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5 November 2012


An excerpt from the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durandus of Mende, Englished by John Mason Neale & Benjamin Webb:
Here beginneth the First Book of Gulielmus Durandus his Rationale of the Divine Offices.

I. All things, as many as pertain to offices and matters ecclesiastical, be full of divine significations and mysteries, and overflow with a celestial sweetness; if so be that a man be diligent in his study of them, and know how to draw HONEY FROM THE ROCK, AND OIL FROM THE HARDEST STONE. But who KNOWETH THE ORDINANCES OF HEATEN, OR CAN FIX THE REASONS THEREOF UPON THE EARTH? For he that prieth into their majesty, is overwhelmed by the glory of them. Of a truth the WELL IS DEEP, AND I HAVE NOTHING TO DRAW WITH; unless He giveth it unto me Who GIVETH TO ALL MEN LIBERALLY, AND UPBBAIDETH NOT: so that WHILE I JOURNEY THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS I may DRAW WATER WITH JOY OUT OF THE WELLS OF SALTATION. Wherefore, albeit of the things handed down from our forefathers, capable we are not to explain all, yet if among them there be any thing which is done without reason, it should forthwith be put away. Wherefore I, William, by the alone tender mercy of God, Bishop of the Holy Church which is in Mende, will knock diligently at the door, if so be that THE KEY OF DAVID will open unto me: that the King may BRING ME IN TO HIS TREASURY, and shew unto me the heavenly pattern which was shewed unto Moses in the Mount: so that I may learn those things which pertain to rites ecclesiastical, whereof they teach and what they signify: and that I may be able plainly to reveal and make manifest the reasons of them, by His help, WHO HATH ORDAINED OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES AND SUCKLINGS: WHOSE SPIRIT BLOWETH WHERE IT LISTETH, dividing to EACH SEVERALLY AS IT WILL to the praise and glory of the Trinity.

2. Sacraments we have received to be signs or figures, not in themselves virtues, but the significations of virtues, by which men are taught as by letters. Now of signs there be that are natural, and there be that are positive : concerning which, and also of the nature of a Sacrament, we shall speak hereafter.

3. Therefore the Priests and the Bishops to whom IT IS GIVEN TO KNOW THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD as He saith in Luke, and who be the stewards and dispensers of sacred things, ought both to understand the sacred mysteries, and to shine in the virtues which they signify: so that by their light others may be illuminated: otherwise THEY BE BLIND LEADERS OF THE BLIND. As saith the Prophet, LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED, THAT THEY SEE NOT. But, woe therefore is me! in these days they apprehend but little of those things which day by day they handle and perform, what they signify, and wherefore they were instituted: so that the saying of the prophet seemeth to be fulfilled, AS IS THE PEOPLE, SO IS THE PRIEST. For when they bear the bread of Prothesis to the Lord's Table and the Mysteries, they understand not its signification more than brute beasts which carry bread for the use of others. Of which ignorance they shall give account in the day of vengeance and wrath, WHEN THE CEDARS OF PARADISE SHALL TREMBLE, WHAT SHALL THE BUSH OF THE DESERT DO? For to them is that saying of the Prophet, THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS: SO I SWEAR IN MY WRATH, IF THEY SHALL ENTER INTO MY REST.

4. Now the Professors of the arts liberal, and of all other arts, seek how they may clothe, support, and adorn with causes and hidden reasons those things which be nakedly and without ornament therein set forth; painters moreover, and mechanics and handicraftsmen of what sort soever, study in every variety of their works to render and to have at hand probable reasons thereof. So, also, unseemly is it to the magistrate to be ignorant of this world's laws; and to the pleader to know nothing of the law, wherein he is exercised.

6. But although learning be necessary unto priests for the sake of doctrine: yet must not scholastics think slightingly of unlettered Priests; according to the saying in Exodus, THOU SHALT NOT REVILE THE GODS. Whence, saith S. Augustine, they shall not deride if they hear the priests and ministers of the Church, either invoking God with barbarisms and solecisms, or not understanding and misdividing the words which they pronounce. Not but that such things are to be corrected ; bat they must firstly be tolerated of the more learned. But that which Priests ought to learn, shall be said below.

