Gladdened by God’s good Ghost, let us sing forth His praises on this holy feast of Pentecost with three exuberant tropes on the day’s Introit Spiritus Domini.
Hodie Spiritus Sanctus
Hodie Spiritus Sanctus descendit super Apostolos omnemque terram replevit: eia! Dic, domne! Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! Hodie Spiritus Sanctus Paraclitus totam replevit domum igne divino: et hoc quod continet omnia scientiam habet vocis. Gratias agamus sanctae Trinitati et unitati maiestatis semper: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Today the Holy Spirit hath descended upon the Apostles and hath filled all the earth: ho! Speak, my lord! The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! Today the Holy Spirit hath filled the whole house with divine fire: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice. Let us give thanks to the holy Trinity and the unity of majesty for aye: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Discipulis flammas infundens
Discipulis flammas infundens caelitus almas: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! omnigenis linguis reserans magnalia Christi: et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis, alleluia! Ipsi perspicuas dicamus vocibus odas: alleluia, alleluia!
Pouring into the disciples propitious flames from heaven, the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! revealing Christ’s mighty deeds in all manner of tongues: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice, alleluia! With our voices let us cry out limpid hymns to him: alleluia!
Spiritus almus adest
Spiritus almus adest, cunctorum vivificator: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! Namque replet linguis, qui corda fidelia cunctis: et hoc quod continet omnia mirifico visu satiat: quod continet omne scientiam habet vocis. Ebria namque fides divo solamine cantat: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The nourishing Spirit is here, who lives life to all things: the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! Yea verily, he who filleth faithful hearts with every language, and that which containeth all things satisfieth: a wonder to behold: that which containeth all hath knowledge of the voice. Faith drunken—forsooth!—with divine solace singeth: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
These tropes were transcribed from the MSS. by Ferdinand Haberl, Tropi antiphonarum ad Introitum usui liturgicum accomodati, Rome, 1980.
We also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce our readers to our new Music Library, which contains all the chant recordings made for this ’blog by our Notker Balbulus.
In his monumental Institutions liturgiques, Dom Prosper Guéranger famously castigated the Neo-Gallican liturgies that proliferated in 17th and 18th century France for, inter alia, being products of Jansenist inspiration. Setting aside the question of whether these liturgies betray a heretical notion of predestination, it is true that many figures associated with the Jansenist movement did have a keen interest in the liturgy. Contrary to what one might expect given Dom Guéranger’s accusations, these “Jansenists” prized respect for ancient custom and repudiated needless novelty.
The intellectual centre of Jansenism was the Abbey of Port-Royal, a community of Cistercian nuns who, after a reform in the early 17th century led by the formidable Abbess Angélique Arnauld, became noted for their exemplary religious observance and cultivation of liturgical piety. Their piety attracted a number of intellectuals who chose to settle as solitaires on the abbey grounds, leading a retired life of study and simple manual labour, including Angélique’s brother Antoine, one of the most prominent Jansenist theologians. Both the nuns and solitaries set up schools to teach neighbouring children.
One of those children was Jean-Baptiste Le Brun des Marettes, whom our readers will remember as the author of the Voyages liturgiques. His father had been sent to the galleys for publishing Jansenist works, and Jean-Baptiste himself once did a stint at the Bastille for his involvement in the controversy. His main interest, however, was not moral theology but liturgy. His Voyages evince his veneration for liturgical antiquity and opposition to modern developments in matters of ritual, furnishing, and vestments. Yet he found a way to reconcile such views with his enthusiasm for the Neo-Gallican reforms of the Mass and Office, ultimately sharing the hubristic certainty of most men of his age that their own putative enlightenment was able to improve upon “Gothic barbarism”. Our Aelredus has described and critiqued the seemingly contradictory tastes that Jean-Baptiste Le Brun shared with other Jansenist figures.
With these remarks in mind, let us see how the liturgy was celebrated in the Jansenist stronghold of Port-Royal, in a chapter of the Voyages that Le Brun des Marettes wrote before the abbey’s suppression in 1709 and the destruction of most of its buildings. (Although the Voyages was published in 1718, Le Brun des Marettes employs the present tense in this chapter.)
The Voyages liturgiques offers several fascinating glimpses into the communal piety of Port-Royal des Champs. Marettes pays attention to the physical space of Port-Royal. He reports that the paintings in the church are by Philippe de Champaigne. The great French classicist had a daughter at the convent, Soeur Catherine de Saint-Suzanne, and seems to have provided the monastery with several portraits of both nuns and solitaires as well as several edifying works of art. The large altarpiece depicting the Last Supper is today in the Muséedes Beaux-Arts de Lyon, with a copy in the Louvre. Marretes devotes particular attention to the epitaphs in and around the church. The epitaphs for the solitaires Emmanuel le Cerf, an Oratorian, and Jean Hamon, a medical doctor and mystic, are especially moving.
Yet it is the liturgical and communal details he provides here that are most exciting for the historian of Jansenism and which, in fact, force us to take the nuns more seriously as daughters of St. Benedict and St. Bernard. Following the egalitarian reform of Mère Angélique, the Abbey did not require dowries of its postulants. Singing the office according to the use of Paris, they prayed the whole Psalter every week. The first chapter of the Constitutions of Port-Royal is dedicated to veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, a significant organizational choice. There were in fact both communal and individual devotions to the Blessed Sacrament at Port-Royal; for, “in addition to engaging in perpetual adoration … they also have the custom of prostrating themselves before the Sacrament before going up to receive holy communion.” Following an ancient usage, they only exposed the Blessed Sacrament during the Octave of Corpus Christi, and even then, only after the daily High Mass. Usually, the Sacrament was reserved in a hanging pyx, “attached to the end of a veiled wooden fixture shaped like a crosier.” The French Jansenists seem to have had a fixation with hanging pyxes; both M. Saint-Cyran and M. Singlin wrote about “suspension” of the Blessed Sacrament in this form.
The community would meet for chapter daily. The nuns engaged in an exacting and penitential adherence to the Rule, including silence, vegetarianism, abstinence from strong drink, and only a single meal per day in Lent. In their persons as in their ecclesiastical furniture, they followed the Cistercian spirit of holy simplicity; Marettes reports that “The nuns’ habits are coarse, and there is neither gold nor silver in their church vestments.” Yet they were not without the consolation of quiet reading in the garden during summertime.
Marettes reminds us that Port-Royal was not just a community of nuns, but also included male hermits and domestics. He writes, “After the Credo, the priest descends to the bottom of the altar steps and blesses the bread offered by one of the abbey’s domestics.” These servants and workers seem to have had a special participation in the liturgy through this rite, so reminiscent of the blessing of bread found even today in the Eastern Churches. The Necrology of Port-Royal includes these men as well in its roll-call of the Abbey’s luminaries, confirming the sometimes-overlooked egalitarianism of Port-Royaliste spirituality.
One of the more striking moments in the text comes when Marettes writes that “On Sundays and feasts of abstention from servile work there is a general communion; at every Mass said in this church at least one of the nuns receives communion.” The practice of lay communion at every Mass contradicts the usual picture of the Jansenists receiving infrequently or as discouraging lay communion. The nuns themselves, at least, seem to have received the Sacrament daily.
