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Sanctifying Texts, Transforming Rituals

Encounters in Liturgical Studies

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Edited by Paul van Geest, Marcel Poorthuis and Els Rose

Sanctifying Texts, Transforming Rituals: Encounters in Liturgical Studies explores the dynamics of Christian ritual practices in their relation to a broader cultural framework. The nineteen essays, written in honour of the liturgist Gerard A.M. Rouwhorst (Tilburg University), study liturgical developments in times of transition, in which religious and cultural changes set the development of worship practices in motion. The chapters in the first part (Texts) concentrate on the close connection between narrative texts and liturgical practice. In part two (Rituals), the focus shifts to the significance of liturgy as it expresses itself in rituals, and to the understanding of ritual acting. This section includes a variety of ritual aspects of liturgy, including the performance of the sacraments and the persons involved, as well as the relation between the liturgical ritual and material objects, such as images and relics. Section three (Encounters) crosses the borders of the discipline of liturgical studies. This final section of the book studies (ritual) relations between Christians and non-Christians through history, and includes contributions that study the dialogues between different liturgical languages and media.

Contributors are: Elizabeth Boddens Hosang, Paul Bradshaw, Harald Buchinger, Charles Caspers, Paul van Geest, Bert Groen, Martin Klöckener, Bart Koet, Clemens Leonhard, Ruben van Luijk, Gerard Lukken, Daniela Müller, Willemien Otten, Marcel Poorthuis, Paul Post, Ilia Rodov, Els Rose, Joshua Schwartz, Louis van Tongeren, and Nienke Vos.

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Paul Bradshaw

Abstract

The tendency exists among scholars unconsciously to permit the conclusions that they want to be true to influence the way they read and interpret the data before them. This was clearly the case with those who accepted the identification of what had previously been called “The Egyptian Church Order” as the Apostolic Tradition composed by Hippolytus of Rome in the early third century. Nearly everything mentioned in it was assumed to be authentically of third-century origin rather than possibly a later interpolation. Inconsistencies or roughnesses in the received versions were attributed to copyists and translators rather than to the original, and any inconvenient obstacles to acceptance of its attribution were explained away rather than taken seriously as possible pointers to a different conclusion. The existence of major doublets in the text and of grammatical shifts were not seen as signs of more than one hand generally at work on the document. Nor were differences from the later liturgical practices of Rome, and especially its eucharistic prayer, thought sufficient to raise questions about its place of origin. It therefore stands as a warning not to allow one’s enthusiasm to reach favoured conclusions to override the need to examine the evidence dispassionately.


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Charles Caspers and Louis van Tongeren

Abstract

In the late Middle Ages, the major churches in the city of Utrecht had extensive feast calendars. Most of the days in the liturgical calendars, which mainly can be constructed from libri ordinarii, were dedicated to one or more saints or featured a vigil at least. It has been suggested that the many names of saints were chosen arbitrarily to fill up the calendar. It is most likely, however, that there was a clear reason in most cases for reserving a feast day for particular saints. We present a number of examples to illustrate that the choice to introduce a new feast day was often occasioned by the presence of a relic. In other words, the feast of celebrating a saint was linked to their physical presence. The acquisition of relics and the introduction of feast days was not an arbitrary matter but resulted from well-considered choices. Their liturgical calendar was the blazon for the canons of each chapter to show their own, saints-determined identity as a religious community. 


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Ilia M. Rodov

Abstract

The present article proposes a phenomenological analysis of shiviti plates bearing God’s name, set in front of the synagogue prayer leader. In the specimens exposed in modern Romanian synagogues, the Tetragrammaton dominates a hierarchic composition comprising texts (divine and angelic names, Kabbalistic sefirot, and didactic utterances) and images (the menorah, halo, heraldic devices, animals, and plants). The inscriptions act as ‘image-texts’ playing concurrent roles in both verbal and pictorial structures of the plates. The visual rendering of these shiviti evokes in the beholder a sense of meditative trance. They drove the worshipper’s communication with God’s presence along the path of mental visualisation of the letters of the divine name practiced by medieval Jewish esoteric scholars. In contrast to medieval Kabbalistic concentric diagrams that instruct the visionary’s meditation on God’s name and attributes, the shiviti images portray the products of visions. The phenomenon revealed sheds light on the unique role of visual art in establishing both the emotional mood and the intellectual modus of synagogue worship.


