Sanctus Eligius

Rogo vos, fratres karissimi, et cum grandi humilitate admoneo, ut intentis animis auscultare iubeatis, quae vobis pro salute vestra suggerere volo.
ante omnia autem illud denuntio atque contestor, ut nullas paganorum sacrilegas consuetudines observetis, non caraios, non divinos, non sortilegos, non praecantatores; nec pro ulla causa aut infirmitate eos consulere vel interrogare praesumatis; quia qui facit hoc malum, statim perdit baptismi sacramentum. similiter et auguria, vel sternutationes nolite observare, nec in itinere positi aliquas aviculas cantantes attendatis, sed sive iter, seu quodcunque operis arripitis, signate vos in nomine Christi, et symbolum, et orationem Dominicam cum fide et devotione dicite, et nihil vobis nocere poterit inimicus. nullus Christianus observet qua die domum exeat, vel qua die revertatur, quia omnes dies Deus fecit: nullus ad inchoandum opus diem vel lunam attendat: nullus in Kalendis Ianuarii nefanda et ridiculosa, vetulas, aut cervulos, aut iotticos faciat, neque mensas super noctem componat, neque strenas, aut bibitiones superfluas exerceat. nullus Christianus in puras credat, neque in cantu sedeat, quia opera diabolica sunt: nullus in festivitate sancti Ioannis, vel quibuslibet sanctorum solemnitatibus, solstitia, aut vallationes, vel saltationes, aut caraulas, aut cantica diabolica exerceat: nullus nomina daemonum, aut Neptunum, aut Orcum, aut Dianam, aut Minervam, aut Geniscum, aut caeteras huiusmodi ineptias credere, aut invocare praesumat. nullus diem Iovis absque festivitatibus sanctis, nec in Maio, nec ullo tempore in otio observet, neque dies tiniarum, vel murorum, aut vel unum omnino diem, nisi tantum Dominicum. nullus Christianus ad fana, vel ad petras, vel ad fontes, vel ad arbores, aut ad cellos, vel per trivia luminaria faciat, aut vota reddere praesumat: nullus ad colla vel hominis, vel cuiuslibet animalis ligamina dependere praesumat, etiamsi a clericis fiant, et si dicatur quod res sancta sit, et lectiones divinas contineat, quia non est in eis remedium Christi, sed venenum diaboli. nullus praesumat lustrationes facere nec herbas incantare, neque pecora per cavam arborem, vel per terram foratam transire, quia per haec videtur diabolo ea consecrare. nulla mulier praesumat succinos ad collum dependere, nec in tela vel in tinctura, sive quolibet opere Minervam, vel infaustas caeteras personas nominare, sed in omni opere Christi gratiam adesse optare, et in virtute nominis eius toto corde confidere. nullus, si quando luna obscuratur, vociferare praesumat, quia Deo iubente certis temporibus obscuratur; nec luna nova quisquam timeat aliquid operis arripere, quia Deus ad hoc lunam fecit ut tempora designet, et noctium tenebras temperet, non ut alicuius opus impediat, aut dementem faciat hominem, sicut stulti putant, qui a daemonibus invasos a luna pati arbitrantur. nullus dominos solem aut lunam vocet, neque per eos iuret; quia creatura Dei sunt, et necessitatibus hominum iussu Dei inserviunt: nullus sibi proponat fatum vel fortunam, aut genesim, quod vulgo nascentia dicitur, ut dicat, qualem nascentia attulit, taliter erit; quia Deus omnes homines vult salvos fieri, et ad agnitionem veritatis venire [I Tim. II, 4] , atque omnia in sapientia dispensat, sicut disposuit ante constitutionem mundi. praeterea quoties aliqua infirmitas supervenerit, non quaerantur praecantatores, non divini, non sortilegi, non caragi, nec per fontes aut arbores, vel bivios diabolica phylacteria exerceantur; sed qui aegrotat, in sola Dei misericordia confidat, et Eucharistiam corporis et sanguinis Christi cum fide ac devotione accipiat, oleumque benedictum fideliter ab ecclesia petat, unde corpus suum in nomine Christi ungat, et secundum apostolum oratio fidei salvabit infirmum, et allevabit eum Dominus; et non solum corporis, sed etiam animae sanitatem recipiet, complebiturque in illo quod Dominus in Evangelio promisit, dicens: “omnia enim quaecunque petieritis in oratione credentes, accipietis” [Iacob. 5.15; Matth. 21.22].
(Audoenus Rothomagensis, Vita Sancti Eligii 2.16)

I ask you dearest brothers and admonish you with great humility to command your intent spirit to listen to what I wish to suggest to you for your salvation.
Before all else, I denounce and contest, that you shall observe no sacrilegious pagan customs. For no cause or infirmity should you consult magicians, diviners, sorcerers or incantators, or presume to question them because any man who commits such evil will immediately lose the sacrament of baptism. Do not observe auguries or violent sneezing or pay attention to any little birds singing along the road. If you are distracted on the road or at any other work, make the sign of the cross and say your Sunday prayers with faith and devotion and nothing inimical can hurt you. No Christian should be concerned about which day he leaves home or which day he returns because God has made all days. No influence attaches to the first work of the day or the [phase of the] moon; nothing is ominous or ridiculous about the Calends of January. [Do not] make [figures of?] vetulas, little deer or iotticos or set tables at night or exchange New Years’ gifts or supply superfluous drinks. No Christian believes impurity or sits in incantation, because the work is diabolic. No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [solstice rites?] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants. No Christian should presume to invoke the name of a demon, not Neptune or Orcus or Diana or Minerva or Geniscus or believe in these inept beings in any way. No one should observe Jove’s day in idleness without holy festivities not in May or any other time, not days of larvae or mice or any day but Sunday. No Christian should make or render any devotion to the gods of the trivium, where three roads meet, to the fanes or the rocks, or springs or groves or corners. None should presume to hang any phylacteries from the neck of man nor beast, even if they are made by priests and it is said that they contain holy things and divine scripture because there is no remedy of Christ in these things but only the devil’s poison. None should presume to make lustrations or incantations with herbs, or to pass cattle through a hollow tree or ditch because this is to consecrate them to the devil. No woman should presume to hang amber from her neck or call upon Minerva or other ill-starred beings in their weaving or dyeing but in all works give thanks only to Christ and confide in the power of his name with all your hearts. None should presume to shout when the moon is obscured, for by God’s order eclipses happen at certain times. Nor should they fear the new moon or abandon work because of it. For God made the moon for this, to mark time and temper the darkness of night, not impede work nor make men mad as the foolish imagine, who believe lunatics are invaded by demons from the moon. None should call the sun or moon lord or swear by them because they are God’s creatures and they serve the needs of men by God’s order. No one should tell fate or fortune or horoscopes by them as those do who believe that a person must be what he was born to be. For God wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth and dispenses wisdom to all as he disposed it before the constitution of the world. Above all, should any infirmity occur, do not seek incantators or diviners or sorcerers or magicians, do not use diabolic phylacteries through springs and groves or crossroads. But let the invalid confide solely in the mercy of God and take the body and blood of Christ with faith and devotion and ask the church faithfully for blessing and oil, with which he might anoint his body in the name of Christ and, according to the apostle, “the prayer of faith will save the infirm and the Lord will relieve him.” And he will not only receive health for the body but for the soul and what the Lord promised in the Gospel will be fulfilled saying: “For whatever you shall ask, you will receive through believing prayer.” (tr. Jo Ann McNamara)


Val van Babylon (tapijt uit Angers, Frankrijk)

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Εὐφραίνου ἐπ’ αὐτῇ, οὐρανέ, καὶ οἱ ἅγιοι καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ προφῆται, ὅτι ἔκρινεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ κρίμα ὑμῶν ἐξ αὐτῆς. καὶ ἦρεν εἷς ἄγγελος ἰσχυρὸς λίθον ὡς μύλον μέγαν καὶ ἔβαλεν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν λέγων· “οὕτως ὁρμήματι βληθήσεται Βαβυλὼν ἡ μεγάλη πόλις, καὶ οὐ μὴ εὑρεθῇ ἔτι. καὶ φωνὴ κιθαρῳδῶν καὶ μουσικῶν καὶ αὐλητῶν καὶ σαλπιστῶν οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ πᾶς τεχνίτης πάσης τέχνης οὐ μὴ εὑρεθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ φωνὴ μύλου οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ φῶς λύχνου οὐ μὴ φανῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι, καὶ φωνὴ νυμφίου καὶ νύμφης οὐ μὴ ἀκουσθῇ ἐν σοὶ ἔτι· ὅτι οἱ ἔμποροί σου ἦσαν οἱ μεγιστᾶνες τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἐν τῇ φαρμακείᾳ σου ἐπλανήθησαν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ ἐν αὐτῇ αἵματα προφητῶν καὶ ἁγίων εὑρέθη καὶ πάντων τῶν ἐσφαγμένων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.
(John of Patmos, Rev. 18.20-24)

Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” (King James Version)


Val van Babylon (Ottheinrichbijbel, folio 302v.)
Ottheinrich-Bibel f. 302v

This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

Καὶ κλαύσουσιν αὐτὴν καὶ κόψονται ἐπ’ αὐτῇ οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς οἱ μετ’ αὐτῆς πορνεύσαντες καὶ στρηνιάσαντες, ὅταν βλέπωσι τὸν καπνὸν τῆς πυρώσεως αὐτῆς, ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ἑστηκότες διὰ τὸν φόβον τοῦ βασανισμοῦ αὐτῆς, λέγοντες· “οὐαὶ οὐαί, ἡ πόλις ἡ μεγάλη Βαβυλὼν, ἡ πόλις ἡ ἰσχυρά, ὅτι μιᾷ ὥρᾳ ἦλθεν ἡ κρίσις σου.” καὶ οἱ ἔμποροι τῆς γῆς κλαίουσι καὶ πενθοῦσιν ἐπ’ αὐτῇ, ὅτι τὸν γόμον αὐτῶν οὐδεὶς ἀγοράζει οὐκέτι, γόμον χρυσοῦ καὶ ἀργύρου καὶ λίθου τιμίου καὶ μαργαρίτου, καὶ βυσσίνου καὶ πορφύρας καὶ σηρικοῦ καὶ κοκκίνου, καὶ πᾶν ξύλον θύϊνον καὶ πᾶν σκεῦος ἐλεφάντινον καὶ πᾶν σκεῦος ἐκ ξύλου τιμιωτάτου καὶ χαλκοῦ καὶ σιδήρου καὶ μαρμάρου, καὶ κινάμωμον καὶ ἄμωμον καὶ θυμιάματα, καὶ μύρον καὶ λίβανον καὶ οἶνον καὶ ἔλαιον καὶ σεμίδαλιν καὶ σῖτον καὶ κτήνη καὶ πρόβατα, καὶ ἵππων καὶ ῥεδῶν καὶ σωμάτων, καὶ ψυχὰς ἀνθρώπων. καὶ ἡ ὀπώρα τῆς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ψυχῆς σου ἀπώλετο ἀπὸ σοῦ, καὶ πάντα τὰ λιπαρὰ καὶ τὰ λαμπρὰ ἀπῆλθεν ἀπὸ σοῦ, καὶ οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ αὐτὰ εὑρήσεις. οἱ ἔμποροι τούτων, οἱ πλουτήσαντες ἀπ’ αὐτῆς, ἀπὸ μακρόθεν στήσονται διὰ τὸν φόβον τοῦ βασανισμοῦ αὐτῆς κλαίοντες καὶ πενθοῦντες, λέγοντες· “οὐαὶ οὐαί, ἡ πόλις ἡ μεγάλη, ἡ περιβεβλημένη βύσσινον καὶ πορφυροῦν καὶ κόκκινον, καὶ κεχρυσωμένη ἐν χρυσίῳ καὶ λίθῳ τιμίῳ καὶ μαργαρίταις, ὅτι μιᾷ ὥρᾳ ἠρημώθη ὁ τοσοῦτος πλοῦτος.” καὶ πᾶς κυβερνήτης καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἐπὶ τόπον πλέων, καὶ ναῦται καὶ ὅσοι τὴν θάλασσαν ἐργάζονται, ἀπὸ μακρόθεν ἔστησαν, καὶ ἔκραζον βλέποντες τὸν καπνὸν τῆς πυρώσεως αὐτῆς, λέγοντες· “τίς ὁμοία τῇ πόλει τῇ μεγάλῃ;” καὶ ἔβαλον χοῦν ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτῶν καὶ ἔκραζον κλαίοντες καὶ πενθοῦντες, λέγοντες· “οὐαὶ οὐαί, ἡ πόλις ἡ μεγάλη, ἐν ᾗ ἐπλούτησαν πάντες οἱ ἔχοντες τὰ πλοῖα ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ ἐκ τῆς τιμιότητος αὐτῆς· ὅτι μιᾷ ὥρᾳ ἠρημώθη.”
(John of Patmos, Rev. 18.9-19)