And I cannot help but see in one custom a potent metaphor for the troubled history of the monastery. Marettes writes, “On Holy Saturday, they extinguish the lights throughout the entire house, and during the Office they bring back the newly blessed fire.” The extraordinary and unjust persecution that the nuns endured under the authorities of the French Church and State – to the point of being deprived of communion during Easter, of being denied the last rites, of condemnation to a slow decline even after reconciliation with the Archbishop, and, at the very end, of having their bodies desecrated and even fed to the dogs – must have seemed like a very long Holy Saturday. Yet the blessed fire of the Holy Ghost does not abandon those who faithfully serve God in humble prayer and penitence. Where we find the Cross, Resurrection follows.
It is not for us to resurrect the nuns and solitaires of Port-Royal; historians can only do so much. But by taking the dead on their own terms, we can at least pay them the homage we owe any historical figure, and perhaps especially the defeated, the maligned, the powerless, and the forgotten. Only by doing so can we reckon with our implication in the longstanding myths that efface those voices. It is my hope that the publication of this important translation will help us in that process of revision.
Richard T. Yoder
The Amish Catholic
Port-Royal-des-Champs is an abbey of nuns of the Order of Cîteaux lying between Versailles and the former monastery of Chevreuse.
The church is quite large, and its simplicity and cleanliness inspires respect and devotion.
The main altar is not attached to the wall, since the ample and well-kept sacristy is located behind it. Above the altar hangs the holy pyx, attached to the end of a veiled wooden fixture shaped like a crosier. It is set under a large crucifix above a well-regarded painting of the Last Supper by Philippe de Champaigne.
There is nothing on the altar but a crucifix. The four wooden candlesticks are set on the ground at its sides.
The woodwork of the sanctuary and parquet floor is very well maintained, as is that of the nuns’ choir. Indeed, the stalls are kept in such good condition that one would think they were carved not twenty years ago, when in fact they are over 150 years old.1
The church contains some paintings by Champaigne, and a very well-kept holy water basin to the right of its entry.
Inside the cloister, there are several tombs of abbesses and other nuns. From these tombs one can garner
1. that the first abbesses of the Order of Cîteaux, following the spirit of St Bernard, did not have croziers. Even today, the Abbess of Port-Royal does not use one.
2. that in this monastery the nuns used to be consecrated by the bishop. Two of them are represented on the same tomb wearing a sort of maniple.2 The inscription around the tomb reads:
Here lie two blood-sisters, consecrated nuns of this abbey, Adeline and Nicole aux Pieds d’Estampes. May their souls rest in everlasting peace. Amen. Adeline died in the year of our Lord 1288.3
There is an ancient necrology or obituary in this abbey that includes the ritual for the consecration or blessing of a nun. It describes how on these occasions the bishop celebrated Mass and gave communion to the nun he blessed. To this effect he consecrated a large host which he broke into eight particles, giving one as communion to the nun. He then placed the seven other particles of his host in her right hand, covered by a dominical or small white cloth. During the eight days after her consecration or blessing, she gave herself these particles as communion. Priests also used to give themselves communion during the forty days after their ordination or consecration.4
Under the lamp by the baluster lies a tomb dated 1327, if I remember correctly, which is worthy of description, especially given that its most interesting aspect is misreported in the Gallia Christiana of the brothers de Sainte-Marthe.
It used to be the custom for devout noble ladies to take up the nun’s habit during their last illness, or at least to be clothed in it after their death. See, for example, the tomb of Queen Blanche, mother of King St Louis, at Maubuisson Abbey near Pontoise. Here in Port-Royal we find the tomb of one Dame Marguerite de Levi—wife of Matthew V de Marly of the illustrious House of Montmorency, Grand-Chamberlain of France—buried in a nun’s habit, with this inscription:
Here rested, whose name thou shalt have there hereafter. Marguerite was the wife of Matthew de Marly, and daughter of the noble Guy de Levi. She bore six boys. After her husband died, she went to the nuns. Amongst the claustral sisters she chose to make her home. In her long rest, may she be buried in nun’s clothing. May eternal light shine upon her in peace everlasting. Year 1327.5
By the door of the church, in the vestibule, is the tomb of a priest vested in his vestments. His chasuble is rounded in all corners, not cut or clipped, gathered up over his arms, and hanging down below and behind him in points. His maniple is not wider below than it is on top, and he does not wear his stole crossed over his breast, but straight down like bishops, Carthusians, and the ancient monks of Cluny, who have rejected innovation on this point. His alb has apparels on the bottom matching the vestments: this is what the manuscripts call the alba parata. They are still used in cathedral churches and ancient abbeys.
Next to the church door and the clock tower lies the small cemetery of domestics, where two epitaphs are worthy of note.
To God the Best and Greatest.
Here lies Emmanuel le Cerf, who, after dedicating most of his life to the education of the people, deemed the evangelical life superior to evangelical preaching and, in order that he who had lived only for others should die to himself, embraced a penitential life in his old age as eagerly as he did seriously. He embraced the weight of old age, more conducive to suffering than aught else, and various diseases of the body as remedy for his soul and advantageous provision for the journey to eternity. Humbly he awaited death in this port of rest, living no longer as a priest but as a layman, and attained it nearly ninety years old. He died on 8 December 1674, and wished to be buried in this cemetery near the Cross. May he rest in peace.6
And the other:
Here rests Jean Hamon, doctor, who, having spent his youth in the study of letters, was eminently learned in the Greek and Latin tongues. Seeing that he flourished in the University of Paris by the renown of his eloquence, and that his fame grew daily for his skill of medicine, he feared the lure of flattery and fame and the haughtiness of life. Suddenly stirred by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he quickly poured out the value of his inheritance into the bosom of the poor and, in the thirty-third year of his age, he dragged himself into this solitude, as he had long pondered doing. First he applied himself to the labour of the fields, then to serving the ministers of Christ, and soon returned to his original profession, healing the wounded members of the Redeemer in the person of the poor, among whom he honoured the handmaidens of Christ as the spouses of the Lord. He wore the coarsest garments, fasting nearly every day, slept on a board, spent day and night in nearly perpetual vigils, prayer, and meditation, nocturnal works everywhere breathing the love of God. For thirty-seven years he accumulated the toils of medicine, walking some twelve leagues every day, very often while fasting, to visit the sick in the villages, providing them what they might need, helping them by counsel, by hand, with medicines, with food whereof he deprived himself, living for twenty-two years on eating bran bread and water, which he ate secretly and alone, while standing up. As wisely as he had lived, considering every day his last, thus he departed this life in the Lord, amidst the prayers and tears of his brethren, in deep silence and sweet meditation of the Lord’s mercies, with his eyes, mind, and heart fixed on Jesus Christ, mediator between God and man, rejoicing that he obtained the tranquil death for which he had prayed, that he might gain eternal life, at the age of 69, on 22 February 1687.7
Heeding the spirit of St Bernard, the nuns are subject to the Lord Archbishop of Paris, who is their superior. They also sing the office according to the use of Paris, except that they sing the ferial psalms every day in order to fulfill the Rule of St Benedict which they follow, and which binds them to saying the entire psalter every week. This they do with the approbation of the late M. de Harlay, Archbishop of Paris.
At the blessing and aspersion of holy water on Sundays, the abbess and her nuns come forward to receive it at the grill from the priest’s hand.
After the Credo, the priest descends to the bottom of the altar steps and blesses the bread offered by one of the abbey’s domestics. He then announces any feasts or fasting days during the coming week, and gives a short exhortation or explanation of the day’s Gospel.
