(ca. 750) 

 The Lindisfarne Gospels
BM Cotton Nero D IV fol. 93v,  ca. 715

  [CLOSELY RELATED to Section II of the Canones Hibernenses is a remarkable document in Old Irish, apparently of somewhat later date. It consists of an extended schedule of equivalents or commutations to be applied in penitential cases. It has been published with a translation by Kuno Meyer under the title “An Old Irish Treatise De arreis,” in Revue celtique, XV ( 1894), 485-98. Variant readings from a Dublin manuscript are given by E. J. Gwynn, “De Arreis,” Ériu, V ( 1911), 45 f. In a short philological introduction Meyer expresses doubt about the date of the document, but is confident that “it cannot have been later than the eighth century.” Meyer uses in his title and throughout the translation the Latin form “arreum” of the Irish word “arra,” which he explains as “equivalent, substitute, commutation.” The translation is reproduced from Meyer’s text without change. Most of his footnotes are omitted as of no special value in the present context, and some of my own are added. I have ventured to omit the subheadings translated by Meyer. In most cases they are somewhat inappropriate. Meyer’s notes are indicated by the bracketed initials [K.M.]. The few Latin words which he has left in the text will probably be readily understood. The document is of special interest for the variety of harsh penalties which it sanctions, and for its repeated reference to “saving a soul out of hell.”]


 The arreum for saving a soul out of hell, viz. 365 paternosters and 365 genuflexions and 365 blows with a scourge on every day to the end of a year, and fasting every month saves a soul out of hell. For this arreum for redeeming the soul that deserves torments in the body has been made according to the number of joints and sinews that are in a man’s body.

Another arreum, viz. the three fifties [i.e the 150 psalms] every day, with their conclusion of the Beati 3 to the end of seven years, saves a soul out of hell. 

 Another arreum which is no longer, viz. a Lauda and the Beati and a pater noster after each psalm to the end of three years. 

 Each of these arrea saves a soul out of hell, if it can be interceded for at all.  

 Now, every penance, both for severity and length of time in which one is at it, depends on the greatness of the sin and on the space of time which one perseveres in it, and on the reason for which it is done, and on the zeal with which one departs from it afterwards. For there are certain sins which do not deserve any remission of penance, however long the time that shall be asked for them, unless God Himself shortens it through death or a message of sickness; or  the greatness of the work which a person lays on himself; such as are parricides and manslaughters and man-stealings, and such as brigandage and druidism and satirising,  and such as adultery and lewdness and lying and heresy and transgression of order. For there are certain sins for which half-penances with half-arrea atone. There are others which an arreum with one third of penance atones for. There are others for which an arreum only atones. 

 For these are the four things which the wise man has recounted for which the arrea are made, viz. for a speedy parting from the sin after its commission, for fear of increasing the sins, for (fear of) life being shortened before the end of the penance which the confessor adjudges be attained, for (fear of) chastising the body of Christ and His blood through the chastisement of penance. 

 Now, as there is a difference between laybrothers and clerics, between nuns and laysisters,  so there is a difference between their work and penance. There is also between the arrea which it is right for them to perform. 

 First, the arrea of former lay-brothers and lay-sisters: sleeping in waters, sleeping on nettles, sleeping on nut-shells, sleeping with a dead body in a grave; for there is hardly a laybrother or laysister that has not had a share in manslaughter. These now are the arrea that are right for clerics and nuns, except those of them that have slain a man, unless (something) be done to increase the reward, viz. they to sleep in cold churches or in secret chambers, performing vigil and praying without ceasing, viz. without sitting, without lying, without sleeping, as though they were at the mouth of hell, save that a little weariness may take place in a sitting posture only between two prayers. 

 These now are the arrea which the holy man judges (an equivalent) for “black fasting”  after a great crime, viz. one hundred blows with a scourge, or the three fifties with their hymns and with their canticles. 

 Another arreum, viz. one hundred paternosters in cross-vigil  and “Deus in adiutorium” usque “festina” (ps. 69, 1) three times at the end of every pater noster, and genuflexion at every “Deus,” and meditating intently on God. It is an arreum for a black fast of three days  to any one who does this three times. 

 An arreum for fasting for any one that can read: the three fifties with their canticles while standing up, and celebrating every canonical hour, and twelve genuflexions and the arms stretched out towards God at the hours of the day, with earnest thought towards heaven. 

 An arreum for a black fast on account of a great crime for any one who does not read, viz. 300 genuflexions and 300 honest blows with a scourge; crossvigil at the end of every hundred until the arms are tired; “Oh God I beseech an end, may mercy come to me,” “I believe the Trinity,” this is what he shall sing without ceasing until the arreum shall have come to an end, and strike his breast frequently at it with earnest repentance to God. It is an arreum for a three days’ fast for him to do this three times. 

An arreum for fasting on account of small common sins, viz. “Alleluia, Alleluia, in manus” usque “veritatis,” a paternoster to the end. Let this be sung thirty times in cross-vigil and thirty genuflexions and thirty blows with a scourge after it. 

