Page images
PDF
EPUB

a favorite subject of the sacred Muse of Syria, and one that frequently recurs under varied forms. The wedding-feast, as they describe it, is a thing of wonder, and so they call it. “The Heavenly spouse made a wonderful wedding-feast for His holy, believing Church, whom He espoused in his crucifixion. He prepared and brought to her feast glorious and holy Bridesmen.? Therein he seated the Twelve, and with them the seventy-two (disciples) as readers (Koruyin); and there was King David bearing his harp and singing."3 Elsewhere it is added that "each glorious guest bore a nuptial gift (rumiuno) for the Royal Bride. The prophets offered their sufferings, the Apostles their buffetings, the martyrs their slaying and the blood of their neck.' The word Rumiuno (or Rumiono) is very appropriately rendered by Edmond Castell in his Lexicon “Strena nuptialis.” It is a secondary or diminutive form of rumo, and is evidently from Armi, to throw, throw in, contribute." It is a favorite word in the Syrian office, and from the blood of the martyrs, poured out in honor of Christ's Spouse, is extended to any other offering laid before His throne in her name, the sweet incense of prayer, the merits of a well spent life, etc.

Like Hhlulo (the wedding-feast), the word Hhduge (friends of the Bridegroom) also has a meaning that is often enlarged by metaphor, and ranges from the paranymph, not only to the guests at the wedding-supper, but to all who shall be found worthy of a seat at the Heavenly Banquet. Thus, one hymne gives the name to all the dead who rose with Our Lord from His earthly sepulchre; and St. James of Sarug applies it to all priests who have died after their ministry and are awaiting the eternal reward.' But, as a general rule, when the nuptials of the Church are mentioned, the word Hhduge is used for the twelve Apostles. Sometimes it has for synonym Mocuro, “desponsator," and Shushbino, “sodalis,

1 Hhlulo d'tehro. This word seems to have been specially reserved for the sacred marriage feast, while meshtuto, shoruto, etc., though of the same meaning, are used in a profane or worldly sense.

2 Hhduge, paranymphs, or next friends of the Bridegroom or Bride.
3 Off. Mar., p. 14, in Complin of Sunday.
4 Ibid., p. 411, in Lauds of Saturday.

6 See Off. Mar., pp. 305, 397, 250, 22, 41, 93, 227, 118, 152; and Off. Syr., pp. 48, 306.

6 Hymn on the Resurrection, quoted by Payne Smith in Thesaurus Ling. Syr., sub voce Hhdugo.

7 The dwelling of hell has trampled on the glory of the priesthood, and has gathered into her mansions the splendor of the Deacons. Their harps are unstrung, their sweet voices of song are mute, and they lie in the mire of hell.” Hell, shiul, means here simply the bosom of Abraham, or purgatory, where souls are purged and fitted for Heaven, Off. Syr., p. 424, in Tierce of Saturday.

[ocr errors]

conciliator nuptiarum.' These terms are sometimes, and with good reason,' applied par excellence to St. John the Baptist. Though disclaiming all other titles of praise, he called himself by that special name, the “friend of the Bridegroom," and the Church has cheerfully caught up the designation, which even his humility could not refuse. St. Ephrem calls him the “Paranymph” (Mocuro) of Christ and the Church, for he led to Christ as Bridegroom the first-fruits of his preaching, the infant Church. The Syriac Office gives him the same appellation :

Who can name for me the two vines,
Planted in His vineyard by Our Lord ?
The wine from whose bunches of grapes
Has filled with delight all creation,
The vines are Mary and Elizabeth;
Their bunches are Christ and John,
The Bridegroom and His friend,

The Brideman of Holy Church.4 The medieval Latin Church and her poets, who were more conversant with every line and syllable of Holy Writ than any modern professional Scripture reader, Protestant or Catholic, can ever hope to be, though they knew nothing of Syriac and very little of Greek interpretation, concurred in giving him the same title. The grand poet, Adam of St. Victor, who till a few years ago was as unknown to Christian readers as is yet St. James of Sarug, makes,

1 Shushbino is also used in the Syriac Church for the sponsors in Baptism. See that most rare book, “Severi Patr. Alexandr. De Ritib. Baptismi, Antuerpii (Plantini), 1572, p. 59. Its Chaldæo-Rabbinical cognate word Shoshbena is used in the same sense by past-canonical Jews, of Moses, who brought about the union of Israel with her spouse, Jehova, under the Old Covenant. "God was the King, and His betrothed was the people of Israel. The Shoshbin (or Paranymph) was Moses.” SHAMOT RABBA apud Buxtorf. in Lexicon Chald. Talmud. Rabbinicum. Denuo edidit, etc., Bernardus Fischerus. Lipsiæ, 1869, p. 1258.

