Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Mountain of the Everlasting

St Brendan, son of Finnlug Ua Alta, of the race of Eoghan, was born in the marshy district of Munster He was famed for his great abstinence and his many virtues, and was the patriarch of nearly three thousand monks. While he was in his spiritual war-fare, at a place called Ardfert-Brendan there came to him one evening, a certain father, named Barinthus, of the race of King Niall, who, when questioned by St Brendan, in frequent converse, could only weep, and cast himself prostrate, and continue the longer in prayer; but Brendan raising him up, em-braced him, saying: ‘Father, why should we be thus grieved on the occasion of your visit? Have you not come to give us comfort? You ought, indeed, make better cheer for the brethren. In God’s name, make known to us the divine secrets, and refresh our souls by recounting to us the various wonders you have seen upon the great ocean.’ Then Barinthus, in reply, proceeds to tell of a certain island: ‘My dear child, Mernoc, the guardian of the poor of Christ, had fled away from me to become a solitary, and found, nigh unto the Stone mountain, an island full of delights. After some time I learned that he had many monks there in his charge, and that God had worked through him many marvels. I, therefore, went to visit him, and when I had approached within three days’ journey, he, with some of the brethren, came out to meet me, for God had revealed to him my advent. As we sailed unto the island the brethren came forth from their cells towards us, like a swarm of bees, for they dwelt apart from each other, though their intercourse was of one accord, well grounded in faith, hope, and charity; one refectory; one church for all, wherein to-discharge the divine offices. No food was served but fruits and nuts, roots and vegetables of other kinds. The brethren, after compline, passed the night in their respective cells until the cock-crow, or the bell tolled for prayer. When my dear son and I had traversed the island, he led me to the western shore, where there was a small boat, and he then said: ‘Father, enter this boat, and’ we will sail on to the west, towards the island called the Land of Promise of the Saints, which God will grant to those who succeed us in the latter days.’

- Nauigatio sancti Brendani abbatis [the Voyage of St Brendan the Abbot],Transl. Denis O’Donoghue, 1893


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