Thursday, October 18, 2007

O felix culpa!

O felix culpa?
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still reading Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy's tome, Out of Revolution, and occasionally lurking at the discussion at Spengler's website.

Recently, I read something that Rosenstock-Huessy wrote about All Souls' Day. Now, having grown up Baptist in the almost-entirely-Protestant Ozarks, I didn't experience -- or even encounter -- many traditional Christian Holy Days, but I've gotten more interested in them as I delve further into Medieval things.

My understanding is that on All Souls' Day, Christians offered up prayers for those dead who were undergoing the purging fire of Purgatory and that while the practice of such intercession dates back very far, only in the 11th century was a general intercession by the Church established, specifically by St. Odilo of Cluny (c. 962-1048/9), the fifth Benedictine abbot of the powerful Medieval Abbey of Cluny, in what is now in east-central France, near Mâcon, in the region of Bourgogne.

The Abbey of Cluny, commonly referred to as "Cluny," was responsible only to the pope and played an important role in the 11th century reform of the Church that increased the papacy's power.

Anyway, here's what Rosenstock-Huessy wrote:
The day of All Souls, proclaiming purgatory to be the stage for all contemporaries, has separated us forever from the jubilant glee of the ancient church. In a minute correction, this change was expressed most strikingly by the Cluniacs: At Easter time, everybody was happy in the experience of resurrection, and evil itself was redeemed since God can make use of evil as well as of good; in recognizing the restoration of the world, the old church sang: "O happy fault that produced this redeemer!" Cluny resented this slighting of our human guilt: the prayer "O felix culpa" was suppressed. (Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, pages 513-4)
For this bit of information, Rosenstock-Huessy cites Cardinale Schuster, O.S.B., Liber Sacramentorum, Vol. IV (1930), p. 49, and p. 18, Note 1 ... just in case anybody's interested (Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, page 514, note 4). Rosenstock-Huessy considers this Cluniac reform to be one of those revolutions through which the modern West has developed. He seems to regret it, though.

On the felix culpa, Rosenstock-Huessy cites an old Medieval poem found in Middle English (one about which I've previously blogged):
Adam lay ybounden
bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
thoughte he not too long;
And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerkes finden
Written in their book.
Nor had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Nor had never our Lady
A-been [of] Heaven Queen.
Blessed be the time
That apple taken was.
Therefore we moun singen
"Deo Gratias."
He tells us that he has quoted this poem "with the spelling modernized, from Sloane Ms. 2595 (according to Bradly Stratmann early 14th century) as printed in Early English Lyrics, E. N. Chambers and F. Sedgwick, p. 102, London, 1907" (Rosenstock-Huessy, Out of Revolution, pages 513-4, note 3).

Rosenstock-Huessy italicizes the line "Blessed be the time" to emphasize the happy fault appealed to in the old belief of our felix culpa.

Cluny may have been powerful in its purifying efforts, but old ideas die hard, as demonstrated by this 14th-century poem, recorded some 300 years after St. Odilo of Cluny had 'officially' established All Souls' Day.

And its influence has never quite been completely lost, for even that great Protestant poet Milton felt its influence...

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


At 4:05 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Very useful and interesting. I had never grasped the significance of the phrase "o felix culpa" before - having only come across it in "The Pooh Perplex" by Frederick Crews, a book of spoof reviews of "Winnie-the-Pooh"! As Catholic now living among Anglicans (in England), I am seeing the outsiders' view of many aspects of Catholicism which I had simply taken for granted in my earlier life!

At 5:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Alison, for visiting and posting. I'm happy (felix!) that you found the post interesting.

So, you are now living among the Angled-Saxophones, whereas you previously lived among the . . . and all-Catholic area?

Anyway, thanks for dropping by.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home