At every High Mass of the year, the sacristan or thurifer goes to the nuns’ grill at the end of the Credo to receive, through a hatch in the screen, a box from the sister sacristan containing the exact number of hosts needed for the sisters who are to receive communion. He brings them to the altar and gives them the celebrant.
At High Masses for the Dead, the sacristan goes to the grill to receive the bread, a large host, and the wine in a cruet, and brings them to the altar. He gives the host to the priest on the paten, kissing it on the inside edge, and the cruet of wine to the deacon, who pours the wine into the chalice.
At the Agnus Dei, the nuns embrace and give each other the kiss of peace.
On Sundays and feasts of abstention from servile work there is a general communion; at every Mass said in this church at least one of the nuns receives communion.
Devotion for the Most Blessed Sacrament is so great in this monastery that in addition to engaging in perpetual adoration as part of the Institute of the Blessed Sacrament (it is for this reason that they have exchanged their black scapular for a white one charged with a scarlet cross over the breast, about two fingers in width and a half-foot tall), they also have the custom of prostrating themselves before the Sacrament before going up to receive Holy Communion.8
Nevertheless, the Blessed Sacrament is only exposed during the Octave of Corpus Christi, and this every day after High Mass. For here Mass is never said at an altar where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. We will come back to this point.
The nuns of this monastery observe an exact and rigorous silence. Except in cases of illness, they never eat meat, and fish only rarely, about twelve or fifteen times a year. They solely drink water, and observe the great fast of Lent in its full rigour, as in the age of St Bernard, eating only at five in the evening after Vespers, which they usually say at 4 p.m., even though they wake up at night to sing Matins and perform manual labour during the day.
A spiritual conference is held after lunch, during which they continue to work, and during which it is not permitted to speak aloud.
During the summer, the nuns are sometimes allowed to go into the garden after dinner, but many refrain from doing so, and those that go do so separately, taking a book to read or some work to do.
Matins are said here at 2 a.m. together with Lauds, but in winter Lauds are said separately at 6 a.m, and then a Low Mass is celebrated between Lauds and Prime. During the rest of the year, Prime is said at 6 a.m., followed by a Conventual Low Mass. Chapter follows with a reading from the Martyrology, the Necrology, and the Rule, some chapter of which the Abbess explicates once or twice a week. Then they hold the proclamation of faults, and appropriate penances are imposed.
Terce is said at 8:30 a.m., followed by High Mass. Sext is at 11 a.m., and on ecclesiastical fast days at 11:45, after which they go to lunch, except in Lent when they do not dine, for in the Rule of St Benedict to lunch means not to fast. None is at 2 p.m. in winter and at 2:30 in summer.
The first bell for Vespers rings at 4 p.m., and the office begins some fifteen minutes later. It finishes at 5 or 5:15, for they sing very unhurriedly and distinctly. After Vespers in Lent, they sound the refectory bell, and the nuns go there to lunch and dine together. One sees nuns following this regime until they are 72 or 75 or even older. Not too long ago there was a priest who, in Lent, only ate in the evening, even though he was 87 years old, and lived till he was 92.
On Holy Saturday, they extinguish the lights throughout the entire house, and during the Office they bring back the newly blessed fire.
The nuns’ habits are coarse, and there is neither gold nor silver in their church vestments.
The Abbey receives girls without a dowry, and makes neither pacts or conventions for the reception of nuns, following the primitive spirit of their monastery, as is clear from the following acts:
Be it known to all men that I, Eudes de Thiverval, esquire, and Thècle my wife gave in pure and perpetual alms, for the salvation of our souls and those of our ancestors, two bushels of corn, that is, one of winter-crop and the other of oats from our tithe-district of Jouy, to the Church of Our Lady of Port-Royal and the nuns serving God therein, to be collected every day on the feast of St Remigius. Be it known that the Abbess and Convent of the said place freely received one of our daughters into their society of nuns. Not wishing to incur the vice of ingratitude, we have given the said two bushels of corn in alms to the said House of our will without any pact. Which, that it may remain ratified and fixed, we have made to be confirmed by the support of our seal. Done in the year of grace 1216.9
Renaud, by the grace of God bishop of Chartres, to all who would earlier or later inspect the present page, in the Lord greeting. We make it known to all future and present that by these presents that the Abbess and Convent of Nuns of Porrois [i.e. Port-Royal] freely received in charity Asceline, daughter of Hugues de Marchais, esquire, as a sister and nun of God. Thereafter the said esquire, lest he should give away his said daughter to be betrothed to Christ without a dowry from part of his patrimony, standing in our presence did give and grant to the Church of Porrois and the nuns serving God therein in perpetual alms for the portion of his said daughter the return of one annual bushel of corn in his grange of Marchais or Lonville to be collected every year in the Paris measure of Dourdan, and three firkins of wine in his vineyard of Marchais to be collected yearly, and ten shillings in his census-district of Marchais. That his gift may remain ratified and fixed, at the petition of the same Hugues we have made the present letters to be confirmed by our seal in testimony. Done at Chartres in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord 1217, in the month of April.10
Be it known to all them that I, Odeline de Sèvre, gave in pure and perpetual alms to the house of Port-Royal for the soul of my late husband Enguerrand of happy memory, and for the salvation of my soul, and of all my children and ancestors, and especially for the salvation and love of my daughter Marguerite who received the religious habit in the same house, four arpents of vine in my clos of Sèvre to be possessed in perpetuity. My sons Gervais the eldest, Roger, and Simon praised, willed, and granted this donation, to whom it belonged by hereditary right. And further we offered the same donation with the book upon the altar of Port-Royal. In testimony and perpetual confirmation whereof, since by said sons Gervais, Roger, and Simon were not yet esquires and did not yet have seals, I the said Odeline confirmed the present charter by the support of my seal with their will and convent. Done on the year of our Lord 1228.11
1. Author’s note: [After the Abbey’s suppression] the altar and choir stalls were purchased by the Cistercian nuns of Paris and placed in their church, where one can see them.
3. Hic jacent duae sorores germanae, hujus praesentis Abbatiae Moniales Deo sacratae, Adelina et Nicholaa dictae ad Pedem, de Stampis quondam progenitae: quarum animae in pace perpetua requiescant. Amen. Obiit dicta Adelina anno Domini M. C. C. octog. octavo.
4. Author’s note: See Fulbert. Epist. 2 ad Finard. Rituale Rotomag. ann. 1651.
5. Hic requievit, ibi post cujus nomen habebis.
Margareta fuit Matthæi Malliancensis
Uxor; & hanc genuit generosus Guido Levensis.
Sex parit ista mares. Vir obit. Petit hæc Moniales.
Intra claustrales elegit esse lares.
In requie multa sit Nonnæ veste sepulta;
Luceat æterna sibi lux in pace suprema.
Anno M. C. bis, LX. bis, V. semel, I. bis.
6. D. O. M. Hic jacet Emmanuel le Cerf, qui cum majorem vitæ partem erudiendis populis consumpsisset, vitam evangelicam evanglicæ prædicationi anteponendam ratus, ut sibi moreretur, qui aliis tantum vixerat, ad pœnitentiam accurrit senex eo festinantius, quo serius; pondusque ipsum senectutis, quo nihil ad patiendum aptius, et varios corporis morbos in remedium animæ conversos, tanquam opportunum æternitatis viaticum amplexus; mortem humilis, nec se jam sacerdotem, sed laicum gerens, in hoc quietis portu expectavit, quæ obtigit fere nonagenario. Obiit 8 Decembris 1674 et in Cœmeterio prope Crucem sepeliri voluit. Requiescat in pace.
7. Hic quiescit Joannes Hamon Medicus, qui adolescentia in studiis litterarum transacta, latine græceque egregie doctus, cum in Academia Parisiensi eloquentiæ laude floreret, et medendi peritia in dies inclaresceret, famae blandientis insidias et superbiam vitæ metuens, Spiritus impetu subito percitus, patrimonii pretio in sinum pauperum festinanter effuso, anno ætatis xxxiij in solitudinem hanc, quam diu jam meditabatur, se proripuit. Ubi primum opere rustico exercitus, tum Christi ministris famulatus, mox professioni pristinæ redditus, membra Redemptoris infirma curans in pauperibus, inter quos ancillas Christi quasi sponsas Domini sui suspexit; veste vilissima, jejuniis prope quotidianis, cubatione in asseribus, pervigiliis, precatione, et meditatione diu noctuque fere perpetua, lucubrationibus amorem Dei undique spirantibus, cumulavit ærumnas medendi quas toleravit per annos xxxvj quotidiano pedestri xij plus minus milliarum itinere, quod sæpissime jejunus conficiebat, villarum obiens ægros, eorumque commodis serviens consilio, manu, medicamentis, alimentis, quibus se defraudabat, pane furfureo et aqua, idque clam et solus, et stando per annos xxij. sustentans vitam, quam ut sapienter duxerat, quasi quotidie moriturus, ita inter fratrum preces et lacrymas in alto silentio, misericordias Domini suavissime recolens; atque in Mediatorem Dei et hominum Jesum Christum, oculis, mente, et corde defixus, exitu ad votum suum tranquillo lætus, ut æternum victurus clausit in Domino, annos natus 69 dies 20 viij Kalend. Mart. anni 1687.
8. Translators’ note: The nuns of Port-Royal began to practice perpetual adoration in 1623 to beg for protection from the Abbot General of the Cistercian order, who opposed Mother Angélique Arnaud’s reform of the abbey. Shortly thereafter, she endeavoured to found an Institute “whose principal end should be honouring the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and to ensure therefor that there be always someone adoring It day and night” (Mémoires d’Angélique, p. 57). In August 1627, the Most Holy Lord Pope Urban VIII signified his approbation of her designs by promulgating a brief putting Port-Royal under episcopal jurisdiction and setting up the Institute of the Blessed Sacrament.
9. Noverint universi quod ego Odo de Tiverval miles et Thecla uxor mea dedimus in puram et perpetuam eleemosynam, pro remedio animarum nostrarum et antecessorum nostrorum, Ecclesiae beatae Mariae de Portu-Regio et Monialibus ibidem Deo servientibus duos modios bladi, unum scilicet hibernagii, et alterum avenae in decima nostra de Joüy, singulis annis in festo S. Remigii percipiendos. Sciendum vero est quod Abbatissa et ejusdem loci Conventus unam de filiabus nostris in societatem Monialium benigne receperunt. Nos vero ingratudinis vitium incurrere nolentes, praedictos duos modios dictae jam domui de voluntate nostra sine aliquo pacto eleemosynavimus. Quod ut ratum et immobile perseveret, sigilli nostri munimine fecimus roborari. Actum anno gratiae M. CC. xvj.
10. Reginaldus Dei gratia Cartonensis Episcopus, universis primis et posteris praesentem paginam inspecturis salutem in Domino. Notum facimus omnibus tam futuris quam praesentibus quod, quoniam Abbatissa et Conventus Sanctimonialium de Porregio Acelinam filiam Hugonis de Marchesio militis in sororem et sanctimonialiem Dei et caritatis intuitu gratis receperant, postmodum dictus miles in nostra constitutus praesentia, ne dictam filiam suam nuptam Christi parte sui patrominii relinqueret indotatam, Ecclesiae de Porregio et Monialibus ibi Deo servientibus dedit et concessit in perpetuam eleemosynam, pro portione dictae filiae suae unum modium bladi annui redditus in granchia sua de Marchesio vel de Lonvilla singulis annis percipiendum ad mensuram Parisiensem de Dordano, et tres modios vini in vinea sua de Marchesio annuatim percipiendos, et decem solidos in censu suo de Marchesio. Ut autem donum ejus ratum et stabile permaneret, ad petitionem ipsius Hugonis praesentes Litteras in testimonium sigillo nostro fecimus roborari. Actum Carnoti anno Dominicae Incarnationis M. CC. septimo decimo, mense Aprili.
11. Noverint universi quod ego Odelina de Sèvre donavi in puram et perpetuam eleemosynam domui Portus-Regis pro anima bonae memoriae Ingeranni quondam mariti mei, et pro salute animae meae, et omnium liberorum et progenitorum meorum; et maxime pro salute et amore Margaretae filiae meae quae in eadem domo religionis habitum assumpserat, quatuor arpentos vineae in clauso meo de Sèvre jure perpetuo possidendos. Hanc autem donationem laudaverunt, voluerunt et concesserunt filii mei Gervasius primogenitus, Rogerus et Simon, ad quos eadem donatio jure hereditario pertinebat. Immo et ipsi eandem donationem obtulimus cum libro super altare Portus Regis. In cujus rei testimonium et conformationem perpetuam ego praedicta Odelina, quia praedicti filii mei G. R. et Simon necdum milites erant, et necdum sigilla habebant, de voluntate eorum et assensu praesentem Chartam sigilli mei munimine roboravi. Actum anno Domini M. CC. vigesimo octavo.
In celebration of Our Lord’s glorious Ascension, we offer our readers a sermon on today’s feast by Honorius Augustodunensis, taken from his Speculum Ecclesiae, like the sermon on the Holy Cross we posted a fortnight ago.
Read the English below or download a PDF of the translation and Latin text.
On Our Lord’s Ascension
The sun was raised aloft, and the moon stood still in her course. Christ is the eternal sun who sheds his radiance upon all the choirs of angels; he is the true light who enlightens every soul, who long lay concealed behind the cloud of his flesh, wreathed in the shadows of our frailty. Emerging at last from the shadows of Hell, today he rises gloriously above the stars and, raised above all the decorated ranks of angels, he sits, Lord of majesty, at the right hand of the Father. The moon, that is the Church, stands still in her course, gleaming in his light, when in the person of the apostles she saw him ascend into heaven. For the apostles showed themselves to be the Church’s course when they taught her the course of good living, and taught her how to order her course after the Sun of justice. O! what brilliant horns the new-born moon has beamed forth today, when the Sun reaching the heights of heaven has infused her with a ray of eternal light! O! how serene her face as she stood in her course, when she saw her flesh penetrate the heavens in her Head, her Redeemer, her Spouse, her God! She saw them, I say, through the eyes of the apostolic chorus, who were her course, and of the Virgin Mother of God, her type! O what joy burst forth today among the angels in heaven when the Son of God, who had gone from his palace into the Prison for the sake of his servant, yea from his fatherland into banishment, an exile for an exile, now returns in triumph to his Father’s kingdom! And so today is clept the day of God’s triumph, when the victor over death triumphant was welcomed by the senate of the celestial court with hymnic praises, glorifying the author of life!
The Romans had the custom of according victors a triumph in the following manner: After a general or consul subdied a nation to Roman rule by arms and returned victorious with the spoils, and senate and the entire Roman people went forth to meet him merrily, welcoming him with songs and canticles of praise. He donned the purple, received the diadem entwined with laurel and gold, and was driven to the City in a golden chariot encrusted with glowing gems pulled by four snow-white horses. Noble captives preceded the chariot, walking bound with golden chains. Behind the chariot followed the meaner captives, their hands bound behind their backs. Spoils too are carried in procession, and thus the crowned victor was led with great revelling to the high temple, and then the booty was meted out amongst the people.
Roman nobility used to afford the honour of a triumph to the greatest victors for some worldly glory, but God willed to prefigure the glory of Christ the greatest victor even through his enemies, since they would become his friends. Verily the triumph of the Romans’ kingdom preceded today’s triumph in figure, for Christ, the King of glory, the sole ruler, vanquished the tyrant’s kingdom, took captive the captivity he had captivated, and enthralled the rebellious world to the heavenly commonweal. today the Victor returned to his fatherland with noble prey and the senate of archangels with all the heavenly host goes forth to meet him merrily, welcoming their victorious king in joyful strains of mirth. He dons the purple, for he is crowned with glory and honour by his Father for the Passion he bore. He receives the diadem wreathed with gold and laurel when he is adorned by the multitude of angels and men around him. The splendour of gold represents the brightness of the angels, and the viridity of laurel represents the viridity of faith.
These things are made into a crown to grace Christ’s head when human weakness is elevated to the angelic state in glory, as the Prophet says: By all these thou shalt be adorned as with a crown. Concerning this crown, it is written: Thou shalt bless the crown of the year of thy goodness. For Christ is the year of God’s goodness, having been made a sharer in our mortality. His years are the twelve apostles; his days, the just; his hours, the faithful; his nights those who yet wander in the shadows of sin and unbelief. The crown of this year is the multitude of men and angels standing ’round him in eternal glory. The chariot bedecked in gold and gems that bears the triumphant victor points to the Gospel, radiant in wisdom and miracles; by making Christ known, it causes the world to exult in triumph. The wheels on which the chariot rolls forward are the Evangelists by whom Christ’s triumph is brought out before the eyes of all. This chariot is drawn by snow-white horses, because Christ is driven in the chariot of the Gospel around the four regions of the world by doctors brilliant in the virtues. Holy Writ says that the chariot of God is attended by ten thousands, because all the writers of the Old and New Testament preach Christ’s triumph. Thousands of them that rejoice surround the chariot when today many myriads of angels receive our Lord in triumph. Noble captives bound in golden chains go before the chariot, since those our Lord redeemed, bound by the chains of charity, seek after celestial things. The meaner people follow with bound hands, since the people bind themselves with the fear of God against evil deeds, and thus are borne up to heavenly joys. A procession of spoils accompanies the chariot, since today the multitude of saints are raised aloft with the resurrected Christ. The Victor is led into the high temple with songs, since Christ is born triumphant into the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem to strains of angelic quires. Then the booty is meted out amongst the people, since sundry charisms are bestowed on the faithful by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, whence it is said: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men. Yea verily, human nature, in which here below he suffered many evils for our sake and from us, today is transported from earth to the heavens above the loftiness of the angels to the right hand of the Father. The Victor led that captivity captive that was so long detained in the jail of hell, and dragged it into his Father’s palace. He gave gifts to men, when he poured forth the Holy Ghost over them and vouchsafed them the knowledge of all tongues.
Today, dearly beloved, God’s magnificence is elevated above the heavens, but his spouse, his body, i.e. the Church, is still oppressed by many afflictions amongst the Babylonians. Yet the prince of death is conquered and the world subdued, and like Christ, who ascends triumphantly to the heavens today, so the Church, having overcome Antichrist and trampled upon the world, shall ascend triumphant into heaven. Goliath is laid low by her Spouse and she is delivered from her enemies, and so she is raised up from this vale of tears, a circular moon rises at full wax and, settled in the bride chamber of the everlasting Sun, is made a peer of the angelic stars. Hence she herself extols Christ ascending with jubilee in the Canticles, saying with exultation: Behold! He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills, whose person is expressed in the prophet Idithun, which means “Leaper.” For Christ indeed came into the world leaping upon the mountains, and skipping returned to heaven. He gave a leap from heaven when he went from his Father’s see into the Virgin’s womb. Thence he leapt into the manger, and from there onto the gibbet of the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the depths of the abyss, from the abyss into the world, and from there he skipped into heaven. His going out is from the end of heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof.
Today, he has leaped over every mountain and hill, since he has raised the humanity he assumed from us above every height of angels and saints. The Gospel shows us how he ascended into heaven. He appears today before his disciples as they were at table; as master he upbraided them for their incredulity; as Lord he commanded them to preach the Gospel to the whole world; as God he granted them the power to perform miracles in his name. He thereupon ate with them to prove his body was flesh in sooth, and instructed them to remain in Jerusalem awaiting the Holy Ghost he had promised them. Then he led them to Bethany and lifting up his hands, he blessed them; as they all looked on he was raised, taken up by a cloud, and carried off into heaven. They stood gazing after him on the heavens, and lo! two angels clad in white robes stood before them and foretold that in the same way he had now departed he would return in judgement. One hundred and twenty were those who saw him ascend, among whom was Mary his mother with the apostles. Together they went back to Jerusalem rejoicing, and persevered in prayer and praising God every day till they received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. This was prefigured in the patriarchs and prophets, when Enoch, the seventh patriarch from Adam, was carried off into paradise, and when the prophet Elias was raised up into heaven in a fiery chariot.
There is a bird that manifests to us the feast of this holy day. The eagle soars higher than every other bird and fixes her gaze on the very ray of the sun. When she entices her young to fly, hovering over them and expanding her wings, she takes them up in the oars of her wings and teaches them to fly. Thus did Christ, sublimer than all the saints, penetrate into the heights of the heavens, when his Father exalted him above all the angels in his right hand. He expands the wings of his cross around us, defends us from demons, raises us from harsh servitude, and adopts us as sons. Placing us over his shoulders like lost sheep he carried us back to the flock. He flew over us and enticed us to fly, when scaling the heights, she showed us, his members, how to follow him, our head, with good works. Ezekiel expressed this through the four animals, which John later saw praising the Lamb day and night. Verily was Christ a man in his birth, a calf in his death, a lion in his resurrection, an eagle in his ascension.
There is a white bird called a charadrius, which can be used to test whether a sick man will survive. If, when brought to the sick man, she turns her face from him, he shall die, but if she looks and firmly fixes her gaze on him, he shall live. Mouth agape, she drinks the sickness from him, flies high into the sun’s ray, and sweats off from herself the infirmity she drank, while the once-sick man rejoices in his health. The white charadrius is Christ born of a Virgin. He is brought to the sick man when he is sent from the Father to the sickly human race; he turns his face from the Jews and leaves them in death. Turning his face to us, however, he recalls us from death and bears our infirmity himself when he goes up on the cross; sweat and blood flow out from him. Then he flies into the heights of the heavens to the Father with our flesh and grants everlasting salvation to all. The very place where he ascended still cries out to us that no obstacle can stand in the way of those who wish to scale the heavens. Truly the footprint that he left upon the sand as he ascended still remains at that place, and though every day the faithful bear away earth therefrom, the print can not be effaced. What is more, when a church was built over that place, and closed up on top like a rotunda, the space of air through which he ascended could not be closed up, and so remains open to this day. Each year, a storm of howling gales comes down to this church from the heavens and knocks all the people within to the ground, showing with what terror Christ will come in judgement, forcefully shaking heaven and earth. Then forsooth shall the heavens pass away with great fury and the elements shall melt away from the heat.
And so, best beloved, since there be no other name under heaven given to men, whereby one can be saved, but in Christ Jesus, who allowed himself to be raised up on the cross for us like the serpent; whom the Father, after he had drunk from the torrent of deathexalted today above every nameto the summit of the heavens; and who purchased us with his own blood and incorporated us into himself; let us give glory to his praise and acclaim him with jubilation, that he might join us, his members, to himself where he himself revels in the glory of the Father. Which eye hath not seen, &c.
 Habacuc 3:2, Vetus latina: Elevatus est sol, et luna stetit in ordine suo.
Kyrie ad lib. VI in the Vatican edition is an elaborate melody the mediæval manuscripts assign to the greatest feasts of the liturgical year, especially Easter. It bears a marked musical affinity to the Kyrie I, Lux et origo, the other usual Paschal setting, and Dom Pothier suggested it arose as an embellishment thereto. It is impossible to be certain of this conclusion, however, and in fact the earliest sources for Kyrie ad lib. VI date from the 10th century, whereas the earliest for Kyrie I date from the 11th.
Two roughly contemporary sets of tropes circulate with this Kyrie, both as exuberant as the melody itself. The Western Frankish manuscripts feature the following trope:
We humbly beseech thee, Christ almighty king, that thou mightest deign to have mercy on us.
Thou alone are worthy of praise with ceaseless revel, by which we ask thee singing, have mercy.
O good king who sitteth above the stars, and lord who ruleth all, have mercy.
Thy devout people implore thee ceaselessly that thou thou mightest deign to have mercy on them.
O holy God, our life-giving redeemer, save us, have mercy.
We sing before thee, look favourably on our prayers, and do thou have mercy always.
Our assembly now crieth unceasingly and sayeth, have mercy.
Have mercy on us, son of the living God, have mercy.
Great glory be to God on high, to the eternal Father who redeemed us by his own blood to save us from death, let us all say unendingly together, have mercy.
The Eastern Frankish sources provide a trope with even more Greek elements: Κύριε ὦ θέος, κρίτις δίκαιος ἰσχυρός καὶ ἀθάνατος ὑμᾶς ἐλεῖσον.
Lord God, Just, Mighty and Immortal, have mercy on us.
Loving Father, enthroned above the wings of the Cherubim and Seraphim, look with tenderness and mercy upon the sins of thy servants.
Thou alone art worthy of hymn, melody, song, harmony, and praise (αἴνεσις), the voice of all manner of tongues.
Christ, the Father’s only Son, foster thy nature in us,
For whom thou borest the tree of the Cross (σταυρός), shedding thy blood in a purple gush.
Thou Holy Spirit, deign to mingle in our odes most fittingly;
Who joinest the living and the dying, who createst little man.
Have mercy thou on his weakness by blotting out his offenses.
All together with full voices we praise three, Three and One, whose Godhead livest and reignest together and equal in the Trinity, now, and for endless ages and ages, amen, for aye!
Our friends who have followed the translation of the Gemma animae will certainly enjoy Honorius’ sermon on the Feast of the Invention of the True Cross, part of his sermon collection Speculum ecclesiae.
Tracking the wood of the Cross through all the surprising places it appears in the typological narratives of the Old Testament, he gives us a vivid impression of the medieval view of salvation history, showing how “all the ages of the world are united to Christ by the Cross” (Gemma animae 1.49), and that “the just in the Old Testament were participants in the sacrament of the Eucharist” (ibid., 1.57). The just men of all times participate in Christ’s Passion in the Eucharistic moment of faithful suffering.
It ought to be read alongside the mass commentary section on the Canon, Gemma 1.50 – 58.
The text is written in a playful alliterated rhymed-prose whose exact replication in English eludes our humble skills, though we do bring out the rhymes from time to time, lest a reader fail to get a sense of the spirit of the original. We have lightly amended the Latin of the PL according to an exquisitely beautiful 12th-century Admont manuscript. The figure on f. 1v may be a rare portrait of Honorius himself.
The illustrations are taken from the Dialogue in praise of the Holy Cross, a remarkable illustrated dialogue produced at St. Emmeram in Regensburg around 1170, not too long after Honorius’ own death (probably in the same city). We hope to write about this manuscript in the near future.
Read the English below or download a PDF of the translation and Latin text.
On the Invention of the Holy Cross
trans. by Gerhard Eger and Zachary Thomas
The light of thy countenance O Lord, is signed upon us. The light of God’s countenance is Christ, who is the splendor of his glory and the figure of his substance, who is the true light that enlighteneth every man, which the teeming shadows could not overcome. This lightis signed upon us when Christ’s name is emblazoned with chrism on our foreheads by the impression of the Holy Cross. This sign of our salvation, dedicated in the blood of the unspotted Lamb, is venerated by angels and men. For by its reconciliation we are saved from death and restored to life. By it our damages are paid to the heavenly court, and the bliss of the angelic hosts is doubled. For Almighty God equipped the palace of the heavenly Jerusalem with a full garrison of splendiferous ranks of angels to the praise of his name, but the first archangel deserting him wickedly destroyed this arrangement and, drawing a party of angels away from heaven, he led them with him into Hell.
Desiring to repair the damage caused by this great fall, God created man from the mud, and put him into a Paradise of all delights. He allowed him free access to all paradise’s pleasures, but forbade him the fruit of just one tree, binding him to obedience. But the devil, pricked with envy—for he had been deprived of every good that this mud-clot was to gain the lofty height of glory from which he had been expelled for his arrogance, induced man too to fall in the same way he had. He spoke treacherously of God’s likeness and coaxed man to covet it. What need to recount what followed? Man trusted the devil, and tasted the forbidden tree. By a tree he is disgraced, and loses God’s grace. From paradise cast into exile, he suffers many miseries meanwhile, and is sentenced to death in trial.
This victorious Cross that restored all things in heaven and on earth has been prefigured in sundry ways since the beginning of the world. By it the chrism, baptism, and the sacraments of Christ’s Body for us, and anything it blesses is purified. By it all the devices of our cunning enemy are undone, and all adversities are overcome.
And therefore the Father’s Only-Begotten rose from his throne of glory, put on flesh, and came into the prison for his deluded servant. He whose form is immortal became corruption, the eternal Creator becomes a worm in order to reconcile him to God. He bested the devil who tempted him as he had the first man; triumphing on the tree of the Cross he bound the strong man, and redeeming man called him out of exile into the heavenly fatherland.
In the beginning God planted a garden of delight with every tree beautiful to the sight and sweet to eat, and ordered the Tree of Life to sprout in its midst, from whose fruit if man had eaten, he would have remained permanently in a state of bliss and never died. Paradise, called the Garden of Delights, is the Church, where are found all the delights of the Scriptures, where diverse trees beautiful to the sight and sweet to the taste are set out. Further, the Tree of Life is the Holy Cross, from which man picks the fruit of eternal life. Whoever eats of it worthily shall not see death forever. This is the tree that was transplanted by the waters, because all the streams of Scripture proclaim the Holy Cross. Abel is slain by a tree, and Christ is fixed to a tree. All the kinds of living things are raised above the waters of the Flood by a tree, because the Church, using the Cross as its cane, rises from the dangerous waters of this world to the stars.
Abraham stood under a tree when he served the Lord in the three angels, whom he adored as one when he rejoiced exceedingly that he had seen the coveted day: just so the faithful people stand under the branches of the Cross through faith, ministering to the Lord in his members, honoring him in three persons and adoring his majesty in its unity. They adore exceedingly, so that they may see the Lord’s day in bliss.
A ram is ensnared by its horns amidst the briars, when the same Abraham offered up his own son to God; Christ is entangled by the horns of the Cross amidst the Jews, when he was killed for us as a sacrifice to the Father. Hence the prophet saith: Horns are in his hands. He held horns in his hands, when he spread forth his hands in the arms of the Cross for a people who gainsaid him. There his power was hidden, but death went before his face as it fled from the elect on account of the Cross. He appeared before us in a burning bush, when he came down to free his people from their affliction in Egypt. This bush which was kindled by the fire, is the Holy Cross around which blazed the flames of the Jews’ wrath, envy, and ire. By the bush’s thorns we understand theirsharp tongues. The Lord appeared unto Moses in the bush’s flames, when Christ hung from the Cross before the Synagogue in the fire of his passion. And he descended to free his people from Egypt, as he descended into hell to liberate his peeps from hell’s crypt. Whence Moses saith: I beseech thee, Lord, send whom thou wilt send.
Moses’ staff is changed into a serpent that devours the serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians. This staff is the Holy Cross that mortified Christ’s flesh in his torment, and this death defeats our twin deaths of body and soul. With this staff he divides the sea, redeems the people, and drowns the pursuing enemy in the waters; which is all to say that the Holy Cross confects holy Baptism by which the whole lot of the redeemed are snatched from death, and the pursuing enemy, i.e. original sin, is brought to ruin. By this staff the rock is struck twice and water is brought forth, while Christ is fixed to the two trees of the Cross and the water of redemption is drawn out of him.
When the people were making the journey from Egypt in the desert and were unable to drink the water for its bitterness, the Lord showed Moses a tree, which he cast in the water, changing it into fresh water.
The people whom Moses leads out of Egypt back to the fatherland, are the Christian people whom Christ leads out of this world back to the fatherland of paradise. He made the waters fresh for them through a tree, because through the Cross from death he set them free. For just as water carries in its wake all that it catches in its swell, so death drew all it had snatched into the maw of Hell. So it had been bitter to the former people, because it had dragged them down into the bitterness of divine punishment. But the Lord showed Moses (whose name means “drawn from the water”) a tree, when he made the virtue of the Holy Cross known to the people he had drawn from the water of Baptism. This tree makes water drinkable, because for love of Christ’s Cross many began to covet death, for they hope to be dressed in the garments of immortality once they have shrugged off this mortal coil.
’Tis said that this wood was brought to Jerusalem and cast into a pond called Probatica. In reverence whereof an angel descended each year into the pond, stirred the waters, and what sick man soever went down into the waters first emerged healed. At the time of our Lord’s passion, however, in a drought the pond dried up and the log showed up. Soldiers seeking material for a rood found this wood, and they deemed it altogether apt. And so they took it and fashioned a Cross therefrom, saddled it on Christ’s shoulders for him to bear, and raised him upon it for the salvation of the people like the serpent in the desert. Then the government was set upon his shoulder, since through the victorious sign of the Cross his Father made him prince over all things in heaven and on earth. He is the angel of great counsel who came down to the tree, i.e. the Cross, into the pond, i.e. Judea, and stirred it with signs and miracles. Hence the one who descends into this water is healed, namely the Christian people who descend into the waters of baptism and are regenerated.
This Holy Cross is the pole on which the two men bore grape clusters, for the prophets, going before, and the apostles, following behind, bore Christ, who hung on the Cross like the cluster on the pole, to the world in their preaching.
It is the fishing rod whose hook was cast by the Father into the ocean of the world, catches the Leviathan, and extracts the prey it had devoured from its stomach. It is also the mast of the Church’s ship, to which the veil of faith is lashed, held fast on all sides by the cables of good works, and so the Church, born on the tree by the spiration of the Holy Spirit, makes its course safely aCross the roiling waves of this world, and blissfully puts into the long-desired port of eternal life.
Once upon a time, the Cross was devised as a form of punishment to torment those condemned for wicked crimes, as today thieves and robbers are hanged by the neck, deemed unworthy of any other death. Thus the Jews said: Let us condemn him to a shameful death. But after believers everywhere began to venerate it, and so many yearned to be crucified upon it for Christ’s sake, it was decreed that the death penalty should be administered by the gibbet instead of by the Cross.
Now, since the Cross is the glory of angels and men, let me reveal some of its mysteries to you.
In the beginning God created the world and divided it into four regions, for the very reason that he had predestined it to be restored, once it fell, through the Cross. Moses prefigured this sign when he marked the doors of the house with lamb’s blood in four places: the lintel, the threshold, and on both doorposts. It was also expressed in letters, when in ancient days the letter T was created in the form of the Cross, as Ezekiel announced. For the Holy Spirit snatched this prophet from Babylon and set him down in Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord appeared to him there. The Lord then commanded the man clothed in linen garments to go through Jerusalem and sign the foreheads of those that mourned and sighed with the letter tau. Others were to follow and kill all those not so signed, beginning from the sanctuary.
The prophet is led from Babylon into Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit, since prophecy is transferred from the Synagogue to the Church by the Spirit. “Babylon” means “confounding,” and the Synagogue is confounded, scattered amongst all nations on account of her infidelity. “Jerusalem,” however, signifies “vision of peace,” since it is foretold that she will see the true peace of Christ in heaven. The glory of the Lord appeared in her, when her majesty was revealed by the writings of the prophets. The man clothed with linen goes through Jerusalem, marking the foreheads of those mourning and sighing with a thau, i.e. the letter T, since the order of priests traverses the Church at the Lord’s command, impressing the sign of the Cross with chrism upon the foreheads of those doing penance and hastening to the faith. But those who follow slay those who are not signed, since demons cast down those who are not protected by the sign of the Cross in their souls. They begin from the sanctuary, since they first destroy Judea, where God’s sanctuary was. X, the first letter in Christ’s name, is written in the form of a Cross, and as a numeral it expresses the number ten and suggests the Ten Commandments of the Law, which the Lord came not to destroy, but to fulfill, when he held up the Cross.
Thus we see that in the Cross’s form, the whole Christian religion finds its norm. Forsooth, the three upper corners denote the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, while the fourth one that holds up the three demonstrates veneration of the Unity. Paul the Apostle’s profound ingenuity reveals for us the Holy Cross’s profound mystery. “May God grant you,” quoth he, “that you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth.” The Cross’s breadth is those two parts by which our Lord’s hands are stretched apart. The width we understand as two-fold love, which embraces our friends in God and our enemies for God’s sake. The length of the Cross is that part upon which the hanging body is extended. By this length we teach perseverance in good works to the very end, because he who perseveres to the end shall be saved.