6, Furthermore, the symbolism which existeth in things and offices ecclesiastical, is often not seen, both because figures have departed, and now it is the time of truth; and also because we ought not to judaise. But, albeit those types of which the truth is made manifest have departed, yet even to this time manifold truth is concealed, which we see not; wherefore the Church useth figures. For so by white vestments we understand the beauty in which our souls shall be arrayed, or the glory of our immortality, which we cannot manifestly behold: and in the Mass, by the oblation on the Altar, the Passion of Christ is represented, that it be held in the memory more faithfully and more firmly.

7. Furthermore, of the things which be commanded in the law, some be moral, and others mystical. They be moral which inform the morals, and are to be understood in the simple tenour of the words: LOVE GOD: HONOUR THY FATHER: THOU SHALT DO NO MURDER, and such like. Mystical be such as are typical: where something is set forth beyond the literal meaning. Of these, some be sacramental, and some ceremonial. Sacramental be such as may be accounted for, why thus they were ordered: such as Circumcision, and the observance of the Sabbath, and the like. Ceremonial be they for which no reason can he given. Such be, THOU SHALT NOT PLOUGH WITH AN OX AND AN ASS TOGETHER: THOU SHALT NOT WEAR A GARMENT OF LINEN AND WOOLLEN MIXED.

8. Now in things that are moral commands, the law hath received no change: but in things sacramental and ceremonial its outward form is altered; yet not one of the mystical significations is done away: for the law is not done away. Though the PRIESTHOOD BEING CHANGED, THERE IS MADE OF NECESSITY A CHANGE LIKEWISE OF THE LAW.

9. Now, in Holy Scriptures there be divers senses: as historic, allegoric, tropologic, and anagogic. Whence, according to Boethius, all Divine authority ariseth from a sense either historical or allegorical or from both. And, according to S. Hierom, we ought to study Holy Scriptures in three ways: firstly, according to the letter; secondly, after the allegory, that is, the spiritual meaning; thirdly, according to the blessedness of the future.

History is things signified by words: as when a plain relation is made how certain events took place; as when the children of Israel, after their deliverence from Egypt, made a Tabernacle to the Lord. And history is derived from istorein, which is to gesticulate: whence gesticulators, (that is, players) are called histriones.

10. Allegory is when one thing is said and another meant: as when by one deed another is intended: which other thing, if it be visible, the whole is simply an allegory, if invisible and heavenly, an anagoge. Also an allegory is when one state of things is described by another: as when the patience of Christ, and the sacraments of the Church are set forth by mystical words or deeds. As in that place: THERE SHALL COME FORTH A ROD OF THE STEM OF JESSE, AND A BRANCH SHALL GROW OUT OF HIS ROOTS: which is, in plain language, The Virgin Mary shall be born of the family of David, who was the son of Jesse. [This is an example of mysticism in words.] Truth is also set forth by mystic deeds: as the children of Israel's freedom from Egyptian slavery, wrought by tbe blood of a lamb, signifieth that the Church is freed by the Passion of Christ from demoniacal servitude. The word allegory is derived from the Greek allon, which means foreign, and gore which is sense; that is, a foreign sense.

11. Tropology is an injunction unto morality; or a moral speech, either with a symbolical or an obvious bearing, devised to evince and instruct our behaviour. Symbolical; as where he saith, LET THY GARMENTS BE ALWAYS WHITE: AND LET THE OIL OF THY HEAD NEVER FAIL. That is, let all thy works be pure, and charity never fail from thy mind. And again, It is fit that David should slay the Goliath within us: that is, that humbleness may subdue our pride. Obvious as in that saying, DEAL THY BREAD TO THE HUNGRY. And in that text: LET US NOT LOVE IN WORD, NEITHER IN TONGUE: BUT IN DEED AND TRUTH. Now tropology hath his name from tropos, a turning, and logos, which is a discourse. a foreign sense.

