Some Peculiarities of the Lyonese Use

Between offices, Aelredus and I have been busy in the scriptorium with our translation of the Voyages Liturgiques hoping to see it published eventually. In response to a question raised by one of our loyal readers struck by the curious sight of a Subdeacon leaning on a misericord to read the Epistle at the High Mass in the Lyonese use recently celebrated by the FSSP on the feast of St Irenæus, herein we provide a relevant except from Voyages’ description of Mass in the Cathedral of Lyon.

Images courtesy of FSSP Lyon

At the beginning of the collect, the Major Subdeacon [there were also two minor subdeacons] goes bare-headed [at certain times he, being a canon, wore a mitre] to the raised third stall of the first row in the front of the choir on the right-hand side. He leans on the misericord and rather reads than sings the Epistle in a moderate tone. The misericord is a wooden board the size of about two hands, over which the canons and cantors lean while they sing the psalms and hymns, and this position is considered equivalent to standing.

After the end of the Collect, the Celebrant goes to sit together with the Assistant Priests and Deacons, half on each side. The Celebrant reads the Epistle and what follows on a small iron stand by his side.

The two choir-boys set their candles on the ground by the foot of the râtelier [a candelabra] after the Collect and go up to the altar to fetch the silver tablets upon which is set a parchment with the Gradual and Alleluia. They present them to a Canon and three Perpetuals [a special rank of Canons] who had just taken their places at the first high chairs of the right side near the Great Rood. Leaning on their stalls they sing the Gradual and then give their places and the tablets over to four others who sing the Alleluia and its verse and return to their places in choir. They call this singing per rotulos. The precentor is at the first place of the Epistle side and the cantor at the first place of the Gospel side near the Great Rood.

Since the recent Mass of St Irenæus was not celebrated by the Canons of Lyon at Cathedral, it did not feature the practices described in the last paragraph. Instead, towards the end of the Alleluia, the choir-boys acting as acolytes go stand towards the back of the choir (near the nave) and hold their hands over their breast while the incense is prepared. Once the Deacon picks up the book and asks for the Celebrant’s blessing, the choir-boys go fetch their candles. This manner of holding the hands is not mentioned in the Voyages, but is described in later ceremonials. The readers of the prophecies during Holy Week also hold their arms crossed while they wait for other ceremonial actions to be completed.

Another aspect of the Lyonese use that has arrested people’s attention is the vestment used by the thurifer. It is called the orfrois de tunique, or “tunicle orphreys.” As the name suggests, it is a remnant of the full subdeaconal tunicle, since in the Cathedral, only subdeacons were allowed to be thrufiers. Hence, the 19th century ceremonial states that the thurifer is to wear the orfrois on the greatest feasts, and the Subdeacon during the short Vespers attached to the end of Holy Saturday, while assisting the Celebrant as he incenses the altar during the Magnificat. In the Voyages, Le Brun des Marettes reports that on Corpus Christi and the feast of St John the Baptist in the Cathedral, a Subdeacon clad in a mitre and orfrois led the procession after Benediction to carry the Blessed Sacrament to the neighbouring parish church, where it was reserved. Note that the Canons of the Cathedral of Lyon had the privilege of wearing a mitre, even in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. 

The Rite of Coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor

July 4th marks the death of the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg (1912-2011), eldest son and heir of the last reigning Emperor of Austria. In remembrance of him and his Cæsarian ancestors, we here provide a translation of the rite of coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, from Vatican Codex 6112, published in Acta Selecta Caeremonialia Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, and probably used for the coronation of the Lord Henry VI and his wife the Lady Constance by the Most Holy Lord Celestine III in 1191.

Here begins the Roman Order for the Blessing of an Emperor, when he receives his crown from the Lord Pope in the Basilica of Blessed Peter the Apostle at the altar of the martyr Saint Maurice.

On Sunday, early in the morning, the Emperor-Elect descends with his wife to the church of Santa Maria Traspontina, near the Terebinth, and is there received with honours by the City Prefect and the Count of the Lateran Palace and his wife, the Judex Dativus,[1] and the Treasurer. He is led through the portico as the clergy of the City, all clad in copes, chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles with thuribles sings Ecce mitto Angelum meum, up to a dais set up under the upper arch at the top of the steps before the bronze doors of the church of Santa Maria in Turri. There sits the Lord Pope in his chair surrounded by bishops, cardinals, deacons, and the other orders of the Church.

Coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III from Les Grandes Chroniques de France, c. 1332-1350, British Library Royal 16 G VI f. 141v. Image credit, British Library.

Then the Emperor-Elect with his wife, and all his barons, clercs, and laymen kiss the feet of the Lord Pope. The Queen and his other attendants stand back, and the Emperor-Elect swears fealty to the Lord Pope in this wise:

In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I, N., King of the Romans, and future Emperor of the Romans, affirm, pledge, promise, and swear by these holy Gospels before God and the blessed Apostle Peter, and the Vicar of the blessed Apostle Peter, fealty to the Lord N. the Pope, and thy successors who enter into office in the canonical manner, and that I will henceforth be protector and defender of this Holy Roman Church and of thy Person, and that of thy successors in all their needs insofar as I be supported by divine assistance, according to my knowledge and ability, without deceit or evil design. So help me God and these God’s Holy Gospels.

At that point, the Lord Pope’s Chamberlain receives the pall that shall be given to the Emperor-Elect. Thereupon the Lord Pope thrice asks the elect if he shall have peace with the Church. He thrice responds “I will,” and then Lord Pope says, “And I give thee peace, as Christ did to his disciples,” and kisses his forehead, chin (which must be shaved), both knees, and lastly his mouth. Thereafter the Lord Pope rises and thrice asks him if he shall be the son of the Church. He thrice responds, “I will,” and then the Lord Pope says, “And I receive thee as son of the Church,” and places the mantle over him. He kisses the Lord Pope’s chest and takes his right hand, and the Chancellor holds him with the left. The Emperor-Elect is led by the right by the Lord Pope’s Archdeacon, and thus enters through the bronze door up to the silver door, while the clerics of St Peter sing, Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel. The Lord Pope leaves him there to pray, while the queen slowly follows with her escort until the said silver door. Once he has finished praying, the Emperor-Elect rises and the bishop of Albano says the first prayer over him: “O God, whose holdeth in thy hand the hearts of kings, incline the ears of thy mercy to our humble prayers, and grant to thy servant our Emperor N. the government of wisdom, that, having drunk counsel from thy fount, he may please thee and preside over all kingdoms.”

The coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, the papal coronation of the emperor. Painting by Luigi Scaramuccia, 1661.

Then the Lord Pope enters the church of St Peter as the clergy of that church sing the responsory Petre, amas me. When it is over the Lord Pope says a blessing and sits at the seat prepared for him at the right side of the rota. After the bishop of Albano’s prayer is finished, the Emperor-Elect enters led by the Cardinals Archpriest and Archdeacon and sits at the said place with them, that they might tell him how to respond to the Lord Pope during the scrutiny. Seven bishops sit in order at the Lord Pope’s right as he conducts the scrutiny, and the German bishops sit at the Emperor-Elect’s right. The cardinals and other ranks of the church sit. 

The Lord Pope says,

The ancient ordinance of the holy fathers teacheth and commandeth that whosoever is elected to rule must first be most diligently examined in all charity about the Trinitarian faith, and questioned about sundry matters and morals that suit his government and must needs be observed, according to the saying of the Apostle, “Impose not hands lightly upon any man” (1 Tim. 5:22). Moreover, he who is to be ordained must be first instructed how one raised to this dignity ought to comport himself in the church of God, so that those who impose hands of ordination on him may be free of blame. Therefore by that same authority and precept we ask thee in sincere charity, most beloved son, whether thou wilt give all thy wisdom to the divine service inasmuch as thy nature is capable.

The Emperor-Elect replies, “With all my heart I so wish to obey and consent in all things .” 

Q: “Wilt thou temper thy manners from all evil and as far as thou art able, with God’s help, change them to all good?

R: “I will.” 

Q: “Wilt thou with God’s help keep sobriety?”

R: “I will.”

Q: “Wilt thou give thyself up to divine business, and remove thyself from lowly cares, as far as human frailty permits?”

R: “I will.”

Q: “Wilt thou keep humility and patience in thyself, and incline others to the same?”

R: “I will.”

Q: “Wilt thou be affable and merciful to the poor, to pilgrims, and to all the needy on account of the Lord’s name?”

R: “I will.”

Then let the Lord Pope say, “May the Lord bestow upon thee all these and other goods, and strengthen thee in all goodness.” And all reply, “Amen.”

Then follows the examination of the Emperor-Elect’s faith: Credis secundum intelligentiam &c.

Then the Lord Pope goes to the sacristy and dresses himself in pontifical vestments up to the dalmatic, and thus dressed he sits. Meanwhile, the bishop of Porto says this prayer over the Emperor-Elect in the middle of the medium rotaDeus innerrabilis auctor, as in the anointing of a king. Then the Emperor-Elect goes to Gregory’s choir with the aforesaid Cardinals Archpriest and Archdeacon, who act as his teachers throughout the office of anointing. They dress him with the amice, alb, and cincture, and thus dressed lead him to the Lord Pope in the sacristy. He makes him a cleric and grants him the tunicle, dalmatic, cope, mitre, buskins, and sandals to be used in his coronation, and thus dressed he stands before the Lord Pope. 

After the scrutiny, the Bishop of Ostia leaves through the silver door, where the queen stands in waiting with the judges and her barons, and says the prayer Omnipotens aeterne Deus fons &c. over her. Thereafter, one of the cardinal priests, whom the prior previously appointed, and similarly a cardinal deacon, whom the archdeacon previously commanded, lead the queen to the altar of St Gregory, and there she waits for the Lord Pope to depart in procession. 

After all these things are completed, the ministers dress the Lord Pope with the chasuble and pallium, and place the mitre on his head. Then the procession sets out. The orders go first, according to custom, and then goes the Emperor-Elect with his aforesaid guides, followed by his wife, up to St Peter’s altar. Then the Primicerius sings the Introit with the schola and the Kyrie eleison, and then he is quiet. The Lord Pope goes up to the altar, and after the confession he gives the peace to the deacon, and incenses. After the incensation, he goes up to his seat. In the meantime, the Emperor-Elect and his wife prostrate themselves before St Peter’s altae, and the archdeacon says the litany. After it is over, the Emperor-Elect’s cope is removed.

The bishop of Ostia anoints his right arm with exorcized oil, and between his shoulders, and says,

Lord God Almighty, to whom is all power and dignity, we entreat thee with supplicant devotion and most humble prayer, that thou mightest grant to this thy servant the fruit of the imperial dignity, that, established in thy disposition, no past obstacle might impede his rule of the Church, nor future one one obstruct it; but by the inspiration of thy gift of the Holy Ghost, he might rule the people subject to him with equal balance of justice, and might always fear thee in all his works, and strive continually to please thee. Through &c.

He continues,

May our Lord God Jesus Christ, son of God, who wast anointed by his Father with the oil of gladness above his fellows, by this infusion of holy oil pour over thy head the blessing of the ghostly Paraclete, and make it penetrate unto the depths of thy heart, that thou mightest be made worthy of grasping the invisible by this visible and sensible gift and, having ruled thy temporal kingdom with just governance, of reigning with him for aye, the king of kings, alone without sin, who liveth and glorieth with God the Father in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, &c.

After the king’s anointing follows the blessing of the queen before the altar, Deus qui solus &c, and the anointing of the queen’s breast with holy oil: Spiritus Sancti gratia &c. Then the Lord Pope leaves his seat and goes to the altar of St Maurice followed by the emperor and his queen. The Lord Pope stands at the threshold at the entrance to the altar, and the Emperor-Elect stands before him the middle of the rota with the queen at his right, and the six bishops of the Lateran palace stand around in the rotae which are placed there, according to the ancient custom. The seventh bishop serves the Lord Pope when he officiates at the altar.

Then the first and second Oblationarii take the crowns of the Emperor-Elect and the queen from the altar of St Peter and place them on the altar of St Maurice. The Lord Pope gives the ring to the Emperor-Elect saying,

Receive the ring, the pledge of holy faith, solidity of the realm, and increase of power, by which thou mayest with triumphal power repulse thine enemies, destroy heresies, unite thy subjects, and join them in the steadfastness of the Catholic faith. Through &c.

Prayer after the giving of the ring:

O God, to whom belongeth all power and dignity, give unto thy servant the fruit of his dignity, wherein by thy recompense he might remain and always endure, and strive continually to please thee, through &c.

He girds him with the sword and says,

Receive this sword bestowed on thee with God’s blessing, wherein by the virtue of the Holy Ghost thou mayest resist and repulse all thine enemies and all adversaries of God’s Holy Church, and safeguard the kingdom committed to thee, and protect God’s encampments by the help of the unvanquished conqueror our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer after the sword:

O God, who by thy providence dost govern all things in heaven and on earth, be mindful to our most Christian king, that he might break the strength of all his enemies by the virtue of his spiritual sword, and fighting entirely destroy them. Through &c.

Now he is crowned. Then the Archdeacon takes the crown from the altar of St Maurice and gives it to the Lord Pope, who places it over the Emperor-Elect’s head saying this prayer:

Receive the sign of glory, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, so that, scorning the ancient enemy and the contagion of all vices, thou mightest so love judgement and justice and live mercifully, that thou mightest receive the crown of the eternal kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ in the company of the saints, who with the Father &c.

Then the Lord Pope places the crown over the queen’s head as seven bishops impose their hands upon her, and the Lord Pope says in a loud voice, while the bishops stay quietly,

Receive the crown of glory and of royal excellence, the honour of gladness, that thou mightest shine and be crowned with splendid and eternal exultation, that thou mayest know thyself the consort of the realm and always prosperously counsel the people of God; and the higher thou art are exalted, the more thou mightest love and keep humility; since thou shinest without wreathed with gold and jewels, so within thou mayest strive to be adorned with the gold of wisdom and the jewels of the virtues, that, worthily and laudably meeting the ever-lasting Spouse Our Lord Jesus Christ with the prudent virgins after the passing of this age, thou mightest be made worthy to enter the kingly door to the heavenly halls, with the help of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father &c.

Here the Lord Pope gives the sceptre to the emperor saying,

Receive the sceptre, a sign of royal power, the straight rod of of the realm, the rod of virtue, whereby thou mayest rule thyself, and with royal virtue defend holy Church and the Christian people entrusted to thee by God from evil-doers, correct the wicked, bring peace to the upright, and lead them with thine assistance that they might be able to hold the right path, in order that thou mightest arrive from thine earthly kingdom to the ever-lasting one, by the help of him whose kingdom and empire endureth without end for ever and every. Amen.

Prayer after the giving of the sceptre:

O Lord God, fount of all good things and giver of all advancement, grant to thy servant N., we beseech thee, that he mighteth well keep the dignity he hath received, and vouchsafe to strengthen the honour thou hast given him. Honour him before all the kings of earth, enrich him with bountiful blessing, confirm him in the kingly throne with firm stability, visit him with offspring, and grant him long life: let justice ever spring up in his days, that he may glory in his kingdom with joy and gladness everlasting. Through our Lord &c.


Coronation of Emperor Sigismund by Pope Eugene IV in 1433. Woodcut after a detail from the Portale del Filarete, a bronze base relief on the gate at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Filarete. Source.

Thereafter the Lord Pope returns to Saint Peter’s altar with his ministers. Then the City Prefect and the Primicerius Judicum lead the emperor and the Prefect of the Navy and the Secundicerius Judicum the empress. When they are standing in their places the Lord Pope begins Gloria in excelsis Deo and the schola responds; then he says this prayer: “O God of all kingdoms and supreme protector of the Roman Empire, grant to thy servant our Emperor that he may wisely perfect the triumph of thy virtue, in order that he who is prince by thy disposition, may always be powerful by thy favour. Through &c.”

Then the archdeacon and other prelates, deacons, primicerius, and subdeacon standing between the cross and the altar begin the laudes saying thrice: “Hear us, O Christ!”, with the schola and notaries responding in the choir, “To our Lord N., by God’s decree Supreme Pontiff and universal Pope, long life!”

The archdeacon and those standing with him again say “Hear us, O Christ!” and the schola and notaries respond, “To our Lord the great and peaceful Emperor, crowned by God, long life and victory!”, also thrice.

“Hear us, O Christ!” The schola and notaries respond, “To our Lady his Wife, the most excellent Empress, long life!” thrice.

Likewise “Hear us, O Christ!” and the response, “To the Roman and German army, long life and victory!” thrice.

Likewise “Saviour of the World!”, and the response, “Help thou them,” thrice.

Likewise, “Holy Mary!”

“St Michael!”

“St  Michael!”

“St Gabriel!”

“St Raphael!”

“St Peter!”

“St Paul!”

“St John!”

“St Gregory!”

“St Maurus!”

“St Mercurius!”

“Christ conquereth, Christ reigneth, Christ commaneth!” and the others respond likewise three times.

“Our hope!”

“Our victory!”

“Our honour!”

“Our glory!”

“Our impregnable wall!”

“Our praise!”

“Our conqueror!”

“To him praise, honour, and power for all ages of ages! Amen.”

When the laudes have finished, the Epistle is read and the Gradual and Alleluia are sung. Then the Emperor and Empress remove their crowns, and the Gospel is read. When it is over, the Emperor puts down his sword and goes up to the Lord Pope’s seat, followed by the Empress, and they offer the Lord Pope bread together with candles and hold. The Emperor also offers the wine and the Empress the water to be used in the Holy Sacrifice that day. Then they return to their places. When the Preface begins, the Emperor removes his cope and puts on his own mantle. At the words Pax Domini, he goes up to receive communion dressed in his own mantle, accompanied by the Empress, and after receiving communion they return to their places. 

