Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bidding Prayers from Medieval Regensburg: Guest Article from Canticum Salomonis

Our thanks once again to the authors of Canticum Salomonis, this time for their kind permission to reprint this very interesting article on a medieval form of the bidding prayers said at Mass.

When adoption of the Roman rite north of the Alps during the Carolingian period displaced the general intercessions that had been an ancient feature of the Gallican rite, it seems that various attempts were made to remedy their absence. In places such as Milan, the people sang a vestigial Kyrie eleison before or even during the Creed.
By the 12th century, in Germany, the void had been filled by Leis or Credo-songs, often elaborate vernacular hymns with a refrain Kyrie eleison, sung during the Credo.

In France, however, a new ritual, called the prône (Latin pronaüm), developed out of a combination of the sermon and several additional elements that appeared in no particular order: an instruction on Christian doctrine, often on the Our Father and Creed as per Charlemagne’s orders, pious prayers and examinations of conscience, memorials of the dead, bidding prayers, announcements, and, by the 17th century, the vernacular repetition of the Epistle and Gospel. Templates for the prône appear in many ritual books and homilaries beginning in the Middle Ages, and collections of these intercessory prayers are some of the oldest monuments in the German language. In England too the bidding prayers were said in the vernacular on Sundays and feasts. These prayers concluded with song.
A whole architecture developed to house this miniature recapitulation of the Liturgy of the Catechumens. During the Middle Ages the prône was delivered from the rood loft (jubé in French), where the readings of the Epistle and Gospel also took place. In the Baroque era, when many rood screens were destroyed, elaborate preacher’s pulpits were erected with a bank of chairs facing it on the opposite side of the nave to seat the ministers. This “compromise” that the prône represented—a vernacular para-liturgy within the Latin whole—proved fruitful and long-lived. Because of its evocation of the most primitive early Christian arrangement of readings around a central choir, Louis Bouyer calls this era the golden age of Latin liturgy.
A view of the rood loft (jubé) of the church of Ste Madeleine in Troyes
Honorius Augustodunensis, writing in the 12th century, most likely in Regensburg, includes an early example of a prône in his sermon collection Speculum Ecclesiae, in the middle of the Christmas sermons. He says it is to be used “on the highest feasts.” Though written in Latin as a preaching guide for clerics, its text would have been delivered in the vernacular by the preacher who used it. It is a remarkable hybrid of several elements:
I. A catechesis on the Our Father and Creed
II. An examination of conscience followed by a general absolution
III. Bidding prayers
IV. A concluding exhortation and Kyrie eleison
The catechesis takes the form of a guided lesson. First the audience is asked to recite the Our Father, word by word, perhaps in order to memorize it; indeed he calls the Our Father “your prayer.” A line-by-line allegorical and numerological exposition of the prayer follows. His word choice may indicate a call-and-response technique, wherein the preacher invites the crowd to shout out (clamatis, dicitis, uociferamini) each successive line of the prayer before explaining it. His ladder analogy is at once homely and yet almost bold in its invitation to the laity to practice Christian perfection and contemplation. The seven petitions of the Our Father lead him into a discussion of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, also based on the metaphor of the ladder.
This is followed by a paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed. Although not a line-by-line exegesis like that of the Our Father, he does insist that the people should know it by heart, and use it to combat demons and temptations.
The examination of conscience is quite thorough. (More than one sensitive copyist tried to scratch out one article referring to the sin of bestiality!) His advice to seek out confession and penance suggests the coëxistence, in the early 12th century, of both public and private modes of penance, with grave public sins requiring a public 40-day penance and absolution. He seems to assume frequent confession, and communion more than once a year.
Having taught the faith and absolved their sins, the preacher leads the people in a set of bidding prayers that closely resemble the penitential preces of the Divine Office, the Great Intercessions of Good Friday, and Greek litanies. The response “Amen” is indicated; whether it was to be said by the preacher or people is unclear.
The prône ends with the celebrant stirring up the crowd to raise the joyful cry Eia, and join their voices in a loud refrain of Kyrieleison.
The instruction gives the laity a wealth of material to meditate and pray on during the silent canon. 
Honorius thus gives us a glimpse into the lively interior of a high Romanesque church. Inside we see a clergy who zealously and skillfully impart the doctrine of perfection, and a receptive and enthusiastic people who delight in allegory and loud, even rowdy acclamations of faith.
