Margaret Deansely: The Bishop’s Familia and the Ecclesial Cursus Honorum

In his commentary on the seven holy orders, Honorius prefers to trace each order to a precedent in the Old Law, so that the hierarchy of the Church is a sort of mirror of the Temple ministry instituted by David and Solomon.

But the orders are also bound up with the distinctively Roman culture of the Latin Church, as we can see in the following extracts from Margaret Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, page 28:

“In the time of Gregory I the conception of the clergy as the ‘clerical militia’ was already long developed. The imperial civil service had provided a ladder of offices, by which a candidate, beginning at the bottom, might proceed through the ‘cursus honorum’ to the highest civil or military rank. The parallel between this ladder and the various grades of the Christian minister had not been unnoticed by Christian bishops, and by 600 the commonest collective description of the clergy was the ‘clerical militia,’ or the ‘celestial’ in opposition to the ‘secular’ militia. The celestial militia consisted of seven orders, its sevenfold nature denoting the perfection of the divine service: ostiarius, lector, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, presbyter, or sacerdos [….]

About the year 600 the first three minor orders were usually conferred together; boys were ordained lectors at about seven years of age, and received the other grades at intervals of several years, till they were ordained to the presbyterate at the age of forty-five [….]

This was due to the system of education in the bishop’s familia. After the destruction of the rhetorical schools in the barbarian invasions, the bishop’s house became the only place where the clergy might reasonably hope for an education [….]

Gregory of Tours relates how, at the death of a Gallic bishop, the bishops summoned for his funeral encountered a claim from one Cato, a presbyter of his clergy, to be ordained bishop almost as of right, from his due canonical reception of the various grades. ‘For,’ he said, ‘I have been allotted these grades of clerkship with canonical institution. I was a lector ten years, I ministered in the office of subdeacon for five years, fifteen years was I bound for the diaconate, and now for twenty years I have enjoyed the honour of the presbyterate. What now remains for me but to receive…the episcopate?'”

Gemma Animae (78-79): David and Christ, Goliath and the Devil Compared

Gemma Animae reads three Old Testament battles through the same allegorical lens, with Christ as the hero in each case.

1) Moses’ battle with Amalech (Ch. 44)
2) Joshua’s conquest of the Holy Land (Ch. 72)
3) David’s duel with Goliath (Ch. 78)

Ch. 78
David and Christ, Goliath and the Devil compared

David 1
Morgan M.619 Winchester Bible, f. v (1160-1180) from Winchester, England (Source)

When Jesus, or Joshua, for they are the same, had defeated many foes and the victorious people became lax in the long peace that followed, the Philistines once again rose against Israel and waged a bloody war on them. Goliath steps out from their lines and asks for a duel. David comes against him with his shepherd’s bag and sling. Having knocked him down, he kills him with his sword. The liberated people sacrifice a victim to God and jubilate their praise and thanksgiving, then meet David on his way to Jerusalem and receive their savior with hymns.

In the same way, when the Christian people have overcome the vices once they rise once again and bring another bitter war to the negligent soul. The devil, our Goliath, comes forth and asks for a duel when he tempts Christians to each of the vices. Strengthened by Sacred Scripture, the soul comes against him with its milk bucket [1] and slings a stone when it defeats him through the humanity of Christ (which was a stone to the thirsting people [2] and the corner-stone to those who believe in him). Having laid the devil low, the soul beheads him with his own sword when it overcomes the malignant foe through fragile flesh.

David 2 (morgan)
David slays Goliath and cuts off his head. The Crusader Bible, MS M.638, fol. 28v (detail). The Morgan Library & Museum (Source)

[1] The Biblical account doesn’t mention a milk bucket. I Kings 17:38-40:

Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

[2] An allusion to the Paul’s interpretation of Exodus 17, where Moses draws water from the rock for the thirsty Israelites. 1 Cor. 10:4 “For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.”
CAP. LXXVIII. – De David cum Christo et Goliath cum diabolo comparatis.

Multiplici itaque hoste, ab Iesu, qui et Iosue, superato, et victori populo ob pacis abundantiam negligentia resoluto, rursus Philistaei adversus Israel conveniunt, crudele bellum indicitur. Ex quibus Goliath procedit, duellum petit. Cui David cum pastorali pera occurrit funda, et lapide cum deiecit, proprio mucrone perfodit. Populus autem liberatus, pro victoria Deo immolat victimam, pro gratiarum actione laudes iubilat. David Hierusalem venienti turba populorum obviam ruit, salvatorem populi hymnis excepit. Sic quoque vitiis a Christiano populo superatis, denuo consurgit, negligenti animae acrius bellum infertur. Ex quibus gigas Goliath, scilicet diabolus, procedit, duellum petit, dum quemlibet Christianum ad singularia vitia allicit. Cui fortis animus cum sacra Scriptura, ut David, cum mulcro lactis occurrit funda, et lapide, deiecit: dum per humanitatem Christi quae sitienti populo erat petra, et credentibus populis lapis angularis eum devincit, proprio ense prostratum iugulat, dum hostem malignum fragili carne superat.

