Key to Heaven and the Destruction of Hell: A Sermon from the Speculum Ecclesię on Roodmas

The root of Jesse shall stand for an ensign of the people.[1] Jesse was father to David the king, from whose seed Christ descended. This root of Jesse was Christ according to his divinity;[2] the twig that sprouted from Jesse was Christ born according to his humanity. It standeth for an ensign of the people, because the Holy Cross of Christ’s Passion and our redemption is an ensign for the entire Christian people. This is the ensign gainsaid by Jews and paynim, but it blesses the multitude of the faithful and every creature of the sacraments, and vanquishes all adversity. This Holy Cross is venerated by the angels and adored by men. Verily, by the cross the devil is made captive, the world is liberated, hell is despoiled, paradise is gladdened, and the Christian people around the globe are invited into the heavenly kingdom. 

The idea that Christ was the root might be based on an early version of the Stirps Jesse such as the one shown here from the Vyšehrad Codex, which is the earliest surviving example. It has Christ at the root of the tree, but the later tradition has Jesse at the base.

The heavenly fatherland exults in the triumph of the holy Cross, the Church rejoices, and Jewish perfidy wastes away. The victory of the holy Cross subjugates death and strips it of its dreadful tyranny. The Holy Cross has become for us the key to heaven, the powerful destruction of Hell. Sanctified by Christ’s body and blood, it is most worthy to be honored by all the faithful. It protects sinners, governs the saints, fosters little ones, makes hale those worn down by age, lifts up the fallen, guides the just, reforms the unjust, and lends assistance to all who show it faithful reverence. On account of the wood, our first parent plunged into the open main of this world as it were into a ship-wrecking whirlpool, and the ravenous Leviathan swallowed the whole human race—a cruel death! Then did our Redeemer raise the standard of the Holy Cross and tie up the foe’s scaly maws with the hook of his flesh, so that pierced with the point of the life-giving wood, that vile beast of prey vomited up those he had gulped because of the forbidden wood. This Holy Cross is our lamp of eternal light in the darkness of this life, leading those who follow it into heaven, and granting those who love it angelic joys. 

Heaven has often made known the virtue of his Holy Cross in wondrous ways.

In a town there was a certain Christian who owned a figure of the Holy Cross. When he died, a Jew came into possession of his house. One day he invited his co-religionists to a banquet, not knowing that there was a crucifix in the house. Now when in the midst of feasting they espied the image of the Holy Cross, they arose with a mad shout and seized the crucifix. “We have heard,” they said, “that our fathers flogged Jesus; we too ought to disgrace his image with floggings.” Howling these words, the faithless Jews inflicted beatings upon the crucifix and—wonder of wonders!—their blows drew out drops of blood. Jeering at this wonder in their delirium, they said that Jesus was wounded by their ancestors, so likewise his image should suffer at their hands. And so they stabbed and poked holes in it with their knives, but to Christ’s glory streams of blood flowed out. After word of the affair got out, a throng of cripples rushed to the spot, gathered the dripping blood in vessels, and smeared it on their disabled limbs. O what wondrous miracles of Jesus Christ were worked through images of the Holy Cross! Instantly the blind rejoiced to regain their sight, the deaf celebrated their restored hearing, the mute shouted for joy, the lame jumped for joy, and all the crippled celebrated their wholeness. The Jews shouted Christ’s praises in a loud voice, forthwith became believers and were baptized, and venerated the Holy Cross with the highest honor.

Francisco Rizi, Profanation of a Crucifix, 1647-1651

Once upon a time, a Jew was travelling to Rome.[3] As night overtook him, he retired for repose to an abandoned pagan temple by the road, but was so afraid of that place of horror[4] that he signed himself with the Holy Cross. At about midnight a crowd of demons arrived, one of whom was seated on a high chair like a king. He inquired of the others what villainy each had done that day. As they were telling of their mischief, one leapt into the middle to report that he had induced the bishop Andrew, a man of perfect religion, to fall in love with a nun; he had drawn him so far forth that, late at night as the bishop left her, he had given her a merry spank on the back end. As all present shouted their approval and praised his industry, and urged him to bring to completion the job he had begun, the Prince of Evil ordered them to inquire who had dared presume to take shelter in his house. His wicked retainers hastened to the Jew and squinted intently at him. They wondered, saying, “Look, here is an empty vessel, but yet it is signed!” Hearing this, all the evil spirits vanished because they could not bear the name of the Holy Cross. The Jew rose up and came to the bishop at that very hour and told him all that he had seen. The bishop fell prostrate upon the earth and praised God for keeping him from sin, baptized the believing Jew, and shortly thereafter ordained him a priest. The temple wherein the demons had gathered he made into a church dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle. And so both men whom the devil boasted to have in his power were saved by the virtue of the Cross.

But just as the Cross restores the predestined to life, so it throttles the reprobate. Julian the Apostate, for instance, wanted to learn the magic arts while still a boy, and for that purpose dwelled with a sorcerer in a solitary house.[5] When Julian left the house, he began to invoke demons, but seized with terror at their sight he signed himself with the Holy Cross. Seeing this, the demons fled, leaving the frightened wretch alone. The sorcerer came in and asked him if he had seen anything. Julian replied that he had seen hideous Ethiopians, but they disappeared after he made the sign of the Cross. The sorcerer told him the demons were displeased by this sign and hence withdrew from his presence. On this account the unhappy Julian began to loathe the Lord’s Cross with such hate that he started to detest and abhor the entire Christian religion with his whole heart, and once he became emperor he enforced paganism throughout the globe, striving with all his might to erase the Christian name from the earth. Behold how the Cross, which is the source of salvation for all, became for Julian a pit of death. 

On the other hand, by the Cross was Cyprian saved, who had been predestined for eternal life since before all ages. This famous sorcerer, who had driven scores of people mad with his magic arts, performed a multitude of heinous crimes, and riven open a great many pregnant women with spells and sacrificed their babies to demons, came to the way of salvation through the virtue of the Holy Cross in the following manner:

There was a young maid named Justina, beloved of God, whom this sorcerer tried to persuade to consent to his lust. He cast a spirit of fornication into her, but she repulsed it by making the sign of the Holy Cross. When Cyprian questioned the spirit why he had not led the maiden unto him, he said that he had seen a frightful sign and fled from her forthwith. Jeering at him, the sorcerer sent a stronger spirit, whom fear of the Cross likewise put to flight. When Cyprian asked why he had not brought the virgin, he answered that he could not do so on account of some frightful sign. He then undertook to dispatch the prince of demons, who shifted into a woman’s shape, and solicited the maiden with smooth words and fiery darts. As soon as she made the sign of the cross, the evil one vanished like smoke and went back in confusion to the sorcerer, reporting how he had fled from some terrible sign. When Cyprian asked what sign it might be that had undone all their might, the devil replied that Christ’s Cross had sapped all their power and triumphed over all their devilish arts. Hearing this, Cyprian spurned the devil, converted to Christ, and as a perfect example of the Christian religion was raised to be a bishop and noble doctor of the Church, and alongside the same Justina offered himself in the face of divers torments as a living host to God and become a glorious martyr. And thus, with the Cross as their standard, the elect bear home the trophy.[6]

St. Cyprian, demons, and St. Justina, from a French translation of the Legenda aurea (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 245, fol. 109, 15th century)

My brethren, you should know what today’s feast is about. Chosroës, king of the Persians, ravaged Judæa and bore off the Holy Cross from Jerusalem unto his own land.[7] There he built a silver[8] tower as a sort of heaven, installing within images of the sun, moon, and stars. This tower was so contrived that it could be moved, and it made a sound like the rumble of thunder. Water too was pumped up through hidden pipes and then came down again like showers into several caverns inside. He hung the Cross up in the tower at his right hand, for his son; to his left he placed a bronze cock that stood for the Holy Spirit, while he sat on a throne in the middle and ordered himself to be worshiped as God the Father. Heraclius, emperor of the Romans, came against him with an army, and Chosroës’ son hastened to meet him at the Danube with a strong force. The people agreed that the princes should engage in a duel on the bridge, and that all should submit to the victor. So it happened, and Heraclius emerged victorious, and the whole army obeyed him. Once he had subjugated Chosroës’ realm, Heraclius climbed up into Chosroës’ “heaven” with a few others, found the tyrant on his throne, asked him if he wished to be baptized, and when he refused, cut off his head. He ordered his son, still a boy, and his whole army to be baptized. He raised the child from the font himself and put him on his father’s throne, giving him command of the kingdom, and then hastened joyfully back to Jerusalem with the Holy Cross. He rode in from the Mount of Olives under the imperial insignia, riding a caparisoned horse, but the city gate before him was blocked off by an attached wall. And behold the Holy Cross shone in the heavens with a blinding light, held above the gate by an angel of the Lord who said, “When the King of Heaven entered these doors on the way to his Passion, he did not flaunt purple cloth or crowns, and was borne on the back not of a haughty steed, but of an ordinary ass.” Thus spoke angel, and disappeared into heaven. The emperor, therefore, removed his ornaments and took up the Cross, resounding a hymn to the Lord with the entire people. Anon the door opened up for him, and the Holy Cross was venerably exalted in the place prepared for it. On the same day, through the glorious Cross a dead man was restored to life, four men with the palsy recovered their health, ten lepers became well, fifteen blind men gained sight, many were freed from demons, and a great number were cured of various diseases. Moreover, as soon as the Cross was carried away from Chosroës’ temple, an exceedingly sweet smell wafted from that province, suffusing the breasts of everyone in Jerusalem.

Heraclius slays Chosroës as depicted in an MS of Alexander of Bremen’s Expositio in Apocalypsin (Cambridge University Library MS Mm.5.31, fol. 80v, 13th century)

Also today Cornelius, bishop of the Romans, and Cyprian, prelate of the Church of Carthage, shed their blood for their sheep and entered the heavenly realm to receive their crowns.

Now, my beloved, lift high the Holy Cross with your praises and shower your prayers upon these holy men, that he who redeemed you by the Cross and made you co-heirs of the Kingdom by his Blood, may grant you to triumph over the world through the standard of the Holy Cross and exult forever with the saints in the heavenly Jerusalem, where eye hath not seen, &c.

Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (Morgan Library MS M.917/945, ca. 1440)

[1] Isaias 11:10

[2] The Stirps Jesse (“Jesse Tree”) was a new artistic motif when Honorius wrote.

[3] The following exemplum is based on Gregory the Great’s story of Bishop Andrew of Fundi, told in Dialogues 3.7. Gregory’s story makes no mention of the Jew being ordained a priest. 

[4] From the Canticle of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:10.

[5] On the history of this legend, see Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes.

[6] The story of Cyprian and Justina was first told by St. Gregory Nazienzen and Prudentius in the 4th century, when St. Cyprian of Carthage has already been conflated with a Cyprian the Magician, converted by then killed with the maiden Justina in the Diocletian persecution. Usuard has only a short entry on the two on 26th September, and does not conflate them, and Rhabanus Maurus does not tell the extended version.

[7] The story is a summary of the entry for September 14th in Usuard‘s Martyrology (PL 123:356c), itself drawn perhaps from Rhabanus Maurus’ 70th homily, Reversio sanctae atque gloriosissimae crucis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, the earliest evidence for the reception of this legend in the West (Homilia LXX, PL 11:131-134). Neither source mentions the effigy of a dove or makes Chosroës’ blasphemous celestial diorama into a temple of the Trinity; this may be Honorius’s own pen. It later reappears in Sicard of Cremona’s Mitrale and John Beleth’s Summa de ecclesiasticis officiis, as well as in the Legenda aurea. For more on the legend, see A Heritage of Holy Wood: The Legend of the True Cross in Text and Image.

[8] Usuard and Rhabanus Maurus read argenteam (“silver”), and most MSS follow them, but Admont, Benediktinerstift, cod. 131 gives ęream (“bronze”), a reading supported by a Kaiserchronik composed in Regensburg ca. 1150, which mentions Chosroës making a “heaven of bronze.”

Radix Ẏesse stabit in signum populorum. Iesse pater Dauid regis erat, de cuius semine xpc processerat. Huius Ẏesse radix erat xpc secundum diuinitatem, natus de uirgula ex eo pullulante secundum humanitatem. Hic stat in signum populorum, quia sancta crux xpi passionis nostrę redemptionis est signum omnium xpianorum. Hoc est signum cui a Iudeis et gentibus contradicitur, sed fidelium multitudo omnisque sacramentorum creatura per illud benedicitur, omnis aduersitas depulsa reuincitur. Hec sancta crux est angelis ueneranda, hominibus adoranda. Per crucem quippe diabolus est captiuatus, mundus liberatus, infernus despoliatus, paradysus iocundatus, omnis per orbem xpianus populus ad celestia regna inuitatus.

De triumpho sanctę crucis celestis exultat patria, gaudet Ęcclesia, Iudaica tabescit perfidia. Mors subiugatur sanctę crucis uictoria, expoliatur tyrannide nequissima. Sancta crux facta est nobis clauis celi, fortis destructio inferni. Quę enim corpore et sanguine Christi sanctificatur, dignissime ab omnibus fidelibus honoratur. Quę peccatores munit, sanctos regit, fouet paruulos, corroborat senio confectos, lapsos erigit, iustos dirigit, iniustos corrigit, omnibus cultoribus suis protectionis auxilia porrigit. Postquam primus parens per lignum in pelagus huius seculi quasi in uorticem naufragii corruit, atque auidus Leuiathan seua morte totum genus humanum absorbuit, placuit Redemptori nostro uexillum sanctę crucis erigere, et hamo carnis suę squamea hostis guttura constringere, ut cuspide uitalis ligni perfossus euomeret, quos per uetitum lignum improbus predo deuorasset. Hec sancta crux est nobis lampas lucis eternę in huius uitę caligine, quae suos sequaces ducit ad celestia, suis amatoribus gaudia confert angelica.

Huius sanctę crucis uirtus sepe notificata est diuinitus.   

In quadam ciuitate quidam xpianus formulam sanctę crucis habebat, cuius mortui domum quidam Iudeus possederat. Hic contribules suos inuitauit ad conuiuium, ignorans in domo esse sanctę crucis signaculum. Inter epulas uero cum sanctę crucis signum conspiciunt, cum insano clamore surgentes formam arripiunt: «Patres nostri, inquiunt, feruntur ihm flagellasse et nos oportet formam illius flagellis dehonestare.» Hec perfidi conclamantes flagellis formulam inficiunt et, quod dictu mirum est, guttas sanguinis plagis eliciunt. Hoc insani deridentes prodigium, aiunt ihm a suis prioribus esse uulneratum, eiusque signum ab eis similia patiendum. Itaque lanceis punctim transforant, sed ad xpi gloriam riui sanguinis manant. Postquam hec fama diuulgat, turba debilium conuolat, uasculis stillantem cruorem excipiunt, membra sua debilia perungunt. O mira ihu Christi miracula, quę operatur per sanctę crucis signacula! Mox ceci uisu iocundantur, surdi auditu gratulantur, muti uoce letantur, claudi gressu exultant, quique debiles sospitate tripudiant, Iudei laudem xpi magna uoce iubilant. Qui protinus credentes baptizantur, sanctam crucem summo honore uenerantur.

Quodam etiam tempore quidam Iudeus Romam pergebat, qui nocte imminente in quodam antiquo templo ydolorum iuxta uiam quiescebat. Sed quia locum horroris expauit, signo sanctę crucis se signauit. Et media fere nocte multitudo demonum aduenit, inter quos quidam ut rex in sublimi consedit, ab aliis inquirit, quid quisque mali egerit. Illis suas nequicias referentibus unus in medium prosilit, se Andream episcopum, summę religionis uirum, in amorem cuiusdam monialis perduxisse retulit, hocque negotium eo perductum ut nocte sero cum de ea discesserit, alapam ei in posteriora blandiens dederit. In cuius laudem dum omnes conclamant, industriamque omnes collaudant, simulque cohortantur ut ceptum opus perficiat, princeps malicię iubet inquirere quisnam presumpserit in eius domo delitescere. Maligni autem satellites accurrunt, Iudeum diligenter inspiciunt, admirantesque: «Ecce, inquiunt, uas uacuum et tamen signatum.» Hoc audito maligni spiritus ut fumus disparuerunt, quia nomen sanctę crucis ferre non ualuerunt. Iudeus autem surgens eadem hora ad episcopum uenit, cunctaque quę uiderat retulit. Episcopus uero humi prostratus Deum laudat, quod eum a peccato custodierat, Iudeum credentem baptizat, non multo post presbyterum ordinat, templum in quo demones conuenerant, in honore sancti Andreę apostoli dedicat. Sic uterque per uirtutem crucis saluatur, quos diabolus in sua potestate habere gloriabatur. 

Sed sicut per crucem predestinati ad uitam reparantur, sic reprobi per eam strangulantur. Nam Iulianus apostata adhuc puer magicam artem discere uolebat, quem magus in deserta domo includebat. Ipse autem egressus cepit demones inuocare, de quorum uisione perterritus Iulianus cepit se signo sanctę crucis signare. Hoc uiso demones aufugerunt, et miserum pauefactum solum reliquerunt. Magus ingressus inquirit, si quid uiderit. At ille dixit se horridos Ęthyopes uidisse, sed signo crucis a se edito subito non comparuisse. Ille uero affirmat eos de hoc signo indignatos fuisse, et ideo presentiam sui subtraxisse. Vnde ipse infelix tanto odio cepit Dominicam crucem execrari, quod omnem xpianam religionem cepit toto corde abhominando detestari, atque imperator factus paganismum per orbem exercere, ac xpianum nomen in quantum potuit conatus est sub celo delere. Ecce crux quę omnibus est causa salutis, extitit huic fouea mortis.

