Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Local "tradition" Recovered?

In a post on his blog, "Liturgical Notes", of Sept 3, 2009, Fr. John Hunwicke asked Was Gregory Organic?

The question raised was whether Gregory was engaging in a bit of "spin" in his replies to certain objections to recent liturgical "innovations" or "reforms", raised by someone who had visited him. The objections seem to have been motivated by "zeal" for the customs of the Roman See, or else by "jealousy" regarding those of the see of Constantinople -- it was probably all the same at that time.

This led to various interesting comments from others -- I also had some comments to make -- but one of the things I learned that day has stuck in the back of my mind. It is the rationale given by St. Gregory for moving the recital of the Lord's Prayer from some unknown location within the Mass to where it has always remained afterwards in the Latin Rite, immediately following the Canon, preceded by its introduction and followed by the embolism. Let me reproduce those prayers here in Latin for those who are not familiar with them.
Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere:

Pater noster, qui es in caelis: Sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cealo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Resp. Sed libera nos a malo.

Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, praeteritis, praesentibus, et futuris: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genetrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni purturbatione securi. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum.
Resp: Amen.

This is the version of the Our Father from Lk 11, 2-4.

Prof. William Tighe, in a comment, included a longish commentary on Gregory's thoughts from an Anglican liturgical authority, G. G. Willis. Among other things Willis says, "There is no doubt about the text of St. Gregory’s letter, but there has never been agreement about its precise meaning, nor is it agreed what St. Gregory found in the Mass at this point, and what exactly was the change that he made." I recommend reading the entire exchange at Fr. Hunwicke's site.

The quote from St. Gregory about which there is disagreement as to its precise meaning is the following:
Orationem vero dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quia mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent, et valde mihi inconveniens visum est ut precem quam scholasticus composuerat super oblationem diceremus, et ipsam traditionem quam Redemptor noster composuit super eius corpus et sanguinem non diceremus.
the translation of which (depending on how you read certain phrases) is:

But we say the Lord's prayer immediately following the Canon (precem) for the very reason that (idcirco... quia) it was the custom of the apostles (or, an apostolic custom) to consecrate the Host of oblation by that very prayer alone, and it seemed to me grossly inappropriate that we should recite a prayer over the Offering (precem... super oblationem) composed by a learned man, yet not recite over His Body and Blood the very prayer (traditionem) which our Redeemer composed.
I must warn the reader that this is not the consensus meaning at this time, according to Drs. Willis and Tighe (q.v.), but it is how I understood the sentence the first time I studied it. Apparently, again according to the same scholars, this would accord with the reading of Amalarius of Metz/Treves (AD cc. 775-850), an influential liturgical scholar and student of Alcuin at Charlemagne's court. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says of him, however, his liturgical theology was a bit too "mystical" for modern minds. You can read the modern view expressed rather well in the comments at the original post.

I, though acknowledging my lack of expertise in this area, did mention at the time that perhaps there was a Scriptural basis for Gregory's statement, i.e., St. Jerome's rendition of the Mt 6, 9-13 version of the Our Father, where he renders v. 11 thus: Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie. Notice this differs from the version (from Luke) we pray during Mass, and which was inserted at this point of the Mass by St. Gregory. Although the Greek word, ἐπιούσιον, is used in both places, and is thought by scholars to have been coined by the Evangelists, Jerome decided to render the same clause differently in the Latin. I have heard that this was to acknowledge the range of meanings the word may take on. Be that as it may....

Recently, though, I have been reading J.N.D. Kelly's Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, and became curious about the "Book of the Popes", the Liber Pontificalis, which he dates from the middle of the sixth century, and in which he finds one apocryphal "fact" after another. So I decided to see if I could find some version of it online, and I did, here. On page 6 of the online edition, under the entry for "Linus", footnote 2 provides us with the following information:
One manuscript adds the following. "He [Linus] first ordained the celebration of the mass to commemorate the Lord's passion, with bread and wine mixed with water and the Lord's prayer repeated alone and the sanctifying of the holy cross, a rite which the other holy apostles imitated for this celebration."
Other editions of the Liber Pontificalis omit it, and at least one locates this sentence at the end of the entry for St. Peter himself. If this were part of the original text of the LP, made in the middle of the sixth century, i.e., before the letter written by Gregory to bishop John of Syracuse, then perhaps there was actually some sort of local tradition in the Roman Church of which Gregory was mindful, that the Apostles originally consecrated the Eucharist using Our Lord's words in the Our Father?.

For Reference: Gregory I, Letters, Book 9, Letter 12.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Benedict XVI on St. Peter Damian

Benedict XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE, Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Saint Peter Damian

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Catecheses of these Wednesdays I am commenting on several important people in the life of the Church from her origins. Today I would like to reflect on one of the most significant figures of the 11th century, St Peter Damian, a monk, a lover of solitude and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform, initiated by the Popes of the time. He was born in Ravenna in 1007, into a noble family but in straitened circumstances. He was left an orphan and his childhood was not exempt from hardships and suffering, although his sister Roselinda tried to be a mother to him and his elder brother, Damian, adopted him as his son. For this very reason he was to be called Piero di Damiano, Pier Damiani [Peter of Damian, Peter Damian]. He was educated first at Faenza and then at Parma where, already at the age of 25, we find him involved in teaching. As well as a good grounding in the field of law, he acquired a refined expertise in the art of writing the ars scribendi and, thanks to his knowledge of the great Latin classics, became "one of the most accomplished Latinists of his time, one of the greatest writers of medieval Latin" (J. Leclercq, Pierre Damien, ermite et homme d'Église, Rome, 1960, p. 172).