And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.” And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: the merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, “Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches is come to nought.” And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, “What city is like unto this great city!” And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.” (King James Version)


Apocalyps van Johannes (orthodoxe icoon), 1e helft 16e eeuw

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον ἄλλον ἄγγελον καταβαίνοντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἔχοντα ἐξουσίαν μεγάλην, καὶ ἡ γῆ ἐφωτίσθη ἐκ τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔκραξεν ἐν ἰσχυρᾷ φωνῇ λέγων· “ἔπεσεν, ἔπεσε Βαβυλὼν ἡ μεγάλη, καὶ ἐγένετο κατοικητήριον δαιμονίων καὶ φυλακὴ παντὸς πνεύματος ἀκαθάρτου καὶ φυλακὴ παντὸς ὀρνέου ἀκαθάρτου καὶ μεμισημένου· ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς πέπωκαν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς μετ’ αὐτῆς ἐπόρνευσαν, καὶ οἱ ἔμποροι τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς δυνάμεως τοῦ στρήνους αὐτῆς ἐπλούτησαν.” καὶ ἤκουσα ἄλλην φωνὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ λέγουσαν· “ἔξελθε ἐξ αὐτῆς ὁ λαός μου, ἵνα μὴ συγκοινωνήσητε ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις αὐτῆς, καὶ ἵνα ἐκ τῶν πληγῶν αὐτῆς μὴ λάβητε· ὅτι ἐκολλήθησαν αὐτῆς αἱ ἁμαρτίαι ἄχρι τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ ἐμνημόνευσεν ὁ Θεὸς τὰ ἀδικήματα αὐτῆς. ἀπόδοτε αὐτῇ ὡς καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέδωκε, καὶ διπλώσατε αὐτῇ διπλᾶ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῆς· ἐν τῷ ποτηρίῳ ᾧ ἐκέρασε κεράσατε αὐτῇ διπλοῦν. ὅσα ἐδόξασεν αὑτὴν καὶ ἐστρηνίασε, τοσοῦτον δότε αὐτῇ βασανισμὸν καὶ πένθος. ὅτι ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτῆς λέγει, ὅτι κάθημαι καθὼς βασίλισσα καὶ χήρα οὐκ εἰμὶ καὶ πένθος οὐ μὴ ἴδω, διὰ τοῦτο ἐν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ ἥξουσιν αἱ πληγαὶ αὐτῆς, θάνατος καὶ πένθος καὶ λιμός, καὶ ἐν πυρὶ κατακαυθήσεται· ὅτι ἰσχυρὸς Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ὁ κρίνας αὐτήν.”
(John of Patmos, Rev. 18.1-8)

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.” And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” (King James Version)




Metus remitte, prospero regnum in statu est
domusque florens sorte felici viget.
sed tu beatis mitior rebus veni!
namque anxiam me cura sollicitat tui,
quod te ipse poenis gravibus infestus domas.
quem fata cogunt, ille cum venia est miser;
at si quis ultro se malis offert volens
seque ipse torquet, perdere est dignus bona
quis nescit uti. potius annorum memor
mentem relaxa: noctibus festis facem
attolle, curas Bacchus exoneret graves.
aetate fruere: mobili cursu fugit.
nunc facile pectus, grata nunc iuveni Venus:
exultet animus. cur toro viduo iaces?
tristem iuventam solve; nunc cursus rape,
effunde habenas, optimos vitae dies
effluere prohibe. propria descripsit deus
officia et aevum per suos ducit gradus:
laetitia iuvenem, frons decet tristis senem.
Quid te coërces et necas rectam indolem?
seges illa magnum fenus agricolae dabit
quaecumque laetis tenera luxuriat satis,
arborque celso vertice evincet nemus
quam non maligna caedit aut resecat manus:
ingenia melius recta se in laudes ferunt,
si nobilem animum vegeta libertas alit.
truculentus et silvester ac vitae inscius
tristem iuventam Venere deserta coles?
hoc esse munus credis indictum viris,
ut dura tolerent, cursibus domitent equos
et saeva bella Marte sanguineo gerant?
(Seneca Minor, Phaedra 436-465)


