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Hugh Bishop Of Lincoln by Charles L. Marson

CHAPTER VII --AND DISPUTES

When Hugh, under this new cloud, did at last reach London the archbishop had no counsel to give, except that he should shear his clergy rather tight and send their golden fleeces to appease the king. |Do not you know that the king thirsts for money as a dropsical man does for water, my lord bishop?| To this the answer was, |Yes. He is a dropsical man, but I will not be water for him to swallow.| It was plain that the archbishop was no friend in need, and back they went towards Lincoln. At Cheshunt he found a poor, mad sailor triced up in a doorway by hands and feet. Hugh ran to him, made the holy sign, and then with outstretched right hand began the Gospel, low and quick, |In the beginning was the Word.| The rabid patient cowered, like a frightened hound; but when the words |full of grace and truth| were reached, he put out his tongue derisively. Hugh, not to be beaten, consecrated holy water, sprinkled him, and bade folk put some in his mouth. Then he went on his way; and the mad man, no longer mad, sanely went on pilgrimage, men said, and made a fine end at the last. His own bishop, who had met him, had clapped spurs to his horse and bolted. It may be suspected that this bolting bishop was the newly elect of London, who was William de Santa Maria, an ex-Canon of Lincoln, Richard's secretary, Giraldus' opponent, better known than loved in his late Chapter.

Matters being settled at Lincoln, he set out again for London and paused to ask the Barons of the Exchequer most kindly to see to the indemnities of his church while he was away. They rose to greet him and readily gave their promises. They prayed him to take a seat among them even for a moment. So pleased were they to have the archfoe of clerical secularism in this trap, that they called it a triumph indeed, to see the day when he sat on the Treasury bench. He jumped up, a little ashamed, kissed them all, and said, |Now I, too, can triumph over you if after taking the kiss you allow in anything less than friendly to my church.| They laughingly said, |How wonderfully wise this man is! Why, he has easily laid it upon us, that whatever the king orders, we cannot without great disgrace trouble him at all.| He blessed them all and was soon in Normandy. But Richard was following hot-foot the two half-brother Ademars, lords of Limoges and Angouleme, who had been playing into the hands of the French enemy. There was nothing to do but wait patiently, which he did at St. Nicholas' Monastery, Angers, from February to the beginning of March, 1199. Pope Innocent III.'s legates were also there, and they passed three weeks together. He conferred ordinations near here in the Abbey of Grandmont; refusing to ordain one of Walter Map's young friends, who afterwards became a leper. The king, it was reported, was full of huge threats and savage designs against his despisers, and if the clergy trembled before, they now shook like aspen leaves. The story of Hugh's predicament had got wind. The Hereford Canons wanted to choose the witty Walter Map to be bishop. He was already Archdeacon of Oxford, Canon of Lincoln, and Prebend of Hereford, but alas! he was also a friend of the disfavoured bishop. This fact is worth some emphasis, as it illustrates the large-mindedness of the saint. Walter was not only a vigorous pluralist, much stained by non-residence, but he was a whipster, whose lash was constantly flicking the monks, then in their decline. If any one considers his description of the Cistercians; of the desert life wherein they love their neighbour by expelling him; of their oppression whereby they glory not in Christ's Cross but in crucifying others; of their narrowness who call themselves Hebrews and all others Egyptians; of their sheep's clothing and inward ravening; of their reversals of Gospel maxims and their novelties; he will see that the lash for Cistercians must have fallen a good deal also upon Carthusian shoulders. Then Master Walter was towards being a favourer of Abelard and of his disciple Arnald of Brescia, whose ascetic mind was shocked at the fatal opulence of cardinals. Altogether Walter was a man who feared God, no doubt, but hardly showed it in the large jests which he made, which to our ears often sound rather too large. But Hugh recognised in the satirist a power for righteousness, and certainly loved and favoured him. Consequently the Hereford Canons with those of Angers and of the Lincoln Chapter laid their heads together to compose the strife between king and bishop: and the readiest way was of course for the latter to compound with a round sum and get off home.