The prône continued to be said in French and German churches well into the 19th century, conserving the same general structure as found in Honorius’ example.
The text has been established based on the following MSS, and subdivided by the editors with Roman numerals.
Read the English translation below, or download a PDF with the Latin and English texts.
I. On the Faith
A. On the Pater noster I
Say each word of the Pater noster with them from beginning to end. Then add:
Dearly beloved, God himself composed this prayer, and taught us to climb it like a ladder up to the joys of heaven. The sides of this ladder are the contemplative and active lives, into which the supreme Wisdom inserted seven rungs of petitions.
On the first rung you stand and cry out to heaven: Pater noster. Take heed, brethren, of what you say. You call God your Father. God did not wish that we call him Lord but Father, that you might consider that you are all brethren in him, and so love each other as brethren, and as a reward for this love, become heirs of his kingdom. If God is your Father, then you are brethren in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. And if, like sons, you do deeds that please your Father, you shall doubtlessly receive your inheritance from God along with Jesus.
Then you say: qui es in celis. Although God is everywhere, nevertheless he dwells more intimately in the saints, who are called “heaven,” since his grace enlightens them more brightly. These words admonish you to pray that you yourselves might become heavens, wherein God may be pleased to dwell.
Thereafter you say: Sanctificetur nomen tuum. God’s name was always hallowed. You ask that the name “our Father” be so hallowed in yourselves that through your good works you might be worthy to be called his sons. For you are called Christians after Christ, and you beg that you might become one body in Christ, so that you might secure hallowdom with him in his kingdom.
Whence, standing on the second rung, you say: Adueniat regnum tuum. That is, may God be pleased to reign in you through grace, and make you worthy of his kingdom.
Then you brace your foot on the third rung and say: Fiat uoluntas tua sicut in celo et in terra. That is, just as he is well pleased in heaven in the angels who never sinned, thus may he also be pleased on earth, and make us equal to the angels as he promised. “Heaven” is also understood to mean the just, and “earth” sinners. You therefore ask God that, just as he is well-disposed toward the just, thus may be pleased in you after turning you away from evil to justice. These three steps pertain to God; the following four pertain to the world. In these three steps you ask for heavenly things; in the four for temporal things.
Hence you climb to the fourth rung and cry out: Panem nostrum cottidianum da nobis hodie. Daily bread is human victual. Hence you ask God that, avoiding sin, you might daily obtain from him that temporal substance without which fragile humanity cannot survive. “Bread” also means Christ’s body. And so you pray that you might be ever worthy of his body, and that you might worthily receive it, if not by your own mouth, at least by the mouth of priests. “Bread” also refers to spiritual doctrine, without which the soul can no more live than a body without bodily nourishment. Therefore you ask God to dole it to you daily, lest human fragility perish by hunger for the divine word on its way to the fatherland.
Laying hold of the fifth rung you say: Dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. If you forgive those who sin against you, God shall forgive what you sin against him. If you do not pardon, neither shall God pardon you, and you curse yourselves with these words, since you ask God not to pardon you. But if you keep silent, you fail to say the Lord’s prayer, and so the Lord shall not hearken to you.
Poised on the sixth rung you exclaim: Et ne nos inducas in temptationem. God tempts no one, since he sees into the hearts of all. Each man is tempted by the devil, but no one is tempted save with God’s permission. And it is good for man to be tempted, if he be not overcome by consenting to sin. For when he vanquishes concupiscence, he shall receive the crown of life. And so you ask God never to permit you to be tempted by the devil such that you are overcome by sin through consent and delectation, and if you should consent, that you might soon regain your wits.
On the seventh rung you cry out: Sed libera nos a malo, that is from hell and all things that lead us to its devouring maw.
Best beloved, by this prayer, the world is reconciled to God, and our body is joined to our soul. For the prayer has seven petitions, divided into three and four parts. Three signifies the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and four the world, constituted of four elements, namely earth, water, air, and fire. Three refers to the soul, four to the body. The soul is irascibile, because it is outraged by evil. It is concupiscible, because it takes delight in good things. It is rational, because it discerns good from evil. And the body is composed of the four elements just mentioned. Man, therefore, who is a “little world,” is joined to God through this prayer.
