Rhygyfarch’s Life of Saint David says that it was angelic prophecy, communicated to his father, Sanctus, and to Saint Patrick thirty years before his birth, that spoke of the honeycomb of Saint David’s wisdom, the fish of his abiding in the seas of uncreated light and the stag of his royal dominion over the ancient serpent. In 1836, Rice Rees, in a prize-winning essay on Saint David, delivered at the Carmarthen Eisteddfod, spoke of the absurdity and profanity of the fabulous legend of this prophecy and its excessive veneration of the saint. He called this reverence for Saint David the wretched imagination of a perverted mind. Bishop Willam Barlow, the Bishop of Saint Davids from 1536 to 1547, destroyed the relics of Saint David and desecrated his shrine because he thought that reverence for the saint was sheer superstition, superstition that illegitimately usurped Christian devotion to Christ. Welsh puritanism took up this ideological cause, which still survives in secularised versions into our own day, denigrating both Saint David, his connection to prophecy and the function of angels that embraced his life. This bequeaths to us a crucial question: Was the prophecy of the bees, the fish and the stag an absurd profanity, the wretched fantasy of a perverted mind? Or was it wise angelic insight into the light and glory of a great saint, bearing witness to Christ in his image and likeness, rather than rivalling and usurping him?
The answer to this question cannot be decided by the science of archeology, the historical criticism of Rhygyfarch’s Life, or by the psychological analysis of perverted minds. Saint David and the Age of Saints knew that their own answer to this question came from the Spirit’s witness to Christ in their awakened hearts, from wisdom’s insight into the glory that inspires angelic prophecy on earth, as it inspires it in heaven. They tell us that to answer this question, we must turn the light of awareness round and see with God’s single eye in the heart. Archeological science, historical criticism and psychological analysis all fall short of awakened wisdom, which is why they are unable to answer this question on its own terms and ground, which is the wisdom of saints and the glory of angels free of all falls from grace. Good science knows that science is sound only within the limits of its methodology and presuppositions, but the holy science that Saint David lived and knew has long been ignored, dismissed and forgotten. A paradigm shift is required, a profound metanoia, a step back into luminous theoria, an awakening of the eye of the heart to wisdom. This is a step back into the ancient, integral wisdom of the saints, the wisdom of Saint David, but also a step forward into emerging integral wisdom, capable of embracing Saint David and the light of his glory, loved as wisdom and lived as glorification to this very day.
What, until recently, looked like the wretched imagination of a perverted mind, turns around to be the healthy imagination of an illumined mind, united with God in the heart, with capacity to discern the radical difference between perversion and wisdom. Wisdom loved is wisdom known, well able to discern the wisdom of God in his saints. Angelic prophecy is wisdom spoken to inspire angelic prayer in awakened hearts, embracing God, loved and known as God is loved and known by God, in God To discern the saints is to discern what made them saints, not merely to recount events and stories that informed their lives. Wisdom is known only within the glory of wisdom. God is seen only when God’s seeing is seen through God, in God. To listen to the heart of Saint David is most necessary if the pilgrimage city of St Davids and its Cathedral is to be truly understood. Mere stone and mortar cannot answer the difficult questions, nor can study of old documents or analysis of the psychology of prophecy unveil the holiness of saints. We begin by questioning the sanity of the wisdom of the bees, the fish and the stag, but wisdom turns us right round to question us and our sanity, in the light of David’s sanctity. Then, the wisdom of the bees, the fish and the stag questions us until we find we are no longer bound by the limits of archaeology, historical, literary criticism or the psychology of prophecy, but awake to what made David the saint he was, awake in the Spirit to Christ who informed David’s life, free of every trace of rivalry between Christ and his saints, attuned like the saints to angelic messengers of grace. A question of sanity unveils the radiance of sanctity: Saint David’s wisdom is Christ, discerned in the Spirit who keeps the faith of Christ, everywhere rejoicing in the Father of joy, and remembering little things in the all-embracing Spirit of truth.