The wars made the whole country dangerous for travelling, and it was neither safe to stay at home nor to move afield. But Job was not more persistent against his three friends than Hugh against the three unanimous Chapters, and his main argument was that the peace of the church must never be bought with money or this would endow its disturbers. His wisdom was well evidenced by events in the next reign. With this advice he urged them to sleep over the matter and discuss it next day. But the struggle to avoid compromising principles in order not only to serve the hour, but to save the love and, perhaps, the lives of friends was a very severe strain to him. When they had gone out he was dismally cast down and acknowledged that he had rarely compressed so much grief into so little space. Then he sat in silence, thought, and prayer that the tangle might be so unknotted, that God not be offended nor his own friends and sons slighted and alienated. Upon this he slept and dreamed sweet dreams of lovely sights and heard the roll of the Psalm of Divine Battle chaunted by heavenly voices, |O God, wonderful art Thou in Thy holy places, even the God of Israel; He will give strength and power unto His people; blessed be God.|{15} He woke up refreshed, and at his weekly Saturday Confession deeply blamed himself for some hesitation he had felt, when baleful advice was given him.

A little after this the Abbess of Fontevrault came to see him. The King's mother Eleanor, her guest, had been sent for in a hurry. The king had been hurt. A serf of Achard of Chalus had ploughed up a golden relic, an emperor with his family seated round a golden table. Ademar of Limoges had seized it. Richard demanded the whole and was after it sword in hand. The holders were in Castle Chalus, short of weapons but not of valour, and held out gallantly armed with frying-pans and whatnot. The place was undermined. Richard, without his hauberk, was directing the crash, when a man pulled an arrow from the mortar; aimed it and hit him on the neck and side. He went to his tent, and plucked at it, broke it off; was operated upon; would not keep quiet. The wound turned angry and then black, and the Lion lay dying. He made his will, a generous and charitable one, confessed his sins, was houselled and anhealed, and died on Passion Tuesday, April 6th. His brain and bowels were buried at Charroux, his heart at Rouen, and his body at his father's feet, in penitence, in the nunnery of Fontevrault. Hugh was on his way to the Cathedral at Angers to take duty the next day, Palm Sunday, when Gilbert de Lacy, a clerk, rode up to him and told him of the king's death and of the funeral next day in Fontevrault. Hugh groaned deeply and announced at Angers that he should set out at once for that place. Every one begged and prayed that he would do no such thing. The mere rumour of the king's death had as usual let loose all the forces of disorder. Robbery, violence, and general anarchy were up. His own servants had been held up and robbed of forty silver marks, and the interregnum was more dreadful than any tyranny. What is the use of such charitable designs if you merely get left in the wilds by robbers, bare of carriage and clothes? they asked. His answer was worthy of a man who lived in holy fear and no other. |We are all well aware what things can happen -- fearful to the fearful -- on this journey. But I think it a thing much more fearful that I should be coward enough to fail my late lord and king, by being away at such a crisis, by witholding my faith and grace from him in death, which I always showed him warmly in his life. What of the trouble he gave us, by giving in too much to the evil advice of those who flattered him? Certainly when I was with him, he never treated me but most honourably, never dismissed me unheard, when I made him some remarks face to face upon my business. If he wronged me when I was away, I have put it down to the spite of my detractors, not to his wickedness or malice. I will, therefore, pay him back to my power the honours he so often bestowed upon me. It will not be my fault if I do not help warmly at his obsequies. Say robbers do meet me on the road, say they do take the horses and carry off the robes, my feet will travel all the fleeter, because they are lightened from the vestment baggage. If they really tie my feet and rob me of the power of moving, then and then only will be a real excuse for being absent in the body, for it will be caused not by vice but by outside obstacles.| He left his friends in the city and almost all his stuff, took one minor clerk, one monk, and a tiny train and set out. On the way he heard that the poor Queen Berengaria was at Castle Beaufort, so he left the doubtful highway for a dangerous forest track to visit her. He soothed her almost crazy grief, bid her bear grief bravely and face better days cautiously, said Mass for her, blessed her and her train, and went back at once. He got to Saumur the same day, where he was greeted with a sort of ovation by the townsfolk and was entertained by Gilbert de Lacy, who was studying there. Next day, Palm Sunday, he sped on to Fontevrault and met the bearers just at the doors. He paid all the royal honours he could to his late Master and was entertained at the Monastery. For three days he ceased not to say Mass and the Psalms for the kings lying there, as for all the faithful who lay quiet in Christ, prayed for their pardon and the bliss of everlasting light. A beautiful picture this of the brave old bishop in the Norman Abbey Church, where two kings, his friend and his forgiven foe, lay |shrouded among the shrouded women| in that Holy Week of long ago!

