The Reckoning of Time

The Reckoning of Time

The Reckoning of Time

The Reckoning of Time

Excerpt

At the close of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the great Northumbrian scholar and monk Bede (ca. 673–735) appended a sort of autobio-bibliography. He told of how he was born on the lands of the double monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow, and how he was offered as an oblate there at the age of seven. Educated under Benedict Biscop, the founder of the house, and under Biscop's successor, Ceolfrith, he was in due course ordained deacon and then priest by Bishop John of Hexham. That ordination was the last “event” in his life. From that time forward, Bede's life was one of sacred sameness, ruled not by change and chance, but by the stable rhythms of monastic time.

From then on I have spent all my life in this monastery, applying
myself entirely to the study of the Scriptures; and amid the obser
vance of the discipline of the Rule and the daily task of singing in
the choir, it has always been my delight to learn or to teach or to
write.

Bede defines his life's main achievement as the study of Scripture, and so it is fitting that his bibliography of his own writings begins with his biblical exegesis. In its wake come the lives of the saints – Felix, Anastasius and Cuthbert – and then the biographies of the “confessors” so to speak, the abbots of Wearmouth-Jarrow. His Ecclesiastical History follows. Then there comes his liturgical writing: a martyrology and hymns. After that, poetry on sacred subjects. The list closes with two books on the secular subjects of grammar and rhetoric: one on orthography and the other on schemes and tropes. Just below the poetry, and just above the grammar texts, Bede lists “"t"wo books, one on the nature

1 cunctumque ex eo tempus uitae in eiusdem monasterii habitatione peragens,
omnem meditandis scripturis operam dedi, atque inter obseruantiam disciplinae regularis,
et cotidianam cantandi in ecclesia curam, semper aut discere aut docere aut scribere dulce
habui
. Bede, HE 5.24 (566); trans. Colgrave and Mynors 567.

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