E contra per hanc saluatus est Cyprianus, ad uitam ante secula predestinatus. Hic famosus magus cum plurimos magicis artibus dementasset, multa horribilia flagicia perpetrasset, plures mulieres pregnantes carminibus diuisisset, paruulos earum demonibus immolauisset, per uirtutem sanctę crucis tali modo uenit ad uiam salutis:

Erat quędam Iustina uirgo Deo amabilis, quem hic magus conabatur inclinare ad consensum suę libidinis. Spiritum itaque fornicationis ei immittit, quem illa facto signo crucis a se repulit. A quo dum Cyprianus requisisset, cur uirginem non adduxisset, dixit se signum uidisse terribile et mox ab ea fugisse. Quem ille deridens fortiorem misit, qui similiter per crucis signum aufugit. Sciscitantique Cypriano cur uirginem non adduxerit, ob quoddam terribile signum se non potuisse respondit. Tunc principem demoniorum mittere curauit, qui se in mulierem transfigurauit, uirginem blandis uerbis et igneis telis sollicitauit. Quę mox ut signum crucis edidit, ille malignus ut fumus euanuit, confususque ad magum rediit, se quoddam tremendum signum fugisse retulit. Interroganti autem Cypriano quod illud signum esset quod omnem fortitudinem eorum soluisset, respondit diabolus xpi crucem omnes uires eorum subneruare, omnesque diabolicas artes crucem triumphare. Hoc audiens Cyprianus, diabolum respuens, ad xpm convertitur et in omni xpiana religione perfecte pollens, episcopus et nobilis doctor Ęcclesię preficitur, atque cum eadem Iustina ad diuersa supplicia se hostiam uiuam Deo offerens gloriosus martyr efficitur. Sic per crucis uexillum, referunt electi tropheum. 

Quę autem sit hodierna festiuitas, scire debet uestra fraternitas. Cosdras rex Persarum Iudeam depopulauit, crucem sanctam ab Ierosolimis in terram suam asportauit, ibique turrim pro celo construxit, in qua similitudinem solis et lunę stellarumque finxit. Quę turris quodam artificio mouebatur, et mugitum tonitruorum imitabatur. Aqua quoque per fistulas occultas ascendebat, per quasdam cavernas pro pluuia descendebat. In qua turri crucem a dextris suis pro filio suo fixerat, a sinistris autem gallum aureum pro Spiritu sancto posuerat, in medio ipse in throno residens se ut Deum Patrem coli iusserat. Ad quem Eraclius Romanorum imperator cum exercitu uenit, eique filius Cosdrę cum manu ualida ad Danubium occurrit. Placuit itaque populo ut principes singuli duellum in ponte inirent, uincentique omnes obedirent. Quo facto Eraclius uictoriam obtinuit, omnisque exercitus ei paruit. Qui regnum Cosdrę sibi subiugans in celum ipsius cum paucis ascendit, tyrannum in solio reperit, si uelit baptizari interrogat, renuenti caput amputat. Filium eius adhuc puerum omnemque exercitum baptizari imperat, quem ipse de fonte eleuat, tradito sibi regno in solio patris collocat, ablata cruce cum gaudio Ierosolimam properat. Qui de monte Oliueti imperialibus insignibus falerato equo uehitur, sed porta ciuitatis ante eum coniuncto muro obstruitur. Et ecce sancta crux nimio fulgore in cęlis resplenduit, quam angelus Domini super portam stans manu tenuit: «Quando, inquit, rex cęlorum per has portas passurus est ingressus, non purpura nec diademate nitens equo superbo, sed uilis aselli dorso, est inuectus.» His dictis, angelus recipitur celis. Imperator autem depositis ornamentis crucem manu baiulat, ymnum Domino cum omni populo iubilat. Cui mox porta reseratur, cruxque sancta in loco sibi preparato uenerabiliter exaltatur. Eodem die per crucem gloriosam recepit mortuus uitam, iiiior paralitici adepti sunt sanitatem, x leprosi sospitatem, xv ceci luminis claritatem, plurimi a demonibus liberati, quamplures a uariis languoribus curati. Mox etiam ut crux de fano Cosdrę baiulatur, suauissimus odor de illa prouincia uolitans omnium in Ierosolimis pectoribus infundebatur.

Hodie etiam Cornelius Romanorum episcopus atque Cyprianus Carthaginensis ęcclesię prelatus sanguinem suum pro ouibus sibi creditis effuderunt, atque regna cęlestia coronandi intrauerunt.

Nunc, karissimi, sanctam crucem laudibus exaltate, hos sanctos precibus pulsate, ut qui uos cruce redemit, sanguine suo regni coheredes fecit, concedat uobis per uexillum sanctę crucis de mundo triumphare, et cum sanctis in cęlesti Ierusalem perenniter exultare. Vbi oculus non, &c.

“I Shall Keep Inviolate the Discipline and Ritual of the Church”: The Early Mediæval Papal Oath

The recent promulgation of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes by the Most Holy Lord Francis has sparked renewed interest in the question of the limits of papal power, especially as it relates to liturgical tradition.[1]

Any such discussions must take into account the Indiculum Pontificis (“The Pontiff’s Attestation”), an oath that popes seem to have sworn between the 7th and 11th centuries. In it, the pontiff-elect solemnly vows to St. Peter that he shall preserve inviolate the doctrinal and liturgical tradition handed down to him by his predecessors and by the holy œcumenical councils and that he will act as a remora against the introduction of any novelties.

This papal oath is preserved in the Liber Diurnus Pontificum Romanum, a collection of formulæ used by the pontifical chancellery which survives today in three MSS.: Vatican City, Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Misc. Arm. XI.19; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana I.2 sup.; and the Codex Claramontanus now kept in the Abbey of Egmond-Binnen. A modern edition was published by the Jesuit Jean Garnier in 1680, reprinted in the Patrologia Latina (vol. 105, cols. 21-118). In 1869, Marie Louis Thomas Eugène de Rozière published an improved edition, followed by Theodor E. von Sickel’s critical edition in 1889. Finally, in 1958 Hans Foerster published diplomatic editions of all three MSS. The Indiculum Pontificis appears as formula 83 in the Vatican MS., 59 in the Ambrosian, and 64 in the Codex Claramontanus.  

Sickel concluded that the texts of the Liber Diurnus developed over time and that the MSS. that survive to-day represent its state during the reign of the Most Holy Lord Hadrian I, between the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th centuries. Some have argued, withal, that some of its formulæ date back as early as the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great. Gottfried Buschbell argued in 1896 that it stopped being used after 787, in his 1948 book on the Photian schism Francis Dvornik makes an excellent case for its continued use in the 11th century, when Cardinal Deusdedit wrote a compilation of canon law and included the papal oath therein. It is tempting to connect its fall into desuetude with the expansive views of papal power adopted by St. Gregory VII and his reformist successors. 

What is known is that in 1352 the cardinals forced the Lord Innocent VI to swear an oath, but it is entirely different from the one in the Liber Diurnus and only concerned with tithes and administrative procedures. Sometime in the 14th century, an oath based on the one in the Liber Diurnus was forged with the addition of a statement precluding the possibility of papal abdication, and it was used by the Lord Boniface VIII’s enemies to argue that his predecessor’s abdication had been null and void. 

In the early 15th century, another papal oath was forged, again based on the authentic oath from the Liber Diurnus, and falsely presented as the text sworn by the Lord Boniface VIII at his coronation. The reformist party in the Council of Constance used this forged oath to compose a new oath for popes to swear during their coronation (session 39), but this legislation does not seem to have received papal approval. 

We reproduce below the text of the Indiculum from the Vatican MS. as it appears in Foerster’s edition, together with the first full English translation thereof. 

The Pontiff’s Attestation [of Faith]

In the name of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and so forth, on (such) indiction, (such) month, (such) day. 

I, (name), by the mercy of God deacon, elect and future bishop, by the grace of God, of this Apostolic See, swear to you, blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles—to whom the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator and Redeemer of all, gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose in heaven and on earth saying, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven”—and to your Holy Church, which today I have taken up to rule under your protection, that I shall guard with all my strength, even unto giving up the ghost or shedding my blood, the right and true faith which, having been handed down by Christ its author and transmitted by your successors and disciples unto my smallness, I found in your Holy Church; and with your help I shall patiently bear the difficulties of the times; I shall preserve the the mystery of the holy and individual Trinity which is one God, as well as the dispensation according to the flesh of the only-begotten Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the other dogmas of God’s Church, just as they are deposited by the universal councils and constitutions of the apostolic pontiffs and the writings of the most approved doctors of the Church, that is, all that concerns the rightness of your and our orthodox faith handed down by you; I, too, shall guard unaltered even by a tittle the holy and universal councils—of Nicæa, of Constantinople, the first of Ephesus, of Chalcedon, and the second of Constantinople which was celebrated in the time of the prince Justinian of happy memory—and together with them I shall fully and entirely keep with equal honour and veneration the holy sixth council which recently assembled under prince Constantine of happy memory and the apostolic lord Agatho my predecessor, and I shall preach whatsoever they preached and condemn in heart and word whatsoever they condemned; I shall moreover diligently and heartily confirm and safeguard undiminished all the decrees of the apostolic pontiffs my predecessors, and whatever they promulgated and confirmed in synod and individually, and maintain them in unwavering vigor just as my predecessors established them, and condemn with a sentence of equal authority whatever things and persons they condemned and rejected; I shall keep inviolate the discipline and ritual of the Church just as I found and received it handed down by my predecessors, and I shall preserve the Church’s property undiminished and take care it is kept undiminished; I shall neither subtract nor change anything from the tradition my most esteemed predecessors have safeguarded and I have received, nor shall I admit any novelty, but shall fervently keep and venerate with all my strength all that I find handed down as, forsooth, my predecessors’ disciple and follower; but if anything should come about contrary to canonical discipline, I shall correct it, and guard the sacred canons and constitutions of our pontiffs as divine and heavenly mandates, knowing that at the divine Judgment I shall  render a strict account of all that I profess to you whose place I occupy by divine condescension and whose role I fulfill by the aid of your intercession. If I should presume or allow anyone else to presume to do anything that exceeds these, then on that terrible day of God’s judgment be propitius to me in my sincere attempt to guard them and lend your aid, I pray, to me who am set in this corruptible life, that I might appear blameless before the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge of all, when he shall come fearfully to judge our sins, that he might make me to stand on the Father’s right hand among his faithful disciples and successors. I have signed this my profession with my own hand, as contained above—put into writing by (name), notary and secretary, at my command—and with a pure mind and devout conscience I have sincerely offered it to you, blessed Peter, apostle and prince of all the apostles, by this bodily oath.

I, the aforestated (name), unworthy deacon and by the grace of God bishop-elect of this apostolic see of the Roman Church, made this my profession, as contained above, presented this bodily oath, and offered it to you, blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, with a pure mind and conscience.

Indiculum Pontificis.

In nomine Domini Dei Saluatoris nostri Iesu Christi et cetera, indictione ill. mense ill. die ill.

Ill. misericordia Dei diaconus et electus futurusque per Dei gratiam huius apostolicae sedis antistis tibi profiteor, beate Petre apostolorum princeps, cui claues regni caelorum ad ligandum atque soluendum in caelo et in terra creator atque redemptor omnium Dominus Iesus Christus tradidit, inquiens: «Quaecumque ligaueris super terram, erunt ligata et in caelo, et quaecumque solueris super terram, erunt soluta et in caelis», sanctaeque tue Ecclesiae quam hodie tuo praesidio regendam suscepi, quod uere fidei rectitudine, Christo auctore tradente, per successores tuos atque discipulos usque ad exiguitatem meam perlatam in tua sancta Ecclesia repperi, totis conatibus meis usque ad animam et sanguinem custodire; temporumque difficultate cum tuo adiutorio tolleranter sufferre; tam de sanctae et indiuidue Trinitatis misterio quae unus est Deus, quamque de dispensatione quae secundum carnem facta est unigeniti Filii Dei Domini nostri Iesu Christi et de ceteris Ecclesiae Dei dogmatibus, sicut uniuersalibus conciliis et constitutis apostolicorum pontificum probatissimorumque doctorum Ecclesiae scriptis sunt commendata, id est queque ad rectitudinem uestrae nostraeque orthodoxe fidei a te traditionem[2]  respiciunt, conseruare; sancta quoque uniuersalia concilia: Nicenum, Constantinopolitanum, Efesenum primum, Calcedonensem et secundum Constantinopolitanum quod Iustiniani piae memoriae principis temporibus celebratum est, usque ad unum apicem inmutilata seruare, et unam cum eis pari honore et ueneratione sanctum sextum concilium quod nuper sub Constantino piae memoriae principe et Agathone apostolico praecessore meo conuenit, medullitus et plenius conseruare, quaeque uero praedicauerunt, praedicare, queque condemnauerunt, ore et corde condemnare; diligentius autem et uiuacius omnia decreta predecessorum apostolicorum nostrorum pontificum, queque uel synodaliter uel specialiter statuerunt et probata sunt, confirmare et indiminute seruare, et sicut ab eis statuta sunt, in sua uigoris stabilitate custodire, quaeque uel quosque condemnauerunt uel abdicauerunt, simili auctoritatis sententia condemnare; disciplinam et ritum Ecclesiae, sicut inueni et a sanctis predecessoribus meis traditum repperi, inlibatum custodire, et indiminutas res Ecclesiae conseruare et ut indiminute custodiantur operam dare; nihil de traditione quae a probatissimis praedecessoribus meis seruatum repperi, diminuere uel mutare aut aliquam nouitatem admittere, sed feruenter, ut uere eorum discipulus et sequipeda, totis meae[3] conatibus quae tradita comperio, conseruare ac uenerare; si qua uero emerserint contra disciplinam canonicam, emendare, sacrosque canones et constituta pontificum nostrorum ut diuina et celestia mandata custodire, utpote tibi redditurum me sciens de omnibus quae profiteor districtam in diuino iudicio rationem, cuius locum diuina dignatione perago et uicem intercessionibus tuis adiutus impleo. Si preter haec aliquod agere presumpsero uel ut presumatur permisero, eris autem mihi in illa terribili die diuina iudicii Dei, propitius haec conanti et diligenter seruare curanti adiutorium quoque ut prebeas obsecro in hac uita corruptibili constituto, ut inreprehensibilis appaream ante conspectum iudicis omnium Domini nostri Iesu Christi, dum tertibiliter de commissis aduenerit iudicare, ut faciat me dextre partis compotem et inter fideles discipulos ac successores esse consortem. Quam professionem meam, ut supra continet, per ill. notarium et scriniarium me mandante conscriptam propria manu subscripsi et tibi, beate Petre apostole et apostolorum omnium princeps, pura mente et conscientia deuota corporali iureiurando sinceriter optuli.

Ego qui supra ill. indignus diaconus et Dei gratia electus huius apostolicae sedis Romane Ecclesiae hanc professionem meam, sicut supra continet, faciens et iusiurandum corporaliter offerens tibi, beate Petre apostolorum princeps, pura mente et conscientia optuli. 

[1] Cf. John Monaco, “Was the Sacred Liturgy made for the pope, or the pope for the Sacred Liturgy?”, Catholic World Report; Martin Mosebach, “Mass and Memory,” First Things; Peter Kwasnewski, “The Pope’s Boundedness to Tradition as Legislative Limit: Replying to Ultramontanist Apologetics” (upcoming)  

[2] The reading of the MS is here corrupt. Sickel suggests traditae for traditionem.

[3] Sickel suggests adding mentis.

“Super Aspidem et Basiliscum Ambulabit”: A Sermon for Palm Sunday from the Speculum Ecclesię


Peering into Honorius’ Mirror on Palm Sunday morning, we find some scaly scoundrels from the medieval bestiary leering back out at us. Asps, basilisks, lions, dragons—oh my! it seems we have not yet escaped from the lurid hellscape of Drythelm’s vision related in the sermon for Laetare Sunday. On their scaly bodies, Honorius traces the sordid tale of mankind’s fall from grace; their fire, venom, and death, we are told, symbolize the devil and the sins that threaten spiritual death…Yet beyond the death that we contemplate in unredeemed mankind, we look forward very soon to redemption in Christ, who walked upon the asp and the basilisk when he destroyed sin and death by his own death and trampled under foot the lion and the dragon, casting the devil’s body into Hell.

The mystical zoology, drawn out of Rhabanus Maurus and Isidore, and tropological reflections of Honorius’ own making, are suitably occasioned by the versicles Super aspidem, sung during Lent, and De ore leonis of Passiontide.

The rest of the sermon tells the history of Lazarus’ raising as a backdrop to Christ’s royal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Our preacher reads the story successively through an allegorical, tropological, and anagogical reflection on the “three deaths” of the soul—through thought, word, and deed—showing how Christ raises mankind out of the tomb of its sins to life.

The two parts of the sermon are clearly complementary and, once again, carefully crafted to suit a varied audience. The powerful bestiary imagery provides food for the imagination, pleasing simple and even superstitious minds, while the learned exegesis of Christ’s royal advent and the soul’s three deaths channels the exegetical tradition for the edification of learned clergy. Honorius shows his usual interest in the historical origins of feasts, saying Palm Sunday mirrors the Feast of Tabernacles. In fact, the Jewish people, in their joyful reception of Christ, function as this sermon’s exemplum.

The optional addendum adds two more mystic figures, whose story has been read at Matins throughout Lent: Abraham’s sending for a wife (Genesis 24), and the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt and wandering in the desert: both types of Christ saving his people.

He ends, as usual, with a moral exhortation that leads into a promise of future glory (anagogy).

British Library Sloane MS 278, f. 2v. Hugh of Fouilloy’s De Avibus

Honorius Augustodunensis’
Sermon for Palm Sunday

Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk, and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.[1] The asp is a species of serpent that flees when it hears a charmer’s songs.[2] When someone sings a charm, it is said to push one of its ears into the ground and block the other with its tail,[3] so as not to hear the voice of the charmer and be forced to obey his words. It poisons springs and trees with its venom, and so kills those who taste them.

The asp is a figure of sin, which blocks the ears of our heart with worldly desires, so that we do not hear the warnings of our God nor obey his words that are unto our salvation. It poisons the fountain of baptism and the tree of the Cross when it pollutes with disgraceful acts those who have been baptized in the faith of Christ’s Passion. It kills those who taste them, because mortal sin slays those who taste the Word of life and the sacraments of Christ’s Body.