This compassion was not only a matter of honour, but of faith. It was one of the principles of his life and conduct that hereby was set forth the love of God, and applied to the needs of man. He used often to say that countless other things manifested the boundless love of God to men, but of those we know, these surpass the greatness of all the rest, which He ceases not to bestow before man's rise and after his setting. |To touch lightly a few of these in the case of men who rise and set: God the Son of God gave for each man before he was born the ransom of His own death. God the Father sent His own same Son into the world to die for the man: God the Holy Ghost poured Himself out an earnest for him. So together the whole Trinity, one God, together set up the Sacraments by which he is born, cleansed, defended, and strengthened, gave the props of His own law to rule and teach him, and generously made provision for his good by other mysterious means. When man's fitful life is past and its course cut off by death, when his once dearest look on him now with aversion, when parents and children cast him forth with anxious haste from the halls once his, God's most gracious kindness scorns not what all others despise. Then straightway He ordains not only angelic spirits to the ward of the soul at its return to its Maker, but He sends for the burial service those who are first and foremost of His earthly servants, to wit the priests and others in the sacred orders. And this is His command to them: 'Behold,' He says, 'My priests and caretakers of My palaces in the world, behold My handiwork. I have always loved it. I spared not My only Son for it but made Him share in its mortality and its death. Behold, I say, that is now become a burden to its former lovers and friends. They crowd to cast it out and drive it forth. Away, then, speed and help My refugee: take up the Image of My Son, crucified for it: take instruments for incense and wax. Ring out the signals of My Church for a solemn assembly; raise high your hymnal voices, open the doors of My house and its inner shrines: place near to the altar, which holds the Body of My Son, what is left of that brother or sister; finally, cover him a bier with costly palls, for at last he triumphs: crowd it with lamps and candles, circle round him, overthrown as he is, with helping crowds of servants. Do more. Repeat the votive offering of My Son. Make the richest feast, and thus the panting spirit, restless and weary with the jars of the wonted mortality it has just laid by, may breathe to strength: and the flesh, empty for the while of its old tenant, and now to be nursed in the lap of the Mother Earth, may be bedewed with a most gracious holiness, so that at the last day when it is sweetly reunited to its well-known companion, it may gladly flower anew and put on with joy the everlasting freshness.| This was no sudden seizure and passing emotion at the romance of funerals. He issued a general order in his diocese forbidding parish priests to bury the bodies of grown persons, if he were by to do it. If it were a case of good life, the more need to honour; if of an evil life, such would all the more yearn for greater succour. So he went to all, and if they were poor he ordered his almoner to find the lights and other requirements. Any funeral would bring him straight from his horse to pray at the bier. If he had no proper book wherein he might read without halting (and his eyes waxed dim at the last) he would stand near the officiant, chaunt the psalms with him, say the amens, and be clerk, almost a laic. If he had the right book, he would be priest, say the prayers, use the holy water, swing the censer, cast on the mould, then give shrift and benison and go on his way. If the place were a large city and many bodies came for burial he did just the same until all were finished. Potentates expecting to eat bread with him were often vexed and complained at these delays; but, host or guest, he had more appetite for holy than for social functions. King Richard at Rouen, like his father before him, with all the Court and the Royal Family, when they invited Hugh to table, had to keep fasting while Hugh performed these higher duties without clipping or diminishing the office. When the king's servants chafed, and would have spurred him on, he would say, |No need to wait for us. Let him eat in the Lord's name;| and to his friends, |It is better for the king to eat without us, than for our humility to pass the Eternal King's order unfulfilled.| Near Argentan, in Normandy, he once found a new grave by the roadside and learnt that a beggar-boy lay there. The priest had let him lie there, because there was no fee and no one would carry him to the church-yard. Hugh was deeply grieved, said the office himself, and rattled that priest pretty smartly to his bishop for denying Christian burial to the penniless and needy.

Once while the cathedral works were being carried on, a mason engaged on the fabric asked him for pontifical shrift for a brother who had just died. It was winter, and the feast of St. Stephen. Hugh promptly gave the absolution, and then asked if the body were yet buried. When he learnt that it was only being watched in a somewhat distant church, he ordered three horses instantly, one for himself, one for his outrider, and one for his chaplain; but as only two were to be had he sent the chaplain on ahead, himself followed with a monk and a couple of servers, and devoutly buried not only the mason's brother, but five other bodies. Another time, when the Archdeacon of Bedford gave a large and solemn feast to the dignified clergy -- who, by the way, seldom shine in these narratives -- the bishop so wearied them by his funereal delays that they explained their impatience to him not without some tartness of reproof. His only reply was, |Why do you not recall the voice of the Lord, who said with His holy lips, My meat is to do the will of My Father in heaven?| Another time, again, one hot spring when there was a general meeting of magnates, he heard that one of the prelates was dead.{16} The man was an outrageous guzzler and toper, but Hugh prayed earnestly for him, and then asked where he was to be buried. The now unromantic spot of Bermondsey was to be the burying ground, and the funeral was on the very day and hour of the Westminster gathering, in which matters deeply interesting to Lincoln were to be handled. No one of the bishops or abbots would stir out for their detected dead fellow, but |to desert him in his last need| was impossible to his saintlier brother. He must be off to bury the man, council or no council. The body had been clad in an alb and chasuble. Its face was bare and black, and the gross frame was bursting from its clothes. Every one else had a gum, an essence or incense; but Hugh, who was peculiarly sensitive to malodours, showed nothing but tenderness for the corrupt mortality, and seemed to cherish it as a mother a babe. The |sweet smelling sacrifice| shielded him in his work of mercy, they said.