Ch. 79
The Mystery

David 3 (Paris)
“David and Goliath”, from the Paris Psalter (Source)

Thus when the subdeacon and other ministers commence the sacrifice, it is like David is being armed by Saul and the people (1 Kings 17). When the oblations are placed on the altar, David’s weapons are laid there. Then when the pontiff comes to the altar, David moves against the Philistines. The chalice is his milk bucket, the corporal his sling, the oblation his rock. The sung Preface is the cheering of Goliath’s comrades egging the giant on to fight. The Canon is the people’s prayer. The priest’s bow is the stone’s swinging in the sling. The elevation of the bread is the casting of the stone. When he bows again, he signifies that the enemy has been knocked down. When the deacon comes to the priest, elevates and puts down the chalice, he indicates that David has run to the prostrate giant and taken off his head with his drawn sword. Finally, after giving the peace the people communicates because having received peace through David they participate in God through sacrifice. The Communion chant is the people’s praise, flush with victory. The [Postcommunion] prayer and [final] blessing that follow is the trophy the people of Jerusalem gave David upon his return. At the end of all these things, the people go back to their homes, because after their victory the people returned home with joy.

David 4
David with the Head of Goliath, Bernardo Strozzi, 1636 (Source)

CAP. LXXIX. – Mysterium

Cum ergo a subdiacono, et aliis sacrificium instituitur, quasi David a Saul et populo armis induitur (I Reg. XVII). Cum oblationes super altare ponuntur, quasi arma David deponuntur. Porro cum pontifex ad altare venit, quasi David adversus Philistaeum procedit. Per calicem mulctrale accipitur, per corporale funda, per oblatam petra intelligitur. Praefatio quae cantatur, fuit clamor quo pugil gigas ad duellum provocabatur, per Canonis deprecationem, intelligimus populi orationem. Sacerdotis inclinatio, est fundae lapide imposito rotatio. Panis elevatio est lapidis iactatio. Ubi denuo inclinatur, significat quod hostis prosternitur. Ubi autem diaconus ad sacerdotem venit, et calicem cum eo elevans deponit, designat quod David ad prostratum cucurrit, extracto gladio caput abstulit. Deinde data pace populus communicat quia accepta per David pace populus Deo sacrificans participat. Cantus in communione, est laus populi pro victoriae exsultatione. Oratio et benedictio quae sequitur, est trophaeum quo David a populo Ierusalem veniens excipiebatur. His peractis, populus ad propria remeat, quia populus tunc post victoriam cum gaudio ad propria repedabat.



Gemma Animae (72-77): On Spiritual Warfare and Origen’s Commentary on the Book of Joshua

The Mass as Spiritual Warfare

Joshua (Royal)
Detail of a historiated initial ‘E’ showing Moses giving the book of the law to Joshua, at the beginning of Joshua, Royal MS 1 C VII, f. 2v (Source).

This section continues and extends the themes the comparison, introduced in Ch. 44, “On Christ’s Battle,” between the spiritual combat of the Church Militant and the very real combat of the Israelites in the conquest of the Holy Land. Honorius assigns each of the liturgical ministers a part in this grand army.

The basis for this allegory, and the many martial allegories of later sections, is found in the typological exegesis practiced by the most ancient Fathers, who identified Our Lord Jesus with the prophet Joshua. The Fathers saw an intimate connection between the two that began with their identical names, since Jesus and Joshua are the same word in Hebrew and in the Septuagint Greek.

In his homilies on the Book of Joshua, Origen pointed out this special importance of Joshua. In him the name of Jesus first appears in the Bible as the warrior and Moses’ right hand. The following quote appears also in the Glossa Ordinaria:

Thus we first become acquainted with the name Jesus when we see him as the leader of the army; not as one with whom Moses joined his leadership, but the one to whom Moses granted primacy. Moses was not able to choose mighty men. “You,” he says, “choose mighty men for yourself from among the sons of Israel.” Therefore, when I become acquainted with the name Jesus for the first time, I also immediately see the symbol of a Mystery. Indeed, Jesus leads the army (Origen, Homilies on Joshua, trans. by Barbara Bruce, Fathers of the Church vol. 105, Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 27).

Jesus is given many special privileges. Unlike the others, Jesus goes up with Moses to the mountain. In the battle with Amalech, he is chosen to lead the people. He is the only one to minister in the tent before the glory of God’s presence. All of these privileges lead Origen to conclude that Joshua-Jesus is an image of Christ:

To what then do all these things lead us? Obviously to this, that the book does not so much indicate to us the deeds of the son of Nun, as it represents for us the mysteries of Jesus my Lord (29).

Jesus’ assumption of leadership after Moses’ death is a figure of Christ who leads God’s people after the death of the Law:

Moses did not say, “Let the sun stand still.” Nor did he command the greatest elements as Jesus did. Jesus says, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” Scripture adds to this and says, “Never in this way did God listen to a man” (33).