Have no fear, the kingdom prospers and the house is flourishing vigorously amidst good fortune. But you should meet your blessings with more geniality! I am troubled by anxious cares about you, because you subdue yourself like an enemy with heavy ordeals. A person coerced by fate may be forgiven for unhappiness; but if someone willingly volunteers for suffering and tortures himself, he deserves to lose the good things he is incapable of using. Instead, remember your years, and let your mind relax: raise a torch in nighttime celebrations, let Bacchus lighten your heavy cares. Enjoy your time of life: it runs swiftly away. Now your heart is free and easy, now your youth welcomes Venus. Let your spirit run riot! Why lie in a solitary bed? Unfetter your joyless youth. Now make all speed, let go the reins, and prevent the best days of life from slipping away. God has prescribed appropriate duties, and leads life through its proper stages: happiness suits the young, gloomy brows the old. Why inhibit yourself and strangle your natural disposition? That crop will pay the farmer great interest, whose plants when young grow lush and exultant; and that tree will overtop the grove with its towering crown, that is not cut or pruned back by a niggard hand: upright dispositions grow better to renown, if a lively freedom nourishes the noble spirit. As a truculent backwoodsman who knows nothing of life, will you pass your youth in gloom and abandon Venus? Do you think men have this obligation imposed on them, to endure hardships, tame horses by running them, and wage savage wars amid martial bloodshed? (tr. John G. Fitch)


Theodor Kittelsen, Fattigmannen, 1894-95
Theodor Kittelsen, Fattigmannen (1895)

Ἔργον δέ σοι γενέσθω καὶ σπούδασμα, μὴ μόνον ἐκ τοῦ βιβλίου τήν ἰδέαν ἑκάστου τῶν ὀστῶν ἀκριβῶς ἐκμαθεῖν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τῶν ὀμμάτων σύντονον αὐτόπτην αὑτὸν ἐργάσασθαι τῶν ἀνθρωπείων ὀστῶν. ἔστι δ’ ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ μὲν τοῦτο πάνυ ῥᾴδιον, ὥστε καὶ τὴν διδασκαλίαν αὐτῶν τοῖς φοιτηταῖς, οἱ κατ’ ἐκεῖνο τὸ χωρίον ἰατροὶ μετὰ τῆς αὐτοψἰας πορίζονται. καὶ πειρατέον ἐστί σοι, κἄν μὴ δι’ ἄλλο τι, διὰ τοῦτο γοῦν αὐτὸ μόνον ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ γενέσθαι. μὴ δυνηθέντι δὲ τούτου τυχεῖν, οὐκ ἀδύνατον οὐδ’ οὕτως ἀνθρώπων ὀστᾶ θεάσασθαι. ἐγώ γε οὖν ἐθεασάμην πάνυ πολλάκις, ἤτοι τάφων τινῶν, ἢ μνημάτων διαλυθέντων. ἀλλὰ καὶ ποταμὸς ἐπαναβάς ποτε τάφῳ πρὸ μηνῶν ὀλίγων αὐτοσχεδίως γεγενημένῳ διέλυσέ τε ῥᾳδίως αὐτὸν, ἐπισυράμενός τε τῇ ῥύμῃ τῆς φορᾶς ὅλον τοῦ νεκροῦ τὸ σῶμα, τῶν μὲν σαρκῶν ἤδη σεσηπυιῶν, ἀκριβῶς δ’ ἀλλήλοις ἔτι συνεχομένων τῶν ὀστῶν, ἄχρι μὲν σταδίου κάταντες συρόμενον ἐπηνέγκατο· λιμνώδους δὲ αὐτὸ ἐκδεξαμένου χωρίου, τοῖς χείλεσιν ὑπτίου, πρὸς τοῦτο ἀπεκρούσθη τὸ τοῦ νεκροῦ σῶμα, καὶ ἦν ἰδεῖν καὶ τοῦτο τοιοῦτο, οἶόν περ ἂν ἐπίτηδες αὐτὸ παρεσκεύασεν ἰατρὸς εἰς διδασκαλίαν μειρακίου. ἐθεασάμεθα δέ ποτε καὶ λῃστοῦ σκελετὸν ἐν ὄρει κείμενον ὀλίγον ἐξωτέρω τῆς ὁδοῦ, ὃν ἀπέκτεινε μέν τις ὁδοιπόρος ἐπεγχειροῦντα πρότερον ὁμόσε χωρήσας, οὐκ ἔμελλε δὲ θάψειν οὐδεὶς τῶν οἰκητόρων τῆς χώρας ἐκείνης, ἀλλ’ ὑπὸ μίσους ἐπέχαιρον ἐσθιομένῳ τῷ σώματι πρὸς τῶν οἰωνῶν, οἵτινες ἐν δυσὶν ἡμέραις αὐτοῦ καταφαγόντες τὰς σάρκας ἀπέλιπον ὡς εἰς διδασκαλίαν τῷ βουληθέντι θεάσασθαι τὸν σκελετόν.
(Galen, De Anatomicis Administrationibus 2)

