whose relics are said to rest in the old church dedicated to his memory at Narbonne.
Much in the same way, if we turn back to the early records of the Church at Caesarea and find again the fist thread of the 'Recognitions' - Philip, Zaccheus, Joseph and the Holy Women - if we take up also part of the second thread connected with this town
1 The earliest Christians, who were firm believers in the resurrection of the Lord, and who had (many of them) seen Him after He had risen from the dead, must have been at first uncertain as to what might be expected regarding the bodies of those they loved, and especially the bodies of those who had died for the Faith. Might they not hope that these would finally undergo the triumph and glory of a resurrection? Until they could be certain about this, such a dream or hope would of itself account for the jealous way in which they guarded the bodies of their dead, hoping not for themselves (conscious as each might be of failure), but hoping against hope for those whom they had loved and honoured and revered, that some morning the lifeless clay might have vanished from its resting-place and the risen master or father or son be waiting to greet the watching disciple.
as given us by the historian St. Luke in the history of St. Paul and Trophimus, and slowly follow these onwards, we can trace the same threads, or something very like them, in the history of Rabanus and in the corresponding traditions of the Rhone Valley, of Rocamadour, of Brittany and England. For we find these not only related to the reputed previous mission of St. James and the following of St. Mary Salome, but in the further pictures presented to our view by the extended series of traditions, the threads we are holding appear again and again, and one of them can be traced through the whole of the series. The one thread is the track of the journey of St. Joseph of Arimathea, and the other is formed by the apostolate or bishopric of St. Trophimus. This latter is, I believe, historical, and has already been sufficiently considered in the chapters on Gaesarea and St. Trophimus. The track of St. Joseph's journey brings all the remaining traditions together and demands some further notice, for in it we find the strongest ground for believing that there must be some historical basis underlying them.
The traditional sites of the earliest, missions across the Mediterranean from East to West - from Palestine to Gaul, and again from Gaul across the Continent and Channel to Great Britain - form when connected a map or missionary route (extending from Caesarea in Palestine as far as Glastonbury in England) rational, almost direct, and following the probable lines of the commercial traffic of the period.
Each chief place of stopping has its own reputed 'Apostle' or set of missionary teachers. These are said to have remained, and round them gather the local traditions and legends of the neighbourhood. Through most of these main traditional sites or missionary stations (Jerusalem, Caesarea, Marseilles, Limoges, Morlaix and Cornwall) there passes, as we have seen, the figure of St. Joseph of Arimathea to his final resting-place at Glastonbury.
Some traces of varying value - but some traces of the reputed early Hebrew missionaries, are apparently found immemorially attached to each place or district on the line of journey, and accepting these as landmarks we are in a position to construct or reconstruct the following itinerary:
1. At Caesarea we find the residence of St. Philip, the first Hebrew missionary to the Gentiles (New Test.), the sender of St. Joseph (Chronicles of Glastonbury) and the missionary to the Gauls (St. Isidorus). Here, too (according to the 'Recognitions' and 'Homilies' of St. Clement), we find the temporary residence of Zaccheus, Joseph, Lazarus and the 'Holy Women'.
2. At Cyrene we find the residence of several Jewish missionaries of the same date as St. Philip (New Test).
3. At Crete (Phenice) we find one of the earliest missionary stations (New Test.).
4. At Syracuse we find the tradition of a mission sent from Antioch from A.D. 40.
5. At Rome we find the history of a mission quite as early as that of Antioch (or earlier) ('Recognitions' and 'Homilies'), and evidence of a Church formed there before either St. Peter or St. Paul had visited it (New Test.).
6. At Marseilles and Ste. Raume we find cave churches or hermitages of the early Christians, immemorially held as such and identified with the names of St. Lazarus and St. Mary. St. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have come with them and passed on (Local tradition and Life of Rabanus).
7. At Limoges and Rocamadour we find a similar cave-shelter and the traditional coming of Jewish missionaries in the first century, one of whom is St. Joseph of Arimathea. Two remain (St. Zaccheus and St. Martial), St. Joseph passes on (Tradition).
8. At Morlaix a companion or disciple of St. Joseph of Arimathea (St. Drennalus) is said to have preached in A.D. 72.2 Again, at Fecamp, at some distance along this coast, we find the legend of the washing ashore of the trunk of a fig-tree belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. The name (Ficus Campus) Fecamp is said to have arisen from a belief in the legend.
9. In Cornwall we find a tradition that St. Joseph of Arimathea came in a boat and brought the infant Christ with him. He passes on (Tradition).
10. At Glastonbury we find the tradition that St. Joseph came here, lived here, built a church of wattles here, and died here (Chronicles of Glastonbury, supported by Welsh Triads, etc.).
Such a summary is certainly remarkable. The fact that the various histories and traditions do not conflict with or contradict one another but, on the contrary, combine to substantiate the traditional journey of St. Joseph, is one which demands some explanation. Are we not almost forced to the conclusion either that as early as the
2 The Latin name of the town, Mons Relaxus, came from its fortress which existed at the time of the Roman occupation. Drennalus, disciple of Joseph of Arimathaea and first Bishop of Treguier, is said to have preached the gospel here, A.D. 72 (North-Western France, Augustus Hare. George Allen, 1895).
eighth or ninth century (or before this) a worldwide conspiracy of fiction was undertaken (and undertaken successfully) by the deliberate planting of local traditions which should combine to form a harmonious whole, or that behind these local traditions there has always existed a substream of historical fact which itself is the reason of their mutual harmony and support? For my own part the first hypothesis appears to me to be wild and ‘singular’ and unbelievable; the second hypothesis, on the contrary, is consistent with the known relations of tradition and history in all ages and countries, and is in the strictest harmony with all the earliest Christian literature.
A few subsidiary or finer threads remain to be considered.
I have already referred to the importance of Christian names as bearing on contemporary or previous Christian association. One definite consequence of the Christian conversion of Britain seems to have been the taking of old Hebrew names by British converts. Nearly all the great heroes of Hebrew history appear to have been chosen as namesakes. We find:
‘Moses’, a British Apostle of the Saracens, Com. February 7th.
‘Aaron’, native of Caerleon, martyred with Julius, July 1st, c. 287.
‘Samson’, son of Caw, lived about 500.
‘David’, first bishop of Menevia. Died March 1st, 544, act. 82.
‘Daniel’, first bishop of Bangor, died 534, Com. December 10th.
‘Baruch’, a hermit, 600-700.
'Judoc5, c. 650.
‘Stephanus’, martyred in the persecution of Diocletian.
‘Petrock’, or Peter, died 564.
‘Paulinus’, or Paul, disciple of St. Germanus.3
Most of these names must have been taken because of special interest in Hebrew history. Whence came the knowledge of this history, if not from Hebrew teachers? And why is the Hebrew interest apparently more marked in Christian Britain than in Christian Gaul?
Side by side with these names we notice some examples of the more usual class of Christian names, those chosen from the names of honoured forebears or Christian saints, and especially those chosen from the names of the early missionaries.
3 On looking over the early Welsh pedigrees and the genealogical tables constructed by Professor Rees, many of the relatives of St. Cadfrawd, or 'Adelphius', appear to have had names suggestive of some strong Hebrew strain or relationship, derived, perhaps, from the first Christian missionaries. Among such names are the following: Aron, Teon, Urien, Pasgen, Owain (John), Iago (James), Androenus (Andrew), Asaf, Sawyl, Dewi (David), Jestin and Arwystli.
We do not find the name of St. Joseph among the early British Christians, for he is supposed to have been given (as we have already seen) the British appellation of ‘Cyndaf,’ implying ‘head or chief,’ and no one could voluntarily assume the same name after him, but we find the recurring names of Mawan, of Arwystli, of Cadfarch and of Rhystyd, the Welsh equivalent for Restitutus. The name of the British 'Restitutus' who was bishop of London in 314 is somewhat remarkable. He was perhaps of Roman birth (Restitutus being a fairly common Latin name, as we know from the letters of Pliny), but it is quite as likely that he was the descendant of some Gallican convert who came over to Britain at the time of the great persecution, and that his name was given in honour of that older Restitutus who, according to tradition, was known and beloved in Provence and had been a fellow-pilgrim with St. Joseph when they both left Palestine.