Like his bellicose Old Testament figure, Jesus leads the people of God through the spiritual battles of the Christian life, never deserting us in our struggle against the demons and vices:

Not at that time only did my Jesus make the sun to stand, but also, and in a much greater way, at his coming. When we wage war against our enemies and “fight against principalities and powers and rulers of these dark things, against the spirits of wickedness in the heavens,” “the sun of our righteousness” constantly stands by and never, at any time, deserts us or hastens to go down. For he himself said, “Behold, I am with you for all days.” He is not only with us for a doubled day, but “he is with us for all days until the end of the age,” until we prevail over our adversaries (33).

Jesus son of Nun faced his foes in physical combat, but our adversaries are spiritual vices:

Within us, indeed, are all those breeds of vices that continually and incessantly attack the soul. Within us are the Canaanites; within us are the Perizzites; here are the Jebusites. In what way must we exert ourselves, how vigilant must we be or for how long must we persevere, so that when all these breeds of vices have been forced to flee, “our land may rest from wars” at last? (34).

Joshua (Waters manuscript)
Joshua in silver armor leads the assault on Jericho, Walters Manuscript W.805, fol. 124v (Source)

Ch. 72
On the spiritual warfare of Christians [1]

In another way, the Mass portrays the harsh struggle and the triumphant victory by which our enemy Amalech was laid low and a way opened for us through Jesus toward our homeland. For Jesus, our commander, fought with the devil and restored to man the heavenly republic that had been destroyed by his enemies. Though he could have called forth twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26) or seventy-two thousand soldiers, he mustered only the tiny company of the twelve apostles, and with them assaulted seventy-two kinds of tongues.

The procession of the pontiff, clergy, and people is like the mobilization of an emperor and his army for war. Since they wear albs and capes and other stately vestments, they look like soldiers going to war, who wear cuirasses and shields. When they leave the choir, it is like they are going forth from the royal court. The cross and standards we carry in procession are like the ensign and standards of the imperial army. In fact two armies go forth, since the singers follow behind in good order. Among them are the choir masters  [magistri] and lead singers [praecentores], like unto the captains and sergeants who stir up the cohorts for war. Then the priors follow, as the leaders and generals of the army.

[1] Origen shares Honorius’s enthusiasm for spiritual warfare:

See. Do you wish to learn again which battles, which wars, await us after baptism? Do not learn them from me but again from the Apostle Paul, who teaches you, saying, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavens.” Those things that were written are signs and figures. For thus says the Apostle, “For all these things happened to them figuratively, but they were written for us, for whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” If, therefore, they were written for us, come on! Why delay? Let us go forth to the war, so that we may subdue the chief city of this world, malice, and destroy the proud walls of sin (61).

Presenting the liturgy as spiritual warfare is very useful, among other ways, because it unites liturgical devotion closely with the spiritual and moral life, also conceived as spiritual warfare. The Christian who fights his faults throughout the day comes to Mass to find his great Leader fighting the Devil on the Cross, and takes strength from his example.

CAP. LXXII. – De pugna Christianorum spirituali.

Missa quoque imitatur cuiusdam pugnae conflictum, et victoriae triumphum, qua hostis noster Amalech prosternitur, et via nobis ad patriam per Iesum panditur. Iesus quippe imperator noster cum diabolo pugnavit, et coelestem rempublicam ab hostibus destructam hominibus reparavit: qui cum posset producere duodecim legiones angelorum (Matth. XXVI) , vel septuaginta duo millia militum, instruxit tantum agmen duodecim apostolorum, et expugnavit septuaginta duo genera linguarum. Pontificis namque et cleri, populique processio, est quasi imperatoris, et cuiusdam exercitus ad bellum progressio. Hi cum subtus albis, et desuper cappis, vel aliis solemnibus vestibus induuntur, quasi milites pugnaturi subtus loricis, desuper clypeis muniuntur. Cum de choro exeunt, quasi de regia curia procedunt. Quasi imperiale signum et vexilla a signiferis anteferuntur, cum ante nos crux et vexilla geruntur. Quasi duo exercitus sequuntur, dum hinc inde ordinatim cantantes gradiuntur. Inter quos vadunt magistri et praecentores, quasi cohortium ductores ac belli incitatores. Sequuntur priores, quasi exercitus duces atque agminum ordinatores.


Joshua (Joshua Roll)
Portion of the Joshua Roll; scenes before the battle at Gibeon – the moon and sun are seen at the right (Source)

Ch .73
How the bishop acts the part of an emperor in a spiritual manner

The pontiff comes forth with his staff, as the emperor with his scepter. The sancta are carried in front of him [1], as the imperial insignia before the king. A cross is carried before the archbishop, as before the emperor; he is arrayed in the pallium, as the king is honored with his crown. A crowd of people follows like an army on foot. When they process from the basilica it is as troops pouring out from the king’s city. When we process to another church, we march to besiege a town, and when we enter it with song we accept that town’s submission and conscript auxiliaries for our army. When we return to the monastery,** we hasten to the field of battle. We carry the reliquary box against the demons, as the sons of Israel carried the ark against their Philistine foes. When we enter the church, we arrive at our station. When the bells ring the trumpet of war riles the soldiers up for battle. Now they are arranged in battle line when they take their places on each side of the choir. The one who holds the cross with the banner before the archbishop is the standard bearer who carries the flag before the emperor in battle.