On the Pater noster II
You must note, dearly beloved, that you begin this prayer from the summit of heaven, that is from God the Father, when you say Pater noster, and descend unto the depths of hell, when you conclude it saying libera nos a malo. The Son of God teaches us to begin this prayer from the Father because he descended from the highest heaven, [1] that is from the Father, to the world for our sake. Because, forsooth, we lay engulfed in the depths of sin, we must ascend this ladder in this order up to heaven.
Pater noster, libera nos a malo, that is, from this place wherein we lie in the depths of hell. Ne nos inducas in temptationem, that is, do not allow us to commit a sin whereby we would rightly fall into hell. Dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris, that is, disentangle us from that which leads to torment. Panem nostrum cottidianum da nobis hodie, that is, feed us with thy doctrine whereby we might know and be able to do good and avoid evil. These four petitions pertain to the active life; the three that follow to the contemplative life. The active life is loving your neighbours and serving Christ by giving alms to the poor and the wretched. You must pass thence to the contemplative life. The contemplative life is to trample on worldly matters for the love of God, to pray sedulously, often to take part in the divine services, and to gladly hearken to all godly things. Once in the contemplative life, you must seek the third heaven with Paul. [2] The first heaven means the Holy Ghost, the second the Son, and the third the Father. The three following verses refer to these things.
Fiat uoluntas tua sicut in celo et in terra. That is, grant us to do thy will in the Holy Ghost, that you might make us like unto the angels in heaven. Adueniat regnum tuum. That is, make us fulfill what thy Son taught us, that we might be worthy to rejoice in thy Son’s kingdom. Coming then to the summit of the highest heaven, we cry out with a loud voice: Pater noster qui es celis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. That is, thou who madest the heavens through thy Son in the Holy Ghost, make us thy sons in faith and works, that thou mayest dwell in us and we might reign in thee.
On the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost
The Prophet foresaw this ladder in the form of the Holy Ghost, dearly beloved, foretelling that through it Christ would come down to earth and we go up to heaven. The spirit of wisdom, quoth he, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness and the spirit of the fear of the Lord shall rest over him. [3] Behold, the Prophet began with wisdom, since he saw that Christ would come down to us from the highest heaven. He ended with fear, for he foreknew that through fear we would go from hell up to heaven. We therefore stand on the rung of fear, when we avoid sin for fear of hell. We pause on the rung of godliness, when we grow used to doing good. We set our foot on the rung of knowledge, when we pay God and man their dues. We plant our step on the rung of fortitude, when we do not deviate from the truth either in ease or hardships. We go up to the rung of counsel, if we strive to counsel others to do the good which we ourselves do not fear to do. We lay hold of the rung of understanding, if we turn our minds to seek heavenly and spiritual things. We finally ascend to the rung of wisdom, if, spurning worldly matters, we savour only the heavenly which are of God. [4] The sides of these latter are the two precepts of charity. No one can reach heaven unless he chooses to climb this ladder.
B. On the Creed
You have just said your prayer, dearly beloved: now your faith too you must say after me. A fish cannot live out of the water; and likewise no one can be saved without faith.
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth and every creature. And I believe in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and I believe in the Holy Ghost. I believe that these three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—are one true deity, which had no beginning and shall always be without end. I believe that the same Son of God was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin. I believe that for our need he was seized, bound, mocked, scourged, crucified, and so died in his humanity, but not in his divinity. I believe that he was buried. I believe that his rational soul and the power of his divinity went down to hell and thence took up those who had done his will.
I believe that he rose again from the dead on the third day, and after his resurrection ate and drank with his disciples to prove he had truly risen, and then on the fortieth day he went up to heaven as his disciples watched, and sits there now at the right hand of God the Father almighty, eternal and all-powerful as him. I believe that he shall come again to judge the living and the dead, each according to his works and according to his mercy. I believe in the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I believe in the communion of saints, I believe in the forgiveness of all sins for which I have done penance, confessed, and did not again repeat. I believe that with this same body wherein I appear today I must die, I must rise again, I must render to God an account of everything I have ever done, whether good or evil, and I shall then receive my dues according to how I shall be found in my last, and I believe in life everlasting. Amen.
Dearly beloved, by this faith shall we be saved. You must all know it, repeat it often, and teach it to the infants whom you raised from the baptismal fonts. This is your ensign of battle. When you wage war on the devil and the vices, they shall be struck with fear and flee from you in terror when they hear this sign. When you reach the top of the ladder of which we have spoken before and cry out this sign in heaven, it shall be recognized and forthwith shall the entry to heaven be opened to you to join your companions the angels and the saints.
II. General Confession and Absolution Brethren
I believe that you frequently confess to your priests, as is your duty. But since there are many sins which perhaps you do not recall, you must now say your confession after me, that you might receive absolution for them. Now say thus:
I renounce the devil and all his works, and all his pomps, and I confess to God almighty, and to Blessed Mary, and Saint Michael, and all God’s angels, and Saint John the Baptist, and all God’s prophets, and Saint Peter, and all God’s apostles, and Saint Stephen, and all God’s martyrs, and Saint Martin, and all God’s confessors, and Saint Margaret, and all God’s virgins, and to (saints so-and-so) and all saints, and to you, priest, and all my fellow Christians who see and hear me today, all my sins which I have ever committed from the moment I was first able to sin until this moment, in whatever way I have done them, knowingly or unknowingly, freely or under duress, sleeping or waking, alone or with another, which I can now recall or cannot remember.
I confess to God that I never fulfilled the promise that was made for me in baptism as I rightly should and well could have. As soon as I reached the age when I could sin, I turned from God and his commandments, and denied God through evil deeds, and willingly bound myself anew to the devil’s ownership, which I had previously renounced, through all manner of filth, and hitherto I have served him with complete dedication.
I did not go to God’s holy houses as sedulously as I should, and when I did go, I did not do so with the discipline and intention as I rightly should have. Whatever I heard there from God, I either mocked or did not believe, or scorned to do. I did not set aside work or honour Sundays and other holy days as I rightly should have. I did not fast or honour holy Lent, the Ember days, and the other fasting days, and those days enjoined upon me by the priest for my sins as I rightly should have. I did not receive the Lord’s Body as frequently as I should have, and when I did receive it, I did not do so as worthily as I rightly should have. My father, my mother, and my master I did not love, or honour, or serve I should have. I did not love all my fellow Christians, or keep my troth as I rightly should have. I was not obedient to my bishop, my priest, and other doctors of God when they taught me what is right as I rightly should have been. Holy nights, nights of fasts, and other illicit times I did not observe with my wife as I rightly should have.
Every vow I have ever made to God I have entirely neglected. I have hated everything good and those who did or spoke good. I have done and loved everything that is evil, and consented with and loved all evil-doers. I have sinned by committing and recommending murder. I have sinned much in fornications, adulteries, incests, bestiality, and I have besmirched my body and my wretched soul with every pollution and filthiness with which man can besmirch himself and with all who chose to consent with me. I have sinned in perjuries, thefts, plunders, lies, false testimonies, detractions, contentions, revels, drunkenness, sorceries, deceits, and all sins which man can sin. I have sinned more than any man in words, deeds, thoughts, and will.
I confess this to God and (to so-and-so) and all the saints, and I beg God’s clemency that he might give me time and respite for me to make amends and obtain his grace. And I beg Blessed Mary and all God’s saints that they might vouchsafe to intercede for and help me with God’s mercy, so that he might give me pardon for all my sins, and henceforth preserve me from sin, and lead me into their company after this life. And I would promise God that I shall henceforth avoid sin so far as I am able in my weakness, and as far as he may vouchsafe to strengthen me by his mercy. I would today forgive all who have sinned against me, that God himself might also forgive my countless sins.
My dearly beloved, in accordance with this confession and promise you have made, I wish to say these words, and ask God to make them effectual:
May the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost grant you pardon and absolution from all your sins by the intercession of all his saints, and keep you henceforth from sin and all evil, and lead you after this life into the company of all his saints. Amen.
Brethren, this absolution is only valid for those sins you have confessed to priests or committed in ignorance. For those who have committed grave sins for which a Lenten penance [5] is imposed, such as homicide and adultery, and not done penance after, this confession is not valid. So I urge you, if you have committed public sins, to do public penance; and if private sins, confess to your priests before receiving the Lord’s Body, [6] because anyone who receives it unworthily, shall be guilty of our Lord’s death with Judas. And if we give his body to such a man, we would be like one who gives a sword to a madman that he might thrust it through his own heart.
III. Intercessions
Dearly beloved, God has willed you to gather here today for the divine service; and so you must not stand here idle. Pray rather for yourselves and the entire holy Church, [7] that almighty God deign to give her peace, unite her, govern her, and guard her from every evil, and that when Christ her Bridegroom, who has handfasted her by his blood, shall come with the whole host of heaven to lead his Bride the Church from this Babylonian captivity into his Father’s city, all of you may accompany her into the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.