13. Anagogue is so called from ana, which is upwards, and goge, a leading: as it were an upward leading. Whence the anagogic sense is that which leadeth from the visible to the invisible: as light, made the first day, signifieth a thing invisible, namely the angelic nature which was made in the beginning. Anagoge, therefore, is that sense which leadeth the mind upwards to heavenly things: that is to the Trinity and the orders of angels, and speaketh concerning future rewards, and the future life which is in the heaven: and it useth both obvious and mystical expressions; obvious, as in that saying, BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART: FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD: mystical, as that, BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HAVE MADE WHITE THEIR ROBES: THAT THEY MAY HAVE RIGHT UNTO THE TREE OF LIFE, AND ENTER IN THROUGH THE GATE INTO THE CITY. Which signifieth, Blessed are they who make pure their thoughts, that they may have a right to see GOD, WHO IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE: and after the example of the fathers, enter into the kingdom of heaven. a foreign sense.

In like manner, Jerusalem is understood historically of that earthly city whither pilgrims journey; allegorically, of the Church militant ; tropologically, of every faithful soul; anagogically, of the celestial Jerusalem, which is our Country. Of these things, more examples may be seen in the lessons for Holy Saturday. But in this work many senses are applied: and speedy changes are made from one to another, as the diligent reader will perceive.

13. For as none is prohibited from ufnng divers grounds of exception and manners of defence, so neither are they forbidden to employ divers expositions in the praise of God, so that faith be not injured.

14. Notice must also be taken of the variety of rites used in the divine worship. For nearly every Church hath her own observances, and attacheth to them a full meaning of her own: neither is it thought blameworthy or absurd to worship with various chants, or modulations of the voice, nor yet with different observances: when the Church Triumphant herself is surrounded, according to the Prophet, with the like diversity, and in the administration of the Sacraments themselves a variety of customs is tolerated, and that rightly.

15. Whence, according to Austin of ecclesiastical institutions in the Divine Office, some we have received from Holy Scriptures: some from the traditions or writings of the Apostles, being confirmed by their successors: some, moreover, of which however the institution is unknown, are confirmed by custom and approved by use: and to them equal observance is due as to the others.

16. Let not, then, the reader be angry if he perchance read in this work of observances which he never saw in his own Church: or does not read of some that are there in use. For we endeavour not to go through the particular rites of particular places, but those which be more common and usual: because we labour to set forth that doctrine which is of universal, and not that which is of particular bearing, nor would it be possible for us to examine the particular rites of every Church. Therefore we have determined for the health of our soul and the benefit of the readers, to set forth and to arrange the secret mysteries of divine offices in a clear state, to the best of our power and to inculcate and thoroughly to explain that which appears necessary for ecclesiastics, towards the understanding of the daily service: even as it is well known that, when in a different condition of life, we did faithfully in our Mirror of Magistrates do the like for the use of those who were employed in secular courts.

17. But it must diligently be noted that in the divine offices themselves many ceremonies there be of usual employment which have, from their institution, respect neither to a moral nor mystical signification. Of these, some are known to hare arisen of necessity: some of congruity; some of the difference of the Old and New Testament; some of convenience; and some for the mere honour and reverence of the offices themselves: whence saith Blessed Austin, so may things are varied by the different customs of divers place, that seldom or never can those causes be discovered which men followed in constituting them.

18. This work is described as a Rationale. For as in the BREASTPLATE OF JUDGMENT which the Jewish high priest wore was written manifestation and truth, so here the reasons of the variations in Divine Offices and their truths are set forth and manifested: which the Prelates and Priests of Churches ought faithfully to preserve in the shrine of their breasts: and as in the breast plate there was a stone by the splendour of which the children of Israel knew that God was well pleased with them: so also the pious reader who hath been taught the mysteries of the Divine Offices from the clearness of this work will know that God is favourably disposed towards us, unless we rashly incur His indignation by our offence and fault. The breast plate was woven of four colours and of gold: and here, as we said before, the principles on which are founded the variations in ecclesiastical offices, take the hues of four senses, the historic, the allegoric, the tropologic, and the anagogic, with faith as the groundwork.

19. It is divided into eight parts: which we shall go through, by the Lord's favour, in order. The first treateth of churches, and ecclesiastical places and ornaments: and of consecrations and sacraments. The second of the members of the Church, and their duties: the third of sacerdotal and other vestments: the fourth of the Mass, and of the things therein performed: the fifth of the other divine offices: the sixth of the Sundays and holydays, and Feasts specially pertaining to our Lord: the seventh of Saints' Days, and the feast of the dedication of a church, and the office of the dead : the eighth of the method of computing time, and the calendar.

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