After Mass, the Count Palatine goes up to the Emperor, removes his sandals and buskins, and puts on him the imperial greaves and spurs of St Maurice. Receiving their crowns, the Emperor and Empress follow the Lord Pope towards their horses, led by the aforesaid guides. When the Lord Pope comes up to his horse, the Emperor holds his stirrup. Then he is crowned and joins the procession. The Empress follows the Emperor with her escort, and the other barons follow. All the clergy of the City shout their accustomed acclamations from their parishes, and the Jews likewise in their neighbourhood. Let the whole city celebrate and let all the bells ring out. The Emperor’s chamberlains go first, followed by those throwing coins, lest they impede the knights’ progress. When they reach the Holy Stairs, the priores cardinalium of S. Laurence, standing without the walls, begin the laudes, as is the custom, and the rest respond. When they are over, the Emperor dismounts, removes his crown, and holds the Lord Pope’s stirrup as he dismouts. Then the Emperor and the City Prefect lead the Lord Pope to the Leonine Hall,[2] where they separate. The Empress, meanwhile, is led by the Primicerius and Secundicerius Judicum to the Hall of the Empress Julia, where she is to lunch with the bishops and her other barons. The Emperor’s chamberlains and the Lord Pope’s chamberlains serve all the orders of the presbytery of the Holy Palace, as the Pontiff and Emperor await. Then the Emperor lunches seated at the right of the Lord Pope, and everyone else sitting at his seat. 

Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V walk in procession after the coronation. Sketch by Juan de la Corte, Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo.

After lunch one of the deacons rises at the archdeacon’s command and reads a Lesson, after which the cantors rise and sing as they are accustomed. After the chant all rise for the blessings. Let the Lord Pope retire to his chamber, and the emperor to the Hall of the Empress Julia.

When the Emperor-Elect descends from the Mount of Joy,[3] and comes to the Ponticellum, he swears this oath to the Romans: “I, N., who shall be Emperor, swear that I will uphold the Romans’ good customs, and uphold their charters[4] without deceit or evil design. So help me God and these holy Gospels.” He should swear a similar oath at the Colline Gate and at the steps of St Peter.

[1] The ordinary municipal Judge in late-antique Rome, called dativus because he was not elected by the people but appointed by the emperor. See “Dativus” in Du Cange’s Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis.

[2] Also known as the Camera Majoris Palatii, or Triclinium.

[3] Thus called by pilgrims. In Ancient Rome, the hill was called Mons Vaticanus or Clivus Cinnae. The medieval Romans referred to it as Mons Malus, and later Mons Marius (Monte Mario), as it is still known today.

[4] The cartae tertii generis were charters relating to the possession of castles. A libellus was a charter governing the possession of estates. In essence, the emperor swears to rights and privileges of the Roman people.

Dom Guéranger on the Neo-Gallican Prefaces

As Gregory DiPippo over at the New Liturgical Movement begins his discussion of the Neo-Gallican Prefaces whose facultative use the Lord Francis PP. recently extended beyond the confines of France, it seemed germane to translate Dom Prosper Guéranger’s remarks on these very Prefaces.

The same reason [viz. that minds might be elevated to God, and helped to enkindle the holy fire of faith, hope, and charity] has led us to add certain Prefaces when proper ones were lacking, to wit for Advent and certain greater solemnities of the year, namely Corpus Christi, the Dedication, All Saints, and others. Thus we have tried, as much as possible, to draw near to the ancient custom of the Roman Church, where almost every Mass was assigned its own Preface, as is still the case today in the churches that use the Ambrosian Rite. 

Charles de Ventimille, Pastoral Letter announcing the reformed Parisian Missal, 11 March 1738

Why, then, were the prefaces of Advent, the Dedication, All Saints, and even St Denis not taken from the ancient sacramentaries? Why commission the composition of entirely new ones from doctors of the Sorbonne, whose style, so prolix, so bloated, is so far from the refined cadences of St Leo and St Gelasius?

Laurent-François Boursier (1679-1749)

Why, above all, was a heretic like Dr Laurent-François Boursier, expelled from the Sorbonne in 1720 for having written against the Council of Embrun,1 given the honour of composing such sacred prayers? To this man the Church of Paris owes the Preface of All Saints, also sung on patronal feasts. In this Preface, Boursier tells God that, by crowning the merits of the saints, He crowns his own gifts: eorum coronando merita, coronas dona tua: a very Catholic expression in one sense, and a very Jansenist one in another.

As a liturgical historian we would be remiss if we did not mention that Boursier died on 17 February 1749 in the parish of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, without having retracted his Appeal.2

The Curé of this parish, although an opponent of the Appeal, nevertheless administered the Sacraments to Boursier, and the Archbishop of Beaumont therefore exiled him to Senlis for his act of schism. And yet Boursier’s Preface continued, and continues, to be sung!

Dom Prosper Guéranger, Institutions liturgiques, vol. 2, p. 371.


1. A controversial council held in 1727 that deposed the Lord Jean Soanen, bishop of Séez, one of the major baculous opponents of the papal bull Unigenitus, which condemned Jansenist propositions.

2. The appeal against the bull Unigenitus.

A Sequence for Trinity and a Franciscan Musical Treasury

In 1902, the French provinces of the Order of Friars Minor undertook the publication of a richly variegated collection of chants gathered from manuscripts of their Order, under the title Cantus Varii in Usu apud Nostrates ab Origine Ordinis, Aliaque Carmina in Decursu Sæculorum Pie Usu Parta, that is, Various chants in use among our community from the origin of the Order and other songs in use piously composed in the course of the centuries. The prolix title is certainly accurate, and the pieces included range from medieval sequences and hymns to later Latin songs that are not strictly speaking Gregorian chants. Unfortunately, no information is included about the sources whence each piece was taken. Click here to download a PDF of the book.

Among the chants in honour of the Holy Trinity, the volume includes a sequence attributed to Adam of St Victor, the prolific 12th-century composer of liturgical poetry. It is found in several Dominican and Franciscan manuscripts, as well as in the books of a number of French dioceses. It also made its way into the books of the archdiocese of York, and was included in the first printed missal of that use (1509).

In the Cantus Varii, it is set to the melody of the sequence Lauda Sion.