In books we read that the basilisk, also called regulus,[4] is a deadly four-footed animal, whose breath instantly kills all who breathe it. Even the birds flying overhead choke and drop dead from the sky, shedding feathers withered as if by some flame. This noxious beast spreads death all about him, and yet when defeated by a small weasel it wastes away and dies. The basilisk signifies death, whose touch cuts off all things from life. Its breath causes birds to fall from the sky because even the righteous, when touched by death, are stripped of life. It walks on four legs, because mankind is dragged into death in four ways, namely by disobeying the primitive commandment, by violating the natural law, by transgressing the written Law, and by despising the Gospel. The small weasel overcomes it because Christ’s flesh slays death by dying.

The lion, most powerful of the beasts, surveys the sylvan woods. It draws on the ground with its tail, and all other beasts fear crossing the line it draws. Then with a roar it charges, rushing into the woods and ripping apart the terrified beasts.

The lion represents Antichrist, whose immense power surpasses that of all kings. And as the lion circles[5] around the forest, so Antichrist encircles the whole globe with his power. He marks a line on the ground with his tail, which the other beasts fear to cross, because he promulgates edicts that all men fear to trespass. He charges into the forest with a roar, falling upon and ripping apart the beasts, because through fear he subjugates all peoples under himself and cruelly tears asunder all who resist him.  

Scripture teaches that the dragon is the greatest of the serpents, and it deals death through its breath, its venom, and the blow of its tail. The force of its venom raises it up into the air as if it were flying, and it stirs up the air. It ambushes the elephant, the most chaste of the animals, and, fettering its feet with its tail, endeavors to suffocate it with its breath, but is crushed by the animal as it falls dead. A precious pigment is extracted from earth which has been soaked with the dragon’s blood.

The dragon, the greatest of the serpents, is the devil, prince of all evil. He kills with his breath, his venom, and the whip of his tail, because he destroys souls by thought, word, and deed.[6] He poisons our thoughts with the breath of pride, pours the venom of malice into our words, and uses his tail to bind us by the performance of evil deeds. He stirs up the air, because he often disturbs spiritual concord. He ambushes a chaste animal, because he persecuted unto death Christ, source of chastity, born of the chaste Virgin, but in dying Christ crushed him. Yea, a precious red pigment is taken up from the earth, because the Church is made lovely by Christ’s precious Blood.

British Library Sloane MS 278, f. 5??

Therefore the Lord walked upon the asp and the basilisk when he destroyed sin and death by his own death,[7] and subjected all harmful things under the faithful’s feet. He shall trample under foot the lion and the dragon, when he shall overcome Antichrist through his elect and damn the devil with all his members in the last judgement.[8] The devil is also called “dragon” and “lion”: dragon because he ambushes us with hidden temptations; lion because he tries to destroy us through overt persecutions. He was a dragon when he hiddenly tempted the Lord; he was a lion when he set upon the Lord in an overt persecution. But the Lord trampled under foot the lion and the dragon when he endured temptation with humility and persecution with patience. We sing of his temptation thus: Thou shalt trample the dragon under foot; but these days of his passion: Free me from the lion’s mouth.[9]

Dearly beloved, I want briefly to tell your charity how the Lord hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth.[10]

None other than Jerusalem is said to be in the midst of the earth, where the Lord was crucified for the world’s salvation. Although he was rich, he became needy and poor[11] for us, that he might make us sharers in the excellence of his riches.[12] Martha and Maria often received him as a guest in their home, and furnished him with necessities at their own expense. When their brother Lazarus was ailing, they sent to tell Jesus of his friend’s illness. By the time he arrived he found him dead and already four days buried. Now a large crowd of Jews had gathered at Martha and Mary’s, and tried to console them over their brother’s death. But our Lord, seeing the crowd of mourners crying piteously, began to shed tears as well. Previously he had opened the eyes of a man born blind by smearing them with mud, so that the Jews now said: “The one who opened the eyes of a man blind from birth could not also make it that this man should not die?”[13] So he went with the crowd to the tomb, which was covered by a large stone that Jesus ordered to be removed. But by now the dead man stank—consider, he had been buried for four days—, and his hands and feet were tied with bandages. But saying a prayer of thanksgiving to his Father, Christ summoned Lazarus out of the tomb with a loud voice. Forthwith, to everyone’s astonishment, the man who had been dead and bound came forth from the tomb and flooded everyone with great joy.

When the Pharisees, the clergy of the Jews, heard of this unheard of miracle, they gathered a council in Jerusalem at once, and said to each other: “What do we, for we know that this man doth many miraclesIf we let him alone so, the entire world will believe in him. And if the Romans were to consider him a God, they will take away from us our nation and the place where we dwell.”[14] So their high priest brought a sentence against him, saying that it is expedient for one man to die for the people, lest the whole nation perish.[15] Therefore an edict was promulgated by their council, that he should be arrested and put to death. But because there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord,[16] they were not allowed to carry out their wicked counsel until it pleased him.

When it did please him to fulfill the work his Father had enjoined upon him, namely to erase with his blood the bond of sin written against us,[17] he made a stop at Martha’s house in Bethania on his way to Jerusalem. Martha prepared dinner for him and his companions, and Lazarus, whom our Lord had raised from the dead, was one of them that were at table.[18] His sister Mary poured an ointment of great price over our Lord’s head as he reclined at table, but Judas was enraged. And since he was unable to sell the ointment for three hundred pence and embezzle the money, he sold our Lord himself for thirty pence.

Now, on account of the feast of Passover, people from all over the globe had flocked to Jerusalem. Hearing that Lazarus had been raised from the dead, they went to Bethania to see Jesus, who had raised him, and Lazarus, who was raised. Whence the Pharisees said: “We prevail nothing. Behold, the whole world is gone after him.[19] They decided therefore to kill Lazarus, but God, who had better things in store for him, kept him for the Church’s benefit. For it is said that later he was bishop of Cyprus for thirty years, and just as our Lord had called him back to life after the death of his body, so he called many back to life with words and examples after the deaths of their souls.[20]

And so our Lord, accompanied by the people, went to mount Olivet and sent two disciples into the city, ordering them to bring to him a tied ass and a colt with her.[21] They went and brought back the ass and the colt, and laying their garments upon them, made him sit thereon. Others spread their garments in the way, and others cut boughs from the olive trees, and strewed them in the way. When word rang out in the city that Jesus was making his entry, sitting on an ass according to the prophecy, a multitude eagerly ran about rendering homage to him with palm boughs, acclaiming him the King of Israel, and crying out “Hosanna” in a loud voice in his praise as they frolicked. It was the custom of these people, following the commandment of the Law, to celebrate solemnities with palm branches.[22]

Jesus, however, wept when he saw the city and foretold its destruction,[23] which afterwards came to pass. For forty years after his passion the Romans besieged Jerusalem during Passover, massacring the people and razing the city to the ground. Now, as Jesus entered[24] the city with the multitude, a crowd of children and all the commoners rushed forth to meet him and welcomed the King of glory with hymns. Surrounded by this retinue he went into the temple, cast out thence with a whip those who bought and sold doves, and foretold that the temple of his body would be destroyed, but rebuilt after three days. And so he performed many miracles in the temple, and daily taught the multitudes about heavenly things. On Wednesday he was betrayed by Judas, on Thursday he consecrated the bread and wine into his Body and Blood, on Friday he was crucified for the salvation of all, on Saturday he rested in the sepulcher, and on Sunday he rose from the dead and gave life and joy to all who hoped in him. These are the solemnities of this holy week, which renew for us the deeds of yore, and recall to our memories future joys, several mysteries whereof I shall explain to you.  

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Raising of Lazarus (1310–11), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX. Wikimedia Commons.

The Lord, who shall raise up all the dead on the last day, brought three dead people back to life, through whom he shewed that we are to be restored to life after the three deaths of the soul. For he roused a maid from the  dead in her house as if she had been asleep,[25] and raised up before the people a young man who had been carried outside the city gates,[26] and finally called Lazarus from the grave after he had laid there for four days.[27] 

These three dead people are figures of the soul’s three deaths,[28] by which souls are separated from God, who is life. We move away from God in thinking, speaking, or doing, and make ourselves liable to eternal death. The death of thought kills a soul, when she covets evil through the will. For he who shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.[29] And fornication is the death of the soul. Hence, just as the maid lay dead in her house, so the soul lies dead in conscience. But if she gives herself over to penance, our Lord raises her back to life.

The death of words kills the soul when she speaks evil, for the mouth that belieth, killeth the soul,[30] and railers shall not possess the kingdom of God.[31] Therefore, the soul who malevolently gives evil counsel to others is like the dead young man who was carried outside the gates. But if she has recourse to the tears of penance, she shall rise again from the dead as our Lord rose.

The soul dies the death of works, when, having thought bad thoughts and received worse counsel, it strives, worst of all, to carry them out. Just like Lazarus, she is shut up in a sepulcher when she is plunged into the abyss of sin. She is covered with a stone when she is overwhelmed by bad habits. Her hands and feet are tied up with bandages when her friends and flatterers encourage her evil. Being dead, she stinks withal, because her ill repute harms many. After prayer is made over her, a loud voice cries out and she is raised up, because the Church’s incessant prayers and frequent sermons provoke her, with difficulty, to penance. Now, our Lord did not wish to resurrect a fourth because no one begged him to, and indeed, he stopped someone from burying a body, saying, “Let the dead bury their dead.[32]

Now, our Lord did not wish to resurrect a fourth because no one begged him to, and indeed, he stopped someone from burying a body, saying, “Let the dead bury their dead. This dead body represents those who are glad when they have done evil, and rejoice in most wicked things.[33] The dead who bury them are their accomplices, like unto them in their evil and who cheer them on as they perform their wicked deeds. For when they goad men to commit a crime just for amusement, they heap up earth upon a dead man, as it were. Since these men shall not rise up in the judgement[34] of confession, they shall be buried in Hell and burn alongside Dives.

Lazarus also represents all of mankind, who died in the first man and was shut up in the sepulcher of wicked living, but their Redeemer calls them forth from the grave when he restores them from sin to life. Verily, the four days Lazarus spent in the sepulcher are the four transgressions of the law that led to man’s oppression  under the yoke of death. The first man received the first law in paradise: “Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.”[35] Had man observed this, he and all his progeny would have remained immortal in body and soul. But when he transgressed by eating of it at the devil’s suggestion, he and all his descendants were sentenced to death. Behold: the first day of death. Having been expelled from paradise, man was introduced to the natural law: “What thou wouldst not have done unto thyself, do not do unto others.” Had he kept this, he would have escaped the death of the soul. But since he failed to do this, he brought death into the world. Behold: the second day of death. Next, man was given written law, so that by observing it he might escape the peril of eternal death. But because he was loath to keep this law, he sank down to death under its weight. Behold: the third day of death. Then man received the preaching of the Gospel that grants eternal life. He despised it, and hence was condemned to death. Behold: the fourth day of death.

Onufri, The Raising of Lazarus (16th century)

Our Lord raised back to life mankind, hitherto overwhelmed by this fourfold death, when he went up to mount Olivet. Mount Olivet is the height of the faithful people, anointed with the oil of joy. Our Lord came to this mount when he came in the flesh and gathered the faithful in the faith. He sent two disciples into the city when he sent into the world teachers who were perfected in faith and works. He sent two of them because he wanted the two Testaments to teach the two peoples, namely the Jews and the gentiles. He sent two of them because he established that those in the active and contemplative lives should observe the two commandments of love. These two brought him an ass and a colt because they converted the circumcision and the uncircumcision to the faith, for the ass denotes Jewry, bound by the yoke of the Law, while the unbroken colt was the gentile people, constrained by no law. They laid their vestments over them when they displayed to them their good examples. They made our Lord sit thereon when they imprinted Christ on their hearts by faith. They spread their garments in the way when they offered them examples to follow. They cut boughs from olive trees when they taught them the words and deeds of the prophets, for olives designate the prophets, who were anointed with oil. They strewed palm boughs when they explained how the battles and victories of their kings against the gentiles represented the spiritual combat against the vices, for palms symbolize the victories of their kings, since the palm signifies victory. The multitudes that ran up to receive our Lord with palms are the gentiles who took to the faith and fulfilled Christ’s commandment with righteous deeds. The children who welcomed our Lord with palms are the martyrs who went to meet Christ with the palm of victory. The rest of the commoners who met our Lord represent those who vanquish the vices and rush up in the triumph of victory to meet our Lord in judgement. Our Lord predicted the razing of the city because he taught that this world would be destroyed. The multitudes cry out “Hosanna” as they joyfully enter the city with our Lord, because when he shall introduce his bride, the Church, from the present Babylon into his Father’s city, he shall command those who praise him to enter with him to the marriage feast. He cast out those who were buying and selling doves in the Temple, because he expels from the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem all those who buy or sell churches, orders, or any other spiritual gift.

This day is called Palm Sunday, because the universal Church celebrates it with palms and flowers following the example of the Jewish people. And so, dearly beloved, praise our Redeemer with a loud voice and beseech him with ceaseless prayers that just as the Hebrew people rushed to meet him on his way to his Passion with palms and flowers and in a way fore-sang of his triumph over death, so we might be able to rush to meet him when he comes in judgement with the palm of victory over the world and the vices and with the flowers of good works, and that we might be made worthy triumphantly to enter the heavenly Jerusalem with him to attend the wedding banquet.

End here, if you wish.

Ezekiel panel, detail of Section A (Yale Univ. Art Gallery), Synagogue of Dura Europos

All of these things came before as figures of yore, and pointed out our age as if with a finger. Abraham ordered his servant to swear on his circumcised member[36]—out of which he foreknew that Christ would descend in the flesh—that he would go to Mesopotamia and bring back thence a wife for his son. Bound by this oath, the servant went to Chaldea, found Rebecca next to a font, and brought her, adorned with gold and jewels, back to Isaac. Thus God sent the order of doctors into the world bound by Christ’s incarnation. They came upon the Church next to the font of baptism, and led her to the true Isaac, who is Christ, bedecked with the gold of charity and the jewels of good works.

Cutting from an Antiphonary: Initial A[spiciens a longe]: The Tree of Jesse, circa 1115-1125. (Photo by Heritage Arts/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Pharaoh afflicts the Jewish people in Egypt to suffer and Moses is sent to free them. When he performs many miracles, the magicians resist him. The same Moyses commanded that a lamb without blemish be confined on the tenth day of the first month and immolated four days later in the evening. He further enjoined them to sign the doors of their houses with its blood in the form of a cross, putting it in four places, to wit, on the lower and upper door posts and on both side posts, and to roast the lamb and eat it in their houses. When the destroying angel saw this sign, he passed through striking every firstborn of Egypt, and the Lord led his people out exulting and rejoicing in possession of the Egyptians’ gold and silver. He went before them at night in a pillar of fire, and he covered them with a pillar of cloud during the day. He divided the Red Sea, through which the people passed with dry steps. But the waters covered their pursuing enemies, and the Lord rescued his people so that they feared no more. They were glad as he led them to seventy palm trees and twelve fountains of water, and then fed them with bread from heaven. He drew water for them from a rock twice struck, which  accompanied them ever gushing unto the promised land.[37] Some of them ungratefully murmured against all these favors and were killed by fiery serpents.[38] Wherefore the people cried out and Moses prayed to the Lord, who commanded that he hang up a brazen serpent. When those bitten by the serpents looked upon it, they were spared death.  

As they approached the land, they sent twelve spies ahead, who reconnoitered the whole land and brought back some fruit to the main body as proof of the land’s great fertility.[39] They cut a cluster of grapes that two men carried on a pole and brought bread in a basket. When they reached the Jordan, the river ceased to flow, and the people passed over unharmed. At the blowing of the priests’ trumpets Jericho fell, and once their foes had been vanquished by Josue, also called Jesus, the people occupied the land flowing with milk and honey. The whole narrative is explained in the following manner.

The devil oppresses the people in this world, and the Father sends Christ to free them. When he performs many miracles, the malice of the Pharisees resists him. He himself was the lamb without blemish, since he never sinned, and of him it is said: Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.[40] He died as a sheep led to the slaughter[41] when he, the good shepherd, put down his life for his sheep.[42] He went to Jerusalem on the tenth day of the first month, which is today. The Jews confined him and on the fourteenth day, that is on Wednesday, his body was betrayed. The doors are marked in four places with his blood when our bodies are consecrated in the shape of the cross by baptism in faith in Christ’s passion. The lamb is roasted and eaten in the house when after Christ’s Passion the faithful people feed on his flesh in the Catholic Church. The firstborn of Egypt are struck when the Lamb’s blood destroys the everlasting pains of death, for Egypt, which means “darkness,” is the sins which lead evildoers into the exterior darkness. The angel of great counsel[43] strikes their firstborn when he destroys by his death the pains produced by sin. The joyful people are led out with gold and silver, because for the great price of the spotless lamb they are released from the tyrant. Moreover, the light of the eternal Sun shines upon those who were held in the darkness of hell, and they who were rescued from the prison of death are placed in the palace of life.

A pillar of fire goes before the people at night, because the light of Holy Writ offers us a path through the gloom of this life to the fatherland. A pillar of cloud protects them from the heat during the day, because on Doomsday Christ’s humanity shall defend them from the heat of eternal fire. For just as the sun is hidden behind the clouds, so the Sun of justice is hidden behind human flesh. The Red Sea is baptism, incarnadine with Christ’s blood, in which our enemy, sin, is plunged, while the faithful are rescued from fear of punishment. The seventy palm trees are the seventy books of Holy Writ, by which the seventy disciples taught the people to go from vice to the palm of victory. The twelve springs are the twelve apostles, from whom the streams of Scripture flowed across the globe. The people led out of Egypt came to these when, having been redeemed by the Lord, they placed themselves under the yoke of faith through the apostles and began to study Holy Writ. They ate the bread of angels when they merited to feed on Christ’s body. In this bread they enjoyed all that is delicious[44] and all the flavor of sweetness, since those who receive Christ’s bread worthily shall secure total bliss and all sweetness. A rock twice struck yields water, because the teaching of the Gospel is drawn from Christ stretched on the two beams of the Cross. This water had a honeyed and oily taste, because the Gospel promises us the sweetness of eternal life through Christ’s mercy. The ungrateful who murmur against these favors are killed by serpents, because those who live in wickedness after receiving the divine sacraments shall be slain by demons.