He distinguished himself in the widest range of literary forms: from letters to sermons, from hagiographies to prayers, from poems to epigrams. His sensitivity to beauty led him to poetic contemplation of the world. Peter Damian conceived of the universe as a never-ending "parable" and a sequence of symbols on which to base the interpretation of inner life and divine and supra-natural reality. In this perspective, in about the year 1034, contemplation of the absolute of God impelled him gradually to detach himself from the world and from its transient realities and to withdraw to the Monastery of Fonte Avellana. It had been founded only a few decades earlier but was already celebrated for its austerity. For the monks' edification he wrote the Life of the Founder, St Romuald of Ravenna, and at the same time strove to deepen their spirituality, expounding on his ideal of eremitic monasticism.

One detail should be immediately emphasized: the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana was dedicated to the Holy Cross and the Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others. "Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ", he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117); and he described himself as "Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ" (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: "O Blessed Cross", he exclaimed, "You are venerated, preached and honoured by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints" (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304). Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the example of St Peter Damian spur us too always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act of God's love for humankind, which has given us salvation.

This great monk compiled a Rule for eremitical life in which he heavily stressed the "rigour of the hermit": in the silence of the cloister the monk is called to spend a life of prayer, by day and by night, with prolonged and strict fasting; he must put into practice generous brotherly charity in ever prompt and willing obedience to the prior. In study and in the daily meditation of Sacred Scripture, Peter Damian discovered the mystical meaning of the word of God, finding in it nourishment for his spiritual life. In this regard he described the hermit's cell as the "parlour in which God converses with men". For him, living as a hermit was the peak of Christian existence, "the loftiest of the states of life" because the monk, now free from the bonds of worldly life and of his own self, receives "a dowry from the Holy Spirit and his happy soul is united with its heavenly Spouse" (Ep 18, 17; cf. Ep 28, 43 ff.). This is important for us today too, even though we are not monks: to know how to make silence within us to listen to God's voice, to seek, as it were, a "parlour" in which God speaks with us. Learning the word of God in prayer and in meditation is the path to life.

St Peter Damian, who was essentially a man of prayer, meditation and contemplation, was also a fine theologian: his reflection on various doctrinal themes led him to important conclusions for life. Thus, for example, he expresses with clarity and liveliness the Trinitarian doctrine, already using, under the guidance of biblical and patristic texts, the three fundamental terms which were subsequently to become crucial also for the philosophy of the West: processio, relatio and persona (cf. Opusc. XXXVIII: PL CXLV, 633-642; and Opusc. II and III: ibid., 41 ff. and 58 ff). However, because theological analysis of the mystery led him to contemplate the intimate life of God and the dialogue of ineffable love between the three divine Persons, he drew ascetic conclusions from them for community life and even for relations between Latin and Greek Christians, divided on this topic. His meditation on the figure of Christ is significantly reflected in practical life, since the whole of Scripture is centred on him. The "Jews", St Peter Damian notes, "through the pages of Sacred Scripture, bore Christ on their shoulders as it were" (Sermo XLVI, 15). Therefore Christ, he adds, must be the centre of the monk's life: "May Christ be heard in our language, may Christ be seen in our life, may he be perceived in our hearts" (Sermo VIII, 5). Intimate union with Christ engages not only monks but all the baptized. Here we find a strong appeal for us too not to let ourselves be totally absorbed by the activities, problems and preoccupations of every day, forgetting that Jesus must truly be the centre of our life.

Communion with Christ creates among Christians a unity of love. In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. "Christ's Church", he writes, is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully the Church". This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us. Thus the service of the individual becomes "an expression of universality" (Ep 28, 9-23). However, the ideal image of "Holy Church" illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquillity he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavour to prevent the divorce of Henry IV from his wife Bertha. And again, two years later, in 1071, he went to Monte Cassino for the consecration of the abbey church and at the beginning of 1072, to Ravenna, to re-establish peace with the local Archbishop who had supported the antipope bringing interdiction upon the city.

On the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged him to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that the Lord should have raised up in the life of the Church a figure as exuberant, rich and complex as St Peter Damian. Moreover, it is rare to find theological works and spirituality as keen and vibrant as those of the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana. St Peter Damian was a monk through and through, with forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive. Yet, in that way he made monastic life an eloquent testimony of God's primacy and an appeal to all to walk towards holiness, free from any compromise with evil. He spent himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time. He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and to the Church, but always remained, as he liked to describe himself, Petrus ultimus monachorum servus, Peter, the lowliest servant of the monks.