William of Newburgh, a writer much given to ghost stories, tells a Buckingham tale of a certain dead man who would walk. He fell violently upon his wife first, and then upon his brothers, and the neighbours had to watch to fend him off. At last he took to walking even in the day, |terrible to all, but visible only to a few.| The clergy were called; the archdeacon took the chair. It was a clear case of Vampire. The man must be dug up, cut to bits, and burnt. But the bishop was very particular about the dead, and when they asked his leave he was indignant at the proposal. He wrote instead a letter with his own hand, which absolved the unquiet spirit. This was laid upon the dead man's breast, and thenceforward he rested in peace, as did his alarmed neighbours. Whatever we think of the tale, the tender reverent spirit of the bishop is still a wonder. Although greatly given to an enthusiasm for the saints, a puzzling enthusiasm for their teeth, nails, plaisters, and bandages, Hugh was looked upon as an enemy to superstition, and was an eager suppressor of the worship of wells and springs, which still show how hard the Pagan religion dies. He found and demolished this |culture| at Wycombe and Bercamstead.{17}

The great theological question of Hugh's time was certainly the Eucharistic one. Eucharistic doctrine grew, as the power of the Church grew; as the one took a bolder tone so did the other. The word Transubstantiation (an ambiguous term to the disputants who do not define substance) had been invented by Peter of Blois, but not yet enjoined upon the Church by the Lateran Council of 1215. The language of the earlier fathers, of St. Bernard, did not suffice. Peter Lombard's tentative terms had given way to less reserved speech. Thomas Aquinas, not yet born, was to unite the rival factions which forked now into Berengarius, who objected to the very terms Body of Christ, &c., always used for the Sacrament; and now into some crude cannibal theories, which found support in ugly miracles of clotted chalices and bleeding fingers in patens. Abelard had tried to hush the controversy by a little judicious scepticism, but the air was full of debate. If learned men ignored the disputes the unlearned would not. Fanatical monks on the one side and fanatical Albigenses on the other, decried or over-cried the greatest mysteries of the faith, and brawled over the hidden manna. Hugh's old Witham monk Ainard had once preached a crusade against the blasphemers of the Sacraments, and is mentioned with honour for this very thing by Hugh's intimate and biographer. The saint's conspicuous devotion at the Mass, the care with which he celebrated and received, of themselves would point to a peculiarly strong belief in the Invisible Presence. Christians are, and have always been, lineally bound to believe in the supreme necessity of the Lord's Marriage Supper to the soul's health and obedience. They are bound to use the old language, |This is My Body.| In earlier days, when Church thinkers were all Platonists, or at least Realists, the verity of the Sacrament was the Idea behind it. The concrete veils of that Idea were hallowed only by their use, association, and impact. But when after the crusades Aristotle was no longer the Bishop of Arians, but now the supreme philosopher, the language hitherto natural to piety had either to be changed or infused by violence with new senses, or both. The latter half of the twelfth century saw this unhappy deadlock between history and reason, and made strenuous efforts to compose the strife. So far as we may judge, upon a difficult question, where little must be written and much would be required to express an exact opinion, Hugh seems to have held that by mystic sanctification the host is turned into Christ's Body; that this conversion is not a sudden but a gradual one, until the Son offers Himself anew, and hence the Sacrifice may be said to be repeated. The story which illustrates this position best is that of the young clerk who came to him at Buckden. The bishop had just been dedicating a large and beautiful chalice and upbraiding the heavily-endowed dignitaries for doing nothing at all for the poorly served churches from which they drew their stipends. Then he said Mass, and the clerk saw Christ in his hands, first as a little child at the Oblation, when |the custom is to raise the host aloft and bless it|; and again when it is |raised to be broken and consumed in three pieces,| |as the Son of the Highest offering Himself to the Father for man's salvation.| The clerk tells him of the double vision -- the voucher of a message sent by his late crusading father, who warned him to tell the archbishop, through the Bishop of Lincoln, that the evil state of the church must be amended. The message and the messenger seem to answer exactly to the monk of Evesham, whose Dantesque revelations{18} are here almost quoted. The wrath of God was incurred by the unchaste living priests, who so behaved that the Sacraments were polluted, and by the manner in which archdeacons and others trafficked in bribes. Hugh heard the story at the altar, wept, dried the eyes of both, kissed the young man and brought him into the meal afterwards, and urged him to become a monk. This he did, and became the Monk of Evesham aforesaid. There is no necessary advance in Eucharistic doctrine in this story, for a similar vision was given to King Edward the Confessor, and Hugh was so reticent about such things that his chaplain Adam never dared to ask him, although he dreamed that he asked him and was snubbed for his pains. |Although then, when you say, and more often, the Lord deigned to reveal this and other things to me, what do you want in the matter?| In his last journey to Jouay,{19} an old, feeble and withered priest, who would not dine with him as the parish priest was wont, came to ask him to see a wonder and to beg for his prayers. His story was that he, being in mortal sin, blind and weak in faith and practices, was saying Mass, and doubting whether so dirty a sinner could really handle so white and stainless a glory. When the fraction took place, blood dripped from the host and it grew into flesh. He dropped the new thing into the chalice, covered it up, dismissed the people, and got papal absolution, and now would fain show the wonder. The lesser men were agape for the sight, but Hugh answered, |In the Lord's name let them keep the signs of their infidelity to themselves. What are they to us? Are we to be astonished at the partial shows of the Divine gift, who daily behold this heavenly sacrifice whole and entire with most faithful gaze of mind? Let him, who beholds not with the inner sight of faith the whole, go and behold the man's little scraps with his carnal vision.| He then blessed the priest and dismissed him, and rebuked his followers for curiosity, and gave them a clear Eucharistic lesson not repeated for us, upon what faith lays down in the matter. From his speech then and elsewhere the good Adam gathered that Hugh often saw what others only believed to be there, the |bared face of the inner Man.|