[1] Sancta is the word used by the Ordo Romanus to describe the sacrament, and especially the particles of consecrated bread left over from a previous papal Mass that were used again in the next stational liturgy. Before the Mass began, the sancta were carried in on a paten and presented for the pope’s veneration. He determined whether there was a sufficient amount, then sent it up to the altar to await its use the first Fraction:

Et tunc duo Acolyti tenentes capsas cum Sancta apertas, et subdiaconus sequens cum ipsis tenens manum suam in ore capsæ, ostendit Sancta Pontifici, vel Diacono qui præcesserit. Tunc inclinato capite Pontifex, vel Diaconus salutat Sancta, et contemplatur, ut si fuerit superabundans, præcipiat ut ponatur in conditorio.

There is also evidence, however, for sancta being used to refer to the relics of saints, often carried during the entrance procession in medieval liturgies. Since he mentions the scrinium, a reliquary box, just below, it is hard to know which sancta he is referring to. In his commentary on the Fraction, he also spoke of the pontifex and seemed to be referring to the papal liturgy.

CAP. LXXIII. – Quod episcopus spiritualiter agat vicem imperatoris.

Procedit pontifex cum baculo, quasi imperator cum sceptro. Ante pontificem portantur sancta, sicut ante regem imperialia. Ante archiepiscopum crux portatur, sicut ante imperatorem gestatur; qui pallio decoratur, sicut rex corona perornatur. Comitatur turba plebis, quasi exercitus pedestris. Cum de basilica procedunt quasi de regia urbe turmae proruunt. Cum ad aliam ecclesiam procedimus, quasi ad castellum expugnandum pergimus: quod cum cantu intrabimus, quasi in dedicationem accipimus et inde auxiliarios nobis accimus; cum vero ad monasterium redimus, quasi ad locum certaminis tendimus. Scrinium cum reliquiis portamus contra daemones, sicut filii Israel portaverunt arcam Dei contra Philistiim hostes. Cum ecclesiam intramus, quasi ad stationem pervenimus. Cum campanae sonantur quasi per classica milites ad praelium incitantur. Quasi vero acies ad pugnam ordinantur, dum utrimque in choro locantur. Qui crucem cum vexillo coram archiepiscopo tenet, est signifer, qui vexillum coram imperatore in pugna fert.

Ch. 74
How the cantor is the standard bearer and trumpeter

The cantor who begins the chant is the trumpeter who gives the signal to commence the battle. The choir masters who direct the choir in each side are the leaders to dress the lines for the fight. Chanters cover their heads with caps, and carry sticks or tablets in their hands, because in a fight soldiers protect their heads with shields and guard themselves with weapons of war.

CAP. LXXIV. – Quod cantor sit signifer et tubicina.

Cantor qui cantum inchoat, est tubicen qui signum ad pugnam dat. Praecentores qui chorum utrinque regunt, sunt duces qui agmina ad pugnam instruunt. Cantores capita piliolis tegunt, baculos vel tabulas manibus gerunt; quia praeliantes caput galeis tegunt, armis bellicis se protegunt.

Ch. 75
On spiritual warfare

Battles commence with the clash of trumpets and the shouts of men; our spiritual combat begins with the clash of bells and the clergy’s song. For our battle is “not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We fight like skilled soldiers when we sing with all our might from each side of the choir. The hot darts of concupiscence are our mortal foes, which the strong repeal with the shield of faith. The throngs of vices press in close, but we knock them down with the sword of God’s word.

CAP. LXXV. – De bello spirituali.

Bellum cum tubarum clangore et turbarum clamore committitur; et nostrum spirituale bellum cum campanarum compulsatione, et cleri cantatione incipitur. Geritur namque bellum non contra carnem, et sanguinem; sed adversus principes, et potestates, adversus rectores tenebrarum harum, contra spiritalia nequitiae in coelestibus (Ephes. VI) . Quasi ergo strenui milites pugnant, dum totis viribus utrinque cantant. Ignea tela concupiscentiae nequissimi hostes immittunt, quae fortes viri fortiter scuto fidei repellunt, hostes vitiorum acriter insistentes gladio verbi Dei prosternunt.

Ch. 76
The cantors are our captains

The chanters stir the rest into harmony with their hand and voice, as if leading them in hand-to-hand combat and spurring them to great deeds with their voice. Meanwhile the pontiff stands at the altar and recites a prayer for those in the struggle, just as Moses prayed for the Hebrew warriors on the mountain (Exodus 17).

CAP. LXXVI. – Quod cantores vicem ducum agant.