For the Pope
Then you must pour out prayers for the Apostolic Lord, who is the head of the Church and from whom must issue all the Church’s judgements, that God almighty might ensure he worthily presides over the Church’s doctrine, manners, and life, and that he might attain everlasting joy with her in the last. Amen.
For the Bishop and Clerics
Thereafter you must beseech God for our bishop, and for all priests, and for all who are in holy orders, who must be the mirror of the Church, that God almighty might send his Spirit into them to inspire them to fulfill in works what they preach in words and might attain eternal life with them on the last day. Amen.
For the King
After this it behoves you to pray for our king, whom God willed to hold his place on earth, that gracious God might lend him his help so to rule and defend the Church that, after this temporal kingdom, he might receive the eternal crown of the Kingdom from the King of heaven. Amen.
For Judges
Then it is meet that you should pray for all dukes and counts and all the Church’s judges, that, since it is written that he who does not have mercy shall be judged without mercy, almighty God might dispose them to deal mercifully with their subjects, such that they might be worthy to obtain mercy from God the judge of mercy.
For Religious
Then it is appropriate that you beg God’s clemency for all who have renounced the world, for monks, for nuns, for anchorites, for hermits, and for all who have made a vow to God, that our loving God might grant them so to fulfill their purpose that they might be worthy to obtain the reward promised them after this life. Amen.
For Travelers
Then you must beseech God for travelers, or for those who are on their way to Jerusalem or Rome or Saint James in Compostella or other holy places, that God might receive their vows and return them safely and peacefully to their friends.
For Sailors
Thereafter it behoves you to entreat God’s mercy for those who sail for the Church’s needs, that God might protect them from every storm and grant them a prosperous journey and return them safely to their relatives and friends.
For the Infirm
Then you must pray for the infirm, who cannot come to church today, that God may restore their health and strength and, once they have made satisfaction for their sins in this life, welcome them into the eternal. Amen.
For Those in Tribulation
Next I urge you to beg God for those who are on pilgrimage, for captives, those in chains, prisoners, or anyone hard pressed, that our merciful God might assist each in his need and in his mercy deliver them from evils and grant them all good things.
For All Christians
Then you must pray fervently for the whole Christian people, that God may guard them from every evil and all the enemies of soul and body, and lead them to everlasting peace. Amen.
For the Dead
Now, dearly beloved, it behoves you to pray for those most in need of your prayers, namely for the dead, who can do no good or evil now, for like someone on fire rejoices if water is poured on him, so they shall rejoice when you pray or give alms for them.
Let each of you pray first for his father, for his mother, for his spouse, for his sons, for his brothers, for his sisters, for his relatives, for his friends, and then for all who bequeathed their inheritance to you, or did you some good, or commended themselves to your prayers, and for all whose bodies rest here, and for all the faithful departed, that almighty God, who willed his Son to die for them, might vouchsafe to absolve them from all punishments and pains today by your prayers and place them in the eternal delight of paradise. Amen.
Brethren, scripture sayeth: He who asks on another’s behalf saves himself. I ask you therefore to pray for my wretched person, who need your prayers more than all other men, that the Merciful might deign to receive the Church’s sacrifice from my hands today, and to make me an acceptable sacrifice for himself, and that I might make satisfaction for all my sins in this life, and after death rejoice with you in the glory above. Amen.
IV. Concluding Exhortation
Now, dearly beloved, lift up your hearts and hands toward God, that he may mercifully vouchsafe to answer all these prayers, so that later, in the company of the angels you may celebrate this feast forever in that land of glory that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.[8] Eia! Now shout your prayers up to heaven, and sing God’s praise: Kyrie eleison!

[1] Cf. Psalm 18:7
[2] 2 Corinthians 12
[3] Isaias 11:2.
[4] cf. Colossians 3:2
[5] The carena or carrina (from quadragesima, Lent), was a public penance assigned for grave sins.
[6] Honorius’s instruction seems to imply the coexistence of both public and private forms of penance, for different types of sins.
[7] Oremus, dilectissimi nobis, pro Ecclesia sancta Dei: ut eam Deus et Dominus noster pacificare, adunare et custodire dignetur toto orbe terrarum
[8] 1 Corinthians 2:9

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