Yitzhak Hen

title.none: Larsen-Miller, ed., Medieval Liturgy (Hen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9711.004 97.11.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Yitzhak Hen, University of Haifa,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Larsen-Miller, Lizette, ed. Medieval Liturgy. A Book of Essays. New York: Garland, 1997. $63.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-815-31919-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.11.04

Larsen-Miller, Lizette, ed. Medieval Liturgy. A Book of Essays. New York: Garland, 1997. $63.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-815-31919-3.

Reviewed by:

Yitzhak Hen
University of Haifa

In Medieval Liturgy, Lizette Larson-Miller gathered nine essays on various liturgical topics. The essays, which are different from one another in their length, perspective and, most significantly, quality, are divided into three sections of three papers each, "a numerological scheme which would have delighted the medieval mind convinced of the mystical import of the number three" (p. xiv). The first section is dedicated to the Eucharistic liturgy, while the other two sections comprise papers loosely connected to each other under the meaningless titles "Other Rites" and "Issues in Liturgy."

The first section opens with a paper by Joanne M. Pierce, "The evolution of the ordo missae in the early Middle Ages" (pp. 3-24). In her paper, Pierce attempts to trace the development of the ordines, that is, the documents which describe how the ritual of the Eucharist was structured, by concentrating on their evolution from the ninth to the eleventh century (before the liturgical reforms of Pope Gregory VII). Pierce begins her paper with an introduction on the growth of the ordo missae in the West. However, this introduction is a drastic simplification, not to say a travesty, and her discussion of the early medieval sources for the study of the ordo missae shows a lack of understanding of the nature and problems of these texts. The Old Gelasian Sacramentary, to give just one example, cannot be regarded simply as a representative of the Roman rite (p. 4). Furthermore, some of the most crucial sources for the study of the pre- Carolingian ordo missae, such as Pseudo-Germanus' Expositio antiquae liturgiae gallicanae, are completely ignored. After stressing the fact that the most important development of the ordines missae occurred during the Carolingian and Ottonian periods, Pierce lists eighteen ordines missae (oddly enough, without mentioning their manuscript shelf-marks), which she regards as the most important ones. However, she does not explain why these texts are to be regarded as the most important ones, nor does she explain how they are related to each other. Pierce then turns to describe the evolution of the apologiae, that is, prayers written for individual recitation by the celebrant of a mass, in which he expresses his sense of sinfulness and unworthiness. These prayers had a crucial role in Lynkx's theory on the evolution of the ordo missae, a theory which Pierce recites in the last section of her paper.

Gary Macy's paper "Commentaries on the mass during the early scholastic period" (pp. 25-59) discusses several commentaries on the mass which were written during the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Macy surveys the major commentaries of seven ecclesiastics (John Beleth, Isaac of Etoile, Richardus Praemonstratensis, Robertus Paululus, Stephen of Autun, Sicard of Cremona and Innocent III) and an anonymous commentary (Speculum de mysteriis ecclesiae), which were extremely popular among their contemporaries. These treatises, according to Macy, were composed to "instil in their readers a deeper awareness of the moral demands which the liturgy places on the Christian" (p. 41). "They explain," he argues, "what their authors felt the liturgy ought to be at its very best, not what it too often was" (p. 43), and thus through them one can get a rare glimpse of the idealised eucharistic piety of the age.

In her paper, "Reading the word in a eucharistic context: the shape and methods of early medieval exegesis" (pp. 61-84), Marie Anne Mayeski raises an important and most interesting issue--the formative influence of liturgy on medieval exegesis. According to her, the system of liturgical readings was a major formative element in the formation of biblical exegesis and, consequently, a crucial force behind the evolution of medieval preaching. Mayeski discusses the relations between liturgical readings, biblical interpretations, and pastoral preaching, and she manages to demonstrate very convincingly how "typology, especially as nuanced by liturgical reading of the texts, helps to form the theological basis for understanding the biblical text within the specific context of ones own life and history" (p. 64). There are, however, several crucial instances where further precision about the content of various lectionaries and how they are related to contemporary homilies would have strengthened her case.

The second section of the book, opens with a paper by Jan Michael Joncas, "A skein of sacred sevens: Hugh of Amiens on orders and ordination" (pp. 85-120). After a short introduction on Hugh of Amiens and his writings, the author discusses Hugh's Three Books on the Church and its Ministers, "which not only offers a glimpse of how a reforming prelate structures the roles and functions of the clergy of mid-twelfth century Normandy, but also provides a case-study of how one medieval thinker generated a theology of orders and ordination" (p. 85). Hugh, as Joncas illustrates, associated the seven-fold structure of the clerical orders of his day with other "sacred sevens," and thus gives us an insight into his world and thought.