These stories seem to dissociate Hugh from the grosser forms of Eucharistic teaching, and open the way for an explanation of his behaviour at Fechamp, which is otherwise almost inexplicable. We may take it that he held a belief in a living Presence, which teeth could not bruise nor change decay. The language he uses is not consistent with later English teaching which shrinks from talking about a repeated sacrifice. It is also inconsistent with later Roman devotion, because he seems to dislike the notion of a conditioned or corporal Presence, and anyhow to shrink from the definite statements to which the Roman Church has since committed herself. He certainly did not fix the Coming of the Bridegroom at the Consecration Prayer, a fortiori to any one particular word of it.

Far less conjectural is the splendid stand which he made for chastity of life, at a time when the standard in such matters was lax both in the world and also in the church. It came as a surprise to his contemporaries that he should disapprove of the romantic ties between King Henry and fair Rosamond. That lady was buried at Godstowe by her royal lover, who draped her tomb, near the high altar, with silk, lamps, and lighted candles, making her the new founder, and for her sake raising the house from poverty and meanness to wealth and nobleness of building. While Hugh was earnestly praying at the altar (in 1191) he espied this splendid sepulchre. He asked whose it was, and when he learned said sternly, |Take her hence, for she was a whore. The love between the king and her was unlawful and adulterous. Bury her with the other dead outside the church, lest the Christian religion grow contemptible. Thus other women by her example may be warned and keep themselves from lawless and adulterous beds.| So far from being harsh, this decision to allow of no royal exceptions to the ten commandments was probably the kindest, strongest, and most wide-reaching protest that could be made against an unhappy and probably growing evil. This is of a piece with many other passages in his life, but hardly worth dwelling upon because the lawless loves, which in that day were too lightly regarded, in this day have usurped the sole title of immorality to themselves, as if there were not six other deadly sins besides. The best justification of the sentence is just this surprise with which it was received.

FOOTNOTES:

{15} lxviii.35. A psalm full of associations of battles long ago: sung against Julian the Apostate, used by Charlemagne, Anthony, Dunstan, and many more.

{16} Simon of Pershore, if in 1198: and Robert of Caen, if in 1196, but less likely.

{17} The Wycombe Well is probably the Round Basin, near the Roman Villa, but the other I am unable to hear news of.

{18} Published by Arber. See chap. xxxvi.

{19} Joi.

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