Thursday, October 28, 2004


I am currently reading 'From Dogma to History' by Anglican ecclesiastical historian William HC Frend. In it he provides an overview of the lives and careers of six of the most important ecclesiastical historians of the past 150 years. Of most interest to Catholic readers would be Frend's account of Msgr Louis Duchesne who fell foul of some political enemies during the modernist crisis. One of the reasons that Duchesne managed to acquire so many enemies amongst the French bishops was his unfortunate habit (during the 1850s and 1860s) of debunking some of the more extravagent legends regarding the foundation of some French dioceses. Paris, for example, claimed that its founder St. Denis was none other than Denis the Areopagite from the Acts of the Apostles. Aix en Provence claimed to be founded by St. Mary Magdalene. She is said to have arrived in Southern Gaul with 72 companions including her sister Martha and brother Lazarus. It would be interesting to investigate the links between that legend (supported by the local hierarchy for so long) is linked to the tales about Mary Magdalene put about by Dan Brown and the modern day gnostics.
Parallel to that, I've finally started into de Lubac's 'Medieval Exegesis'. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information at de Lubac's fingertips and a perusal of his footnotes is an education in itself. I was particularly taken by a piece of Latin verse he found associating each of the 4 Latin Doctors with the four beasts traditionally associated with the evangelists.
Gregorius, vir facundus,
Verbo dulcis, vita mundus,
Hominis vultum habuit.
Ambrosius, leo fortis,
Ut Helias, numquam mortis,
Metu vitia tacuit.

Hieronymus, bos secure,
Gradiens, vias Scripturae,
Solidissime tenuit.
Super omnes Augustinus,
Alta petens, vir divinus,
Vultum aquilae meruit.

(Gregory, a fluent man,
Sweet-talking, pure-living,
Had the face of a man.
Ambrose, a mighty lion,
Like Elijah, never hushed up
Vice for fear of death.

Jerome like an ox walking
Fearlessly, held fast
To the ways of Scripture.
Above them all, Augustine,
A divine man who sought the heights,
Was found worthy to bear the face of an eagle.)
de Lubac describes it as a hymn of the Abbey of Marmoutiers.

No comments: