Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Lost Work of Amalarius of Metz: A Title of the Henry Bradshaw Society

The Henry Bradshaw Society (HBS) has been providing extraordinarily useful and interesting scholarly liturgical studies and critical editions since the 19th century and, as was reported here some time ago, we can be thankful that they have partnered with Boydell and Brewer and are looking to reprint all of the out of print works of that society.

A few months ago representatives of that publishing house sent me a copy of A Lost Work by Amalarius of Metz and so I wished to say a word or two about it.

The title is a part of the Subsidia series of that imprint -- which, incidentally, is one of the most generally useful series of this imprint, and which will appeal to the widest audience since they amount to histories and commentaries. Titles in that series include such interesting topics as papal ceremonial in the 12th century, Anglo-Saxon liturgy, or, as in the case of this particular work, an older liturgical commentary that gives us some insights into the Latin liturgy and its ceremonial as it stood at a particular time in history. Those interested in liturgical history, development and the like will no doubt find these sorts of references quite invaluable and useful.

Amalarius of Metz lived around the 8th-9th century thereby putting him in potential view of one of the most intriguing times in Western liturgical history; that of the Frankish liturgical projects of Charlemagne. Many believe he was a disciple of the famed liturgist, Alcuin of York and he often wrote upon liturgical subjects, being known for his allegorical interpretation of the sacred liturgy -- which aren't without some controversy of course.

The "Lost Work" which is presented in this book is a portion of a larger work, with these particular texts focusing upon the Divine Office and the Sacred Triduum. The volume includes the Latin text of these as well as an English translation, and also includes a comprehensive introduction which analyzes the contents of the lost work and also gives an introduction to Amalarius himself.

An excerpt may be what best gives a sense of what one might find within the texts in question:

It has been said in the aforesaid ordo: 'On the morning of Holy Saturday, the archdeacon assigned to St. John Lateran comes to the church, and he pours wax into a larger, clean vessel and mixes in oil. Once the wax has been blessed, he pours it out in the forms of lambs and safeguards them in a clean place' and so on. As you know, dearest brother, by the sacramental work of our redeemer two actual things are consecrated today, namely water and wax. But before we go knocking to enquire why water, why wax, we should say, by the Lord's mercy, why those things are blessed on the same day, since almost all our acts of consecration take place on this day of the week, such as the ordination of doorkeepers, lectors and so on, all the way up to the priesthood.

Now it should be mentioned that the "Lost Work" itself comprises only 37 pages of translated text, but within those pages, there is a great deal of interest as I believe this one paragraph alone demonstrates.

For those who are interested in our earlier liturgical history and an insight into some of the customs and ceremonies of the Roman church, this work, while expensive, will no doubt prove to be of interest.

If you are interested in purchasing this text, see here: A Lost Work by Amalarius of Metz

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