Profitentes Trinitatem,
Veneremur Unitatem,
Pari reverentia;
Professing the Trinity,
Let us venerate the Unity
With like reverence;
Tres Personas asserentes,[1]
Personali differentes
A se differentia.
Let us assert Three Persons
Differing from one another
By a distinction of persons.
Hae dicuntur relative,
Cum sint unum substantive,
Non tria principia;
Persons are said relatively
For they are one in substance,
Not three principles.
Sive dicas tres vel tria,
Simplex tamen est usia,
Non triplex essentia.
Call them three persons or three principles,
Yet the being is simple
The essence is not three-fold.
Simplex esse, simplex posse,
Simplex velle, simplex nosse,[2]
Cuncta simplicia.
Simple being, simple potency,
Simple will, simple knowledge,
All things simple.
Non unius quam duarum
Sive trium Personarum
Minor efficacia.
The power of one
Is not greater than that of two
Or three persons.
Pater, Proles, Sacrum Flamen,
Deus unus sed hi tamen
Habent quaedam propria.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost,
One God: yet they
Have some proper qualities.
Una virtus, unum numen,
Unus splendor, unum lumen,
Hoc una quod alia.
One power, one God-head,
One splendour, one light,
In one and all.
Patri Proles est aequalis,
Nec hoc tollit personalis
Amborum distinctio.
The Father equal to the Son,
But this doeth not not remove
The distinction of persons.
Patri compar Filioque,
Spiritalis ab utroque
Procedit connexio.
Equal to the Father and to the Son,
The Spirit’s connexion
Proceedeth from both.
Non humana ratione
Capi possunt hae Personae,
Nec harum discretio.
By human reason
These Persons cannot be grasped
Nor their distinction.
Non hic ordo temporalis,
Non hic situs, aut localis
Rerum circumscriptio.
Here no succession of time,
No circumscription of situation
Nor of place.
Nil in Deo praeter Deum,
Nulla causa praeter eum
Qui causat causalia.[3]
Nothing in God but God,
No cause but Himself
The cause of all causes.
Effectiva vel formalis
Causa Deus, et finalis,
Sed numquam materia.
God is effective and formal cause
As well as final,
But never material.
Digne loqui de Personis
Vim transcendit rationis,
Excedit ingenia.
Speaking worthily of the Persons
Transcendeth the power of reason,
Exceedeth our talents.
Quid sit gigni, quid processus,
Me nescire sum professus:
Sed fide non dubia.
What is begetting, what proceeding,
I confess I wot not,
But not with doubting fath.
Qui sic credit non festinet,
Et a via non declinet
Insolenter regia;[4]
Let he who believeth this be not hasty
And stray not
Insolently from the royal way.
Servet fidem, formet mores,
Non declinet ad errores
Quos damnat Ecclesia.
Let him keep the faith, form his manners,
And not stray into errors
Which the Church condemneth.
Nos in fide gloriemur,
Nos in una modulemur[5]
Fidei constantia:
Let us glory in our fath,
Let us together sing,
In constancy of faith.
Trinae sit laus Unitati,
Sit et simplex Trinitati
Coaeterna gloria! Amen.
Praise be to the Triune Unity,
And to the simple Trinity
Coëternal glory! Amen.


[1] Afferentes in Cantus Varii, a manifest typographical error.

[2] Nolle in Cantus Varii, typo’.

[3] Qui creat causalia in Cantus Varii.

[4] In solenti regia in Cantus Varii, typo’.

[5] Nos in via modulemur in Cantus varii.

God’s Spirit Hath Made the Heavens Fair: Honorius’s Sermon on Whitsun

Click here to download a PDF of the translation and Latin text.

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Honorius Augustodunensis
Sermon on Pentecost

from the Speculum Ecclesiae

By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth.[1] Through the Son, who is the Word of God, not only the heavens, but yea all things have been created from nothing, and, lest they descend once more into nothingness, they have been established by the same Word and all their power has been supplied by the spirit of his mouth. Those angels are also called Heavens who, when the others fell, were established in charity through the Word and abundantly furnished in every virtue through his Spirit. Hence it is written: God’s spirit hath made the heavens fair,[2] because he embellished these heavens with stars and the angels with virtues.

The Creation of Heaven and Earth, Monreale Cathedral

Verily, the angelic spirits are created through the Son, but given life through the Holy Spirit;[3] the substance of light began to glisten through the Son, but its splendor shone forth through the Holy Spirit;[4] the firmament is fashioned by the Son, but it turns in swift circular motion through the Holy Spirit; the sun, moon, and stars are set to preside over times through the Son, but the finishing touch is set through the Holy Spirit with the lustre of light; the rivers are poured out through the Son, their streaming course is assigned by the Holy Spirit; the earth is formed through the Son, it is strewn with fruits and flowers through the Holy Spirit; the v

The Creation of Birds and Fishes, Monreale Cathedral

arious kinds of animals are brought forth through the Son, they are imbued with the breath of life through the Holy Spirit, and through Him the birds are sustained in flight, the fish in swimming, and reptiles and serpents in their slithering; man is made in God’s image through the Son, but his soul is brought to life through the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit inspires divers talents and also bestows the divers crafts. Divers kinds of tongue[5] are given by the Holy Spirit, and through Him the manifold rivers of the Scriptures are brought out of the hidden treasuries of wisdom.[6] Through the Holy Spirit the patriarchs pointed out in figures the events that were to happen concerning Christ and the Church; through the same Spirit the Prophets spake, foretelling these same events through the Scriptures; through the same Spirit the Apostles were confirmed, and they spread the word that these events had come to pass in the world; through the same Spirit the doctors were inspired, and explained the Scriptures. Man was redeemed from death through the Son; through the Holy Spirit he was regenerated in baptism unto life.[7] Sins are remitted through the Holy Spirit, and through Him souls are raised to life from the death of transgressions. Through the Holy Spirit many abandoned the world and embraced the religious life; through Him many shone with signs and miracles. Through the Holy Spirit even today many are converted into the better life; through Him many are rapt into heaven in ecstasy.

