14 April 2010

'Stages of a Discovery'—Guéranger & Me, Part 2

Continued from this post.

So I took home these precious photocopied pages with no small amount of excitement. I can’t remember now when I first sat down and read them, but I am certain that it was soon upon returning to the city.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I have mentioned this disappointment and quoted extensively from Guéranger’s chapter on St Dionysius in last year’s post on the Areopagite (here). It is indeed a beautiful chapter which, though more eloquent, is similar in structure to my own hagiographical posts here at Logismoi. But there is no argument for the identity of the various Ss Dionysius, only assertion. After a brief introduction about how St Dionysius fits into the Western liturgical year, Guéranger has a long series of quotations from the Corpus Dionysiacum:

De cœlesti hierarchia. i, iv, viii.

De ecclesiastica hierarchia. i.

De cœlest. hier. iii.

De eccl. hier. i.

De cœlesti hier. iii, vii, x.

De eccl. hier. i-vii.

De divinis Nominibus, i-xiii.

De mystica Theologia, i-v.

De divinis Nominibus, i, iv, viii, xiii.

De myst. Theol. i.

Guéranger then interrupts the Saint’s voice to ask:

Could we presume to add anything? As we have already remarked (on the Decollation of St John the Baptist), the Church herself, at this season which prepares the world for the last coming of the Spouse, moderates her voice. Especially ought we to imitate her to-day, when the divinely inspired Areopagite, oppressed with the weight of his own powerlessness, cirest out: ‘Our language is the more redundant in proportion as it is less pertinent to God. . . .’ [1]

He then resumes with De myst. Theol. iii. Immediately after comes the identification of the ‘Dionysii’:

Meanwhile, Rome will tell us how the revealer of the heavenly hierarchies, coming from Athens to the West, watered with his generous blood the seed he sowed in the future capital of France. Enriched with his sacred body, the humble borough now known as Saint-Denys long surpassed in renown its neighbour Lutetia (Paris). France repaid her Apostle’s devotedness by the glory wherewith she surrounded him; it would seem as if, by a chivalrous inspiration, she had undertaken to compensate him for having abandoned his native country for her sake. Immense was the concourse of people to his holy tomb; and still greater was the piety of the kings. The martyr’s banner, the oriflamme, was their standard, Mountjoy St Denys their battle-cry, in every clime whither victory led them. As, in life, they never quitted the kingdom without entrusting it to the protector of France in his Abbey; so at death, they bequeathed to him their mortal remains. In spite of sacrilegious profanations, what a sublime spectacle will the holy necropolis present to the world on the last day, when, before the eyes of Adrian and his prefects, he whom they executed at Montmartre and condemned to infamy, will rise from his tomb escorted by three dynasties of monarchs proud to form, at the resurrection, the court of him whom they deemed it an honour to surround in death. ‘Thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honourable’ (Ps. cxxxviii. 17.)! [2]

Guéranger then gives the Roman Martyrology of St Dionysius in Latin and in translation (rendered in English in this edition), followed by an encomium, of which I have quoted a great part in the post on the Areopagite. There is a paragraph on the indebtedness of Gaul to the Holy Father, and then the following, in which, unfortunately, Guéranger—an outspoken supporter of papal infallibility—beseeches the Saint to subject us Orthodox to the pope:

O Dionysius, quicken again the divine seed thou didst sow. Restore to Paris and to France their traditions, now forgotten in the fever of gain and pleasure. Bring back Athens to the communion of Christ’s Vicar, the indispensable condition of union with our Lord. For every church under heaven obtain such pastors as thou didst describe in the following lines which reveal thyself: . . . [3]

And he ends with De eccl. hier. i. I was impressed with Guéranger’s writing and his veneration for the Saint (though annoyed with his papalism), and ready to believe the identity of the Parisian Martyr with the Areopagite and author of Dionysian Corpus, but did not find the reasoned defense of this that I was hoping for. Recalling Coulombe’s reference to ‘the martyred Archbishop [Georges] Darboy’, I also tracked down the latter’s translation of St Dionysius and copied the introduction. But this is in French—of which I understand very little—and I do not believe it has been translated. I can confirm that the subject is at least addressed by Darboy, for the introduction contains an ‘Article’ entitled ‘Où l’on discute l’authenticité des livres attribués à saint Denys l’Aréopagite’. [4] The nature of Darboy’s arguments, however, I cannot follow.

So that is nearly all. I have used those parts of Liturgical Year that I have found on Google Books as well as on the various particular days of the Fish Eaters ‘Seasonal Customs’ page (here). I would love to buy the edition of it which Owen White has mentioned in the comments here, though even the more affordable edition ‘Elijahmaria’ mentions there is well out of my budget except at my birthday and Christmas. I learned at some point that Guéranger was responsible for the revival of the Benedictine Order in France, the renewal of Solesmes Abbey, the revival of Gregorian chant, and the founding of the Solesmes Congregation (which now has a priory right here in Oklahoma at Clear Creek that I was able to drop by one afternoon). But that is the full story of Guéranger and me.

[1] Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year: Time After Pentecost, Vol. V, tr. Benedictines of Stanbrook (Worcester: Stanbrook Abbey, 1903), p. 380.

[2] Ibid., pp. 380-1.

[3] Ibid., p. 384.

[4] Georges Darboy, Introduction, Œuvres de Saint Denys l’Aréopagite, tr. Georges Darboy (Paris: Sagnier et Bray, 1845), p. iv.


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

...though annoyed with his papalism....

Make that "disgusted" on my part. I'm reading the Papadakis volume in the SVS Press series "The Church in History", The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy: The Church AD 1071-1453. I'll just leave it at that, because like Mama used to say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I will say that I believe I am finally cured of a lingering latinophilic tendency!

aaronandbrighid said...

Kevin> So the Papadakis volume is pretty good, huh? I'm glad to hear you were cured of your latinophilia--it was really getting a little out of hand! ;-)

aaronandbrighid said...

I don't know much about Papadakis, but I just got an e-mail about a traditionalist conference in Greece in a couple of weeks in which he will be presenting a paper (alongside Met. Seraphim of Piraeus, Fr George Metallinos, Fr Theodore Zisis, and Prof. Demetrios Tselengides from Thessaloniki).

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Yes, you know, I was obviously sliding towards the Papalist Masonic cabal or whatever. NOT. But there was a soft spot I had for certain things. It is well-calloused now, for better or worse.

The Papadakis volume is excellent. It must be paired with the immediately preceding Louth volume. Louth is now general editor, thankfully. I didn't find the Meyendorff volume at all useful or enjoyable. He used a thematic as opposed to chronological format, which I thoroughly despise in a history. The Louth and Papdakis volumes (the latter including a chapter or two by Meyendorff, who began the volume but never completed it, thankfully) are excellent, though.

Elijahmaria said...

Dear Aaron and all,

I hope you don't mind a papist tagging along for the ride here!!

What a lovely afternoon's reading. Saint Dionysius has a particular place in my own life that goes back nearly to the time when I returned to the church twenty years ago. I was fortunate enough to find Father Alexander's work as time went on and also Andrew Louth's studies.

But this run of posts by you Aaron and Felix Culpa and Sir Sandinopolis are a real treat and I still have a few dots to connect before I can say that I've ingested them all.

As for papal Catholics, I don't find AndrewL. or Father Alexander to be unsympathetic. I also find that they tend not to mis-characterize Catholic teaching as much as some other Orthodox writers do. That does not deter me from someone like Lossky or Father Dimitru but it does disrupt the internal dialogue a bit.

At any rate I hope you don't mind my hanging around.

I am older than some of you, I think, and my formal education is a thing of the past and I've gone so far beyond it but in a strictly auto-didactic and quite monolingual manner of going about it; the latter being the most frustratingly limiting thing for someone with a healthy and energetic curiosity about the Church.

Please to meet you all and thank you, Aaron, for your generous spirit.


aaronandbrighid said...

Dear Mary,

As the resident blogger, I for one do not mind anyone at all tagging along, as long as I do not find myself getting sidetracked by arguments over various points that I wish to be taken for granted here (the rightness of traditional Orthodoxy & the Fathers/Saints and the basic goodness of literature & philosophy, even when pagan). In the 1.5 years or so that I've been doing this, I've only had to give the boot to 2 individuals: one was a Calvinist who insisted that I demonstrate that St John Cassian was right & Calvin was wrong, while the other was an Orthodox Christian who started responding to any references to pagan literature with the most obscurantist nonsense anyone has ever dared to post here.

So far, Mary, you are on perfectly safe territory!


Brigit said...

I downloaded some of the volumes of The Liturgical Year at the Internet Archive. It's wonderful that they are still in print, wish I had my own set!

edinmiami said...

I like your method of studying the hagiographic stream of information by noting a peculiar quirk and then chasing it.

There were metaphors to studying hagiography in the details of the chase your story provided. For example, you located the reference but not the entire set of 15-volumes in Oklahoma's only Benedictine college.

My experience with hagiographies is that they tease the reader with demonstrative claims. However, the claims turn out often to be hypotheses without substantial corroboration in text. Instead, careful readers must turn elsewhere and practice a sort of methodologic triangulation. That is why it is very important to carry a theoretical lens, such as you have deftly employed, to sift through the record.

In short, the lens is faith in Christ alive in the hagiographies.