The people were saved from the serpents’ bite by gazing upon the hanging brazen serpent, which is Christ extended on the Cross, by faith in which the people are freed from the wound of sin. The brazen serpent has no venom, just as Christ has no sin. The twelve spies who reconnoitered the land are the twelve apostles who preached eternal life in the world. The cluster of grapes  carried on a pole is Christ who hung upon the Cross. Two men carry this pole, because the orders of prophets and of apostles make Christ’s Passion known to the world. They also brought bread in a basket, because they announced that the bread of angels had come in the flesh and become the bread of men. After the people crossed the river, the priests demolished Jericho with the sound of their trumpets, because after the last persecution this world shall be destroyed with the sound of the angel’s trumpets. After the enemies’ death, Jesus[45] divides the land flowing with milk and money among the victorious people, because after God’s enemies shall be damned in just judgement, the true Jesus shall bestow the land of the living, flowing with streams of joy, upon the people, victorious over the vices.

And so, my beloved, since Christ has freed you by his blood from the devil’s oppression and opened the way to the heavenly fatherland, hasten to meet him by the way of his commandments,[46] so that you may be pleasing to him in the land of the living,[47] where he shall share with you joys that eye hath not seen, &c.

Unknown, The Raising of Lazarus, Folio 1 recto in Purpureus Rossanensis (The Rossano Gospels) (c 550 CE), Diocesan Museum, Rossano Cathedral, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.

[1] Psalm 90:13, sung as a versicle during the Lenten office.

[2] These fabulous accounts of the asp, basilisk, and lion owe much to Rabanus Maurus’ De universo 8.2 (“On Serpents”) and Isidore, Etymologies 12.4, but Honorius conflates the qualities of the asp and the salamander to serve the allegory, and the mystical interpretations are probably his own. The material on the basilisk and the dragon has been falsely ascribed to Hugh of Fouilloy, appearing as it does after his De avibus in the British Library’s Sloane MS 278.

[3] Cf. Psalm 57:5-6: “Their madness is according to the likeness of a serpent: like the deaf asp that stoppeth her ears, which will not hear the voice of the charmers; nor of the wizard that charmeth wisely” (Furor illis secundum similitudinem serpentis, sicut aspidis surdae et obturantis aures suas, quae non exaudiet vocem incantantium, et venefici incantantis sapienter.)

[4] Cf. Isaiah 11:8

[5] Here he invokes the devil’s depiction as a lion in 1 Peter 5:8.

[6] An expression found in many versions of the Confiteor used in the Middle Ages.

[7] Cf. Hebrews 2:14

[8] On the damnation of the devil and his “members,” see Elucidarium 3.4. Gregory the Great often spoke of sinners as parts of the devil’s body in his Moralia, e.g. 13.24.38 (1:689); 3.16.29 (1:133); 13.10.12 (1 :675).

[9] Psalms 90:13 and 21:22, the latter in the Vetus Latina reading used in the liturgy. The former is used daily as a versicle in Lent before Passiontide, when it is replaced by the latter.

[10] Psalm 73:12

[11] Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Psalm 69:6

[12] Cf. Romans 11:33

[13] Cf. John 11:37

[14] An adaptation of John 11:47-48

[15] Cf. John 11:50

[16] Proverbs 21:30

[17] Cf. Colossians 2:14

[18] John 12:2.

[19] John 12:19

[20] Honorius picks up the Cypriot tradition that Lazarus ruled for thirty years as bishop of Citium on that island, where an eponymous church is built over his alleged tomb. The relics were taken to Constantinope in 898 and lost after the Fourth Crusade. Honorius may have taken this account from the Chronica Clara of Marianus Scotus, who cites an unknown Ammularius as his source. A competing account, widely disseminated in the 13th century and followed by the Golden Legend, holds that Lazarus travelled to Provence with his sisters and became bishop of Marseille. His head is still venerated there, although the rest of his body was taken to Autun in the Carolingian age. The fact that Honorius relates the Cypriot account rather than the Provençal is further evidence that he was not from Autun.  

[21] Matthew 21

[22] I.e., for the Feast of Tabernacles, described in Leviticus 23:40 and Nehemiah 8:15-18.

[23] Luke 19

[24] Cf. the Responsory Ingrediente Domino (Cantus Index 6961).

[25] Luke 8

[26] Luke 7

[27] John 11

[28] The exegesis of the three people raised from the dead by Our Lord as representing three deaths of the soul appears already in the 9th century in commentaries on the psalms by Haymo of Halberstadt (PL 116:198) and Remigius of Auxerre (PL 131:151). In the 10th century it was picked up by Manegold of Lautenbach’s psalm commentary (wrongly attributed to Bede, PL 93:484) and appears in a sermon by Honorius’ contemporary Hildebert of Le Mans (PL 171:475). All these authors, however, name the three deaths differently, and Honorius is original in tying them to the three types of sin mentioned in most Confiteor formulæ. This creativity within tradition was characteristic of mediæval writers, and one could scarce find a better encapsulation thereof than in Honorius’s books.

[29] Matthew 5:28

[30] Wisdom 1:11

[31] I Corinthians 6:10

[32] Matthew 8:22

[33] Proverbs 2:14

[34] See Psalm 1:5, where “the impious” do not rise for the judgment. See Elucidarium 3.14 on the fate of the wicked at the Final Judgment.

[35] Genesis 2:17

[36] Cf. Genesis 24:2

[37]  In 1 Corinthians 10:4, St. Paul reports the oral tradition that the rock struck by Moses in Numbers 20 followed the people through the desert to the promised land.

[38] Numbers 21:9

[39] See Numbers 13

[40] John 1:29; the reading here follows that of the acclamation at Mass.

[41] Isaias 53:7

[42] John 10:11

[43] Isaias 9:6, Vetus Latina (used in the introit Puer natus of the third Mass of Christmas).

[44] Wisdom 16:20

[45] I.e. Josue

[46] See Psalm 118:32

[47] See Psalm 114:9, sung in the Office of the Dead.

The Mass Commentary of Radulphus of Rivo

Radulphus of Rivo (d. 1403) was a Dutch jurist, liturgist, historian, and dean of Tongres cathedral chapter, whose several works on the liturgy are of primary importance for understanding the development of the Mass and Breviary in the high medieval period.

Written to aid his apostolate as a reforming Augustinian, the treatise De Canonum Observantia examines the traditional sources of authority—Scripture, tradition, canons, papal decretals, commentaries, etc.—to establish “authentic” Roman practice. He lays out the criteria for a pristine Roman liturgy that eschews the encroachments of contemporary fashions. He also meets the challenge posed by the spread of the new mass and office of the Papal Court, spearheaded by the Franciscan Order.

As van Dijk has pointed out, Radulph may have been incorrect in blaming the Franciscans for the many abbreviations of the new curial books. He failed to see that the papacy had already imposed the curial liturgy on the whole city of Rome, that the pristine uses of the Roman basilicas were already gone. His manuscript studies, and information gleaned from invidious Roman clerics who hated the court at Avignon, led him astray.

In Proposition XXII—which appeared on this blog in English—he harshly criticized the Franciscan breviary compiled by Haymo of Faversham for departing from the traditional Roman order while claiming to be its only true representative. The piece raised interesting questions about the nature of Rome’s liturgical primacy.

Herein we offer our readers a translation of Proposition XXIII, where Radulphus discusses the rites of the Mass. We have added the paragraph numbers and section titles for ease of reading.

Download a PDF of the translation here.

A PDF of the critical edition of this work, edited by Leo Cunibert Mohlberg, OSB, is available

De canonum observantia
Proposition 23

We ought to observe faithfully the Mass offices of the Roman Church on Sundays and Saints’ days, so that in so doing we may humbly preserve the traditions of our Fathers

The Dominical and Apostolic Origin of Liturgical Praxis

1. Jesus Christ, the first and supreme Pontiff and Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, not levitical but evangelical, not of the Old Law but of the New, did at supper on the night before he was to suffer on the cross, institute and hand down to the Apostles, as a memorial of his death, the form and words for the consecration of his Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as we may plainly gather from the teaching of the Gospels. For as often as we shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, we shall show the death of the Lord. Thus, when Jesus said, Do this in memory of me, he expressly instituted this sacrament and tacitly abandoned the typic sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, as Isidore says in Super Matthaeum, and as found in de Consecratione, dist. 2, Accipite. On this point see the fourth book of the Sentences, distinction 8.

2. With regard to the form for the consecration of Christ’s Blood, the holy doctors rightly believe and hold that it is the form found in the Canon, which the whole Church uses in conformity with the primitive tradition of the Apostles and holy Fathers. For many things have been added that none of the Evangelists expressed in writing. On this point, read the beautiful words of Pope Innocent III: Liber ExtraDe celebratione Missae, ch. Cum Marthae. The Apostles received the form and matter of this sacrament from our Lord Jesus Christ, preserved it, and handed it down to the Church with respect to the act of celebration itself. In what pertains to the mode or rite, time and place, the ensemble of sacred vestments and vessels, they ordained certain things explicitly as propriety demanded. Their successors followed their example and teaching. Thus the acts of the Quinisext Council state that James—Our Lord’s brother according to the flesh and the first to have trust over the Church of Jerusalem—and Basil, bishop of Caesarea, gave us the rite of Mass: de consecratione, dist. 1, Iacobus

Vestments, Vessels, and Rite in the Primitive Church

3. According to several ancient sources, in the beginning when the Church was still young, the Apostles used to celebrate Mass by means of sign of the cross and the Lord’s prayer, and “in everyday clothes and wooden chalices.” But according to the Gemma animae, “St. Clement, handing on the teaching of Peter, took the use of sacred vestments from the Law,” based on St. Peter’s teaching. St. Soter, a native of Campania, whose reign began in A.D. 125, forbade “women from touching the sacred vestments of the altar or carrying incense near the altar”[1]dist. 23, Sacratas. Thus sacred vestments are to be used only by sacred persons and put to no other uses: de consec., dist. 1, ch. In sancta, etc, and Vestimenta. Nor may they be used as wedding garments: ch. Ad nuptiarium.

4. St. Zephyrinus, the sixteenth pope, ordered that the vessels used in liturgical celebrations should be made of glass; Pope Urban I, however, decreed that they be silver: De cons. dist. 1, Vasa. “Concerning them, when St. Boniface, bishop and martyr, was asked whether it were permitted to confect the sacrament in wooden vessels, he replied that once golden priests had used wooden vessels, and now the opposite. And so, in the case of vessels as in other things pertaining to worship, with the passage of time churches grew in splendor”: ch. Vasa. And so, let the chalice be made, if not of silver, at least of tin, not of copper or brass: ch. Et calix

5. St. Stephen, a Roman, whose reign began in 258, “ordered that Church vestments used in the Lord’s service should be both sacred and worthy”: ch. Vestimenta. Sixtus II, who reigned from 261, ordered the Mass to be celebrated on an altar, which had not been done before. Felix I, a native of Rome, who reigned beginning in A.D. 166, “ordered the Mass to be celebrated over martyrs’ tombs.”

6. St. Sylvester I, a Roman, who began to reign in A.D. 315, “ordered that deacons must use dalmatics in church, and that their left hand must be covered by a linen handkerchief. For indeed, priests wore the dalmatic before they began to use the chasuble. Later, however, when they began to don the chasuble, deacons were allowed to use dalmatics.” Likewise, he established that “the sacrifice of the altar be celebrated on, not a silken or coloured cloth, but one of pure linen consecrated by the bishop, just as Our Lord’s body was buried in a clean linen shroud”: de cons. d. 1. Consulto.

7. Regarding the Urban mentioned above, we read that he ordered the admixture of water, in conformity with the teaching of Apostolic tradition on this matter: de con., dist. 2., c. 1. and the three following chapters, and that grapes not be added to the oblation, as in c. Didicimus c. dist 2.

8. St. Boniface I, a native of Rome, whose reign began in A.D. 425, prohibited nuns or any woman from touching the sacred vessels or the altar-cloths. How the sacred vestments are to be washed is explained in the chapter Nemo per ignorantiam, in de cons., dist. 1.

9. Regarding the hour Mass ought to be celebrated, St. Telesphorus, martyr, a Greek who succeeded Sixtus in A.D. 139, established that masses should be celebrated on Christmas night and “the Angelic Hymn solemnly sung. Otherwise, Mass is not to be celebrated before the third hour, when Our Lord was crucified and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles”: de cons. dist. 1, Nocte. In Lent, however, it is celebrated usually at the hour of Vespers: de cons., dist. Solent. Likewise on Holy Saturday at the same time or at the beginning of the night: dist. 65, Quod a patribus and Ordinationes. Indeed, “judging by the decrees of the holy Fathers, ordinations were celebrated so late on Saturday that they were reckoned as taking place on Sunday rather than Saturday.” See Micrologus 29. Further, the current custom of saying Mass at None on fasting days, and on other days at Terce, stands on ancient authority. And when a fast and feast fall on the same day, the Mass of the feast is said festively at Terce, the Mass of the fast at None. It is done that way in Rome and Cologne. In collegiate churches the custom is to say the principal Mass at the last hour before luncheon, and when two fall on the same day, the first is said one hour before the second. Later on we shall discuss what is to be done nowadays.


10. According to Micrologus 1 and 23: “According to the Roman custom, when the priest prepares himself for Mass, he sings the psalms Quam dilectaBenedixistiInclinaCredidiKyrie eleisonPater noster, Et ne, and the versicles Ego dixiConverteFiat misericordiaSacerdotesProtector nosterDomine exaudi, and the collects Aufer and Actiones.” 

The Introit

11. As he enters and goes toward the altar, an antiphon is sung, “which for this reason is known as the Introit in the Roman rite,” and the Ingressa in the Ambrosian. According to Sigebert and others in the Chronicles, Celestine I, a Roman, who began to reign in A.D. 418 as the forty-first in the papal succession, “decreed the 150 psalms of David should be sung by all antiphonally before the Sacrifice, something that had not been done before. Formerly, only the Epistle of St. Paul and the Holy Gospel were said. On this basis, in the Church of Rome, psalm texts set to melodic chant began to be sung at Mass: the Introit, Gradual, Offertory before the Sacrifice, and the Communion during the distribution of communion.”

12. But we should not conclude that Celestine was the first to introduce the saying of individual psalms before the Sacrifice, for our Fathers sang them from the beginning a long time before. Hence Cassian says, in his De institutis monachorum 3.10: “But we ought to know this, too, that on Sunday only one office is celebrated before dinner, at which, out of regard for the actual service and the Lord’s communion, they use a more solemn and a longer service of Psalms and prayers and lessons, and so consider that Tierce and Sext are included in it.”[2]

Excursus on liturgical development

13. Therefore, whenever we find that a particular practice has been established by more than one person, it means that the later person restored, authorized, modified, decreed, or more broadly extended an observance established by his predecessors.

14. For instance, with regard to the Epistles and Gospels, we read that the Apostles’ successors ordered the Epistles and Gospels to be read. Thus the Apostolic canons order and de consec. dist. 1 Omnes states that “the faithful who gather for the sacred liturgy should listen to the writings of the Apostles and the Gospel, and should persevere in prayer until the end of Mass.”

15. Elsewhere it is recorded that “Pope Alexander decreed the Epistle and Gospel should be read during Mass. Likewise the book entitled Comes[3] has it that the Cardinal-Priest St. Jerome chose and arranged the Epistles and Gospels as the Church has them today,” and he himself says the same in a letter to  Bishop Constantius: “Pope Damasus decreed they should be read in the way that is customary today.” 

16. In the Ambrosian rite, however, Epistles and Gospels are provided in abundance throughout the year, agreeing with the Roman rite from time to time. This rite follows a beautiful order on masses of feasts and Sundays: after the Gloria in excelsis and threefold Kyrie eleison, they read a first lesson from the Old Testament with a responsory the Ambrosian rite calls the Psalmellusand we the Gradual, a second from the New Testament with an Alleluia and verse, as in the Roman rite, and a third from the Holy Gospel, before and after which antiphons called Ante Evangelium and Post Evangelium are sung, which the Romans lack. Indeed, the Ambrosian rite is far older than the Roman rite, as explained above in proposition 12.[4] Anyone who sees the Ambrosian rite is immediately aware that the chants of the Mass, the Epistles and Gospels and many orations, responsories, antiphons, and other elements were adopted by the Roman rite. A sign of this is the fact that chants appear in both rites in the same tone, such as the Introit Gaudeamus, which is in the first tone in both rites. But the Ambrosian chant is stronger, more robust, and more ornate. 

The Mass of the Catechumens

The Confiteor

17. Let us now return to the beginning of the Mass. Pope St. Damasus, a Spaniard, who began to reign in A.D. 370, ordered that the priest should make his confession before going up to the altar. According to the Roman order, “once the priest has vested, he makes his way to the altar and says the antiphon Introibo with the psalm Iudica and makes his confession,” which Micrologus 23 gives thus briefly: I confess to almighty God, to saints so-and-so, and to all saints, and to thee my brother, that I have sinned in thought, word, deed, and pollution of mind and body. Therefore I beseech thee, pray for me. May almighty God have mercy on thee and forgive thee all thy sins, deliver thee from every evil, and keep thee in every good work, and may Jesus Christ, son of the living God, bring us to live everlasting. Amen. May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon and remission of all our sins. Amen.

The Dominicans have a similar formula for the confession, saying: Absolutionem et remissionem, &c., taking words from the Gospel Quodcunque solveris[5] and Quorum remiseritis.[6]

The Introit

18. In the Roman rite, the Introit is said with a psalm verse and Gloria Patri and then repeated, which is not done in the Ambrosian Ingressa. In the Gradual of blessed Gregory, two psalm verses are always given for the Introit, as we observe today in the Requiem. Some have argued, based on Celestine’s order, that “formerly the entire psalm was sung.” When the composition of Introit melodies is attributed to St. Gregory, it means that he added many Introits taken from the psalms, for in fact a good deal of them were borrowed from Ambrose. 

The Kyrie

19. The Council of Nicaea composed the Gloria Patride cons. dist. 1, de hymnis, but “Pope Damasus decreed that it should be sung at the end of each psalm. It is written that Pope Sylvester borrowed the Kyrie eleison from the Greeks, and that Pope Gregory instituted it in the Mass.” It must be noted that the Greeks and Ambrosians repeat the Kyrie eleison very often during the Hours, and in the Ambrosian Mass the Kyrie eleison is said thrice in three places: after the Gloria in excelsis, after the Gospel, and at the end of the Mass. In the Roman Mass, however, it is said nine times in a single place along with Christe eleison, which the Greeks and Ambrosians do not say. 

20. Similarly, the Ambrosians sing their Kyrie eleisonGloria in excelsisCredo, and Sanctus to a single setting, while there are few settings for the Gloria in excelsis and Sanctus in the Gradual of St. Gregory used in Rome. One must conclude that the many settings made by the seculars are without authority. And so it seems to correspond to the humility of your religious state, that you follow the Carthusians in this matter. 

The Gloria

21. The Angelic Hymn was discussed above in proposition 1. Micrologus in chapters 2 and 46 says that it is sung “on every feast with a full office,” that is to say, of nine lessons, “except in Advent, Childermas, and Septuagesima.” “Even in these seasons, however,” according to Micrologus 46, “the Gloria in excelsis is said on the birthdays of Apostles and feasts of Our Lady following the Roman custom,” but the more prudent leave this matter to local custom. “Some say that the Gloria should not be said in the afternoon, except on the day of Our Lord’s Supper when the chrism is confected, and on the Saturdays before Easter and Pentecost.

Greeting, Response, and Genuflections

22. Then turning to the people the priest says Dominus vobiscum,” which is taken from the Old Testament book of Ruth. The Pax vobis is taken from the New Testament, from the Gospel; the response Et cum spiritu tuo from the epistles of Paul; and the Amenfrom Apocalypse. The popes taught us to say all these things as handed down by our Lord, and Pope Clement or Anacletus ordered them to be said.” The Ambrosians usually say Dominus vobiscum, et cum spiritu tuo without turning, then Oremus

23. Note that according to Micrologus 2 “these words presuppose several persons who respond and one who greets. But just as it is foolish to respond Et cum spiritu tuo to more than one greeter, it is equally inappropriate to greet with Dominus vobiscum when only one or even none are present. Therefore, the most blessed Apostolic Fathers Anacletus, fifth after Peter, and Soter, third after Peter according to our list above, have established it thus in their decrees, that there should be at least two other persons present when a priest says Mass: de cons., dist. 1, Hoc quoque statutum est” “for a priest may not celebrate Mass or any other of the divine offices without the assistance of at least one minister.” “The Apostolic Lord Zachary, ninety-third in the succession, decreed that priests should not come in to celebrate Mass bearing a staff, nor stand at the altar with their head covered: de consec., dist. 1, Nullus episcopus. Also, the Holy Fathers at the council of Orléans, in the third chapter, decided that not only the clergy and those in religious vows, but the whole people should respond to the priest’s greeting with one voice.”

24. According to Micrologus 28, Flectamus genua is said on the Ember days (save those of Pentecost), on Wednesday before the first collect, on Friday before the principal collect, and on Saturday before each of the first four collects. In the prayer about the furnace, the genuflexion is omitted in imitation of the three young men who refused to adore the idols of the Gentiles. And according to the Roman order, we kneel in Lenten Masses after the greeting.[7] The same holds for both collects on the Wednesday following Palm Sunday. But the Franciscans omit these genuflections because they are not done in the Papal Chapel. 

The Collect

25. Then an oration follows that is called the Collect for a particular reason, since among the Romans it is said over an assembly of people as they gather to proceed from one church to another to hold the station. For example, the collect Concede is said on Ash Wednesday at Sant’Anastasia, when the station is at Santa Sabina. At Sant’Adriano on the Assumption, the oration is Veneranda. On the Nativity of Mary, the prayer is Supplicationes servorum, when according to the custom of Pope Gregory, the procession leaves Sant’Adriano for St. Mary Major. The Friars omit these two orations without cause, because they are not said in the Chapel.[8]

26. Now, “according to the Roman order, we ought to say only one oration before the reading, as Micrologus 4 states, and as Amalarius, among others, claims in the prologue to De Officiis to have learned from the Romans themselves. The very nature of the ecclesial offices seems to require that, just as during one Mass we read one Lesson and one Gospel and one Introit—indeed, we sing but one office—so we ought to say only one oration. But some people multiply orations to such an extent that they annoy those assisting. Wiser men say one, three, five, or seven: one to follow the Roman tradition, three because Our Lord prayed three times before the Passion, five because of His five-fold Passion, and seven because the Holy Apostles are said to have consecrated the Holy Mysteries with the seven-fold Lord’s Prayer. In the use of Liège no more than five are said. On the Feast of the Nativity, the Romans add a second oration of St. Anastasia because the day’s station is held in that martyr’s church.[9] We imitate them on this point, even if we do not have the same occasion for the addition.” 

27. But Rhabanus, Archbishop of Mainz, says in his Liber Sacramentorum[10] that he asked the ministers of St. Peter’s in Rome how many orations they were used to say before the Epistle in Masses when more than one oration occurs, as in the second Mass of the Nativity and on Sundays when feasts are commemorated. The response they gave him was that only one is said. Hence he says he learned about the order of orations at Mass from a work of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine: when Christmas Mass is held in the place where the body of the holy martyr lies, let the oration of St. Anastasia be said according to the Roman custom; where this is not the case, only that of the Incarnation. Likewise for other feasts and on all other days when we celebrate Masses per annum. Thus in older books, when two Masses fall on the same day, two are to be said, such as on the Invention of the Holy Cross, on the feast of St Augustine, on the Decollation of John the Baptist, All Saints, and others. The unity of a Mass demands, therefore, that no matter how many orations there might be, the first one must always be said by itself,[11] even if there are only two according to Roman custom and the more approved uses. 

28. We also know that in the Ambrosian office four orations are said at Mass: the first super populum after the Ingressa; the second super syndonem after the Gospel; the third after the Preface, as we do; the fourth after the Communion. We use the same number in Lent, albeit not in this order. They also say the Gloria in excelsis and Kyrie after the first oration, but we keep the opposite order after the Introit, saying the Kyrie eleison and Gloria then the orations. Now, St. Ambrose composed a great number of orations for the Mass, and after him St. Gelasius increased their number. I spoke about the authority of these orations above in the thirteenth proposition.[12]

29. The Gospel commands us that we are to beseech the Father in the name of the Son, and we shall receive what we ask for. Nearly all the orations, therefore, conclude with Per Dominum. A very small number end with a different conclusion to fit the sense. In every conclusion we commemorate the Holy Trinity. The Roman order and very ancient codices place the name of God in the midst of the formula, saying: Qui tecum vivit et regnat Deus in unitate Spiritus Sancti, and the Ambrosians still retain this way. But the moderns tack it on the end,[13] and this way of concluding has taken such hold among the Romans and other nations that it is no longer possible to observe the ancient tradition without giving scandal. According to Roman authority, no oration concludes with Per eum qui venturus est except ones that adjure the devil.[14]

30. During the oration, all stand following the ancient tradition of the Holy Fathers, and, as a sign of assent, must say Amen, in order to confirm the communal prayer made by the priest on behalf of all. Thus in the Secret he says the conclusion Per omnia saecula saeculorum in a louder voice so that the people can give their assent to it. 

The Readings and Intercalary Chants

31. We have already spoken about the Lesson and Gospel. From the Ambrosian order,[15] the Romans take only one lesson, from either the Old or New Testament, along with the Gradual and Alleluia. Some say that even today, in many churches of the city of Milan, they are content to follow the Roman custom of only one Lesson with Alleluia. Nevertheless, in the Duomo the ancient practice is always kept, which has been received into the Roman office only for the four masses of Our Lord’s Nativity. This is why in some Italian churches, at the three Masses of Christmas day, they say the Gradual after the first reading, imitating the custom of blessed Ambrose. And at the Vigil they split up the Gradual, singing the first part after the first lesson, and the verse after the second lesson. 

32. But our dear Friars removed these first readings from the Roman office for the six Wednesdays before Saturdays of ordination. In the Roman Office there are two Lessons with two Responsories. Micrologus 52 says that on the Monday and Wednesday after Palm Sunday, two readings are read back to back as on the Nativity of Our Lord. 

33. Ambrose put many Graduals and Alleluias into his office. Gregory put these and others into the Roman office. “Abbot Notker is said to have composed some Sequences for the melismas of the Alleluias, which Pope Nicholas allowed to be sung at Mass.” I have found a few Sequences in old Roman books, but many have added many more. Everyone loves his own novelties. It seems safer to follow the Carthusians and Cistercians in these matters. The jubili or melismas of the Graduals and Alleluias should not be removed, unless Sequences are sung in their place. 

34. “Roman authority permits only subdeacons wearing sacred vestments to read the Epistle,” as Micrologus 8 states, and dist. 34 Si subdiaconus. In chapter three, St. Hormisdas, fifty-third pope after blessed Peter, lays it down that no one who is not ordained—that is, who has never been elevated by consecration or ecclesiastical custom—should perform the office of the ordained. The canons of several other councils prohibit any person to read in church, to sing the psalms in public, to say the Alleluia, or to perform an exorcism unless he be ordained for these functions. † But concerning the Epistle (title) De vita et honestate (clericorum) of the cited chapter Ut clerici say as there. “But there is nothing preventing a priest from performing the duties of the lower orders at Mass if necessary, since the priestly order contains all the lower orders, so long as he is wearing sacred vestments, without which we may not minister at the altar, according to the Roman order.” “Thus it is more fitting that he should read the Epistle and the Gospel himself than that he should permit an unordained man to do it.” 

35. Anastasius I, a native of Rome, whose reign began in 304, ordered that no one in the church should sit while the Holy Gospel is being read, rather everyone should hear Our Lord’s words attentively and faithfully adore them: de consecratione dist. 1, Apostolica. The Greeks are said to show the same reverence to the Lesson of the Apostle, as Micrologus 9 says. Now, according to the Roman order, the deacon reads the Gospel in the ambo turned toward the South, where the men are assembled. The priest at the altar, however, reads on the left corner so that the right side is free for receiving the oblations and performing the sacrifice. Today the custom of the deacon also turning toward the North has grown to such an extent that it is considered part of the order. On this point, Micrologus 9 speaks more at length. The order also prescribes that he who is to read the Gospel should make a sign of the cross on his forehead and on his chest. The Roman order also prescribes that incense and candles should precede the Gospel as it is carried either to the altar or to the ambo. The Ambrosians, Romans, and other nations usually do not agree regarding the Gospels read on Sundays and many other feasts. On these days we follow our own ancient books, without prejudice, of course, to the Apostolic See, if it has ordered otherwise. 

The Creed

36. St. Mark, a native of Rome and successor of Silvester, who began his reign in the A.D. 339 or 340, decided that the Nicene Creed, i.e. the Credo in unum Deum, should be said aloud after the Gospel. Then Pope Damasus ordered that the same form of the Creed, which proclaims the faith of the Greeks and Latins and was handed down by the Holy Fathers after the Council of Nicaea in the second holy and universal synod celebrated at Constantinople during his reign, circa A.D. 387, should be sung at Mass on solemn days. In accordance with the canons it must be sung on all Sundays of the year, on all feasts of Our Lord, the Holy Cross, Our Lady, the Holy Apostles, All Saints, the Dedication of a church; and not without good reason, since this Creed alludes to each in some way. The same holds for the octaves of Easter and Pentecost, which are reckoned along with the principal day as one single feast. As Innocent III of happy memory says in De celebratione Missae, ch. Consilium: “On Saturdays when Mass is celebrated in honour of the Blessed Virgin, this Creed is not sung in the Roman Church, in order to manifest the difference between a solemnity and a commemoration.”

37. From this principle it follows that the Creed should not be sung during the other major octaves either. There are various opinions and arguments, however, concerning whether it ought to be sung on octave days or on the feasts of St. Michael, the Nativity of John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Mark, Luke, and Martin. And indeed the Creed is not said in masses of angels, virgins, martyrs, and pontiffs. Neither is it sung on the first and second Mass of Christmas night, albeit some have taught that it should be sung especially solemnly at the principal Mass.[16] The genuflection that same people make beginning with the words Descendit de coelis and ending in the words et resurrexit is not supported by any authority. The Council of Nicaea forbids genuflection on the Lord’s day: de cons. dist. 3. Quoniam; nor should it be done on other major feasts: De feriis 2.

38. The secular manner of singing the Creed in cantus fractus[17] does not befit your religious observance. Follow instead the Carthusian monks, from whose fellowship you are not separated, as said above. 

The Mass of the Faithful

The Offertory Chant

39. “Concerning the Offertory sung during the ceremony of offering, although some have said that it came into Christian use by way of the previous people, we do not find clear evidence regarding when precisely someone added it to our offices,” as some Chronicles relate. “Similarly in the case of the antiphon[18] sung at the end: we truly believe that in ancient times the holy Fathers both offered and communicated in silence, a practice that we continue to observe on Holy Saturday. But over time, in sundry ways and various places, the beauty of the Church has developed and will never cease to increase until the end of time.” Some people ascribe the Offertories to St. Gregory. It is indeed true that St. Gregory took many from the Ambrosian office, and composed many more, and added to all of them a great many verses, which are contained in ancient books from Rome as well as our own. But today these have all been pared down, and the Offertory is sung all the more slowly as a result.[19]

The Offertory

40. The offertory follows immediately upon the Gospel: de cons., dist. 1, Omnis, while the Offertory is sung, whose name comes from the action of offering. Hence the offertory is indeed performed in the opposite way, as the priest only asks the people to pray after he has placed the offerings on the altar.[20] Pope St. Alexander, a native of Rome, the fifth pope after Peter, whose reign began A.D. 121, ordered that only bread and wine mixed with water should be offered in Our Lord’s sacrifice, because blood and water flowed forth together from Our Lord’s side: de cons., dist. 2, In sacramentorum. Hence St. Cyprian: “In the Lord’s chalice the wine, I say, must not be without water, lest the people, who according to the Apocalypse are signified by water, appear to be separated from Christ”: de cons. dist. 2, ch. 2, 3, and 4).  The same Pope Alexander also ordered that this oblation should be made of a small quantity of unleavened bread, saying: “The smaller, the more potent.” He also ordered that the people be sprinkled with salted water that has been exorcized and blessed: de cons., dist. 3, Aquam

41. There are two customs regarding the arrangement of the oblation on the altar: one is the Roman custom, practiced by the Italians and Germans using two corporals, both of which must be of pure linen: de cons., dist. 1, Consulto. The French use only one. “In the Roman order,” according to Micrologus 10, “the oblation is placed on the corporal and the chalice is set to its right side, as if to receive the blood that flowed from our Lord’s side. But the French cover the chalice with the fold of one corporal and place the oblation in front, which many do even when doing service with two corporals. Some Chronicles claim that Leo I, about whom we shall speak below, decided that once the offertory is completed, the oblation should be incensed in memory of Christ’s death. Elsewhere it is written that the Council of Rouen ruled to this effect. Micrologus 9 states that the Roman order does not permit incensation of the oblation on the altar, a practice Amalarius, in the prologue to his De Officiis, claims the Romans avoid, even though many, nay, almost everyone does it.

The Offertory Prayers

42. The Roman order, according to Micrologus 11, instituted no prayer before the Secret. In the Gallican order, however, once the offertory is completed the priest says, Veni sanctificator omnipotens aeterne Deus, benedic hoc sacrificium tuo nomini praeparatum, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Then bowing low over the altar he says, not according to any order but by ecclesiastical custom: Suscipe sancta Trinitas hanc oblationem, quam tibi offerimus in memoriam passionis, resurrectionis, ascensionis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, et in honorem sanctae Dei genitricis Mariae, sancti Petri, et sancti Pauli, et istorum, atque omnium sanctorum tuorum, ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: Et illi pro nobis dignentur intercedere in caelis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per Christum.” The priest, rising, exhorts the people to pray saying the Orate pro me, which is ascribed to Pope Leo. In the aforesaid prayer Suscipe, there should be no mention of Christ’s Nativity, because in this sacrifice we should proclaim not Our Lord’s nativity but his death, according to the Apostle. 

43. When it comes to this sort of prayers, the more conscientious observers of the order leave much to general custom, avoiding what is superfluous as far as possible. Hence the Dominicans say only three articles, leaving out everything else. First, as they take and elevate both species at once, they say the verses Quid retribuam and Calicem, then a shorter prayer: Suscipe sancta Trinitas hanc oblationem, quam tibi offero in memoriam passionis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, et praesta, ut conspectu tuo tibi placita ascendat, et meam et omnium fidelium salutem operetur aeternam. Per Christum. Then bowing low they say: In spiritu humilitatis, and omitting the third verse[21] they say: Orate fratres, ut meum pariter et vestrum in conspectu Domini sit acceptum sacrificium. The Ambrosians have many long prayers at this point. The Secret orations are said in the same order as the Collects. In the Ambrosian rite they are said aloud. 

