Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blessed in name: Saint Benedict in the ancient Christian past.

The following are taken from Benedict's first feast, corresponding to our March 21st, as found in the Sacramentary of Echternach

Oratio


Omnipotens aeterne deus qui per gloriosa tua beati Benedicti abbatis exempla humilitatis triumphale nobis iter ostendisti, da quaesumus ut uiam tibi placidae oboedientiae quam uenerablilis pater Benedictus illesus antecedebat, nos praeclaris eius meritis adiuti, sine error subsequamur.


Super Oblata


Paternis intercessionibus magnifici pastoris benedicti quaesumus familiae tuae omnipotens deus commendetur oblatio, cuius uitalibus decoratur exemplis.


Preafatio


VD aeterne deus. Honorandi patris Benedicti gloriosum caelebrantes diem, in quo hoc triste saeculum deserens, ad caelestis patriae gaudia migrauit aeterna. Qui sancti spiritus repletus dono, decori monachorum gregis effulsit pastor, qui sacris quod ammonuit dictionibus, sanctis impleuit operibus. Vt quam diuinis intonuit oraculis semitam exemplis monstraret lucidis, ut gloriosa plebs monachorum paterna intuens uestigia, ad perpetua lucis aeterne praemia peruenire mereretur.


Ad Complendum


Perceptis domine deus noster salutaribus sacramentis humiliter te deprecamur, ut intercedente beato Benedicto abbate, quae pro illius uenerando agimus obitu, nobis proficiant ad salutem.

Some notes on two of these prayers. The collect is found in the supplement to the Hadrianum and the Sacramentarium Gellonense. This is a Gallican prayer and its presence in the Hadrianum's supplement implies that it may, ultimately, be a prayer from the pre-Roman Gallican rite. Loosely, and I am mean very loosely, this prayer seems to have influenced the composition of the collect for St. Benedict in the revised Roman rite, in so far as the collect from the Sacramentary of Echternach and the prayer from the Missale Romanum (1970) portray Benedict as an exemplar for his mastery of the monastic ideals. Again, this is a very loose affiliation, but it seems to be there.

The proper preface is an especially fine prayer and rich with allusion. As with the collect, this preface is found in the supplement to the Hadrianum and the Gellonense and may well be a remnant of the no longer extant Gallic rite. I would like to focus on the first sentence, Honorandi patris Benedicti gloriosum caelebrantes diem, in quo hoc triste saeculum deserens, ad caelestis patriae gaudia migrauit aeterna. Two of the most well attested and long standing themes in human death rituals are readily apparent, the migration of the soul/the concept of the journey of the soul and notion that at death the deceased returns to his or her true home. Both themes are entwined in the clause ad caelestis patriae gaudia migrauit aeterna. Neither the preface nor the rest of the Mass set attempts to define which theme is meant in the beginning of the preface. For those who have a background or otherwise some knowledge of comparative religion, this sentence provides ample inspiration for speculation. One could just as easily imagine paintings depicting the cosmic journey of Benedict's soul through the full spectrum of the afterlife as one can imagine paintings in which Benedict is depicted as returning to the true home of his soul.

In all the discussion of the Roman rite, tridentine or otherwise, we often loose sight of still obscure treasures that could, if offered the chance, offer us a bounty of prayer.