Thursday, March 1, 2012

For whatever nourishes our souls (from the Sacramentary of Echternach)

The fun fact of the western liturgical tradition, pre-Tridentine and pre-Reformation, is the wide variety in the liturgy. Spending some time with an obscure sacramentary elucidates the somewhat provincial nature of hanging on pre-Vatican II liturgies - there is a whole liturgical world out there that is pre-Vatican II, pre-Tridentine, pre-Reformation, and even pre-Great Schism. For Western Christians, these obscure texts contain bits and pieces of the greater Western Christian patrimony, most of which is severely ignored.

Here is a Lenten preface from the Sacramentary of Echternach:

VD aeterne deus. Qui in alimentum corporis humani frugum copiam producere iussisti, et in alimentum animarum ieiunni nobis medicinam indidisti. Te itaque supplices invcamus, ut tibi sit acceptabile ieiunium nostrum, et nos a cibis ieiunantes, a peccatis absoluas. Per Christum.

Similar to what we'd expect for Lent, but just a little bit different. The oration, in my estimation, alludes to Lent's origin in human necessity. The Lenten action, which may be equally described as thirst as well as fasting or barren, is juxtaposed next to God past action having supplied the earth with a copious amount of fruit for the nourishment of the body. The oration seeks the nourishment of the soul in this thirst/fast/hunger/barren. To me, the language has a sense of gravitas about, though I don't think it's related to a concept of solemnity of Lent as much as it may relate to, if only in memory, a very real human circumstance. Equally, although somewhat obliquely, the oration may be said to make some correspondence between the type of "thirst" in the prayer itself and Christ's "I thirst."

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