The Creation of Adam, Monreale Cathedral

Through the Son the dead are brought back to life; through the Holy Spirit they are changed to everlasting life. The world is judged through the Sun; through the Holy Spirit both sides are given their just deserts. Through the Son God the Father shall create a new heaven and a new earth, but through the Holy Spirit He shall transform all things into a new and better state. Heaven, forsooth, shall be clothed with the sun’s splendor through Him; through Him the sun shall be clad with seven-fold light; through Him the moon shall gleam with the sun’s brightness; through Him the earth shall come into bloom as lovely as paradise. Then the Son shall lead them out from the toil of earthly life and make them to sit down, whilst He shall come by to minister to them, for upon his return from the Judgement He shall make his elect rest in divers mansions according to their divers merits[8] and show them the glory of His divinity face to face. The Holy Spirit, withal, shall make them shine forth in full joy, radiant like the sun, with perfect knowledge of the Triune Unity.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Monreale Cathedral

We celebrate this feast for seven days, since we venerate the Holy Spirit in His seven gifts, as foretold by the prophet: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness, the spirit of the fear of the Lord.[9] These are the seven women who took hold of one man,[10] since the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit laid hold of Christ’s body.[11] All who fear God scale the heavens by the gift of this Spirit. Indeed, through Him they are granted fear, which is of two kinds, for there is servile fear and filial fear. A servant, by troth, fears his lord lest he condemn him; a son fears his father lest he disinherit him. An adulterous woman fears lest her husband come; a chaste wife fears lest he depart. When the Holy Spirit, who is charity, shall have laid hold of the soul, He shall cast out servile fear;[12] but the fear of the Lord endureth for ever and ever.[13] For then he shall not fear hell as a servant, since he shall seek to commit no sin, but as a son, rather, he shall cling to God through love of virtue, and so lay hold of his inheritance. Let us obtain his grace by praying that we might dread the Lord our God, as servants, by avoiding evil, lest he inflict punishment on us for contemning His commandments, nay more, lest he punish us with everlasting torments as enemies rebelling against him. Let us beg that we might fear Him, as sons do a good father, by so acting that we might become co-heirs with his Son in the enjoyment of the Father’s face. After the fear of God, the Holy Spirit gives piety, in order that man might serve his maker with devotion, and to do for his neighbor what good acts are in his power. Then He inspires knowledge, so that man may know what he must do and what he must avoid. After knowledge He gives fortitude so that man may not be turned to vice by difficulties or pleasures. Then He supplies reason with the gift of counsel that he may choose what is expedient, and spurn what is harmful. Then He offers the gift of understanding so the soul can understand eternal things through the visible. Next He inspires wisdom, that the rational creature might disdain changing creatures, love his Creator who is the unchanging good, and hunger after the sole fount of wisdom, Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

Those who bloom in these virtues by the septiform Spirit’s aid shall obtain, through Him, seven gifts in body and seven gifts in soul when, in their fatherland, they shall come into possession of a two-fold inheritance, to wit, when they shall shine as the sun in body,[14] and be equal to the angels in soul.[15] Indeed their bodies shall shine seven times more brightly than the sun through Him whose beauty astounds the sun and moon. For Christ shall refashion our lowly bodies through the Holy Spirit, configuring them to the body of His glory,[16] a spiritual body, and He whose word runneth swiftly[17] shall endow them with such speed that their sight shall reach even unto heaven and their thoughts to the ends of the earth, so rapidly shall they be borne there by their bodies’ mobility. Yea verily, He who is the vigor of all things shall infuse our bodies with such strength that they shall easily overturn the masses of mountains with their foot. Moreover, the grace of liberty shall be given to them to such a degree by him who was free among the dead,[18] that they shall be able to penetrate any solid object. Upon glimpsing them, the angels shall be overcome with marvelous delight and all the saints shall be filled with intense pleasure. At His bidding they shall drink their fill from every river of joy, when in the joy of their lord they shall be placed over all his goods. [19] There they shall see the king of glory as he is, in his beauty,[20] upon whom they desire to look.[21] There they shall see the glory of all the angels and saints, and they shall behold all their limbs translucent inside and out. There they shall hear the saints’ organs and the angels’ symphony resound for ever after. There they shall be refreshed by the sweet smell of cinnamon and balsam[22] and shall feast and rejoice in God’s sight and be delighted in gladness,[23] and be inebriated with the plenty of God’s house, and drink of the torrent of His pleasure.[24] He who saves all things shall bestow on them such sound health that their bodies shall undergo no sufferings, like a sunbeam whose rays cannot be cut. He who is eternal life shall confirm them in such longness of life that death shall not undo them forever.

They shall have these seven bodily gifts through the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They shall have the same number of gifts there, where they shall rejoice forever in the Lord’s goods. As a fountain of wisdom He flows into them, bestowing knowledge of all things. They are linked in ineffable friendship because they are loved by God as sons, and by the angels as brothers. Incomparable harmony binds them, because neither God nor any saint differs from their pleasure differs nothing from God or the saints. They are invested with inconceivable power, because they are made lords over the new heaven and the new earth. They are raised to untold honor, because they are revered by God himself and all the angels. They are supremely secure, because no one shall ever take these things from them. They shall have fullness of joy in these gifts without end, rejoicing that all of their friends, whom they love, also enjoy these good things forever.

These are the gifts that Christ, ascending on high, gave to men,[25] who had been captured by the devil. He led them out, captured out of the captivity of death, and as a glorious victor drove them to starry abodes. While on earth, too, he bestowed gifts on them, making them scintillate with miracles and new tongues through the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Yea, whosoever is found lacking the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit shall suffer as many punishments as the good things those ones enjoy. These gifts were whilom prefigured in the Law; these gifts were foreannounced by the prophets. Soothly, seven lamps shine from the candlestick of the Law,[26] for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit go forth to the Church from Christ. These are the seven columns that support the house of wisdom,[27] for the Church, which is the house of God, is marked by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are the seven eyes the prophet beheld upon one stone,[28] for, verily, the rock that is Christ gave the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the souls of the faithful. These are the seven horns of the Lamb slain for us, that treads the seven heads of the red dragon underfoot.[29]

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Baptism of Christ, Monreale Cathedral

