Saint of the Day Quote: Saint Edwin of Northumbria

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To which the chief of his priests, Coifi, immediately answered: ―O king, consider what this is which is now preached to us; for truly I declare to you that thereligion which we have hitherto professed has, as far as I can learn, no virtue in it. For none of your people has applied himself more diligently to the worship of our gods than I; and yet there are many who receive greater favours from you, and are more preferred than I, and who are more prosperous in all their undertakings. Now if the gods were good for anything, they would rather advanceme who has been more careful to serve them. It follows, therefore, that if upon examination you find those new doctrines which are now preached to us better and more efficacious, we should immediately receive them without any delay.‖Another of the king‘s chief men, approving of Coifi‘s words and exhortations, soon added: ―The present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the hallwherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately out another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry weather. But after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short while.But of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.

The other elders and king‘s counsellors, by divine inspiration, spoke to the same effect. But Coifi added that he wished more attentively to hear Paulinus‘discourse concerning the God whom he preached. So after the bishop had spoken at greater length by the king‘s command, Coifi, hearing his words,cried out: ―I have long since perceived that there was nothing in that which we worshiped, because the more diligently I sought after truth in that worship the less I found it. But now I freely confess that such clear truth appears in this preaching as can confer on us the gifts of life, of salvation, and of eternal happiness. For which reason I advise, O king, that we instantly abjure and set fire to those temples and altars which we have consecrated out reaping any benefits from them.

In short, the king publicly gave his permission to Paulinus to preach the gospel, and, renouncing idolatry, declared that he had received the faith of Christ.And when he inquired of the high priest who should first profane the altars and temples of their idols, with the enclosures that were about them, the high priest answered, ―I will.For who can more properly than myself destroy those things which I worshiped through ignorance, for an example to all others, through the wisdom which been given me by the true God?‖Then immediately, in contempt of his former superstitions, the king desired to furnish him with arms and a stallion, and mounting the latter, he set out to destroy the idols; for it was not lawful before for the high priest either to carry arms or to ride on any beast but a mare. Having, therefore, girt on a sword and carrying a spear in his hand, he mounted the king‘s stallion and proceeded to the idols. The multitude, beholding him, concluded that he was distracted; but he lost no time, for as soon as he drew near the temple he profaned it, casting into it the spear which he held. And rejoicing in the knowledge of the worship of the true God, he commanded his companions to destroy the temple, with all its enclosures, by fire.

Saint Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation (731)

 

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