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Ruben van Luijk

Abstract

The black Mass is an understudied form of liturgy. This article sketches its history in five tableaus, including medieval rumours, seventeenth-century magical operations, eighteenth-and nineteenth century literary fiction, and culminating in the establishment of a ‘canonical’ black Mass liturgy in the modern Church of Satan. In addition, it discusses academic efforts to define its substance and tries to discover what place we can give the black Mass in the history of religion by applying the theories of Roy A. Rappaport.


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Gerard Lukken

Abstract

Three basic categories can be distinguished in human discourse: time, space and actants. This is also true for rituals. This article describes the tensions that are occurring during the period of transition of the liturgy after Vatican II, focusing particularly on the categories of time and space. Due to limitations of space, this article will not thematise the actants as such, but it will address them in passing as it discusses the categories of time and space. By contrast with the period of the post-Tridentine liturgy, which was characterised by a uniform, clerical and ‘geschichtslose’ (Jungmann) liturgy, the period after Vatican II saw the aggiornamento of the liturgy. It is marked by several tensions. First, there are extreme traditionalists, such as in the Society of St. Pius X, who reject all change. Then there is the strand of the neo-traditionalists, who wish to change the new liturgy on the principle of an organic development of the liturgy, by implementing a reform of the reform in line with organic development of the previous tradition. A third group consists of the reformers on basis of specific periods of the tradition, and a fourth of those who argue for further inculturation. The ideas of this last group are clarified on the basis of the vertical, immanent, horizontal and ‘near’ dimensions of the liturgy.


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Clemens Leonhard

Abstract

The essay discusses and rejects the presumption that Israel celebrated a ritual of covenant renewal at Shavuot in Second Temple times. Narrative texts like 2 Chronicles 15 and Jubilees 6 may associate the establishment of Israel’s covenant with God and the festival of Shavuot without any connection to a ritual. The Rule of the Community from Qumran hints at the performance of a ritual for the integration of new members which is geared to the special situation of its type of group and hence by no means applicable to throngs of pilgrims who come to the Temple in Jerusalem at Shavuot let alone to the whole people of Israel. Furthermore, the sources presume that the covenant between God and Israel is not abolished and does not require an annual renewal. As ancient Judaism did not know a ritual of covenant renewal, Christian texts (including Acts 2) cannot allude to such a ritual. Whatever the origins of the Christian festival of Pentecost, it does not continue or supersede a Jewish ritual of covenant renewal.


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Elizabeth Boddens Hosang

Abstract

The relations between Christians and Jews in late antiquity is a subject which has been addressed by many. One source of information for these relations are council texts. The significance of council texts as compared to other sources (archaeology, patristics, and civil legislation) is that they address specific aspects of life within the developing Christian church. This study investigates examples of Christians involved in shared meals and the exchange of food gifts with Jews. The canons discussed come from fourth- to eighth-century council texts from the eastern and western Mediterranean. Relevant canons from different councils are presented, followed by a short discussion.


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Joshua Schwartz

Abstract

Play is universal and everybook-body plays: men, women, children, infants, youngsters, and adults. Numerous reasons have been posited as to why people play in general and as to the meaning of individual toys and games. The present study seeks to examine play in Jewish and in Christian society in Roman Byzantine Palestine in the backdrop of universal play and specific play in the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine world. Rabbis and Church Fathers were aware of the details of play and were familiar with many types of toys and games. Usually they were willing to allow such play, sometimes more enthusiastically and sometimes less so, as they saw nothing pernicious in it and at worse saw it as a waste of time. There were instances in which play took on a life and meaning of its own and in this play there might have been problems intrinsic to both or to either Judaism or Christianity, respectively. Rabbis and Church Fathers were similar in their reactions to such problems, but the results were sometimes quite different, and for very different reasons, impacting upon whether encounters were indeed possible between the play worlds of Jewish and Christian children.


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Daniela Müller

Abstract

Although the theological disputes and conflicts of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages reveal a high degree of reflection and argumentative force, at a second glance, their core conception of heresy and heretics was also always connected to archaic models of purity and impurity, as they were described by Mary Douglas. Since the connection between heresy and impurity had already been underlined at an early stage by reports about sexual perversions, unusual sexual behaviour could be considered intrinsically heretical. Heretics were therefore considered to be intrinsically unworthy to receive the Eucharist (or to distribute it), because they were considered to be in a permanent state of sin. Although their grave offenses were in fact their sinful choices and their sinful actions, as already underlined by the semantic pejoration of the word hairesis, the presumption also arose that heretics were physically impure.