September 2015

Jun 9, 2016

 

NEWEST CONSTELLATION

IN THE HEAVENS

 

 

Friar Bob Hutmacher, ofm

 

         In 1990 I was asked by the Poor Clares of the U.S. to “translate a few Latin hymn texts about St. Clare of Assisi.”  That request changed my life because it led to periods of research over three years in the libraries of Assisi.  I lived with the friars at Chiesa Nuova and spent hours reading priceless medieval music manuscripts and the earliest Franciscan sources.  Codex 338 is the most precious and along with the first-ever written copy of the Canticle of Creatures by Francis, it also contains many hymn texts written about Lady Clare soon after her death in1253.  The latest Franciscan scholarship dates the compilation of Codex 338 between the late 1240’s and 1260’s.  I knew the hymns had been read and translated for centuries but my quest was to find the oldest texts, translate them into fresh English poetic form and set them to music.  That simple request from the Poor Clares turned into a 300 page hymnal of Franciscan music, Clare and Francis: O Let the Faithful People Sing from the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University.

            Medieval writers favored images of light and fantastic plays on Latin words about light.  Clara is Clare in Latin and means light.  From Codex 338: O Clara, luce clarior, lucis aeternae filia.  O Clare, O brilliant, radiant light, O daughter of eternal Light.  This image of Clare as light is significant.  Consider the misery of medieval life when nearly everyone was ill with some kind of illness, poverty was common except for the nobility (Clare’s family) and warfare a fact of everyday life.  I concluded from my work that people who knew Clare personally or certainly knew her reputation had written these texts.  Therefore, the words are based on real-life experiences of the woman and a clear indicator of how beloved she was by those who lived with her or were touched by her fame.

            Some days I could hardly believe that I was involved with such a venture.  I’d never envisioned myself living in Assisi, much less working with medieval manuscripts that are so highly revered in our Franciscan heritage.  As my research continued in libraries at Sacro Convento (Basilica of Francis), the cathedral of San Rufino, Chiesa Nuova and San Damiano I found I was integrating these literary images into my personal perceptions of Francis and Clare in a fresh way. 

            There are numerous churches around the world, including St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, that have signs of the Zodiac as part of their décor.

 

NEWEST CONSTELLATION

IN THE HEAVENS

 

 

Friar Bob Hutmacher, ofm

 

         In 1990 I was asked by the Poor Clares of the U.S. to “translate a few Latin hymn texts about St. Clare of Assisi.”  That request changed my life because it led to periods of research over three years in the libraries of Assisi.  I lived with the friars at Chiesa Nuova and spent hours reading priceless medieval music manuscripts and the earliest Franciscan sources.  Codex 338 is the most precious and along with the first-ever written copy of the Canticle of Creatures by Francis, it also contains many hymn texts written about Lady Clare soon after her death in1253.  The latest Franciscan scholarship dates the compilation of Codex 338 between the late 1240’s and 1260’s.  I knew the hymns had been read and translated for centuries but my quest was to find the oldest texts, translate them into fresh English poetic form and set them to music.  That simple request from the Poor Clares turned into a 300 page hymnal of Franciscan music, Clare and Francis: O Let the Faithful People Sing from the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University.

            Medieval writers favored images of light and fantastic plays on Latin words about light.  Clara is Clare in Latin and means light.  From Codex 338: O Clara, luce clarior, lucis aeternae filia.  O Clare, O brilliant, radiant light, O daughter of eternal Light.  This image of Clare as light is significant.  Consider the misery of medieval life when nearly everyone was ill with some kind of illness, poverty was common except for the nobility (Clare’s family) and warfare a fact of everyday life.  I concluded from my work that people who knew Clare personally or certainly knew her reputation had written these texts.  Therefore, the words are based on real-life experiences of the woman and a clear indicator of how beloved she was by those who lived with her or were touched by her fame.

            Some days I could hardly believe that I was involved with such a venture.  I’d never envisioned myself living in Assisi, much less working with medieval manuscripts that are so highly revered in our Franciscan heritage.  As my research continued in libraries at Sacro Convento (Basilica of Francis), the cathedral of San Rufino, Chiesa Nuova and San Damiano I found I was integrating these literary images into my personal perceptions of Francis and Clare in a fresh way. 

            There are numerous churches around the world, including St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, that have signs of the Zodiac as part of their décor.  In my naiveté I once wondered why these pagan signs would be in a Catholic construction.  These medieval poets were impressive for the  Signs of the Zodiac have nothing to do with astrology and everything to do with astronomy and the wonders of the universe.  Francis wrote in the Canticle “Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon 
and the stars, in heaven you formed them 
clear and precious and beautiful.”  Considering that people steered ships across oceans by using the stars, it should not be a surprise that the stars would be honored artistically.