Cantores manu et voce alios ad harmoniam incitant, quia et ducere alios manibus pugnando, et voce hortando ad certamen instigant. Interim stat pontifex ad altare, et pro laborantibus orationem recitat, sicut et Moyses in monte pro pugnantibus orabat (Exod. 17) .

Ch. 77
The cantor plays the role of a herald

The reader who recites the Epistle is the herald who announces the emperor’s edicts in the camp. The better voices are chosen to sing the Gradual and Alleluia, as the fighters with the strongest arms are picked for single combat. When some people falter in song, others come to their aid; so when some are sorely oppressed in battle, sturdy hearts come to their aid. Lastly, the chanters iubilate the Sequence with voice and organ, because they celebrate victory with applause and song. The deacon who reads the Gospel from a high place is the herald who after the battle calls the dispersed ranks together with his trumpet. When the bishop addresses and exhorts the people, this signifies that the emperor praises his victorious troops. When the oblations are then brought up, it means that the spoils are being divided among the victorious army while the emperor looks on. The offertory chant is the praise they offer their emperor.

CAP. LXXVII. – De cantore, quod vicem praeconis agat.

Lector qui Epistolam recitat, est praeco qui edicta imperatoris per castra praedicat. Meliores voces ad Graduale vel Alleluia cantandum eliguntur, et fortiores manu ad duellum producuntur. Iam deficientibus in cantu, alii succurrunt; ita multum laborantibus in praelio, alii constantes corde subveniunt. Deinde sequentiam cum voce et organis iubilant; quia victoriam cum plausu et cantu celebrant. Diaconus qui Evangelium in alto recitat, est praeco qui peracto bello agmina dispersa cum tuba convocat. Quod episcopus populum exhortando alloquitur, significat quod imperator victores laudando affatur. Quod tunc oblationes offeruntur, significat quod spolia victoribus coram imperatore dividuntur. Cantus offertorii, est laus quam offerunt imperatori.

Gemma Animae (177-179): Exorcists, Acolytes, Subdeacons

Royal 19 C I f. 165vChapter 177
On Exorcists
[Salomon’s Demon-Busters]

Royal 19 CI f.165v
Breviari d’Amor, Royal 19 C I f. 165v (Source)

means one who adjures. Salomon instructed these men to adjure demons and expel them from possessed people, just as the seven sons of the priest Sceva did [1]. But in the Church their duty is to catechize the young and exorcise through the words of God–i.e. to forbid the demons access to the bodies of the baptized, and to cast the demons out from possessed and obsessed bodies by performing exorcisms. The bishop gives them a codex at their ordination, teaching them to fulfill the warnings contained in books, so that they may be strong enough to expel demons from others.

[1] Cf. Acts 19:14.

CAP. CLXXVII. – De exorcistis.

Exorcista dicitur adiurator: hi, Salomone docente, daemones adiurabant, et eos de obsessis hominibus expellebant, ut septem filii Scene sacerdotis faciebant. In Ecclesia autem habent officium infantes catechizandos, exorcizare et per verba Dei, id est baptizandorum corpora daemonibus interdicere, ac de energumenis, ideo de obsessis corporibus per exorcismos daemonia arcere. Et his codex ab episcopo traditur, dum ordinantur, ut videlicet monita librorum impleant, quo daemones ab aliis expellere valeant.

Exorcism 2 (Guthlac)

Chapter 178
On Acolytes

The men who were called tenders of the lights in the Law [1], are now called acolytes, or sometimes chandlers (cerarii) from “candle” (cera). They used to light and extinguish the lights of the Temple, restock them with oil, and feed the lanterns. Nadab and Abihu were of this number (Exodus 24). In the Church their duty is to carry the candle or incensor before the priest at Mass and during the Gospel, and to help dress the altar in its cloths. The bishop gives them a candelabra and a jug or cruet, and by this they are admonished to keep alive the lantern of good works, and keep the vessel of their heart full with the oil of a good conscience [2].

[1] Cf. Du Cange:

CONCINNARE, Concinnatio, voces in luminaribus Ecclesiæ præsertim usurpatæ, apud Interpretem Biblior. non semel :
Ad luminaria Concinnanda, ad Concinnandas lucernas,
Exod. cap. 25. 35. Levit. 24. numero 4. Ἒλαιον εἰς τὴν φαῦσιν, Græco Interpreti. S. Hieronym. Epist. 26. cap. 6 :
Vel lucernas Concinant, vel succendunt focum, pavimenta verrunt, etc.

[2] From the Pontificale Romanum:

Suscepturi, filii charissimi, officium Acolythorum, pensate quod suscipitis.  Acolythum etenim oportet ceroferarium ferre: luminaria Ecclesiae accendere; vinum et aquam ad Eucharistiam ministrare.  Studete igitur susceptum officium digne implere.  Non enim Deo placere poteritis, si lucem Deo manibus praeferentes, operibus tenebrarum inserviatis, et per hoc aliis exempla perfidiae praebeatis.  Sed sicut Veritas dicit: Luceat lux vestra coram hominibus, ut videant opera vestra bona, et glorificent Patrem vestrum, qui in caelis est.  Et sicut Apostolus Paulus ait: In medio nationis pravae et perversae, lucete sicut luminaria in mundo, verbum vitae continentes.  Sint ergo lumbi vestri praecincti, et lucernae ardentes in manibus vestris, ut filii lucis sitis. Abjiciatis opera tenebrarum, et induamini arma lucis.  Eratis enim aliquando tenebrae, nunc autem lux in Domino. Ut filii lucis ambulate. Quae sit vero ista lux, quam tantopere inculcat Apostolus, ipse demonstrat subdens: Fructus enim lucis est, in omni bonitate, et justitia, et veritate.  Estote igitur solliciti in omni justitia, bonitate, et veritate, ut et vos, et alios, et Dei Ecclesiam illuminetis. Tunc etenim in Dei sacrificio digne vinum suggeretis et aquam, si vos ipsi Deo sacrificium, per castam vitam, et bona opera, oblati fueritis.  Quod vobis Dominus concedat per misericordiam suam.

CAP. CLXXVIII. – De acolythis.

Qui in lege luminum concinnatores dicebantur, apud nos acolythi, id est a cera cerarii nuncupantur. Hi lumina in templo accendebant vel exstinguebant, oleo reficientes, lucernas nutriebant, ex quibus Nadab et Abiu erant (Exod. XXIV) . In Ecclesia autem habent officium, ut lumine vel thuribulum ante sacerdotem missam vel ad Evangelium deferant, ad ornandum altare vestibus vel palliis inserviant. His ornandis candelabrum et urceus vel ampulla ab episcopo traditur; ut per hoc admoncantur, quatenus lucernae bonorum operum in manibus eorum luceant, et oleum bonae conscientiae in vasis cordis habeant.

Acolyte (Pontifical of Gilles)
Pontifical of Gilles de Luxembourg France, Châlons-sur-Marne, ca. 1503 MS M.1098 fol. 1r (Source)
Acolyte 2 (Missal)
Missal, Italy, MS G.16 fol. 129r (Source)

Chapter 179
On Subdeacons
[Humble Servants]

The men whom the Hebrews call Nachumei, i.e. those who serve with humility, we call subdeacons, which means sub-ministers. In the Law their duty was to receive the sacrifices offered by the people and to carry the water and all other things necessary for the Temple service. Nathaniel is said to have been one of these (John 1). In the Church their duty is to read the Epistle and to carry the chalice, paten, and corporal to the deacon at the altar. Thus they are called hypodiacones, i.e. deacons’ ministers. When they are ordained  they are given sacred vessels, the chalice, paten, and handkerchief, so that they may know that they are the vessels of God, and show that they have purified themselves for this ministry.

[1] Cf. the Latin text with the Pontificale Romanum:

Adepturi filii dilectissimi, officium Subdiaconatus, sedulo attendite quale ministerium vobis traditur: Subdiaconum enim oportet aquam ad ministerium altaris praeparare: Diacono ministrare; pallas altaris, et corporalia abluere; Calicem, et Patenam in usum sacrificii eidem offerre.  Oblationes quae veniunt in altare, panes propositionis vocantur.  De ipsis oblationibus tantum debet in altare poni, quantum populo possit sufficere, ne aliquid putridum in sacrario remaneat.   Pallae, quae sunt in substratorio altaris, in alio vase debent lavari, et in alio corporales pallae.  Ubi autem corporales pallae lotae fuerint, nullum aliud linteamen debet lavari, ipsaque lotionis aqua in baptisterium debet vergi.  Studete itaque, ut ista visibilia ministeria, quae diximus, nitide et diligentissime complentes, invisibilia horum exemplo perficiatis.  Altare quidem sanctae Ecclesiae ipse est Christus, teste Joanne, qui in Apocalypsi sua altare aureum se vidisse perhibet, stans ante thronum, in quo, et per quem, oblationes fidelium Deo Patri consecrantur.  Cujus altaris pallae et corporalia sunt membra Christi, scilicet fideles Dei, quibus Dominus, quasi vestimentis pretiosis circumdatur, ut ait Psalmista: Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est. Beatus quoque Joannes in Apocalypsi vidit Filium hominis praecinctum zona aurea, id est, sanctorum caterva.  Si itaque humana fragilitate contingat in aliquo fideles maculari, praebenda est a vobis aqua coelestis doctrinae, qua purificati, ad ornamentum altaris, et cultum divini sacrificii redeant. Estote ergo tales, qui sacrificiis divinis, et Ecclesiae Dei, hoc est Corpori Christi, digne servire valeatis, in vera et Catholica fide fundati; quoniam, ut ait Apostolus: Omne quod non est ex fide, peccatum est, schismaticum est, et extra unitatem Ecclesiae est.   Et ideo, si usque nunc fuistis tardi ad Ecclesiam, amodo debetis esse assidui. Si usque nunc somnolenti, amodo vigiles. Si usque nunc ebriosi, amodo sobrii. Si usque nunc inhonesti, amodo casti. Quod ipse vobis praestare dignetur, qui vivit, et regnat Deus in saecula saeculorum.
CAP. CLXXIX. – De subdiaconibus.