 An arreum of pure prayers for seven years of hard penance to save a soul from the tortures of hell, viz. one hundred offerings, hundred and fifty psalms, one hundred Beati, one hundred genuflexions at every beatitude, one hundred paternosters, one hundred soul-hymns. 

 Another arreum: a year of three days’ black fasts without drink, without food, without sleep. A night in water, a night on nettles without a garment, another on nutshells. 

 Another arreum: twelve three days’ fasts one after another. A meal to satiety between every two fasts. 

 Another arreum: to sing two Beati in crossvigil without lowering of arms (while) at it. 

 Again, another arreum: “Miserere mei Deus” to be sung forty times in cross-vigil or while standing up, and a paternoster with every psalm, and “Deus in adiutorium” usque “festina” three times at the end of each psalm. 

 Another arreum: seven months in a prison on water and bread from none to none upon the soil or floor, with fervent prayer, with celebration of every hour with constant determination. 

 This is an arreum for the 150 psalms, viz. a paternoster twelve times and “Deus in adiutorium” usque “festina” after every paternoster. A paternoster fifteen times and “Deus in adiutorium” usque in finem after every paternoster atones for every sin, with earnest repentance from the heart. 

 An arreum for a three days’ fast for any one that does not read, viz. a day with a night without sleeping, without sitting down, except when he lets himself down for genuflexion. “Of God I beseech an end,” “may mercy come to me,” “I believe the Trinity,” this he shall sing without ceasing. A paternoster and a credo twelve times in crossvigil, and three genuflexions with either, and “Deus in adiutorium” usque “festina” three times with every prayer is an arreum for a three days’ fast. Thirty three days’ fasts in this manner are an arreum for a year of penance for a cleric, ut Gregorius constituit. 

 An arreum for impositions of scourging, viz. 700 honest blows seven times. 

Another arreum of genuflexions, viz. 200 honest genuflexions with bending of the body without negligence. 

 Another arreum: to be standing without a staff, without rest, until the three fifties with the canticles have been sung. 

 Another arreum of crossvigil until fifty psalms have been sung, or the Beati four times, and the arms must not touch the sides until the singing is finished, though there be nothing else to support thee by.

 An arreum for a week of hard penance on water and bread, viz. seven Beati in honest crossvigil and a credo and paternoster and “Hymnum dicat” with every beatitude. 

 Again, an arreum for a week for any one that has not read, viz. 700 honest genuflexions, and seven honest blows, crossvigil at the end of every hundred until the arms are tired. 

 An arreum for a fortnight, to do this twice. 

 An arreum for twenty nights, to do this three times.  

 An arreum for forty nights on water and bread, to do it in one day, if at the need of death. 

 This is an arreum for a year for sudden repentance, viz. to sing 365 paters while standing up, the arms unwearied towards heaven. The elbows must not touch the sides at all, with intent meditation on God, and let not voice enter the speech, and to sing a Beati in a stooping posture, thy face towards the earth and thy arms stretched out by thy sides. Or, it is the body that is stretched out on the earth on its face, and the arms stretched out by the side. It is Patrick who ordains this vigil, and Colum Cille and Maedoc of Ferns and Molacca Menn and Brennain, the great-grandson of Alta, and Colum son of Crimthan and Mocholmóc of Inisceltra.

With Enda in Aran this law was left. Four chief sages of Ireland ordained its practice to every son of life who desires Heaven, viz. Ua Mianadan and Cummin Fota and Murdebur and Mocholmóc mac Cumain from Aran.

 An arreum for a year of hard penance, which Ciaran mac int sáir adjudged to Oennu macu Laigse grandson of Comsola grandson of Dibrech: to be three days and three nights at it in a dark house or in some other place where no hindrance comes. And there must be no collation of a three days’ fast save three sips of water every day. This, however, is the arreum, viz. to sing 150 psalms every day while standing up without a staff, and genuflexion at the end of every psalm, and a Beati after every fifty, genuflexion between every two chapters(?) and “Hymnum dicat” after every Beati in crossvigil, and he must not let himself down into a lying posture . . . but in a sitting posture, and celebration of every hour besides . . . and intent meditation of the passion of Christ with contrition of heart and earnest repentance to God with remembrance of the sins, every one of them that he remembers. 

 An arreum for fifty nights of hard penance to be done in one day, which Colum Cille and Mobí Clárenech adjudged by the counsel of the archangel Michael, viz. Dominus regnavit (?ps. 96 or 98), Exaudi Domine iustitiam meam (ps. 16), Domini est terra (ps. 23), Beatus que intellegit (ps. 40), Deus noster refugium (ps. 45), Exaudi Deus deprecationem (ps. 60), Nonne Deo (ps. 61) Exaudi Deus orationem meam cum (ps. 63), Te decet (ps. 64), Domine refugium (ps. 89), Domine exaudi (ps. 101), Domine probasti (ps. 138), Eripe me Domine (ps. 139), Domine clamavi (ps. 140). Voce (ps. 141), Domine exaudi (ps. 142). “Gloria et honor Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto” at the end of every psalm, and seven genuflexions, and “Deus in adiutorium” usque “festina” three times, and a paternoster once while standing up between every two psalms until the whole arreum shall have ended. 

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