2 St. John's Gospel, iii. 29. “ He that hath the Bride is the Bridegroom, but the friend of the Bridegroom, who standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth with joy because of the Bridegroom's voice. This, my joy, therefore, is fulfilled.”

3 S. P. M. Ephræmi Opera Omnia, ed. Petri Benedicti (the Maronite Jesuit Ambarachi), S. I. Romæ, 1740, tom. II., p. 492.

• Heptameter anthem from the Syriac Office of Antioch, p. 413, in the Lauds of Saturday. The author is not mentioned, but the metre is that of St. Ephrem.

5 It is a shame that the works of St. James of Sarug, in poetry and prose, have thus far not been collected and published. They would be a valuable addition to Syriac and Catholic literature. The Vatican Library and the British Museum superabound in material for such a collection. We do not expect such a work from those lazy, elegant, Catholic scholars who, sitting under the shadow of the Vatican and its trea. sures, can only find time to regale the European public with learned dissertations on the wor-hip of Isis and Mithras, or on the shoes, sandals, myrrhine vases and scenic spectacles of the old Romans. But we do expect it from a Catholic land whose schol. arship, like its temperature, is fresher, higher, less Pagan, Louvain has already given us the vindication of the orthodoxy of James of Sarug. And it is to the Lamys, Abbe. looses and others of that University that we must look for the completion of the good work,

it is true, the same application, as does the Syriac and Greek Church, of paranymphi to the Twelve.

Paranymphi novæ Legis
Ad amplexum novi Regis
Sponsam ducunt regiam.

But this is because the hymn he writes is in praise of the Twelve Apostles, and we feel sure that when he wrote in honor of the Baptist he cannot have forgotten what the Saint said of himself. One of his contemporaries calls St. John Sponsi sponsum, meaning thereby Sponsi pronubum or paranymphum; and another begins a Sapphic hymn for the feast of his Decollation (29th of August) with the words:

Præco præclarus, sacer et propheta,
Regis æterni paranymphus almi.3

Enough has been said to show what the Syrian Church, as represented by her Liturgy, thinks of the Church Catholic and of the Rock on which, built by her Divine Architect, she bids defiance to all assaults of fallen angels and evil men. But we would call attention to another feature of her prayers, which proves how thoroughly she is imbued with the Catholic spirit, and how no apparent exuberance of poetic feeling ever makes her lose sight of sound theological principle. She believes firmly that the Church built on St. Peter can never teach error, never fade away or perish, because this is vouched for by God Himself, whose word cannot be made void by any effort of Hell or earth. But she thinks herself bound none the less eagerly and ardently to pray and urge with assiduous supplication that He forget not His word, but keep it and make good His promise. Hear how she prays once every week in the Lauds of Thursday. After commemorating the blessings of the Incarnation and Redemption, she continues :

Thou didst raise up on earth a Holy Church,
Patterned after the One above in the Kingdom;
Thou didst plant her in mercy and perfect her in love,
The typical Bride, made Thine in Thy Passion.

Lo! the Hater of men now troubleth her
Through his servants so wicked and bold:
O Lord ! neglect not Thy Holy Church,
Nor let Thy promise prove deceitful !

1

Apud Trench, Latin Sacred Poetry. London, 1874, p. 205. We have not been able to consult Gautier's collection of Adam's Works.

? Postills, Sequences and Hymns collected and explained by the Abbot Guillermus, printed at Cologne (in Sancta Colonia) by Henry Quentel, 1500, fol. lxxxiv. of the Sequences.

3 Ibid., fol. lxxiii, of the Hymns.

Let not her fair beauty be blackened,
Nor her great riches become poverty;
Make good Thy promise once given to Peter,
And seal by deed what Thou didst say by word !
Strengthen her gates and make solid her bulwarks!
Lift up her horn and raise up her head !
Bless her children, etc.