Qui apud Hebraeos Nachumei, id est in humilitate servientes scribuntur, apud nos subdiaconi, id est subministri dicuntur. Horum officium in lege erat, oblata sacrificia a populo accipere, et aquam vel quaelibet necessaria in ministeria templi deferre: ex quibus Nathanael dicitur fuisse (Ioan. I) . In Ecclesia autem hoc habent officium ut Epistolam legant, calicem et patenam cum corporali diacono ad altare offerant. Unde et hypodiacones, id est diacono ministrantes dicuntur.  Cum hi ordinantur, vasa sancta, id est calix et patena eis ab episcopo dantur et manutergium, quatenus se vasa Dei sciant, et se huic ministerio mundos exhibeant.

Gemma Animae (172-176): On the Holy Orders


In this section, Honorius explains the grades of ministries in the Catholic Church. In each section, he explains the etymology of their titles, identifies their direct precedents in the Old Testament, comments upon their rites of ordination, and explains their spiritual meaning. In his brief observations he seems to depend very closely on the Pontificale, from which he draws vocabulary, style, and usually the particular spiritual sense of each minister’s officium, and for this reason we have appended the relevant prayers of the Pontificale Romanum after the translation. It is worth observing here, perhaps even more than elsewhere, how closely Honorius cleaves to the ancient spiritual explanation of the rites given by the Church herself.

The reader should be alive to the ways in which tapping into the mystical sense makes the commentary not only a description of functions, but an ecclesiological treatise in its own right. The ecclesiastical hierarchy are a physical manifestation of the perfect sanctity of the Church, adorned with every virtue, bearing “the form of heavenly life”; the seven orders correspond to the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus express the perfection of the life of grace conferred upon the Church. The particular duty each minister performs is always joined to a spiritual quality, a level of holiness that corresponds with the dignity of their ministry. It is a true hierarchy, holy order.

Ch. 172

Concerning the Church, we have now said what God gave us: it remains for us to speak about the Church’s ministers. Now the Church took the use of priests and ministers from the Synagogue, whom Moses had established to minister in the tabernacle in obedience to God’s command (Exodus 26). Thereafter, David and Salomon, equally by the Lord’s command, arranged for cantors and Levites in the Temple, whom the Apostles imitated when they established ministers in the Christian religion (Acts 6).

[1] It is hard to stress how deeply Biblical typology is written into the Latin conception of the holy orders. With a casual glance at the ordination ceremonies in the Roman Pontifical, the reader will discover that the rite takes every opportunity to identify the sacred persons, functions, and objects of the Christian cult with their Old Testament precedents. The form of the sacred hierarchy is given in Scripture: Moses is the high priest, represented by the bishop, and the priests are the 70 ministers he elected to aid him, etc.

David (Getijdenboek)
Psalter, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Source)

Ch. 173
On Christians

“Christians” take their name from “Christ,” and are divided into “laity,” “monks,” and “clerics.” “Laos” means people, whence we have “laity,” meaning the people. “Monas” means solitude; hence monks are those who live the solitary life.

Ch. 174
On Clerics
[Ancient priests]

Cleros means a choice (sors) or inheritance. Hence we have the word clerics, i.e. the ones chosen (sortiti) for the Lord’s inheritance. For they receive the tithe and sacrifice, which are called God’s inheritance because God has commanded them to be offered for God’s service. But the clergy take their name from a “choosing,” because the priests of in the law were chosen by lot (sorte); among the Gentiles, whoever had many children chose one for the priesthood, also by lot. Now all the ministers of the Church are called clerics. But they are arranged in seven grades, since they are consecrated by the seven-fold grace of the Holy Spirit [1]. They are the following: porters, lectors, exorcists, acolytes, subdeacons, deacons, presbyters.

[1] A fact explicitly mentioned in the Pontificale Romanum, in the prayer over candidates for the deaconate:

Emitte in eos, quaesumus Domine, Spiritum sanctum, quo in opus ministerii tui fideliter exequendi septiformis gratiae tuae munere roborentur.


Orders (Autun)
Sacramentary of Marmoutier for the use of d’Autun, France (West), ca. 845-850. (Autun, Bibliothèque municipale, ms 19bis, folio 1 verso ).


Ch. 175
On Porters

The men who were called janitors or doormen in the Synagogue are called porters in the Church. In the Law their duty was to open and close the Temple like Samuel, excluding alike from the House of God both Jews who were defiled and Gentiles who were unclean, i.e. uncircumcised. Now in the Church their duty is to lead the catechumens into the Church for Baptism and to receive the penitent who have been reconciled by the bishop at the door, leading them back into the House of God. When they are ordained, the bishop hands them the keys of the church, so that they may open the doors of the church to believers and close them to unbelievers, and also so that, in the Temple of God which is their bodies, they may open the doors to virtues, and close them to vices.