We read how the same Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the shape of a dove after He was baptized;[30] this is on account of the seven traits which are said to be in the dove.[31] The dove nests on rock, because the Holy Spirit lives bodily in Christ. It feeds others’ chicks when it brings back those who have strayed from God’s kingdom through penance. It chooses pure grains, because it separates the good from the evil, as grains from chaff. It has no bile, because it drains malice from those it possesses. It does no harm with its beak, because it is full of the Holy Spirit. It does not lie in ambush for its neighbor, and lives near water, because the Holy Spirit dwells in the wise. It flies in flocks, because the Holy Spirit gives His gifts to those who flock together in the Lord’s name.[32] Hence the Prophet says, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, which ran down to the skirt of his garment, as the dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon Mount Syon.”[33] Brethren dwelt pleasantly in unity when the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul.[34] Oil ran down Aaron’s head to his beard because the Holy Spirit, who is spiritual unction,[35]came upon the Apostles from God, the head of all. Aaron, whose name means strong mountain, is Christ, by whom the faithful stand strong against the vices and go from virtue to virtue[36] into heaven. The apostles were his beard, when they stuck to Christ, the Father’s face, like a beard to a face. The oil flowed from the beard onto the garment when the Holy Spirit poured himself out on believers through the apostles’ laying on of hands. The dew of Hermon, which means anathema, came down on Mount Syon, which means watchtower, when heavenly grace went from the Synagogue to the Church. Mount Hermon is beside the Jordan, where Our Lord was baptized. Hermon’s dew is, therefore, the Holy Spirit, who descended on Our Lord in baptism near that mountain; today He descends upon believers, on Mount Syon where Jerusalem lies.

The Holy Ghost descends upon the Apostles. Note the personified representations of the different regions of the world below them. From the Basilica of St Mark’s, Venice.

Holy Scripture tells us today how this happened. When fifty days had passed from Christ’s resurrection and His disciples tarried together in Jerusalem, as He had commended them when He ascended, there suddenly came a loud sound as of a mighty wind coming, which filled the whole house where they were sitting, and there appeared to them tongues of fire, and thus inflamed they began to speak the wonderful works of God in the tongues of all nations. Jews from every nation of the earth had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast, for they celebrated Pentecost every year as the day when they received the Law. When they heard the loud sound, they came together and they were amazed that every man heard them speak in his own mother tongue. To them Peter declared that the things foretold by the prophets had been fulfilled by Jesus, whom they had crucified. Thus moved to contrition, three thousand men were baptized and they too were filled with the Holy Spirit as the others had been.[37] On another day, after Peter and John had healed a lame man by the Holy Spirit,[38] five thousand were baptized,[39] all of whom received the Holy Spirit. Later, they received the Blood of Christ in great fear and trembling, for they had shed it in their fury. Very many of them went on to shed their own blood for Him. The apostles remained together in Jerusalem for twelve days after they had received the Holy Spirit, as He Himself had instructed them, and they converted many to the faith by miracles and wonders. All received the Holy Spirit when the apostles laid hands on them, and they declared God’s mighty deeds with new tongues. Forsooth, through the Holy Spirit the apostles restored sight to the blind, cleansed the leprous, expelled demons from the obsessed, loosed the tongue of the dumb, steadied the step of the lame, and raised the dead. They restored health to the infirm even by their staves, their garments, yea, some of them even by their shadow.

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St Paul preaches in Damascus, Cappella Palatina, Palermo

Later, the twelve spread out over the whole world, filled with the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. The twelve did their work through the number seven when they brought the four regions of the world to faith in the Holy Trinity. For three added to four makes seven, and multiplied makes twelve. And verily, these goodly fishermen used the net of faith, and signs and miracles, to haul those fish predestined for life long ago from the ocean of this world to the shore of eternal life; they led the way, laying down their lives for their sheep as Christ had. In the beginning, after God had created all things in six days, he made the seventh holy, by resting from his work. Just so those who zealously strive to perform works with the gifts of the Holy Spirit throughout the six ages of the world shall rest through Him from every labor on the seventh day. So we too labor for six days during the week and rest on the seventh, because we press forward now in good works through the septiform Spirit, and in the future we rest from every labor in bliss, where he shall cause us to be at leisure and see Him as He is.[40]

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Noah sends out a dove, Monreale Cathedral

During the Flood, a dove brought back an olive branch, announcing peace to those shut inside,[41] because through the anointing with chrism the Holy Spirit restored to souls shut up in the flesh the peace they had lost. He is called the finger of God’s right hand,[42] because as the hand works through the fingers, so Christ, the Father’s right hand, does all his works through the graces shared out by the Holy Spirit. Hence the magicians who could not withstand Moses proclaimed that the finger of God was at work,[43] for they saw plainly that the miracles had been worked through the Holy Spirit. This finger wrote the Law on two tablets,[44] because it is divided into the two precepts of charity by the Holy Spirit.[45] Our Lord cast out demons with this finger, because the works of the Son and the Spirit are inseparable.[46] Once upon a time the human race used only one language, but seventy-two giants built a tower to challenge God, who was offended by their deed. He confused their languages so that no one could understand another’s language,[47] and dispersed them throughout the globe. But today the Holy Spirit joins them all into the unity of the faith through the gift of tongues.

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Paschal Lamb, Basilica of Sts Cosmas and Damian, Rome

