10 October 2009

SI QUID EST

My hand-copy of the old Missal is a beautiful thing bound in red leatherwith real gold leaf on the page edges, Mechliniae e Typographia Hanicquiana MDCCCXL. Sometimes it falls naturally open at the Decree of Urban VIII - a great Latin Stylist although, as I keep telling you, he should have kept his Horatian hands off the Office Hymns. Here is a rendering of the beginning; I share it as a lovely example of rhetoric which came naturally in 1634 and which we totally forget at our peril.

If there is anything in the affairs of men plainly divine, which the citizens of Heaven (if they were to experience envy) could envy us possessing, it is certainly the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by the gift of which it happens that men by a cetain anticipation possess Heaven upon Earth, when they have before their eyes and grasp with their hands the Maker Himself of Heaven and Earth. For which reason mortals should strive all the more to give this great privilege the worship and honour which it deserves, and should beware of the Angels, haters of negligence, who compete with us in reverence.

A little later he refers to the Breviary and the Missal as the wings which the priest, like the Cherubim of the ancient mystic Tabernacle, daily stretches out towards the true Mercy-Seat of the world.

BTW, S Therese 0f Lisieux uses the same trope (referring to the sufferings of her now-beatified father which were to his family a spiritual opportunity "qui doit causer une sainte jaloisie aux Anges de la Celeste cour"). I expect learned readers can supply further examples.

1 comment:

johnf said...

Urban VIII, Maffeo Barberini is somewhat of a bogeyman to protestant historians and present day liberals, tabletistas et al.

He was the Pope who got Galileo hauled before the inquisition and got him to abjure.

However, Willy Ley the great science populist points out in his excellent book 'Watchers of the Skies' that Galileo, while a brilliant scientist was a prickly character with an ego the size of planet who managed to antagonise both friends and enemies including his erstwhile supporter Barberini himself - not a good idea in the turbulent politics of that time.