The Preface

44. After the Secret the priest begins the Preface, whose mention of the heavenly citizens is fitting, since they are believed to be present at that point. That is why the angelic hymn follows right after. The Sursum corda is taken from Jeremiah, Gratias agamusfrom the Apostle. St. Cyprian says that “the priest before the Canon utters a prefatory injunction, and prepares the minds of the brethren by saying Sursum corda: in order that, as the people respond, Habemus ad Dominum, they may be warned that they ought to think of nothing but the Lord. Let the breast be closed against the adversary and open to the only God; let it not allow God’s enemy to approach it in the time of prayer”: de cons., dist. 1, Quando autem stamus.[22] The Gemma says that Dionysius the Areopagite is thought to have composed the Prefaces. Ambrose wrote a book of Prefaces,[23] many of which are quoted in the Lombardic History.[24] The Ambrosian office sings a proper preface at every Mass. St. Gelasius I, about whom we spoke above in Proposition 11, composed treatises and hymns in the manner of St. Ambrose, and among his other works he wrote prefaces and prayers in a sparing and polished style. There are many prefaces in our oldest missals too. But Pelagius I, a native of Rome, who began to reign in A.D. 558, decreed that only nine Prefaces should be included in the sacred list: de cons. dist. 1, Invenimus. Sigibert, however, ascribes this act to Pelagius II. During the Council of Piacenza held in 1095, Urban II, who began to reign in A.D. 1088, added to these nine ancient Prefaces a tenth for the Blessed Virgin, which is found under dist. 70, Sanctorum. About his other council in France, I have spoken in Proposition 20. 

45. As a general rule, prefaces are used throughout their seasons and days at every Mass, provided no proper one exists. So the Preface of the Nativity is said up until the Epiphany, except on John’s day and the octaves; the Preface of the Epiphany for eight days; the Preface of Lent on Sundays as well as their ferias, from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday, as Micrologus 50 says; on Palm Sunday and the four subsequent days, the Preface of the Holy Cross; the Preface of the Resurrection from the vigil of Easter to Ascension, and the Preface of the Ascension thenceforth until the vigil of Pentecost; the Preface of the Holy Spirit from then until Trinity and whenever the Holy Spirit is honored; the Preface of the Holy Trinity whenever a Mass of the Trinity is sung, during its octave, and on all Sundays between Trinity and Advent, both when the Mass of the Sunday and when a nine-lesson feast is sung. This is the custom among the English, Germans, and many other nations. Micrologus 60 says that, according to Roman authority, this Preface should be used on all Sundays. But the Friars follow the abbreviated forms of the papal chapel.[25]The Preface of Our Lord’s Nativity is repeated on Corpus Christi and its octave; those of the Holy Cross, the Blessed Virgin, and the Apostles are said whenever their feasts are celebrated, continued throughout their octaves, and the latter is also used for feasts of Evangelists.

The Sanctus

46. Sixtus I, a native of Rome, who succeeded Alexander in A.D. 129, decreed that the hymn Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus should be sung before the sacrifice, taking half of it from Isaias and half from the Gospel. He also decreed that the sacred vessels should not be touched save by Our Lord’s consecrated ministers: de cons. dist. 1, In sancta Apostolica. We spoke of this at more length above. The priest must say this hymn, lest after begging in the Preface that his voice and others’ be allowed to join the angels’ praises, he leave out his own prayer. 

The Canon

47. The author who composed the prayer we call, after the Roman manner, Canon or Action, since it is used for regular confection of the sacrament, is not identified explicitly in written sources, except that St. Gregory claims it was composed by a certain scholastic. It is believed that this scholastic was St. Gelasius. Nevertheless, we do read that many things were later inserted into the Canon by holy prelates, as may be gathered from the following decrees and acts of the Roman Pontiffs. St. Clement I, a native of Rome, is said to have instituted a prayer before the consecration; hence some have attributed the Te igitur, clementissime paterto him. St. Alexander, whom we spoke of earlier, ordered the insertion of a commemoration of Our Lord’s very passion; hence some attribute the prayer Unde et memores to him. 

48. “Concerning the signs of the cross made over the oblation, which are performed variously by different people,” so says Micrologus 14, “we deem that we have taken their form especially from the Apostolic See, from whom we have received the origin and order of the whole Christian religion. Indeed, in our age, God has appointed as ruler of that see Gregory of—I insist—reverend memory, a man who, reared and educated in Rome under ten of his predecessors, diligently sought to discover all the traditions handed down by the Apostles, and, once he had found them, zealously made a record of them. In what pertains to the sacred mysteries, therefore, we imitate this doctor, so distinguished in piety and authority, above all; or rather, we imitate apostolic tradition through him. So, based on what we have from him and the bishops who have taken him as their model, we make an odd number of signs of the cross over the oblation: one, three, or five. There is a definite mystery at the basis of this practice: for through one and three, we signify God, who is three and one; five crosses, on the other hand, represent Our Lord’s five-fold passion. Odd numbers come up often in the ecclesiastical offices, and for good reason, since their unity prevents them from being divided into two equal parts, just as the unity of the Holy Church cannot be split into two parts. 

49. In the first place, where we say Haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia, we make only three signs of the cross over the bread and wine together, for we never make a sign over the bread or chalice separately, except when they are named separately in the Canon. We make a sign of the cross over both in such a way that only the upright part of the cross is traced over the bread, while the transverse part is traced above the chalice, for the upright part of the cross bore Our Lord’s body, and the transverse part stretched out his arms. Moreover, the chalice is thus fittingly set under his arms, as if ready to receive Our Lord’s blood from his side.[26]

50. Roman authority permits names of living faithful to be mentioned in the first Memento and the names of the faithful departed in the second, as I shall say below. Public recitation of names before the Canon, however, is prohibited according to the same distinction, toward the end.[27] Micrologus 13 says that according to the older and more correct sacramentaries, the following words in the Canon are superfluous: first, the phrase et rege nostro, et omnibus orthodoxis atque catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus, since a commemoration of the living is made in the subsequent prayer; likewise the phrase Pro quibus tibi offerimus, since the offerers are referred to elsewhere only in the third person;[28] likewise, instead of circumstantium, it has circumastantium. Likewise, in the prayer Unde et memores, the word eiusdem is superfluous. Likewise, the second Memento is in this form: Memento etiam Domine et eorum nomina, qui nos praecesserunt cum signo &c. But the Canon can no longer be executed in this manner, in line with ancient Roman tradition, without giving rise to scandal, a thing that the Apostle and the Gospel teach us to avoid. Nevertheless, it seems exceedingly temerarious that we should add to the ancient Canon at our own discretion, except what we know the Holy Fathers added or ordered to be added, especially when we read that none of the holy Fathers added anything, except those who, being endowed with apostolic authority, had the power to do so. It seems best, therefore, not to exceed the limits set by our forefathers in this matter, and not to offend apostolic authority by presuming to add our own interpolations in the Canon, a prerogative that pertains solely to the apostolic power.

51. According to a certain chronicle, Pope Siricius, a native of Rome, who began to reign on A.D. 388, added Communicantes et memoriam venerantes &c. to the Canon of the Mass. But we must not add other saints’ names besides those we find enumerated in the Canon. The only exception, according to Micrologus 13, is in the prayer after the Pater noster, where the order permits the addition of as many saints’ names as we please. On the greatest feasts, moreover, we modify several elements of the Communicantes and Hanc igitur oblationem in the Canon, but we do so on the authority of the most ancient and correct sacramentaries—I mean on our Lord’s Nativity, Epiphany, Maundy Thursday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. And these phrases should only be added on the feast days themselves, and during the six days of Easter and Pentecost. 

52. Gregory III, a native of Rome, who began to reign in 751, built a chapel dedicated to All Saints in St. Peter’s basilica, and added the phrase Quorum solemnitas hodie in conspectu tuae maiestatis celebratur, Domine Deus noster, in toto orbe terrarum to the Canon. Because it pertains to this particular feast, it is not added to the Canon in its general form. 

53. The beginning of the Hanc igitur prayer, which they attribute to St. Leo the Great, more on whom below. Blessed Gregory I added Diesque nostros in tua pace until Per Christum, as everybody writes and it shall be said. We wrote about the institution of the words of consecration previously, where we referred to the decretal of Innocent III.

54. The priest represents Christ’s humiliation unto death upon the cross before us when he bows over the altar saying, Hanc igitur oblationem. And immediately he begins the narrative of Our Lord’s Passion in the subsequent words. It lasts until Supplices te rogamus; until that point he remains bowed in front of the altar, signifying the crucified Christ who bowed his head and gave up the ghost. 

55. In the phrase Ut nobis fiat corpus et sanguis, “this oblation” is implied. And here it is fitting that we make three crosses over both, even though we have five words suitable for the purpose, in order to avoid exceeding the aforementioned limit of five, and though we might also reasonably make a fifth over the chalice as a token of the fifth wound, whence blood and water flowed out. Our Lord’s Passion is recalled in a special way in the Canon, according to the Gospel Haec quotiescumque, and the Apostle: Quotiescunque igitur. Therefore, according to Micrologus 16, the priest keeps his hands outstretched throughout the entire Canon, in order to signify before the assembly both his own devout mind and Christ stretched out upon the Cross, as in the verse Expandi manus meas tota die. He need not keep his fingers pressed together out of excessive caution, for in vain are we cautious if we do not strive with all our might to imitate Christ.[29] It is fitting, therefore, to stretch out our hands during the Canon, taking care to touch nothing with our fingers except the body of Christ, and we should not let our hands fall from this position except when signs of the cross must be made. 

56. Leo I, a native of Tuscany, who began to reign in A. D. 443, 47th in the succession—all the Chronicles say he was a skilled homilist—added Sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam to the prayer Supra quae. At the prayer Supplices te rogamus, there should be a profound inclination. (Here cite texts of saints who say that the entire heavenly court, namely the glorious Virgin, the choirs of angels, and all the saints are present at the consecration.)[30]

57. The faithful departed are commemorated in the second Memento, after Christ’s death, because we should commemorate only those who have died redeemed in Christ’s death and ended their life in Christ. Hence the Council of Chalcedon decreed, as found in de cons. dist. 1. Visum, that in all Masses the commemoration of souls should be made at the proper place. The Church has kept this custom from antiquity, a fact confirmed by the testimony of St. Augustine. 

58. When the priest raises his voice at the words “Nobis quoque,” he represents the centurion, who, upon witnessing Christ’s death, exclaimed, “Truly, this man was the son of God.” Here as above, the holy martyrs are not enumerated in the order in which they were martyred. From this fact, we can see that the Canon was not compiled by the same person or at the same time. Here four crosses are made over the chalice, and a fifth on its side as before, symbolizing the wound in Our Lord’s side. That is why, according to the Roman order, the chalice is touched on that same side. And as Micrologus 17 says, it is incorrect to make two crosses on the side, because Christ had only one side wound. But as we said earlier, Pope Gregory of reverend memory did it this way, since St. Anselm, bishop of Lucca, claims to have learned it from him. Furthermore he always kept this practice and indicated in the strongest terms that we should do it so. In the Ambrosian rite the confraction takes place at this point, and an antiphon called the Confractorium is sung. 

59. At the words Per omnia saecula saeculorum, the body and the chalice are elevated and the latter is covered as soon as it is put down, because Joseph raised Our Lord’s body from the cross, placed it in the sepulcher, and shut it with a stone. Until this point the chalice has been covered, probably as a precaution. Henceforth it is covered more on account of the mystery, since just as Christ lay covered in the sepulcher for three days, so we cover Our Lord’s body and chalice until we have complete three prayers, namely the preface to the Lord’s Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, and the one that follows, called the embolism of the Lord’s Prayer. 

60. Gregory I, a native of Rome, a most eminent doctor, 61st in the succession, who began to reign in A.D 562, among the many useful things he did and legislated for the Church, compiled a convenient Antiphonary by patching together and ordering various materials. He ordered that the clergy sing Kyrie eleison at Mass; he caused the Alleluia to be sung in the Roman Church outside of Septuagesima—a practice he borrowed from the church of Jerusalem—and the Tract between Septuagesima and Easter. In the Canon, he added Diesque nostros in tua pace disponas until Per Christum Dominum nostrum; and after the consecratory Canon, he added Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, and in his Registrum he claims he added the Lord’s Prayer. When some murmured on this account, he satisfied them with a humble reply, asserting that it was unseemly for a prayer composed by a scholastic to be said over the oblation, while the prayer believed to have been used at Our Lord’s bidding by the Apostles to confect the same sacraments is omitted. 

61. Praeceptis salutaribus, Pater noster, Libera nos, Domine ab omni malo, praesentibus, praeteritis, et futuris, et intervenientibus beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei genetrice, et beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea—Here, according to Micrologus 23, one can name however many saints he likes—cum omni(bus sanctis), da propitius pacem in diebus nostris, ut ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi—here he takes up the paten, kisses it, and puts it back down, according to Microloguset omni pertubatione securi

62. Here and at Per Dominum, the confraction is done over the paten, first on the right side, to symbolize the beating of Our Lord’s body, then the greater part is broken in two, according to Micrologus 17. One part is put into the chalice, another is consumed by the priest before he communes from the chalice, and the third is left for those who will communicate and for the sick. Pope Sergius explains the meaning of these three parts: de consec. dist. 2. Triformeand Sentences 4, dist. 12. The Gallican custom is to make the confraction over the chalice. In the Roman order“after dropping the particle into the chalice, the priest says quietly Fiat commixtio et consecratio corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi, accipientibus nobis in vitam aeternam. Amen.

63. Pope St. Innocent I,” a native of Albano, “40th in the succession, whose reign began in A. D. 407, ordered that the peace be given after the confraction”: de cons., dist. 2, Pace. “And the peace is fittingly given before communion, since he who presumes to receive communion without first making peace with his brother, ‘eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.’ By custom, we give peace to the person standing next to us saying Pax tecum. The response is Et cum spiritu tuo.

64. Sergius I, a native of Syria, 87th in the succession, who began to reign in A.D. 677, ordained that during the fraction of Our Lord’s body, the clergy and the people should sing the Agnus Dei” to beg that he who was offered up for us as an innocent victim might have mercy on us. 

65. Before the priest receives communion, he bows down and says, Domine Iesu Christe, qui voluntate patris cooperante Spiritu sancto per mortem propriam mundum vivificasti, libera me per hoc sacrosanctum corpus et sanguinem tuum, ab omnibus iniquitatibus et malis meis, et fac me tuis inhaerere mandatis, et  a te numquam in perpetuum separari, qui cum Patre, etc. “When he distributes the Eucharist, he says Corpus et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi proficiat tibi in vitam aeternam. Amen. All ought to receive communion; meanwhile an antiphon is sung whose name derives from the act of communion, and a psalm with Gloria Patri is added if need be, according to Micrologus 18. And this antiphon always takes its verses from the same psalm as the Introit, unless the antiphon is taken from a different psalm.” In Rome the old books contain such verses.[31] In the Ambrosian rite, this antiphon is called the transitorium.

66. “The prayer Domine Iesu Christe, qui nobis, which we say bowed before communicating, does not come from the order but from monastic tradition. The same is the case for the prayer Corpus et sanguinis Domini nostri Iesu Christi which we say when distributing the Eucharist to others. There are many other prayers various persons are accustomed to say privately at the Peace and Communion,” but according to Micrologus 18, “the more conscientious observers of the ancient traditions have taught us to strive for brevity in these sort of private prayers, and to prefer public prayers in the Mass office. Pope St. Innocent, writing to the bishops Sts. Augustine and Aurelius, asserted that common and public prayers are more profitable to us than solitary and private prayers.” 

67. “The habit some have of dipping Our Lord’s body and distributing the people communion by intinction is not grounded in authority. For the Roman order speaks against this, and Pope Julius, 36th in the succession, writing to the bishops of Egypt, absolutely forbids this sort of intinction, and teaches that the bread and chalice are to be consumed separately, as Our Lord established. Pope St. Gelasius 51st in the succession, writing to certain bishops, orders that those who receive Our Lord’s body but not the chalice be excommunicated, and in the same decree asserts that this sort of separation cannot but give rise to great sacrilege.

68. After everyone has received communion, the priest, according to the Roman order, silently says the prayer Quod ore sumpsimus, mente capiamus, et de munere temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum. After this follow the Postcommunion oration or orations, which must match in number and order the Collects before the Lesson and the Secrets before the Preface. Clearly, these orations are meant not for those about to receive communion, but for those who have just received communion, as their very name suggests. And therefore those who wish to receive a blessing from these prayers do not neglect to receive communion before them.

69. After these are finished, there follows the Benedicamus Domino or—if it is a feast with a Gloria in excelsisIte, missa est. All respond Deo gratias for the blessings received, in conformity with the Apostle.” “Ite, missa est, whence the Mass derives its name, is taken from the Old Testament, in the place where Pharaoh allows the people to depart, and in the place where Cyrus orders the people to depart from Babylon. Benedicamus Domino is taken from the psalter, and Deo gratias from the Apostle. Pope Leo ordained that these be said. The bishop Martial,[32] a disciple of the Apostles, passed down the practice of the episcopal blessing on the basis of the Apostles’ teaching.[33] Those who used them added to their number with praiseworthy zeal, and Ambrose began to say them, and from him this custom spread everywhere. The Apostolic Lord, however, only says what is said at the end of Mass.” 

70. “After all this, the priest kisses the altar saying Placeat tibi sancta Trinitas obsequium servitii mei, et praesta, ut hoc sacrificium quod oculis tuae maiestatis ego indignus obtuli, mihi et omnibus pro quibus illud obtuli, te miserante, sit propitiabile, per Christum Dominum nostrum. As he removes his vestments, he sings the hymn of the three young men. The holy Fathers of the fourth Council of Toledo decreed that a priest who neglects to say this hymn after Mass is to be excommunicated. Then in thanksgiving he says the Psalm Laudate Dominum in sanctis eiusKyrie eleisonPaster noster, and the versicles” Confiteantur tibi Domine omnes, Exsultabunt, Exsultent iusti, Non nobis, Domine exaudi orationem mean and the collects Deus qui tribus pueris and Actiones nostras.