Further, the Hebrew people were liberated from slavery in Egypt on the Paschal night through the Paschal lamb. They were ferried through the Red Sea, and on the fiftieth day they came to Mount Synai, which was filled with smoke and fire, and in the midst of the fire the Lord gave them the Law of fear in written tablets. Thus the Christian people were delivered from the subjugation to the devil on the Paschal night and through the Paschal Lamb. Through baptism they were borne through the Red Sea, as it were, and on the fiftieth day, that is, today, they received the Law of life in fire, which the Lord commanded them to write in their hearts, so that what they used to do by force of fear they should thereafter do willingly for the love of God. Moreover, the Law prescribed that the fiftieth year should be called the Jubilee, that is, the year of remission, when no servile work should be performed, and that lost inheritances should be returned to the proper heirs.[48] This time prefigured the Holy Spirit, who wished His people to abstain from servile work, that is, from sin, and restored to them the lost inheritance of paradise. We read that the Holy Spirit was given twice: once on earth, and once from heaven.[49] The Spirit was given on earth for love of neighbor; the Spiritual was given from heaven for love of God. For he who loveth God shall keep His word, and the Father shall love him, and the Trinity shall come to him, make His abode with him.[50] And so, dearly beloved, let us love God by keeping his commandments, that He might love us and prepare an abode for Himself in us. Let us wipe away the dung of sins from the inn of our hearts through penance and confession, let us wash away its filth with tears, let us strive to adorn it with the flowers for good works, so that the Holy Spirit might vouchsafe to come and prepare a worthy habitation for Himself in us. He also descended over the Lord in the form of a dove, showing Him to be immune from sins. He descended over the disciples in fire since, by burning away their sins, he blotted out the writing of sin. Hence he went before the children of Israel in fire, guiding their way to their fatherland, since the fire of the preceded the disciples and showed them the way to the fatherland of paradise through the Scriptures. Therefore baptisms are held now, since original sin is remitted through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, too, we observe a fast this week, that we might merit to receive the remission of our sins. He who should blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall not have his sins remitted, neither in this world nor the next.[51] Remission of sins is given through the Holy Spirit. He who despairs of His forgiveness is the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, and commits the unpardonable sin.

Baptism of Christ, Baptistry of Neon, Ravenna

My best beloved, you know Our Lord’s nativity is a high feast; good Christians honor today’s solemn feast as well, because just as God visited mankind at Christmas when he came in the flesh, so God came in fire to purify men from their sins today, and gave them divers charismatic gifts. These feasts, held in such high regard by men and angels, are honored by our God as well. For at Christmas the Lord of majesty rose from His glorious throne, donned His battle gear, and went down into exile to fight for us. Good Friday was the day of His battle and victory, when the strong and mighty in battle conquered the devil, prince of this world, him and all his band, and won a mighty victory. On the day of His resurrection, the war finished, He laid waste the tyrant’s kingdom, and rounded up the captives the devil had taken. On Ascension Day the Lord of hosts returned in solemn procession and held a triumph; welcomed by angelic strains, He raised our flesh above the airs. But today is the day He shared out his spoils among the soldiers, granting the faithful the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is yet a day to come when He shall lead his spouse out of this Babylon, when he shall place the Church in the heavenly Jerusalem on the Last Day. Lo! the Holy Spirit sang of these days throughout the whole Psalter. Nay more, the Law and every prophet resounded these events with one harmonious voice.

My best beloved, let us now, therefore, appear before His face in justice, so that when His glory shall appear,[52] we may be able to feast to our content at his wedding party, that we may see the good of His chosen, that we may rejoice in the joy of His nation in the fullness of all good things,[53] which eye hath not seen &c.[54]

Triumph of the Cross, Basilica of St Clement, Rome


[1] Psalm 32:6

[2] Job 26:13.

[3] The whole paragraph is a whirlwind tour through salvation history, beginning with the days of Genesis.

[4] This passage resonates with the collect for the Vigil of Pentecost, which alludes to the Holy Spirit as the “light of [Christ’s] light” and “splendor” of his “brightness”: Præsta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut claritatis tuæ super nos splendor effulgeat; et lux tuæ lucis corda eorum, qui per gratiam tuam renati sunt, Sancti Spíritus illustratione confirmet. Cf. also Ambrose’s hymn Splendor paternae gloriae.

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:10.

[6] Cf. Job 28:18.

[7] Baptism was administered during the Vigil of Pentecost, and the newly baptized are mentioned each day of the Octave in the proper Hanc igitur. References to baptism abound in the Mass texts.

[8] Cf. John 14:2.

[9] Isaias 11:2.

[10] Isaias 4:1, read at the Vigil Mass of Pentecost.

[11] Cf. Isaias 11.

[12] 1 John 4:18.

[13] Psalm 18:10.

[14] Matthew 13:43.

[15] Luke 20:36.

[16] Philippians 3:21.

[17] Psalm 14:4.

[18] Psalm 87:6.

[19] Matthew 24:47 and 25:21.

[20] Isaiah 33:17.

[21] 1 Peter 1:12.

[22] Ecclesiasticus 24:20.

[23] Psalm 67:4.

[24] Psalm 35:9.

[25] Ephesians 4:8.

[26] Cf. Exodus 25 and Gemma animae 1.11.

[27] Cf. Proverbs 9.

[28] Cf. Zacharias 4.

[29] Cf. Apocalypse 5, 6.

[30] Cf. Matthew 3

[31] Honorius mentions the septem naturae of the dove in his Expositio in Cantica Canticorum (PL 172.411B), as does Anselm of Laon (Enarrationes in Cantica canticorum, PL 162.1195C). Haymo of Halberstadt menons it in a sermon (PL 118.0115B).

[32] This notion of gathering up appears in the first antiphon at Vespers, Dum santificatus.

[33] Psalm 132:1-3

[34] Acts of the Apostles 4:32.

[35] Hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, second stanza.

[36] Psalm 83:8.

[37] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 2.

[38] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 3.

[39] Cf. Acts of the Apostles 4.

[40] 1 John 3:2.

[41] Cf. Genesis 8

[42] In the hymn Veni, sancte Spiritus. The expression “finger of God” is found only three times in the Old Testament, all mentioned here. In the Bible the term is used in a figurative sense, “denoting power, direction, or immediate agency.” Cf. Jewish Encyclopedia, “Finger.”

[43] Cf. Exodus 8

[44] Cf. Exodus 31

[45] I.e., love of God and love of neighbor.

[46] Cf. Luke 11:20.

[47] Cf. Genesis 9. Honorius elaborates on the Tower of Babel story in several places.

[48] Cf. Leviticus 25.

[49] First by our Lord on earth after the Resurrection (John 20:22), second after the Ascension when the Spirit descended from heaven (Acts 2:1–4), as Saint Gregory the Great discusses in sermon 36 (PL 110:177).

[50] John 14:23.

[51] Luke 12.

[52] Psalm 16:15.

[53] Psalm 105:5.

[54] 1 Corinthians 2