Review: Meditation on a Very Old Text from the Thirteenth Century


A Book of Saints, picked up for a pound in a charity shop. Actually, “The Golden Legend” by Jacobus de Voragine, a name not familiar to me. This appears to be a medieval textbook: potted biographies of saints from the christian tradition. I suppose we all require our heroes, those who have “made it”: role models for our aspirations. And how the world does need principles more akin to the spiritual than to the unfettered materialism which rules “OK” across the planet. After all, I have my own pantheon: Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, The Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King… . (None of them as yet beatified, as far as I know). Regarding my “Golden Legend”, I am intrigued by all the names: St. Petronilla, St. Chrysanthus, St. Euphemia… . Sheer poetry! Then I remember those saints who peer down disapprovingly from their niches on the West Wall of my local cathedral: their religion has made them judgemental, and not a little sanctimonious. It must be the sin. Born bad, we are. We can hope for heaven, but we’ve got to be seen to be good, like those saints. That’s why charitable acts sometimes seem phony: charity with wrong motives. It’s not unconditional. It’s for ME!! Those saints… .







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