71. From the aforegoing, we can see how carefully all the things observed in the Holy Mass have been ordained and authoritatively introduced, a fact that should cause us to take heed not to uproot the Roman offices without cause where they are customary, or do things differently from how they are written. St. Alexander, whom we have mentioned before, says: “Just as this oblation excels and is better than all others, so it must be cultivated and venerated better than others”: de cons., dist. 1 Nihil.

72. Let us therefore cultivate and venerate the Holy Mass of the Gregorian office, and, unless impeded by a major feast, let us above all make sure to celebrate the Sunday Masses with all due Glorias,[34] rather than relegate them to ferial gloom. And so, between Easter and Pentecost,[35] within major Octaves, and when vigils of saints fall on Sunday, and above all on their Sundays, let us say the Sunday masses with all due Glorias. It will not do to let the joys of Sunday be hidden in some feria. Let us not omit the Epistles and Gospels handed down to us by the Roman Church. When other proper and special Masses fall on a Sunday or another feast, let them be said early in the morning or at another suitable hour.[36] Let us not neglect the morrow Mass on the feasts of John the Evangelist, John the Baptist, Lawrence, and whenever else there might be one. When St. Gregory ordained two Masses on the same day—as on both feasts of the Holy Cross, of St. Augustine, of the Decollation of St John, on All Saints, and whenever else[37]—by all means let them both be said at some point on that day. And let this be observed whenever a Gregorian Mass cannot have pride of place on account of a major feast. 

[1] In ancient times (and in some rites to this day), deaconesses or other consecrated women had duties relating to the altar, such as lighting candles, adorning the sanctuary, and burning incense in church. 

[2] John Cassian, Institutes 3.11. Translated by C.S. Gibson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 11. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <;.

[3] The Comes Hieronimi, attributed to St. Jerome, also known as the Lectionarius or Liber Comitis.

[4] In Proposition 12, Radulph explains that the primitive Divine Office at Rome consisted in recitation of Psalms and orations. Chants and hymns first came into use in the Latin West at Milan through Bishop Hilary in the time of Theodosius the Younger (r. 402-450), and Ambrose augmented the corpus. Subsequently, Popes Gregory (r. 590-604) and Vitalianus (r. 657-672) received this corpus from Milan.

[5] Matthew 16:13-19.

[6] John 20:19-31.

[7] I.e., Dominus vobiscum, Oremus.

[8] The use of the Papal chapel had the collect Famulorum tuorum on the Assumption and Famulis tuis on the Nativity of Mary.

[9] Specifically at the second Mass, said at dawn.

[10] Actually quoting and paraphrasing quoting and paraphrasing Amalarius’ Liber officialis, “Praefatio altera.” 

[11] That is, with its own conclusion, to indicate that the first Collect is the proper and sufficient Collect of that Mass.

[12] In proposition 13, he quotes Micrologus 5 to the effect that only orations sanctioned by church councils should be recited in the Divine Office.

[13] I.e., Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus.

[14] The prayers of exorcism said during the blessing of holy salt and water, and over the catechumen at baptism, conclude with this formula.

[15] See paragraph 16, where he assumes the Romans modeled their lectionary on the Ambrosian.

[16] The Mass after Terce.

[17] Cantus fractus was “a rhythmicized form of plainchant used in the 15th century, particularly for new melodies for the Credo and certain antiphon, sequence, and hymn texts” (Ian Rumbold, “Cantus Fractus,” in The Oxford Companion to Music [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011], See [here] for an example.

[18] I.e. the Communion antiphon.

[19] By the late 12th century, the use of Offertory verses had ceased in many uses, and the pace of chant slowed in general.

[20] The canon cited by Radulph and Micrologus laments that men ask for things ordine praepostero, in the opposite way that they should: they first seek help from fellow men before asking God for help. In the Mass, however, the priest first asks God for help in the offertory prayers, then men, i.e. the congregation.

[21] I.e. Laudans invocabo Dominum

[22] Translation by Herbert Bindley, Early Church Classics (1914).

[23] Radulph may refer simply to Ambrose’s authorship of the Ambrosian prefaces, or to an independent treatise Liber praefationum, attested in some medieval catalogues, e.g. item 331 in the 1423 Inventory of the Papal library at Peñíscola.

[24] Jacob de Voragine quotes several Ambrosian prefaces throughout his Lombardic History, also called the Golden Legend.

[25] I.e. they say the common preface rather than the Preface of the Holy Trinity.

[26] In our reading, super calicem means that the transverse beam of the cross should be traced, not vertically above the chalice, but rather horizontally above it, i.e. further away from the priest toward the direction of the back of the altar. In this way, from the priest’s perspective the chalice is set beneath the arms of the cross he has traced in the air, forming a mystical representation of the crucifixion. 

[27] In the Gallican and Mozarabic rites, the names of the offerentes were read out before the Canon. This practice was condemned already at the Council of Frankfurt of 754 (can. 51) and again by Charlemagne in his Admonitio generalis of 789 (can. 54), but survived in the bidding prayers said throughout the Middle Ages. 

[28] Ed. note: The phrase pro quibus tibi offerimus was added to Frankish books the 9th century. See Jungmann, Missarum sollemnia, vol. 1, 183.

[29] The sense may be that if the priest does not imitate Christ in his life (outside the Mass) then ritual caution is in vain; or that keeping his arms extended is a sufficient symbolic imitation of Christ and any additional sign is excessive and superfluous.

[30] The editors have bracketed this text because it seems to be a shorthand note that slipped into the final version.

[31] Communion verses had fallen out of common practice by Radulph’s time.

[32] Of Limoges.

[33] The pontifical blessing before communion was a feature from the Gallican rite that resisted many Roman attempts to expunge it, before finally making its way into the solemn Roman service. Matching the great priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22–26, each blessing usually had three sections, a response, Amen, and a concluding clause. See Joseph Jungmann, Missarum Solemnia, vol. 2 (New York, 1951), 296.

[34] This use of glorificationes, borrowed from Micrologus 30, refers to the Te Deum and Gloria in excelsis sung on Sundays and feasts in the Roman rite.

[35] Some mediaeval uses, most notably that of the Holy Sepulchre and its descendant the Carmelite, repeated the Mass Resurrexi of Easter Sunday as the conventual Mass on every Sunday of Eastertide outside of major feasts, keeping the proper Masses of each Sunday for the morrow Mass, said with reduced ceremony, or relegating them to ferias during the week. See Archdale King, Liturgies of the Religious Orders (London, 1955), 249.

[36] In other words, the conventual Mass of the day should be of the Sunday, with the feast celebrated at another time.

[37] Sts. Alexander and companions on the Invention of the Holy Cross, Sts. Cyprian and Cornelius on the Exaltation of the same, St. Hermes on the feast of St. Augustine, St. Sabina on the Decollation of St. John, and St. Caesarius on All Saints. Only the feast of the Decollation was actually celebrated in St. Gregory’s time.

Virginis Filio Ipse Virgo Adhesit: Honorius on St. John the Belovèd

In his sermon on the feast of St. John the Evangelist (27 December) in the Speculum Ecclesiae, Honorius picks up the old tradition that John was the bridegroom at the wedding in Cana.

On the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, if the church is dedicated to St. John, let this be the word of the one who preaches about him:

Who are these, that fly as clouds, and as doves to their windows?[1] Clouds carry rain and water the dry earth. Doves, as they look out through the windows,[2] do not desire to tear other birds to pieces like the raptors. My dearly beloved, the holy apostles were clouds who drench dry hearts with the abundant rain of doctrine, rejoicing to see a fat harvest grow whence they hoped to reap a hundred fold in joy.[3] They look upon the things of this world through the windows of their eyes, because they looked upon women not with the lustful gaze of illicit love but with a simple and chaste regard, and they desired no things of this earth. St. John the Evangelist was one of them, a copiously flowing cloud, who showered the four-cleft regions of the globe all over with his honeyed teaching. He had no bile of avarice, like the simple dove, so he was placed by the Lord in his temple, which is the Church, as a steadfast column.[4] His life was radiant with a special purity of chastity. He lit up all the churches with his teachingand miracles.[5] Hence what the scriptures say about all the saints in general is specially spoken about him: The voice of thy thunder in a wheel. Thy lightnings enlightened the world.[6] The thunder stands for the Church’s loud preaching. The wheel is a figure that refers to this world which ever spins swiftly about like a wheel. In this wheel the voice of God’s thunder rings out when the majestic noise of John the Evangelist thunders out to the world. The lightnings of God enlightened the whole worldwhen Christ’s miracles were made known to the world by John.

It is written that a spring rises in paradise, and is divided into four heads.[7] Paradise which is called the Garden of delights stands for the Church, which contains the delights of the scriptures and has been invited to God’s house where there are glory and riches.[8] A spring rises in that Paradise when Christ, source of all good gifts,[9] is born of a chaste virgin. The four rivers that derive from it are the four evangelists, who watered the whole Garden of the Church with their copious flood of doctrine.These four spiritual rivers gives the Church these delicacies: One gives milk for nourishment, a second oil for soothing, a third wine for taste, a fourth honey for sweetness. Babies are fed milk. Milk is secreted from Matthew’s Gospel for the Church, when he proclaims that Christ became a child for us and was fed milk. Oil cures the infirm. Oil is poured from Luke’s Gospel when he relates to us how Christ’s blood healed our infirmities. Wine makes us merry. Mark’s Gospel plies the Church with wine when he tells how the apostles were made merry by Christ’s resurrection.[10] John’s Gospel drips with honey when it teaches the divinity, which is the sweetness of angels.

The Prophet foresaw all these significations in them, and so described them in the figures of four animals.[11] Matthew is figured as a man, because his pen wrote of Christ’s humanity. Luke is designated as a calf, because he proclaims Christ as the fattened calf who was slain for us. Mark is denoted by the figure of a lion, because he tells how Christ rose from the dead like the lion.[12]John is declared by analogy in the eagle, because he made manifest how Christ took flight up to the Father’s glory.

The four regions of the world intimate the same truth about the evangelists, when we consider them in a figurative manner. The north, where the sun lies under the earth, expresses Matthew, who describes how Christ’s divinity was concealed beneath his flesh. The west, where the sun goes down, stands for Luke, who says that Christ the Sun went down in death. The east, where the sun rises every day, is understood to be Mark, who teaches us that Christ the Sun of Justice has risen from the dead. The south, where the sun blazes in the middle of the sky, signifies John, who expounds how the Eternal Sun shines in the majesty of his divinity.[13]

They are the four gold rings used to carry the Ark of the Covenant.[14] The ark is holy Church, the rings the four Gospels used to carry it into everlasting dwellings.[15] They are Aminadab’s chariots, which carry the Ark of God back from foreign lands to the home of the fatherland.[16] The Ark of God was captured by foreigners, but brought back to Jerusalem in the chariots of the priest Aminadab. The Ark of God is the Church, which was captured by foreigners when it was a slave to idols. Jesus our true Priest drove it back from enemy territory to Jerusalem in chariots, when he bore it to the heavenly homeland through the doctrine of the four evangelists. John was the chief among them, he who soaked the whole world with his preaching.

About this John, we read that he was the son of our Lord’s maternal aunt. He invited Christ and his mother to his wedding, but when the wine ran out Christ changed water into wine and made the feasters merry.[17] At the sight, John left his bride and, still a virgin, he cleaved[18] to the son of the Virgin. Because John renounced a fleshly union for love of him, Christ loved him more than all the disciples. Hence during the Last Supper when he gave his body and blood to his disciples, John leaned on Jesus’ breast,[19] and at that moment he drank from the Fount of wisdom[20] what he later uttered[21] to the world, the unspeakable things of the Word who was hidden in the Father,[22] for in Jesus’ breast are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[23]Later as he was offering himself on the altar of the Cross as a victim to God the Father for the sake of the world and making his triumph over the prince of death, seeing his mother standing beside the cross next to John, he thought it was best to commend the Virgin to a virgin. Then as Christ left behind the prison of this world, returned to the heavenly palace, and sent the Holy Spirit from the paternal see to his disciples, John, full of the Holy Spirit, entered the Lord’s Temple along with Peter and healed a lame man in the name of Jesus Christ, and thereafter baptized the many Jews were were converted to the faith through their words. When on this account the high priests had them and other apostles punished with heavy floggings, they rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer such things for the name of the Lord.[24]

After the stoning of Stephen, when Samaria had received the Word of the Lord through the preaching of Stephen’s fellow deacon Philip, the apostles sent Peter and John to confirm those who had been baptized, as bishops in the Church still do today. But after the faithful received the Holy Spirit through their laying on of hands, they condemned Simon Magus, who wished to buy this grace, along with all his followers. Having accomplished these things, John passed into Asia and drew all of it to the Lord’s grace by his word and example, great wonders and signs.[25]

The reins of empire were held at that time by Domitian, who ordered the Apostle arrested and brought to Rome, where in the presence of the Senate he had him cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, but God’s grace intervened to protect him and he came out unharmed.[26] Then the emperor banished him to the isle of Patmos, where our Lord visited him often through an angel and revealed to him all the mysteries that were to come in the Church. Later, at the Senate’s decree, the emperor was butchered by gladiators, and the Apostle was honorably restored to God’s Church. He taught the churches all over the world by his writing and preaching, and crushed all heresies everywhere they had sprung. All the while he shone with many spectacular miracles, gleaming before the world like a sun in the darkness.[27] Indeed he changed forest sticks into gold and pebbles on the seashore into gems, and then restored the gold to its former nature as sticks and the gems into rocky matter. He raised a certain widow from the dead, and restored a dead young man to life. A glass vase that had shattered into a thousand pieces he restored to pristine wholeness. He not only drank poison in Christ’s name without being harmed, but also brought some who had died from it back to life.[28]

And so that no one of you lose heart on account of the magnitude of his offences, but rather are strengthened in God’s mercy and entrust yourselves to St. John’s prayer, I want to tell you one brief story about him that I hope will make your spirits merry.[29]

St. John gave a certain youth to a bishop for his upbringing. The bishop baptized him and took every care to educate him. Later on he began to govern him less strictly and, as old men will, ceased to correct him entirely. The boy, as he felt the reins of discipline slacken, straight away threw off our Lord’s yoke and rushed headlong into the crooked ways of vice. He was first tarnished by a voracious gluttony and drunkenness, then ensnared by the wiles of strumpets, and then he joins a band of thieves, and at last as a violent robber himself, he is made the head of a group of robbers. When some time had passed, and John had come invited to the same church and settled all the things he had come for, he asked the bishop to show him the boy he had entrusted to him to be brought up for the heavenly kingdom. With tears the bishop declared that he was dead, because he dwelt with thieves in the mountain passes as a prince of robbers. Hearing this, John groaned heavily, and poured forth abundant tears. Presently he ordered a horse and guide to be brought, and hastened with speed into the mountains. Suddenly a band of robbers surrounded him, but he, undaunted, asked for a conference with their leader. Advancing savage and armed, as soon as got close enough to recognize John, he began to flee. John pursued him, releasing his horse, shouting: “My son, why do you flee an unarmed old man! Why do you dread your own father? Stop, son, stop, and wait; I have to render an account to God for your soul. I would gladly meet death for your sake, as Christ bore it for the sake of the world. Only stop a moment, do not despair. I promise you, you will receive remission of your sins from God.” When he heard this, he suddenly toppled from his horse and John fell on his knees; he baptized himself again in a river of tears, hiding his right hand that was guilty of crime. John drew it forth, kissed it, and with many soothing words urged his fierce spirit to repentance. He convinced him to come to the church, he kept vigils and fasts with him, and gave him back to Mother Church a changed man, and giving an example of the divine mercy, he made the erstwhile cruel thief a noble pastor of that church.

My beloved, if St. John gave so much aid to sinners while living still in fragile flesh, how much more powerfully must he intercede for all who call upon him now that he is reigning with Christ? 

When he was an old man, our Lord appeared to him along with his disciples, and invited him to the heavenly feast. John, giving thanks that Christ invited him to the angelic banquet, ordered a ditch to open next to his altar, and calling together all the people he celebrated mass, and communicated them all in the Lord’s sacraments. Then he got into the ditch and immediately a great light from heaven shone over him. Ever since that time, the only thing found in that ditch is manna, which to this day gives salvation to any soul who asks for it in faith. Hence it is thought that St. John was rapt up into heaven by the angels in that light, and in that rapture he paid the debt of all flesh by his death, then was immediately restored to life. This is what the Church believes will happen on the last day to all the just who are still living in the flesh, namely that they will be rapt into the air to meet Christ and in that rapture shall die and be instantly restored to life.[30]

His dormition took place on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, but the Church, enlightened by his teaching,[31] holds the solemn feast today because the noble office of the homonymous John the Baptist, who surpassed all other saints, falls on this day,[32] or because it was already honored as the day of his return from exile, and venerated as the day of the dedication of his church.

My beloved, invoke him to your aid, knock on his door with constant prayers,[33] that John whose name means “God’s grace”[34] may obtain the grace of almighty God for you and all Christians in the fatherland above, so that at this life’s end you may exult with him forever in that glory that eye hath not seen, etc.[35]

[1] Isaiah 60:8, text of a Vespers Responsory in the Common of Evangelists and a Matins responsory in the Common of Apostles (Cantus Index 007484).

[2] See Song of Songs 2:9. For a more extended meditation on the qualities of doves, see the Speculum’s Sermon for Pentecost.

[3] Psalm 125

[4] Apocalypse 3:12: “He that shall overcome, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.”

[5] Cf the Collect for the feast, Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra, which evokes the main theme announced in the Prologue of John’s Gospel: Erat lux vera quae illuminet omnem hominem.

[6] Psalm 76:19, used as a responsory text for John’s feast in some medieval uses (Cantus Index 7921).

[7] Genesis 2:10.

[8] See Psalm 111:3.

[9] fons omnium bonorum: A phrase frequent in Augustine. On the pleasures of heaven, see Elucidarium 19 (PL 172:1171c).

[10] In fact the apostles were accused of being drunk in Acts.

[11] See Ezekiel 1.

[12] For more on the lion, see Speculum, Sermon for Easter.

[13] Prologue.