Most of the children, then as now, would be given the names of their relatives or more immediate friends, but occasionally the Christian convert or the child of Christian parents would take the name of some missionary or saint, and especially of one who was connected with the local religious life of the preceding age.
Of these 'namesakes', again, only a small number might grow up to fulfil the promise of their childhood, and it may well have been the children or grandchildren of these (named after their fathers), rather than the namesakes themselves, who attained both a holy life and high distinction.
It is very much in the proportion suggested by this that we find the names of the saints recurring among the prominent early Christians. For 'Restitutus' does not stand alone in relation to the traditions of the Provencal saints. At Aix, after the (doubtful) names of St. Maximin and St. Sidonius, the first, or one of the first, historical bishops whose identity cannot be questioned, is one who lived about A.D. 400, and who bears the name of Lazarus. At Aries, the fifth known bishop after Trophimus has the name of Crescens; Crescens himself, at Vienne, was followed by Zacharias; at Treves in 344 the name of the bishop is Maximinius, or 'Maximin'. Euodius is one of the signatories of the Council of Valence in 374, and the earliest known bishop of Besangon is Chelidonius, who was contemporary with Hilary of Aries.
Frail as they are - frail as gossamer, if you like - these are still fine threads which bind together the Christianity of tradition with the Christianity of the Bible, and both of these with the histories of Gaul and of Britain. When you realize that within some two or three hundred years, over a limited tract of country, you find in convert bishops the names of the reputed teachers of their fathers - of Lazarus, of Maximin, of Restitutus, of Chelidonius, of Crescens and Euodius - and out of the list of names of contemporary bishops you can form no artificial combination so striking - not even one of the names of the Apostles - the work of Rabanus and the legends of the saints cannot but gain in value and demand a greater consideration.
In nearly all the earliest missions out of Palestine Hebrews and Gentiles appear to have worked together - at Ephesus, at Athens, at Rome, at Marseilles and at Glastonbury; and it is interesting to find in this and in immediately succeeding ages a transient time when Jew and Gentile forgot their differences, and Gentile children gladly took the names of Jewish missionaries.4
The one weak point in the credibility of the traditions we have been considering is (as I have said before) the silence of the first five centuries regarding them.
But before we consider this as fatal we have to determine, as far as possible, what is the natural history of the beginnings of any foreign unrecognized and largely unsuccessful mission.
Do we not find over and over again that every detail of its earliest history is absolutely unrecorded and practically lost: that for three or four centuries the thoughts of all the chief adherents have been fixed on growth and on success: that tentative efforts and failures have been deliberately forgotten, and that even historians toward the end of such a period either hear nothing of, or regard as unimportant, any local accounts of those who first began to teach the Faith, but had few converts, built no churches, and established no permanent centres of government? In Africa, where the Church developed most rapidly, where great writers such as Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen are to be found engaged in compiling books and treatises from the very earliest times; in Spain, where in A.D. 306 there was a great Council of Spanish clergy at Elvira, attended by 'nineteen bishops, thirty-six priests and many deacons'; in Gaul, the country of the great persecution in A.D. 177; in Germany and Britain, the history is still the same. We have to depend almost entirely on legend and tradition for any account of the earliest beginnings of the Faith, and these records being mainly oral, can rarely, if ever, be traced to anything like the higher limits of antiquity.
Long before the date of any published records regarding these, we find historical notices (whether dependable or not) of the great successes of the Faith; of churches and of sees, of great writers and controversies, of martyrs and of saints.
It is not until a long time after such historical records that the traveller and antiquarian, finding some almost unknown names and legends connected with the local history of Christianity in certain districts, begin to find in these and in local monuments and local memories some traces of a history older than that recorded by the better-known books and parchments.
And then we get some record of the tales 'told by our forefathers' - full, it may be, of unintentional inaccuracies and of unintentional additions but, because not designedly untruthful, still enshrining definite truths and often the only truths we can ever obtain about the very beginnings of missionary effort.