Make it rather your serious endeavour not only to acquire accurate book-knowledge of each bone but also to examine assiduously with your own eyes the human bones themselves. This is quite easy at Alexandria because the physicians there employ ocular demonstration in teaching osteology to students. For this reason, if for no other, try to visit Alexandria. But if you cannot, it is still possible to see something of human bones. I, at least, have done so often on the breaking open of a grave or tomb. Thus once a river, inundating a recent hastily made grave, broke it up, washing away the body. The flesh had putrefied, though the bones still held together in their proper relations. It was carried down a stadium and, reaching marshy ground, drifted ashore. This skeleton was as though deliberately prepared for such elementary teaching. And on another occasion we saw the skeleton of a brigand, lying on rising ground a little off the road. He had been killed by some traveller repelling his attack. The inhabitants would not bury him, glad enough to see his body consumed by the birds which, in a couple of days, ate his flesh, leaving the skeleton as if for demonstration. (tr. Charles Singer)


Nativity scene attributed to Hans Kamensetzer, ca. 1470

Salvator noster, dilectissimi, hodie natus est, gaudeamus. neque enim locum fas est ibi esse tristitiae, ubi natalis est vitae; quae consumpto mortalitatis timore, nobis ingerit de promissa aeternitate laetitiam. nemo ab huius alacritatis participatione secernitur, una cunctis laetitiae communis est ratio: quia Dominus noster, peccati mortisque destructor, sicut nullum a reatu liberum reperit, ita liberandis omnibus venit. exsultet sanctus, quia propinquat ad palmam. gaudeat peccator, quia invitatur ad veniam. animetur gentilis, quia vocatur ad vitam. Dei namque Filius secundum plenitudinem temporis, quam divini consilii inscrutabilis altitudo disposuit, reconciliandum auctori suo naturam generis assumpsit humani, ut inventor mortis diabolus, per ipsam quam vicerat vinceretur. in quo conflictu pro nobis inito, magno et mirabili aequitatis iure certatum est: dum omnipotens Dominus cum saevissimo hoste, non in sua maiestate, sed in nostra congreditur humilitate, obiciens ei eandem formam eandemque naturam, mortalitatis quidem nostrae participem, sed peccati totius expertem. alienum quippe ab hac nativitate est, quod de omnibus legitur: “nemo mundus a sorde, nec infans, cuius est unius diei vita super terram” [Job 14.4]. nihil ergo in istam singularem nativitatem de carnis concupiscentia transivit, nihil de peccati lege manavit. virgo regi Davidicae stirpis eligitur, quae sacro gravidanda fetu divinam humanamque prolem prius conciperet mente quam corpore. et ne superni ignara consilii ad inusitatos paveret effectus, quod in ea operandum erat a Spiritu sancto, colloquio discit angelico. nec damnum credit pudoris, Dei genitrix mox futura. cur enim de conceptionis novitate desperet, cui efficientia de Altissimi virtute promittitur? confirmatur credentis fides etiam praeeuntis attestatione miraculi, donaturque Elizabeth inopinata fecunditas; ut qui conceptum dederat sterili, daturus non dubitaretur et virgini.
(Leo I, Serm. 21.1)

Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our LORD the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of GOD in the fulness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty LORD enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin. Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, “no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.” Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result, she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honour that she is soon to be the Mother of God. For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin. (tr. Philip Schaff)