Monday, January 27, 2014

The Cambrai Homily and Three Gwentian Saints...

This study considers the concept of spiritual martyrdom as it came via the ‘Desert Fathers of Africa, via the Church in Gaul   to Wales and Ireland
It argues that spiritual martyrdom existed as a practice We consider three Gwentian saints who show the characteristics of  spiritual martyrdom, even though the exact sequence of events in their lives cannot  be accurately verified.I hope to show that the 'White Martyrdom' of St Augustine was an early practice, involving penance and deprivation,that the ‘glas’ or blue martyrdom was a particularly British and Irish penance, involving tears and atonement
The Greek word ‘martyr’ μάρτυς,=mártys  means ‘witness’. The saints are ‘shining like the sun’ for Jesus Christ lived again in their deeds and being. Such were St Tecla, working on an island near Chepstow and  St Tegfedd,  both  killed ‘by Saxons’ or more likely bandits. It was considered martyrdom, because sacrilege had occurred. On the death of her husband, in continental practice of the time, widows often consecrated their lives to God and took the veil. They were on a spiritual martyrdom but had shed their blood
Spiritual martyrdoms were observed in different colours, practised by the Desert monks, brought via Gaul, and promoted by St Martin of Tours and the Spanish monk Bachiarius, who combined the concept of penitence, austerity and atonement for these working with the poor and praying for the dead.
The Cambrai Homily ‘summarise’ these teachings from the early church,so that sinners can offer their sufferings and penances as ‘living martyrdoms’. We know what ‘red’ martyrdom is
they endure a cross or destruction for Christ’s sake, as happened in the Apostles when they persecuted the wicked and taught the law of God’.
  It is possible Tegfedd’s quiet estate(podum,villa), where the consecrated widow retired to end her days seeking salvation in penance, was polluted by an attack by bandits, possibly Saxons only out of greed for the treasures which may have been in her chapel. Her spiritual martyrdom of tears-her ‘glas’ or blue martyrdom thus became a ‘red(bloody)’ martyrdom, when her life was taken . It has been claimed by Bradney that her body was kept as a relic, as a bone was found walled up, when the Church was restored.
 St Derfel, seems to have spent most of his life and a charismatic and powerful soldier. It should be remembered he and his brothers were taught by one of the greatest Christian abbots in Wales, St Illtyd at Llantwit Major. He may indeed have been a warrior monk, or priest, and since Illtyd himself had been both of Breton extraction and a soldier and may have encouraged Derfel to literally fight the pagans, who had destroyed all churches in their wake in the Borderlands of Wales. The story of Camlan is well known, although its location is uncertain. Tristran Grey Hulse believes it took place at North Wales at the River Camlan in Eifionydd, now part of Gwynedd. We know the story of Gwynhwyfar’s adultery, not with Geoffrey’s fanciful  French ‘Lancelot’, but his own nephew, (or possibly even  own son,) Medrot.(Meuddredd or Mordred) The Battle of Camlan seems to have been victorious, but nothing was solved. No vita has survived for Derfel, but he appears in the Bonedd ,and the bards kept his deeds in memory with stirring poems about his ‘red hand’..There is a reference to ‘Dorfil’ in the hills around Camlan, which may have been a residence, and of course he did spend time in Llandderfel, Merionethshire, North Wales, but we have no way of knowing the sequence of the chronology of his life.
According to Bartrum  "Llydaw" may also be a nickname for SE Gwent , because of immigration so these saints may have been born in Gwent with Breton ancestry. In fact his aunt Dervella (Deruil)  was later Queen of Gwent and his father, ‘Llowell’ may have been the founder of  Llanllowell near Usk.  Derfyl’s surviving friend at Camlann, Petroc was also from South Wales, the Royal House of Glywys.  He was preserved ‘by his spear’. We do not know when he came to the Llandderfel  site on the Mynydd Maen, but we do know he was driven into a life of penitence and atonement there at one time. He had perceived the effect of the sin of adultery rising up and causing the widespread slaughter of Camlann and the death of all his companions.  The Church, as the Body of Christ, had to pray for sinners, so it appears Derfel would have dedicated his life to a ‘Glas’ (blue) Martyrdom’, defined in the Cambrai Homily as ‘when through fasting and hard work, they control their desire or struggle in penance and repentence’ Derfel was known as ‘Derfel Gadarn’ and it was now with his spiritual ‘might’ he approached martyrdom. Like the Druid deity Hu he ‘dragged souls from Hell’. It was a powerful accolade that lasted nearly a thousand years until his memory became extinguished when his statue burnt in 1536. His penance of tears in his ‘glas’ martyrdom, was probably in fasting, and praying for the souls of dead comrades. Such ‘spiritual martyrs’ gained heaven through suffering and penance and fierce ascetic penances, in addition they had to see to works of mercy and shrive others, because
Elwynt e lanneu e benýdýaw.       They went to the llan to do penance’.
He may have been a crefyddwyr  been an ordained priest or fighting monk-and it might have been the reason his life was spared at Camlan,  we do not know but he was certainly educated to this level at Llantwit Major.  There were late night vigils and prayers and a strict ascetic penitential like that of Gildas and Cummean   ’Glas’, we are told was the ‘hyacinth’ the colour of heaven. Derfel had ‘washed his robe ’ not in his blood, but ‘in tears’ for his companions and devoted his whole life to atonement and penitence, for his companions and leader and hence improved the lives of all around him.