What is the great picture that all this unfolding 'tapestry' of the legends presents to us but a most rational portrayal of what is otherwise a mystery of blankness? We have to account in some way for the great Gallican Churches of the early martyrs in the second century, and for the early knowledge of the Faith in Spain and England as well as in Italy. We have, too, to account in some way for the fact that nowhere outside of Asia is Christianity so pure and so advanced as in the Valley of the Rhone, at only the distance of one or two generations from the times of the Apostles.
No other histories are known to us. On the one hand we find a blank wall of impenetrable darkness; on the other a pictured and written surface, on which many hands have laboured, the whole, however, forming a connected story with harmony of colouring and perspective in which it seems difficult to find the least conflicting element.
We see 'the Holy Women' who have attended their Lord and Master throughout the whole of His ministry - Mary Salome, Mary Cleopas, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Joanna - not neglectful or disobedient after His ascension, but gladly accepting danger, toil and suffering for the hope and the joy set before them, knowing, as no one else could know, the blessedness of the daily walk with Jesus, and longing to tell others of that constant Light and leading which His presence brings to those who follow Him. We see them ministering to strangers in a distant country and, associated with them in their labours, we see the very men who, in the Gospels, had received most from Jesus or given most to Him: the dead whom Christ had raised to life, the blind whose sight the Saviour had restored, and the rich from whom the Lord of all things had deigned to receive the shelter of the sepulchre and spices of His burying. We see those among whom they lived and laboured growing day by day to understand more and more of that sweet self-sacrificing love which draws all men to the feet and heart of Jesus - we see them becoming disciples of the disciples of their Master - we see their grandchildren strong in choosing death rather than the denial of their Lord - we see St. Trophimus from Ephesus and Caesarea organizing the Church and bringing with him that rich and subtle tincture of the cultivated East which has never entirely faded from Galilean and British Christianity - we see his spiritual successors, Pothinus and Irenaeus, carrying on the work which the gates of hell are powerless to withstand.
And 'above all, and through all, and in all' we mark the presence of the unseen but ever-living Christ redeeming His chosen 'from among men - the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb' (Rev, 14:4).
As one who came with ointments sweet;
Abettors to her fleshly guilt,
And brake and poured them at Thy feet
And worshipped Thee with spikenard spilt:
So from a body full of blame,
And tongue too deeply versed in shame
Do I pour speech upon Thy Name.
O Thou, if tongue may yet beseech,
Near to Thine awful Feet let reach
This broken spikenard of my speech!
TO BE CONTINUED
YES IT IS PRETTY EASY TO IMAGINE AND INDEED KNOW, THE JOY AND ENTHUSIASM THOSE FIRST APOSTLES AND DISCIPLES [MAN AND WOMEN] MUST HAVE HAD, TO PREACH AND TEACH OTHERS NEAR AND FAR, THE WONDERFUL TEACHINGS AND MIRACLES OF JESUS THE CHRIST. THERE CAN BE LITTLE TO NO DOUBT THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD MOVED THEM, TO JOURNEY OUT TO THE DISTANT PARTS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.
OUR GOD HAD ALREADY DECIDED CENTURIES BEFORE THAT ISRAEL [HOUSE OF] WOULD HAVE A NEW CENTRAL LAND THAT WOULD BE THE CAPITAL LAND OF HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE.
TO THAT LAND [BRITAIN] WOULD COME THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS CHRIST.
SO IT WAS DONE, AND ALL ALONG THE WAY TO THAT “OUTPOST” OF THE EMPIRE OF ROME, CAME CHRISTIANITY TO THE REGIONS OF EUROPE.
WE KNOW FROM THE RECORDED HISTORIES OF EUSEBIUS AND BEDE, THAT BRITISH CHRISTIANITY WAS MORE PURE THAN THE ROMAN CHRISTIAN THAT CAME MANY CENTURIES LATER, BEING ESTABLISHED IN THAT ISLAND NATION BY THE EARLY CHRISTIAN PIONEERS TO HER SHORES.
OH THE HISTORIES THAT WE SHALL BE TOLD WHEN THE DAY ARRIVES FOR THE RESURRECTION OF THE SAINTS, AT THE COMING OF CHRIST. I FOR ONE WILL LONG TO HEAR THEM.