Assemani ? seems to intimate that this hymn was actually composed by a Nestorian bishop, George of Nisibis, surnamed Hymnographus or the Hymn-writer. He may have been a heretic, but when the traditional idea of Peter and his unconquerable Church became uppermost in his mind, the power of truth was too much for consistency. By adopting the hymn the Syrian Church has made it her own, and it is unquestionably Catholic. By praying in this way the Church and her childreu betray no doubt or fear that God is unwilling or unable to carry out His promises. It is only the language of love reminding Him of what He has said, and urging Him, with pious, affectionate importunity, to hasten its fulfilment. It is the language of the Old Testament, ever in the heart and on the lips of those who were chosen to deliver the oracles of God in song or prophecy.

And this reminds us of something which may be opportunely mentioned here. Many of us (very many, indeed, among those on whom years have grown) may remember how we were accustomed to lisp in earliest years the beautiful words of Archbishop Carroll's prayer that was recited all over the country before the celebration of the Divine Mysteries on Sunday and holyday throughout the year. The prayer came to be gradually disused in the North and West; but in the Southern States it was faithfully retained, and was looked on as an indispensable part of the Sunday function, almost like the priest's sacred vesture or sermon for the day. How this magnificent prayer of the great American patriarch came to be disregarded and dropped is a mystery. We have heard an explanation, and from a Kentucky prelate, that is almost as much of a puzzle as that which it sought to explain.

It is this: In one of the first paragraphs of the prayer God is besought to preserve the works of His mercy, and these words are added: “That Thy Church being spread through the whole world may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy name.” This, though a very sound form of words, seems to have given offence to some who had more piety than judgment. They thought that it was quietly sapping the foundations of the Church and her indefectibility, to hint that God should be called on to keep unchanged her faith and teaching of revealed doctrine. Does God make promises, they exclaimed with pious horror, that He does not intend to keep, unless forced to it by constant supplication? Is it possible for Him to forsake His chosen spouse and cast her away like those wantons who usurp her name? But though the Church herself—they added with grave shaking of the theological head-cannot change her faith, her children individually may. Hence, of their charity, they amended his incautious language by changing the words as follows:

1 Off. Mar., p. 299.

2 Bibl. Orient., vol. iii. sub Georgius Hymnographus, 1 Missale Romanum, Mechliniæ, 1874, p. 162.

“that, Thy Church being spread through the world, its members may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy name." And thus, wise in their own pious conceit, they thought they had sufficiently provided for the prelate's credit and for Catholic orthodoxy. The prayer, so amended, must yet be found in many editions. It certainly was so recited from many an altar. Others, whose orthodoxy was too stern to admit any claims of charity, it is said, gave up the use of the prayer. It is neither good nor safe to try to be wiser than the Church. The proud priest who attempts it is apt sooner or later to make shipwreck of his faith; others, who are simple-minded and mean no wrong, may yet do harm. They will certainly be led into acts of folly, which will make wiser men smile or weep. Those we speak of meant no harm by their mistake, but it does not say much for the state of theology and Liturgical science amongst us at the time. Archbishop Carroll was a thorough theologian, standing head and shoulders above his critics; and his prayer is culled from what is best and noblest in the Liturgy of the Church. Little did these good men imagine that in censuring him they were calling to account the great Leos, Gelasiuses, Gregories, and a hundred other Pontiffs of the Roman Church! The prayer objected to is a literal translation of a collect of the Roman Missal, which has been recited in the Church for centuries, and is yet recited throughout the whole world. It is the second Prayer after the Passion of Good Friday. Here is the Latin original :

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriam Tuam omnibus in Christo gentibus revelasti: custodi opera misericordiæ Tuæ; ut Ecclesia Tua toto orbe diffusa, stabili fide in consessione Tui nominis perseveret. Per eundem Dominum, etc., Amen.'

The Church is God's truth made audible to man, whether she teach by lesson or by prayer. She is not ashamed of what she utters; nor does she speak in a corner, nor with dark or doubtful phrase. She is what the Syriac Muse loves to call her, the Palace of Light and the Daughter of Day.?

? Biral nuhro and Ba(r)t imomo. St. James of Sarug in Hymn on St. Peter, yet unpublished, in the Vatican MSS. Apud Benni, op. cit., pp. 21, 24.

« PreviousContinue »