            Gaudia Sanctae Clarae [The Joys of Saint Clare] is in Codex 7206, a medieval German text in Nuremberg.  It contains 54 verses in praise of Clare!  For publishing and prayer purposes I limited it to just 17 verses, but read this: Newest constellation in the heavens, we remember your passing each year in August. Renew within us the quest for holiness; may we always be grateful to God who saves us.  Newest constellation!  In 17 of the 54 verses there are seven different literary plays with the word light.  This woman, Clare of Assisi, was such a luminary in the darkness of 13th century life that she is likened to a celestial arrangement of stars, a new creation!  And indeed she was and continues to be for so many of us! 

            There are three hymn texts in Codex 338 that are the oldest written about Clare.  A verse in Concinat Plebs Fidelium: In heaven leapt out a new star bright, a dazzling gleam appeared to us; the Light which flowed into her light wished radiant Clare to shine for us.  Isn’t that beautiful?  Each of the four lines is full of light imagery, all in praise of Clare.  Notice how the capitalized Light refers to Christ, of course, and reveals the intimate union she had with Jesus, a union that was a source of inspiration for many others during and after her earthly life.  Count the words that deal with light – it’s just so rich, so lovely.  The Latin reveals even more plays on the word for light but the English clearly expresses what a brilliant woman Clare was to those who knew her. 

She continues to dazzle as an exemplary woman of faith and cofounder of our Franciscan family.

            There are various elements used to date medieval manuscripts: the parchment itself, the style of calligraphy, clever medieval shorthand to save room on a page, the inks used, any illuminations, the layout of texts and their conjectured date of composition.  Some of these hymns are included within other writings so it’s a challenge to actually separate them from say, a versified life of the saint.  But much of that work had already been done years before, for which I was grateful!

            The texts about Clare were so linguistically vibrant that I became curious as to what medieval writers might have said about our founder, Francis, after his death in 1226.  That began the second half of O Let the Faithful People Sing: setting the Office of St. Francis to music and finding extra hymnody.  Decus morum, dux minorum in Codex 223 clearly shows that Clare was not the only new heavenly constellation: Francis took the Gospel message as a light that dazzled all. Daylight breaks and night recedes: a new star shatters earthly pall. This text also reveals something of what contemporaries of Francis believed his life to have been.  We often have a scrubbed and glamorized view of medieval life with damsels in castles, knights in armor, sumptuous brocades and lovely music. No! It was dirty, disease-ridden, short, damp in the winter, blazing in August and smothered in warfare.  Only nobles could bask in any kind of comfort.

            When a poet writes “a new star shatters earthly pall” that verb jumps off the page!  The pall, of course, is the large cloth used to cover a coffin at funerals but here it refers to the dim existence the poet had to live.  In this hymn, Francis is proclaimed to be a savior of sorts who brought light and even joy into the dark days of 13th century Europe.  The Little Poor One “dazzles” those around him with the joy of the Lord Jesus, the true joy that comes with living for God alone.  This one couplet is reminiscent of Psalm 30: Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  I just love it!

            One more…In Caelesti Collegio is a hymn also in Codex 223.  Verse 4: His whole life [Francis’] was light resplendent, giving light to people in despair.  And part of verse 5: in the darkness of this world, we ask you, God, to send this star so we all your glory someday share.  Again we see how the poet sings the praises of Francis because he brought such renewal to humanity by his simple, joyful life.  He did give light to those in despair and we are called to do the same simply by being Christ in the world.  We can bring light into the darkness of the 21st century with gestures of kindness, words of gentility and hearts open to God’s grace.  “Send this star” can refer to each one of us because if “the flame of faith is kept alive in our hearts” (that’s from the Rite of Baptism!) then we will do exactly what Francis and Clare did. 

           

            I really love sharing these little treasures because we learn so much through the arts, don’t we?  I wanted to write this article about both saints because September is between August 11 and October 4, their feasts.  Even this brief glimpse at a few texts from 13th century Italy show how much Francis and Clare were loved, honored and respected as new constellations in the heavens. 

            I’ve always loved the stars.  Mom used to take us out on summer evenings and help us locate constellations; I read everything I could find about planets, stars and our universe and am still mesmerized when away from city lights to view the great expanse above and around us that cannot be measured.  For a poet to liken these two saints so dear to us as blazing celestial bodies is to go beyond the reality symbolized by stars.  Such holiness brought about a completely renewed view of Christ, the Church and human life; these poetic images can also assist us in not only learning more about Clare and Francis, but show us how honest Christian life touches people deeply.

            Another reason I’ve always been fascinated with all things celestial is that they help me appreciate all things Franciscan.  Our founder learned how all of creation “fits together” in the sense that everything perceived by our senses, the Hubble space telescope, natural sciences has one origin: the very heart of the Holy One.

            I love speculative theology like that of Pierre Theilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and others because it can draw us more deeply into the Mystery of God. it is sometimes misunderstood, the dialogue between theology and science must continue.  Our own brilliant theologian, Fr. Zachary Hayes, was involved with that dialogue with professors at the University of Chicago and elsewhere before his death.  It’s essential we try our best to understand what God has given us.  Francis and the medievals tried their best with poetry, music and art.  We can also learn from our cosmic Sacrament, the Eucharist.

            To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom. There, with the whole of creation, freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify you through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.  This is the ending of Eucharistic Prayer IV.  Each of the thirteen Eucharistic prayers we have for Mass have a distinct way of beginning in heavenly praise of God, remembering the Last Supper, then gathering all the Church, living and deceased, into one final paean of praise with all of creation…through Him, with Him and in Him…  In Prayer IV the whole of creation situates us within time and in the timeless action of God.  All creatures join together – even if it’s only 13 people on a weekday morning – to praise our God for the gift of the Son and the gift of being together in God.  Chardin  expressed cosmic aspects of our life with God in new and exciting language. So does Pope Francis.

           

[Last Supper, Catacombs,3rd C]

 

            In ¶236 of Laudato Si’ he writes: It is in  the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.  The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter.  He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours.  In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living center of the universe….Indeed, the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love.  If you add this dimension to your own spirituality and theology of the Eucharist, it’s quite clear that one cannot possibly celebrate the Eucharist in isolation.  By its very nature, it is communal.  By its very origin in God, it is holy.  By its scope, it is cosmic.  The Eucharist brings all of creation to that Omega Point where all becomes one in Christ and creation comes to completion in the universe of God’s love. 

            Here at St. Peter’s we celebrate Eucharist 41 times throughout each week.   Thousands of people come here to be touched by God who comes from within, renewing that Light in their hearts.  The new constellations of Clare and Francis of Assisi guide our ministry and we friars are so very grateful for your constant support because it takes nearly $3,500 a day to operate St. Peter’s. We remember you in our daily prayers and at each of the 41 Masses in every week.  And please join our celebration of St. Francis Oct. 3-5; refer to our bulletin for specifics. May our God of Creativity and Light give you peace always ~

Friar Bob Hutmacher, ofm

             

 In my naiveté I once wondered why these pagan signs would be in a Catholic construction.  These medieval poets were impressive for the  Signs of the Zodiac have nothing to do with astrology and everything to do with astronomy and the wonders of the universe.  Francis wrote in the Canticle “Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon 
and the stars, in heaven you formed them 
clear and precious and beautiful.”  Considering that people steered ships across oceans by using the stars, it should not be a surprise that the stars would be honored artistically.

            Gaudia Sanctae Clarae [The Joys of Saint Clare] is in Codex 7206, a medieval German text in Nuremberg.  It contains 54 verses in praise of Clare!  For publishing and prayer purposes I limited it to just 17 verses, but read this: Newest constellation in the heavens, we remember your passing each year in August. Renew within us the quest for holiness; may we always be grateful to God who saves us.  Newest constellation!  In 17 of the 54 verses there are seven different literary plays with the word light.  This woman, Clare of Assisi, was such a luminary in the darkness of 13th century life that she is likened to a celestial arrangement of stars, a new creation!  And indeed she was and continues to be for so many of us! 

            There are three hymn texts in Codex 338 that are the oldest written about Clare.  A verse in Concinat Plebs Fidelium: In heaven leapt out a new star bright, a dazzling gleam appeared to us; the Light which flowed into her light wished radiant Clare to shine for us.  Isn’t that beautiful?  Each of the four lines is full of light imagery, all in praise of Clare.  Notice how the capitalized Light refers to Christ, of course, and reveals the intimate union she had with Jesus, a union that was a source of inspiration for many others during and after her earthly life.  Count the words that deal with light – it’s just so rich, so lovely.  The Latin reveals even more plays on the word for light but the English clearly expresses what a brilliant woman Clare was to those who knew her. 

She continues to dazzle as an exemplary woman of faith and cofounder of our Franciscan family.

            There are various elements used to date medieval manuscripts: the parchment itself, the style of calligraphy, clever medieval shorthand to save room on a page, the inks used, any illuminations, the layout of texts and their conjectured date of composition.  Some of these hymns are included within other writings so it’s a challenge to actually separate them from say, a versified life of the saint.  But much of that work had already been done years before, for which I was grateful!

            The texts about Clare were so linguistically vibrant that I became curious as to what medieval writers might have said about our founder, Francis, after his death in 1226.  That began the second half of O Let the Faithful People Sing: setting the Office of St. Francis to music and finding extra hymnody.  Decus morum, dux minorum in Codex 223 clearly shows that Clare was not the only new heavenly constellation: Francis took the Gospel message as a light that dazzled all. Daylight breaks and night recedes: a new star shatters earthly pall. This text also reveals something of what contemporaries of Francis believed his life to have been.  We often have a scrubbed and glamorized view of medieval life with damsels in castles, knights in armor, sumptuous brocades and lovely music. No! It was dirty, disease-ridden, short, damp in the winter, blazing in August and smothered in warfare.  Only nobles could bask in any kind of comfort.

            When a poet writes “a new star shatters earthly pall” that verb jumps off the page!  The pall, of course, is the large cloth used to cover a coffin at funerals but here it refers to the dim existence the poet had to live.  In this hymn, Francis is proclaimed to be a savior of sorts who brought light and even joy into the dark days of 13th century Europe.  The Little Poor One “dazzles” those around him with the joy of the Lord Jesus, the true joy that comes with living for God alone.  This one couplet is reminiscent of Psalm 30: Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.  I just love it!

            One more…In Caelesti Collegio is a hymn also in Codex 223.  Verse 4: His whole life [Francis’] was light resplendent, giving light to people in despair.  And part of verse 5: in the darkness of this world, we ask you, God, to send this star so we all your glory someday share.  Again we see how the poet sings the praises of Francis because he brought such renewal to humanity by his simple, joyful life.  He did give light to those in despair and we are called to do the same simply by being Christ in the world.  We can bring light into the darkness of the 21st century with gestures of kindness, words of gentility and hearts open to God’s grace.  “Send this star” can refer to each one of us because if “the flame of faith is kept alive in our hearts” (that’s from the Rite of Baptism!) then we will do exactly what Francis and Clare did. 

           

            I really love sharing these little treasures because we learn so much through the arts, don’t we?  I wanted to write this article about both saints because September is between August 11 and October 4, their feasts.  Even this brief glimpse at a few texts from 13th century Italy show how much Francis and Clare were loved, honored and respected as new constellations in the heavens. 

            I’ve always loved the stars.  Mom used to take us out on summer evenings and help us locate constellations; I read everything I could find about planets, stars and our universe and am still mesmerized when away from city lights to view the great expanse above and around us that cannot be measured.  For a poet to liken these two saints so dear to us as blazing celestial bodies is to go beyond the reality symbolized by stars.  Such holiness brought about a completely renewed view of Christ, the Church and human life; these poetic images can also assist us in not only learning more about Clare and Francis, but show us how honest Christian life touches people deeply.

            Another reason I’ve always been fascinated with all things celestial is that they help me appreciate all things Franciscan.  Our founder learned how all of creation “fits together” in the sense that everything perceived by our senses, the Hubble space telescope, natural sciences has one origin: the very heart of the Holy One.

            I love speculative theology like that of Pierre Theilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and others because it can draw us more deeply into the Mystery of God. it is sometimes misunderstood, the dialogue between theology and science must continue.  Our own brilliant theologian, Fr. Zachary Hayes, was involved with that dialogue with professors at the University of Chicago and elsewhere before his death.  It’s essential we try our best to understand what God has given us.  Francis and the medievals tried their best with poetry, music and art.  We can also learn from our cosmic Sacrament, the Eucharist.

            To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom. There, with the whole of creation, freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify you through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.  This is the ending of Eucharistic Prayer IV.  Each of the thirteen Eucharistic prayers we have for Mass have a distinct way of beginning in heavenly praise of God, remembering the Last Supper, then gathering all the Church, living and deceased, into one final paean of praise with all of creation…through Him, with Him and in Him…  In Prayer IV the whole of creation situates us within time and in the timeless action of God.  All creatures join together – even if it’s only 13 people on a weekday morning – to praise our God for the gift of the Son and the gift of being together in God.  Chardin  expressed cosmic aspects of our life with God in new and exciting language. So does Pope Francis.

           

[Last Supper, Catacombs,3rd C]

 

            In ¶236 of Laudato Si’ he writes: It is in  the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation.  The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter.  He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours.  In the Eucharist, fullness is already achieved; it is the living center of the universe….Indeed, the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love.  If you add this dimension to your own spirituality and theology of the Eucharist, it’s quite clear that one cannot possibly celebrate the Eucharist in isolation.  By its very nature, it is communal.  By its very origin in God, it is holy.  By its scope, it is cosmic.  The Eucharist brings all of creation to that Omega Point where all becomes one in Christ and creation comes to completion in the universe of God’s love. 

            Here at St. Peter’s we celebrate Eucharist 41 times throughout each week.   Thousands of people come here to be touched by God who comes from within, renewing that Light in their hearts.  The new constellations of Clare and Francis of Assisi guide our ministry and we friars are so very grateful for your constant support because it takes nearly $3,500 a day to operate St. Peter’s. We remember you in our daily prayers and at each of the 41 Masses in every week.  And please join our celebration of St. Francis Oct. 3-5; refer to our bulletin for specifics. May our God of Creativity and Light give you peace always ~

Friar Bob Hutmacher, ofm