[1] Compare the Latin text with this one from the Roman Pontifical:

Suscepturi, filii charissimi, officium Ostiariorum, videte, quae in domo Dei agere debeatis, Ostiarium oportet percutere cymbalum, et campanam; aperire Ecclesiam, et sacrarium; et librum aperire ei, qui praedicat.  Providete igitur, ne per negligentiam vestram, illarum rerum, quae intra Ecclesiam sunt, aliquid depereat: certisque horis domum Dei aperiatis fidelibus; et semper claudatis infidelibus. Studete etiam, ut, sicut materialibus clavibus Ecclesiam visibilem aperitis, et clauditis, sic et invisibilem Dei domum, corda scilicet fidelium, dictis, et exemplis vestris claudatis diabolo, et aperiatis Deo: ut divina verba, quae audierint, corde retineant, et opere compleant, quod in vobis Dominus perficiat per misericordiam suam.

CAP. CLXXV. – De ostiariis

Qui in Synagoga ianitores vel aeditui dicebantur, in Ecclesia ostiarii nuncupantur. Illorum autem officium in lege erat, quod templum ut Samuel aperiebant et claudebant, et de Iudaeis pollutos, de gentibus autem immundos, id est incircumcisos de domo Dei excludebant. In Ecclesia autem hoc officium habent, ut catechumenos baptizandos in ecclesiam introducant, et poenitentes per episcopum reconciliatos in ostio accipiant, et in domum Dei reducant. Dum hi ordinantur, claves ecclesiae eis ab episcopo traduntur, ut videlicet credentibus ianuas ecclesiae aperiant incredulis claudant, et templum Dei quod ipsi sunt virtutibus aperiant, vitiis claudant.

Ch. 176
On Lectors
[Temple Cantors]

The men who were called cantors in the Temple are called lectores amongst us. The duty of the former was sing the hymns composed by David or the songs published by Salomon in the Temple, just as Asaph and Edith, and to shout for joy using organs and cymbals. In the church their duty is to recite the Divine Scripture and sing the Responsoria or Gradualia and Alleluia on their own before the people to the praise of God. When they are ordained, the bishop hands them a book, since they must fulfill by their works what they announce to the people from books. Now there is the praecentor who sings first; the succentor who follows him, the centor or cantor who sings along; the psalmista who pronounces the psalms; and the symmysta [1] or secretarius, which means one who knows what is secret, and he explains the mysteries of Christ [2].

[1] Du Cange explains: SYMMISTA, a Gr. συμμύστης, Sacrorum eorumdem particeps et collega. Utuntur S. Hieronymus, Sidonius, Apuleius, et alii. Decano et Symistis suis, apud Ekkehard. IV. de Cas. S. Galli cap. 16.

The word is also used in the famous Hodie Cantandus trope of the Introit of the Third Mass of Christmas, where the prophet Isaiah is called the “presagus et electus symmysta Dei.”

[2] Compare the Latin text with that of the Roman Pontifical:

Electi, filii charissimi, ut sitis Lectores in domo Dei nostri, officium vestrum agnoscite, et implete.  Potens est enim Deus, ut augeat vobis gratiam perfectionis aeternae. Lectorem siquidem oportet legere ea quae (vel ei qui) praedicat: et lectiones cantare; et benedicere panem, et omnes fructus novos.  Studete igitur verba Dei, videlicet Lectiones sacras, distincte et aperte, ad intelligentiam, et aedificationem fidelium absque omni mendacio falsitatis proferre; ne veritas divinarum Lectionum incuria vestra ad instructionem audientium corrumpatur.  Quod autem ore legitis, corde credatis, atque opere compleatis; quatenus auditores vestros, verbo pariter et exemplo vestro, docere possitis. Ideoque, dum legitis, in alto loco Ecclesiae stetis, ut ab omnibus audiamini, et videamini, figurantes positione corporali, vos in alto virtutum gradu debere conversari; quatenus cunctis, a quibus audimini, et videmini, caelestis vitae formam praebeatis; quod in vobis Deus impleat per gratiam suam.

Notice, in the underlined portion, the mystical reason given for preaching “from a high place.”

CAP. CLXXVI. – De lectoribus.

Qui in templo erant cantores, apud nos sunt lectores. Illorum officium erat hymnos a David compositos, vel cantica a Salomone edita in templo, ut Asaph et Idithum resonare, et organis vel cymbalis Deo iubilare. In ecclesia autem illorum est officium divinam Scripturam recitare, et Responsoria, vel Gradualia, et Alleluia singulariter coram populo ad laudem Dei cantare. (0598C) Dum hi ordinantur, liber eis, ab episcopo traditur, ut videlicet operibus impleant, quae populo de libris pronuntiant. Est autem praecentor, qui praecinit; succentor, qui cantum subsequitur, centor vel cantor, qui consonat; psalmista, qui psalmos pronuntiat; symmysta, id est secretarius vel secreti conscius, qui mysteria Christi explicat.