Golden Legend – Venerable Bede

[Saint Bede the Venerable]Article

Here followeth the Life of the holy and Venerable priest Bede.

The holy and venerable Bede was born in England, and when he was seven years of his age he was delivered to Benet Biscop of Jarrow, for to learn, and after his death he was put to Ceolfrith, abbot of the same place, and learned and profited much in holy life and conning. And the nineteenth year of his age he was made deacon, of John, bishop of York, and in the thirtieth year of his age he was made priest. Then began he to write and to study and to expound holy writ, whereupon he made many noble homilies, and notwithstanding his great business, was daily in the service of religion, as in singing and praying in the church. He had great sweetness and liking to learn, to teach and to write; he wrote seventy eight books; he accounted the books and years from the beginning of the world in Historia Anglicana.

In the book of Polycronicon is rehearsed that is wonder, that a man that is without use of school made so many noble volumes in so sober words in so little space of his life time. It is said he went to Rome for to show there his books, for to see them according to holy writ and to the lore of holy church, but hereof some doubt, and say that he never went to Rome. Also it is said that when he was blind he went about for to preach, and his servant that led him brought him whereas were many hopples of stones, to whom he made a noble sermon, and when he had all finished his sermon the stones answered and said, Amen.

Also it is said that he found a writing of three R’s and three F’s over the gate of Rome, which he expounded thus: The first R betokened regna, the second ruent, the third Rome, that is: Regna ruent Rome. And the first F betokened ferro, the second flamma, the third fame, that is: Ferro, flamma, famæque. Also pope Sergius wrote a letter to the abbot Ceolfrith and prayed for to have Bede come to Rome for to assoil certain questions that were there moved. Here is to be noted, that how noble and worthy the court of Rome held him, when so noble a court had need to have him for to declare and assoil the questions that were there moved. Also we ought to hold him noble and holy by the manner of his living and his teaching. He must needs be virtuous and eschew vices that was so well occupied in spending his wit and thought in expounding of holy writ, and his cleanness was much seen at his last end. For his stomach had indignation of meat seven weeks continually, and of drink, so that unnethe he might retain any meat, and was strait and short-breathed, but for all that he spared not the travail of lecture and of books, and every day among the detty travail of service and of psalms, he taught his disciples in lessons and in questions. He transiated Saint John’s Gospel into English, and said to his scholars: Learn ye, my small children, whiles I am alive and with you; I wot not how long I shall abide with you, and alway among he said that saw of Saint Ambrose: I have not so lived among you that me shameth to live, neither me dreadeth to die, for we have a good Lord.

On night’s time when he had no man to teach then would he devoutly be in prayers and thanking our Lord of all his gifts. The Tuesday tofore Ascension-day his death approached, and his feet began to swell; he was houseled, anointed and kissed his brethren, and prayed them all to remember him, and he gave to divers of his servants things that he had in privity. On the Ascension-day the hair was spread, and he laid him down thereon, and prayed for the grace of the Holy Ghost, and said: O king of bliss, and Lord of virtues, that hast the prize and art this day styed up above all heavens, leave thou us not fatherless, but send thou in to us that behest of the Father, the ghost of soothfastness. And when he had ended that, he gave up the last breath with a sweet dour and savour, and there he was then buried, but the common fame telleth that he now lieth at Durham with Saint Cuthbert.

There was a devout clerk, which laboured in his mind for to make his epitaph, and in no wise he could make true metre, wherefore on a time he went to the church and prayed God to give him conning to make a true verse. And after came unto his tomb and saw there written by an angel:

Hic sunt in fossa
Bedæ venerabilis ossa.

Then let us pray to this holy man that he pray for us, that after this life we may come to everlasting life.