Michael S. Driscoll's "Penance in transition: popular piety and practice" (121-163) tackles the issue of popular penitential piety in the Carolingian age, by studying three different types of texts (libri paenitentiales, libelli precum and specula). These, according to Driscoll, "are the monuments par excellence of Carolingian popular penitential piety" (p. 122). Indeed, as Driscoll states in his conclusion, the subject of penance and confession was a central one in the Carolingian period. However, I am not at all convinced by his argument that the documents he cites, and especially those written by or attributed to Alcuin, reflect the popular penitential piety of the Carolingian age. Moreover, Driscoll's discussion of the penitentials themselves does less than justice to the burgeoning scholarship on the matter. He relies too much on the discussion and classification of McNeil and Gamer, while ignoring more recent and certainly more important works on the subject, most notably by Raymond Kottje and his students (Ludger Koerntgen, Rob Meens and others).

"Until the council of Trent," writes John K. Leonard in the conclusion to his paper on the rites of marriage in the western Middle Ages (pp. 165-202), "the shape and content of the liturgy of the marriage was as much a reflection of evolving laws and customs of peoples and nations as it was the product of the theological reflection and canonical discipline" (p. 194). I accept this conclusion completely, but I have some strong reservations regarding the discussion which precedes it. At the beginning of the paper Leonard rightly stresses the role played by the Roman practice on the evolution of Christian marriage. However, his discussion of the Christian practice itself and his survey of the manuscript evidence for nuptial blessings in Rome and in the Barbarian kingdoms are inadequate. In most, if not all, cases Leonard follows Ritzer's discussion and analysis (which, as scholars have already pointed out, is insufficient), while ignoring some significant and relevant studies (which does not, of course, indicate that the author had failed to read them), such as P.L. Reynold's crucial book Marriage in the Western Church (Brill: Leiden, New York and Cologne, 1994).

The third section of the book begins with Edward Foley's paper, "The song of the assembly in medieval Eucharist" (pp. 203-234). In it, Foley persuasively surveys the various evidence for the participation of the congregation in singing during the Eucharistic office, and rightly concludes that "Eucharistic worship at the beginning of the medieval period still allowed for the song of the assembly, especially north of the Alps. The Carolingian reform--and maybe the Gallican instincts which lay behind the reform--even seem to have encouraged to join in certain musical moments of the Eucharist" (p. 220).

Susan A. Rabe's paper, "The mind's eye: theological controversy and religious architecture in the reign of Charlemagne" (pp. 235-266), is a short summary of the major issues discussed in her most interesting book Faith, Art and Politics at Saint-Riquier: The Symbolic Vision of Angilbert (University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1995). Rabe's main argument is that Carolingian church architecture was highly influenced by the religious policy and the theological controversies which characterised the Carolingian period. This, of course, is not a new idea, but Rabe presents the argument for Angilbert and the architecture of Saint-Riquier very convincingly indeed.

The last paper in this volume is "Sicut Samuhel unxit David: early Carolingian royal anointing reconsidered" (pp. 267-303) by Paul A. Jacobson. In this paper Jacobson argues that "the fountainhead for Carolingian royal anointing was the practice of Christian initiation as it came to be practised in early medieval Gaul" (p. 271). Yet, his discussion is not at all convincing, not the least because of some idiosyncratic notions which he adopts. For example, both Boniface and Willibald are Anglo-Saxon, not Irish (p. 271); the idea of a deliberate secularization of church property by Charles Martel (p. 272) was convincingly rejected by various recent studies, and subsequently, the argument that "the secularization of monasteries under Charles Martel had interrupted the output of books by scriptoria and workshops, which helps to explain the paucity of extant sources for the Gallican liturgy" (p. 274), if meant literally, does not entirely respond to the state of the art. Furthermore, Vogel's assertion that the seventh and eighth centuries were times of liturgical anarchy in the West (p. 274) cannot be accepted at face value anymore. It might well be that the practice of Christian initiation influenced the development of the Carolingian royal anointing ceremony, but much more is needed in order to convince the reader that it was the "fountainhead" of such a development.

To sum up, Medieval Liturgy contains some interesting and thought-provoking papers, but there are also some thin and weak ones, which need more evidence and discussion in order to make their points convincing.