[14] See Exodus 25:12.

[15] Luke 16:9.

[16] The episode as told in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13 has Amindab use a ‘cart’ (plaustrum) to bring the Ark to the ‘home’ of Obed-edom, but Song of Songs 6:11 speaks, by way of poetic epithet, of ‘Aminadab’s chariots’ (quadrigas Aminadab).  

[17] See John 2 and Psalm 103:15: vinum laetificet cor hominis.

[18] Genesis 2:24. The Genesis passage tells how man will leave his family to “cleave” to his wife (Virago); but here John leaves his wife to “cleave” to Christ, the New Adam, and son of the Virgin (Virgo).

[19] John 21.

[20] See Ecclesiasticus 1:5.

[21] Psalm 44:2: Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum.

[22] See 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:26.

[23] Colossians 2:3.

[24] See Acts 5:41

[25] Acts 6:8.

[26] Both Jerome (In Jovianum 1)  and Tertullian (Proscriptions against heretics 36) report the story.

[27] Cf. John 1:5

[28] The miracles recounted here are told in the Acta Iohannis and Pseudo-Abdias’s 6th century Virtutes apostolorum. Bede also retells some of these miracles in Homilies I.9 (PL 94:47b,c).

[29] Again, Honorius plays with John’s various associations with wine.

[30] See Honorius’ doctrine on the rapture of John, Mary, and all mankind on the last day in Elucidarium 3.11 (PL 172:1164C)

[31] From the feast’s Collect, Ecclesiam tuam.

[32] The idea that the dormition of St. John the Evangelist occurred on the same day as the nativity of St. John the Baptist seems first to appear in a later extension of St. Isidore’s De ortu et obitu patrum, originally , PL 83:1289.

[33] Cf. Matthew 7:7: Petite, et dabitur vobis: quaerite, et invenietis: pulsate, et aperietur vobis.

[34] See also Speculum, “On John the Baptist” (PL 172:968c).

[35] 1 Corinthians 2:9. Honorius invariably ends his sermons with this closing doxology evoking eternal glory.

Source manuscripts:


A: Admont, Benediktinerstift, cod. 131, ff. 9v
Gr: Graz, Univ. Bibl., Cod. 173, ff. 7v
SG: St. Gall, Stiftsbibl. 1075, pp. 207, pg 
Go: Göttweig, Benediktinerstift, Cod. 104 (rot) / 47 (schwarz), f. 20r
L: Lilienfeld, Stiftsarchiv und Stiftsbibliothek, HS 140,  p. 18

In festo sancti Iohannis euangelistę. Si ęcclesia est in honore sancti Iohannis, ista sit uox de eo predicantis.[1]

Qui sunt hii qui ut nubes uolant et quasi columbę ad fenestras suas? Nubes pluuiam portant et aridam terram irrigant. Columbę autem, cum per fenestras prospiciunt, alias aues non ut accipitres lacerare cupiunt.[2] Sancti apostoli, karissimi, nubes fuerunt, qui arida corda habundanti doctrinę pluuia largiter irrigauerunt, ubi gaudebant messem multam succrescere, unde sperabant se fructum centuplum in gaudio metere. Quasi columbę ad fenestras suorum oculorum mundana prospexerunt, quia mulieres, non ad concupiscendum ut adulteri, sed simplici et casto intuitu aspexerunt, et nichil de terrenis ut auari desiderauerunt. Ex quibus sanctus Iohannes euangelista erat nubes affluentissima, qui sua doctrina melliflua ubique perfudit orbis climata quadrifida. Erat[3]etiam felle carens inuidię, ut simplex columba, unde a Domino in templo suo, id est in Ęcclesia, locatus est ut firma columna.[4]Precipua[5] castitatis mundicia radiabat; uita, doctrina, miraculis cunctas Ęcclesias illustrabat. Vnde quamuis de omnibus apostolis generaliter, de eo pronunciat Scriptura specialiter: Vox tonitrui tui, Deus, in rota. Illuxerunt coruscationes tuę in terra tota.[6] Per tonitruum altisona Euangelii predicatio notatur. Per rotam hic mundus figuratur qui celeri circuitione[7] ut rota iugiter uolutatur. In hac rota uox tonitrui Dei personat, dum grandisonus Iohannis Euangelii clangor mundo intonat. Coruscationesquoque Dei orbi[8] terrę illuxerunt, dum per Iohannem miracula xpi mundo innotuerunt.

Legitur quod in paradyso fons oriatur, qui in quatuor capita diuidatur.[9] Per paradysum qui hortus deliciarum dicitur, Ęcclesia accipitur, in qua sunt Scripturarum delicię, et quę est uocata ad domum Dei[10] ubi sunt gloria et diuicię. In tali paradyso fons oritur, dum xpc fons omnium bonorum de casta Virgine nascitur. Quatuor flumina quę inde oriuntur, iiiior euangelistę intelliguntur, quia largifluo dogmate perfuderunt totum hortum Ęcclesię. Hii iiiior fluuii spiritales,[11] dant Ęcclesię sapores tales. Vnus quidem lactis[12] nutrimentum, alter autem prebet olei fomentum, tercius uini saporem, quartus exhibet mellis dulcorem.[13] Lacte infantes nutriuntur. De Mathei Euangelio lac Ęcclesię manat, dum xpm pro nobis[14] paruulum factum et lacte nutritum clamat. Oleo infirmi curantur. De Lucę Euangelio oleum Ęcclesię funditur, dum xpi cruore nostrę infirmitates curatę ab eo referuntur. Vino[15] bibentes letificantur. Marci Euangelium Ęcclesiam uino potat, dum xpi resurrectione apostolos letificatos memorat. De Iohannis Euangelio mel distillat, dum diuinitatem, quę est dulcedo angelorum, dulciter Ęcclesię insinuat. 

Quod quia propheta in eis significari preuidit, eos in iiiior animalium figuris describit.[16] Per formam hominis Matheus figuratur, per quem humanitas xpi stilo exaratur. Per uituli speciem Lucas notatur, per quem xpc uitulus saginatus pro nobis mactatus predicatur.[17] Per leonis figuram Marcus monstratur,[18] a quo xpc a mortuis[19] ut leo resuscitatus memoratur. Per aquilę similitudinem Iohannes declaratur, a quo xpc in gloriam Patris conuolasse manifestatur.

Hoc etiam iiiior mundi plagę de eis intimant, dum considerantibus hoc[20] figuraliter insinuant. Per aquilonem, ubi sol sub terra latet, Matheus exprimitur, a quo diuinitas xpi sub carne latuisse describitur. Per occidentem, ubi sol occumbit, Lucas accipitur,[21]a quo sol xpc in morte[22] occubuisse dicitur. Per orientem, ubi[23] sol cottidie surgit,[24] Marcus intelligitur, a quo xpc Sol iusticię a mortuis resurrexisse traditur. Per meridiem ubi sol in centro cęli feruet, Iohannes innuitur, a quo sol ęternus in maiestate diuinitatis clarescere exponitur.

Hii sunt iiiior circuli[25] aurei, quibus portabatur[26] arca testamenti. Arca est sancta Ęcclesia, circuli[27] iiiior Euangelia, quibus portatur ad ęterna tabernacula. Hii sunt quadrigę Aminadab, quibus arca Dei de alienigenis reuecta est ad domum patrię. Arca Dei capta est ab allophilis, sed reducta[28] est Ierusalem in sacerdotis[29] Aminadab quadrigis. Arca Dei est Ęcclesia quę capta est ab allophilis, dum[30] subdita fuit idolis. Quam uerus sacerdos ihc de hostibus ad Ierusalem in quadrigis reuexit, dum eam doctrina iiiior[31] euangelistarum ad cęlestem patriam subuexit. Ex quibus hic Iohannes precipuus fuit, qui totum mundum sua predicatione perfudit.

De hoc legitur Iohanne, quod fuerit filius domini materterę. Qui nuptias celebrans xpm cum matre sua inuitauit, sed deficiente uino xpc aquam in uinum commutans conuiuas letificauit. Hoc uiso Iohannes sponsam suam deseruit, Virginis filio ipse uirgo adhesit. Et quia carnis copulam eius amore despexit, xpc eum pre omnibus apostolis dilexit. Cum enim in ultima cena[32] corpus et sanguinem suum discipulis suis tradidit, Iohannes supra pectus ihu[33] recubuit, et de hoc fonte sapientię tunc potauit, quod postmodum mundo eructauit archana[34] uerbi[35] in Patre[36] reconditi, quia in pectore ihu sunt omnes thesauri sapientię et scientię absconditi. Denique in ara crucis cum se xpc hostiam Deo Patri pro mundo[37] ymmolaret, et de principe mortis triumpharet, cernens comminus matrem suam cum Iohanne cruci astare, optimum duxit Virginem uirgini commendare.[38]Postquam vero xpc, carcerem huius mundi deserens, cęleste palacium reuisit et Spiritum sanctum de paterna sede discipulis misit, Iohannes cum Petro Spiritu sancto plenus templum Domini intrauit, et claudum in nomine ihu xpi sanauit, ac multos Iudeos proinde per uerba eorum ad fidem conuersos baptizavit.[39] Cumque summi pontifices eum et alios apostolos ob hoc plurimis flagris affecissent, gaudebant quod talia pro nomine Domini pertulissent.

Cum uero post lapidationem Stephani, Samaria recepisset uerbum Domini per predicationem Phylippi, Stephani condiaconi, miserunt apostoli Petrum et Iohannem ut baptizatos confirmarent, sicut adhuc episcopi in Ęcclesia facere solent. Postquam fideles per impositionem manuum eorum Spiritum sanctum acceperunt, Symonem Magum, qui hanc gratiam emere uoluit, cum omnibus suis sequacibus dampnauerunt. His transactis migrauit Iohannes in Asyam, et uerbo atque exemplo, signis et prodigiis totam traxit ad Domini[40] gratiam. 

Eo tempore tenuit Domicianus monarchiam, qui Apostolum comprehendi et duci iussit Romam, ubi presente senatu eum in dolium feruentis olei misit, sed Dei[41] gratia eum[42] protegente illesus exiuit. Deinde in Pathmos insulam eum exilio relegauit, ubi eum Dominus per angelum suum crebro uisitauit, et ei omnia Ęcclesię mysteria futura reuelauit. Postea imperator a gladiatoribus consultu senatus trucidatur, et Apostolus Ęcclesię Dei cum honore redonatur. Qui scripto et predicatione ubique Ęcclesias instruxit, omnes hereses undique destruxit. Interea multis preclaris miraculis fulsit, quibus mundo ut sol in tenebris luxit.Virgas namque siluestres in aurum et litorea saxa in gemmas commutauit, et rursum aurum in uirgarum naturam et gemmas in saxorum substantiam restaurauit. Viduam quandam de morte resuscitauit, iuuenem nihilominus defunctum ad uitam reparauit. Vas uitreum quod in multas particulas dissiluit pristinę sanitati restituit. Venenum in xpi nomine non solum illesus ebibit, sed etiam inde extinctos rursum uitę reddidit.

Et[43] ut[44] nullus uestrum de magnitudine facinorum suorum diffidat, sed firmetur in misericordia Dei et orationem[45] sancti Iohannis confidat, uobis uolo unum de eo breuiter narrare, quod spero[46] animas uestras letificare.

Quendam iuuenem sanctus Iohannes cuidam episcopo nutriendum commendauit, quem episcopus baptizatum[47] cum omni diligentia educauit. Deinde paulatim cepit eum remissius habere et, ut senes solent, in nullo adolescentem corrigere. Ille ut sensit sibi frena disciplinę abstracta,[48] iugo Domini mox excusso, totus preceps fertur per uiciorum anfracta.[49] Et primo quidem uoracitate et ebrietate delinitur, deinde meretricum illecebris irretitur,[50] exin furibus associatur, ad extremum latronibus ipse uiolentus latro principatur. Euoluto tempore, cum Iohannes ad eandem ęcclesiam uocatus uenisset et omnia propter quę uenerat oportune dispossuisset,[51] ab episcopo poscit sibi iuuenem representari[52] quem commendasset ad cęleste regnum educari. Episcopus cum lacrimis[53] eum mortuum protestatur, quia in faucibus montium cum latronibus princeps latronum moratur. Iohannes hoc audiens[54] grauiter ingemuit, lacrimas uberrimas fudit. Mox sibi equum et uię ducem dari postulat,[55] ad montana festinus properat.[56] Quem protinus caterua latronum circumdedit, sed ipse intrepidus colloquium principis eorum petiit. Ipse truculentus et armatus ueniens, ut eminus Iohannem recognouit, fugam iniit. Quem Iohannes insequitur emisso equo, talia uociferando: «Cur, fili, fugis inermem senem? Cur exhorres tuum patrem? Sta, fili, sta, et expecta; racionem Deo redditurus sum pro anima tua. Certe libenter pro te mortem excipio,[57] sicut xpc eam pertulit pro mundo. Sta tantum,[58] ne desperes; promitto tibi, remissionem peccatorum a Deo recipies.» Hoc audito confestim de equo decidit,[59] Iohannis ad genua procidit, denuo se baptizat[60] lacrimarum flumine, occultans dextram consciam de crimine. Quam Iohannes protrahit,[61] osculatur, multis blandiciis ferocem eius animum ad penitentiam cohortatur. Secum ad ęcclesiam prouocat,[62] uigilias et ieiunia cum eo[63]continuat, et bene emendatum reddidit matri Ęcclesię, atque adiungens exemplum diuinę clementię, prius crudelem latronem eidem ęcclesię prefecit nobilem pastorem.

Si beatus Iohannes karissimi adhuc in fragili carne manens in tantum potuit peccatoribus subuenire, quanto magis nunc cum xpo regnans cunctis eum inuocantibus preualet[64] interuenire? 

Huic[65] Dominus iam grandeuo cum discipulis suis apparuit, et eum ad cęleste conuiuium inuitauit. Ille gratias agens xpm se ad angelicas epulas inuitare,[66] fossam sibi aperiri iubet iuxta[67] altare, conuocatoque uniuerso populo missas celebrauit, omnes dominicis sacramentis communicauit, deinde fossam descendit, et subito lux inmensa de cęlo super eum resplenduit. Post hęc[68]in fossa illa non nisi manna inueniebatur, de quo usque hodie cunctis fideliter petentibus salus prestatur. Vnde creditur sanctus Iohannes in illo lumine ab angelis ad cęlestia raptus fuisse, et in ipso raptu carnis debita per mortem soluisse, moxque uitę restitutum, quod Ęcclesia de omnibus iustis in ultimo die in carne uiuentibus credit futurum, quod scilicet obuiam xpo in aera rapiantur, et in ipso raptu moriantur ac protinus uitę restituantur.

Huius[69] dormitio in natiuitate[70] sancti Iohannis Baptistę contigit, sed eam Ęcclesia, eius doctrina illustrata, hodie sollempniter recolit ob excellens equiuoci sui Iohannis Baptistę officium, qui aliis sanctis fuit incomparabilis, seu quod ob reuersionem eius ab exilio hic dies fuit honorabilis, seu ob dedicationem ipsius ęcclesię uenerabilis.

Hunc,[71] karissimi, in auxilium uestrum inuocate, hunc assiduis precibus pulsate, ut quia Iohannes sonat «Dei gratia», uobis et omnibus xpianis obtineat omnipotentis Dei gratiam in superna patria, quatinus post huius uitę terminum exultetis cum eo in perpetuum in illa gloria quam oculus non uidit &c.

[1] Sic A

[2] non permittunt SG

[3] omit. PL

[4] columba PL

[5] Praecipue PL

[6] in terra tota] SG orbi terre.

[7] circuitu SG

[8] omit. PL

[9] diuiditur SG

[10] ad domum Dei] SG domus dei.

[11] spirituales SG, PL

[12] lacus PL

[13] dulcedinem PL

[14] bonis PL

[15] Vinum SG, PL

[16] preuidit Gr

[17] describitur PL

[18] demonstratur SG

[19] a mortuis] SG mortuus

[20] hec SG, PL

[21] exprimitur PL

[22] omit. L; moriendo PL

[23] vero PL

[24] oritur SG, Go; per hunc add. PL

[25] anuli SG, Go, PL. Gr habet anuli in marg.

[26] gestabatur SG

[27] anuli SG, Go, PL

[28] reuecta SG

[29] sacerdotibus SG

[30] cum A

[31] omit. SG

[32] in ultima cenaRegina austri PL

[33] domini SG, suum L

[34] archanum SG, Go, L, PL

[35] scilicet add. PL. The expression archana uerbi, appears in the episcopal blessing on the feast of St. John in Grimald of St. Gall’s Benedictionale (PL 121:0860D), in Eriugena’s commentary on the prologue of St. John’s Gospel, and a collect for the feast of John’s nativity in the Gelasian sacramentary: Deus, qui per os beati apostoli tui Ioannis evangelistae, Verbi tui nobis arcana reserasti, praesta, quaesumus, ut quod ille nostris auribus excellenter infudit, intelligentiae competentis eruditione capiamus (PL 74:1060a).

[36] in Patre omit. SG

[37] pro mundo omit. A

[38] John 19

[39] Acts 3

[40] Dei SG

[41] Domini Gr

[42] omit. A, PL

[43] omit. PL

[44] omit. SG

[45] in oratione PL

[46] possit SG

[47] baptizauit SG

[48] relaxari SG

[49] amfractus SG

[50] utitur SG

[51] disponeret PL

[52] presentari SG

[53] cum lacrimis omit. PL

[54] audito SG

[55] postulauit SG

[56] properauit SG

[57] suscipio SG

[58] omit. SG

[59] cecidit A; descendit SG

[60] baptizando SG

[61] erigens SG

[62] reuocat SG

[63] cum eo] SG secum

[64] potuit SG

[65] Apocrifum notat Go in margine

[66] gaudebat add. A, Gr. SG, Go, PL

[67] ante PL

[68] hoc A, Gr

[69] Cuius A, Gr

[70] natali PL

[71] Nunc PL