5 October 2009

S Columba and Canonisation

The 'Stowe Missal', once in the library at Stowe of the Dukes of Buckingham and now kept by the Royal Irish Academy, gives us evidence of the worship of at least one Irish worshipping community in the 790s; it is the earliest surviving Altar Book from this archipelago and also preserves, fossilised, valuable information about the history of the Roman Rite before S Gregory the Great threw the Hermeneutic of Continuity to the winds with his Byzantinising alterations. Stowe reveals that Mass used to begin with a litany; and an anecdote about S Columba suggests that this had been true in his time.

One morning, as his brethren were putting on their shoes to go to work, S Columba stopped them and ordered that they should instead prepare for Mass and for a festal meal. "And I who am so unworthy must today celebrate the sacred mystery of the Eucharist out of reverence for the soul that last night was carried away among the choirs of angels ...". So they did; but the Saint interrupted the litany to tell the singers to add the name of S Colman the bishop [S Colman moccu Loigse] who - so it had been revealed to him - had died that night.

So, apparently, S Columba was not still in bed at the beginning of Mass!

I hope to return soon to the mystery of the information, which I shared in my last post, that it was not S Columba's custom to enter church until after the Gospel of the Mass. Meanwhile, one or two observations about Canonisation and Beatification.

It is well known that legal preliminaries and formal papal pronouncements were not the means by which a man or woman was 'raised to the Altars of the Church' in the early centuries. But I take issue with the assumption sometimes made that canonisation was by acclamation; as if the Church were an ochlocracy in which decisions were made by mobs shouting. The Church has always been a structured, hierarchical body, and the placing of a name on the 'list' or 'canon' of saints must always have been an action formally done by the celebrant of the Eucharist (who in early centuries would of course normatively have been episcopal). So here S Columba does not charge around saying "I've had a vision that Colman is dead"; his monastic brethren do not then start jumping up and down yelling "Goodness how holy he was! Santo subito!" No; S Columba 'canonises' Colman formally by prescibing a Eucharistic celebration on a day on hich this would not normally have happened; summoning his monks to church wearing the white garments they normally wore on major feasts, and then instructing the cantores to name Colman; and that Naming constituted his canonisation.

3 comments:

Independent said...

What is the precise status of "St" William of Norwich and "Little St" Hugh of Lincoln? They seem never to have had any formal recognition, yet there are still stained glass windows including the former ,and the latter's tomb was destroyed by Thomas Cromwell's Commissioners. Up to that time the latter devotion had supported a thriving business. Both however bore testimony to the blood libel spread throughout Christendom that Jews required the blood of Christian children to make matzos. Perhaps some erudite medievalist might care to comment?

rev'd up said...

Take a look at Ariel Toaff's book "Blood Passover." Toaff, a Jew, unapologetically declares "blood libel" to be an historical fact. He has been mercilessly persecuted.

S Simon of Trent is another "once a saint." Toaff corroborates the evidence that ritual sacrifices took place. In more recent times the case of Andrei Yustschinsky in which Fr Pranaitis was witness for the prosecution of Mendel Belis. Others may include Jack the Ripper, the Marc Dutroux gang, the old Jersey Island Orphanage, the West Memphis Three, the Sautou Castle, Leopold & Loeb, Grimes sister & Schuesslers brother murders (1955 Chicago). One odd confession was captured on the Oprah Winfrey show (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=97c_1225362764). What about contemporary accusations of nefarious Israeli organ procurements? Libel? Slander?

Independent said...

I asked for the comments of an erudite medievalist, what I got was the usual antisemitic diatribe. As the present Pope has said "to be antisemitic is to be anti-Christian." "Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbour".