Monks in 640CE

There is a story that in 640CE an order of Pope Gregory’s monks were copying sacred texts for dissemination. The youngest monk noticed that, to prepare the texts more quickly, small groups of friars would each make multiple copies of the same pages, passing them down the table for collating and binding. As each group of friars was therefore forced to work from copies of text rather than from the original manuscript, he became concerned for the doctrinal integrity of the copies, and approached the Master of the order.

“Father,” he said, “I am troubled by a thought that God’s Holy Word may be altered by human error. For if the page from which our brothers copy is incorrect by as much as a single letter, the error will be repeated in each copy of the text.”

The eldest monk immediately called a halt to work for the day and, picking up the pages from which his brethren had been copying, rushed to his office. He spent the next several days poring over the texts, refusing food and sleep, speaking to none while his monks remained outside his door in prayer, anxiously awaiting word that God’s Writ remained unaltered.

On the morning of the fourth day they heard a wail from the Master’s study, the despair of a disconsolate man. Their knocks received no answer; they forced the door and burst in to find the old monk with his head upon his desk. “One letter,” he kept muttering. “One letter, such fools!”

“Father, are you alright?” asked the youngest monk. “Of what letter do you speak?”

The old man raised his tear-stained face from the page. “Celebrate,” he said. “The word is CELEBRATE!”

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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