The Cross’s height is the part that rises above the head, where Pilate fixed the plaque inscribed in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. It signifies hope of heavenly things, the hope for equality with the angels to be got by means of the Cross’s victory. The depth of the Cross is the part beneath the feet, hidden in the earth. It declares! God’s hidden mercy, which upholds the entire world lest it perish in the grip of the evil one. Those who follow our Lord duly carry this Cross if they crucify themselves to the vices and concupiscences, renounce carnal desires, and desire to live in obedience to God’s commands. They must hang stretched out upon this Cross, since they must be continually intent on spiritual things and never turn towards vice, but rather always propel themselves upwards in mind to grasp heavenly things.
If the Cross is laid on the ground, one can see that it stretches toward the East, South, North, and West, because the four parts of the world are marked for Christ’s kingdom by the Cross. For he said: “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” Then he was raised from the earth on the Cross, and the four-fold world was drawn to him by the sign of the Cross. But if the Cross is fixed in the ground and set up, one part of it points to heaven, one penetrates the earth, and one part points both ways to the right and left. Part is turned toward heaven, because the triumph of the Cross restores the heavens.
Part penetrates the earth, because the banner of the Cross renews heavenly things. Another part penetrates even unto Dis, because the Cross’s ensign destroys the armies of Hell. One part points to the world’s right and left because by the Cross’s virtue the good will be sentenced for glory on the right, and the wicked for punishment on the left. And on that day the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, and the light of the sun and moon will be blotted out, because the Cross of Christ will shine before the judgment with such a light that it will smother even the splendor of the sun and moon by its brightness.
Since today we celebrate the finding of the Holy Cross, dearly beloved, it is meet that we should relate to your charity how it was found.
After the Jews carried out God’s design, which his hand had decreed for them to do, i.e. after they crucified the Lord of glory alongside the thieves for the salvation of all men, they hid the adorable cross, the life-giving cross with the thieves’ crosses, burying them in the place of Calvary. Thus Christ, the ship’s captain, was killed by pirates, i.e. the perfidious Jews, and the Church’s ship itself, i.e. the holy Cross, was submerged in the depths of the earth by Charybdis, i.e the Synagogue. And so the Church finds herself enveloped by the tempest of persecutions and the storms of martyrdoms. Swimming through endless whirlpools of divers torments that would wreck any ship, scarcely escaping the undertow of persecution, she is borne aloft to the calm of peace. For the good Lord is ever watchful, and the tempest of persecutions is contained and quelled, the tranquillity of peace poured out on the world, and the ship of the Church, hidden for over two hundred years by now, is raised up from its hiding place and restored to the faithful.
Yea verily, Constantine, that stout defender of the Church, held the reins of power at that time. Binding him with bit and bridle, God’s piety compelled him to draw near him, for when he wished to save him in soul, God covered his whole body with leprosy. Having been converted to the faith, he is baptized by Pope Sylvester; he is cleansed from leprosy forthwith; he secures peace and joy for the universal Church; Helena, the emperor’s mother, receives the faith and is dipped into the laver of salvation; a vast crowd of Jews and Gentiles are instructed in faith and baptism. Hereafter, Constantine, about to wage war on the pagans, feared for the outcome thereof, but the King of kings consoles him: appearing unto him at night as a man gleaming bright, he shows him the sign of the Holy Cross; promises him victory thereby. After awakening, he told his dream to his friends; he made a cross out of a military banner and made it to be carried before his hosts. His enemies turn in flight, his army is safe, he returns victorious through the sign of the Cross. Helena, therefore, inflamed with love for the Holy Cross, hastens to Jerusalem. She gathers the Jews together, demands that they show her the site of Calvary, which had been covered by thick brambles and thickets, and was hence unknown. For forty years after Our Lord’s Passion the Romans had utterly destroyed Jerusalem and, a long time thereafter, Ælius Hadrian built another city in another place, which he named Ælia after himself. We read that the Lord suffered and was buried without the gate, and both places can today be seen by all in the city which now is Jerusalem.
The Queen offers the Jews a reward if they should reveal the site of the Cross; she threatens punishment if they should conceal it. They aver that the site is unknown to them; they are all condemned to be cast into flaming fire. Terrified, they put forward a man, Judas by name; he knows all things, they claim. This he denies, is cast into a well, and wastes away from hunger and thirst. Then he promises to point out the site; he is led out. He betakes himself to the site, the Queen and the people following; he pours forth prayers on bended knees. The place shakes; the smoke of incense rises up from the earth. Forthwith they break up the earth with hoes. A dead man is brought over; he is placed on Christ’s cross and rises again, he bears witness to the virtue of the Holy Cross by resurrection and voice. Then they also found the shining nails with which the Jews pierced the hands and feet of Our Lord, and they gave thanks to God the bestower of all good things. Judas and all the Jews believed in Christ and were baptized, then he was made bishop of the church of Jerusalem and eventually suffered illustrious martyrdom for the church entrusted to him. After the Cross was found, the devil appeared with a hideous screech; he asserted that all his rights were taken away by this Cross. “Judas,” he spake, “handed over his Lord and led him to death. Now another Judas has handed over all my secrets, has led all my arts to nothingness, when he brought forth this tree. But my servant Julian shall soon be king, and from him thou shalt have the deserts of thy treason.” Which things thereafter befell: for Julian the Apostate afflicted this same Judas, then a bishop by the name of Quiriacus, with exquisite torments. But Helena built a church at great expense; put part of the Cross therein; bore part to Constantinople, the city of her son. Let all the redeemed, therefore, rejoice in this day, sing praises to Christ the Redeemer, who after he trod the winepress alone, ruled all nations as God from the Cross, in which winepress the cluster of cypress is pressed, and through whose drink the restoration of life is made clear to us all. With this staff, finally, the good shepherd drove his sheep to the palace of the Church.
Hence the holy pope Alexander, whose feast we keep today, was driven by love of the Cross. After he had been set over his flock, he was seized by the pagans, bound in chains, subjected to hunger and thirst in prison, hung on the rack, raked with iron claws, and cast into a burning furnace. Untouched by the fire, he was finished off at last with a rain of stabs through every part of his body. Two priests, Eventius and Theodolus, suffered with him in prison, were tried in the fire, and finally beheaded.
Trusting in their merits and prayers, approach today the throne of glory, so that through the triumph of the Cross sacred to God, with them you may ring out the eternal Alleluia in the fullness of bliss. Which the eye hath not seen, etc.
What follows below is found in ancient books about the tree of the Cross.
At the time of King David, a certain Jew found in the forest a tree covered with three kinds of leaf. He cut it down and carried it to King David that he might admire it. When the king saw it, he forthwith understood what would happen in it, and he adored it every day as long as he lived. Solomon his son not only adored it for the sake of his father, but gilded it over entirely. When the Queen of the South came to hearken to the wisdom of Solomon, she prophesied about the tree saying, “If Solomon knew what this tree portends, he would adore it no longer. A certain philosopher of the king heard this, and told his lord what he had heard. The king sent him after the queen, who had already departed, with many precious gifts to give to the queen’s philosopher without her knowledge, in order that he might inquire of his lady what she said the tree portended. When the queen’s philosopher received the gifts, he ordered him not to show himself to the queen. Then he secretly inquired of the queen about this matter. She replied saying that a certain man would hang upon it by whom the entire kingdom of the Jews would be destroyed. After he heard this, King Solomon removed the gold from the tree and cast it into the depths of a pond. Thenceforward an angel of the Lord descended each year into the pool, in which the sick were healed at the angel’s descent not by the water, but by the tree. At the time of Our Lord’s passion this pond was dried up, and the Cross was taken up therefrom which Christ bore upon his shoulder up to the gate.