Montag, 21. Dezember 2015

Veneration of St. Thomas Becket among Cistercians

The archbishop murdered in his own cathedral on 29 December, 1170 is perhaps the most dramatic martyr for ecclesial rights in the struggle between worldly power and the church's theoretical exemption from it. The Church commemorates him on 29 December.
Because of his role in the Investiture Controversy and his exemplary way of life as a bishop, Thomas Becket enjoyed special veneration among Cistercians. These two episcopal virtues appear often in Cistercian hagiography, e.g. in Bernard's life of Malachy and his well-known defense of the papacy.
Thomas was a canon lawyer but first and foremost a priest. He may have even thought of himself as a monk. When he was informed that a papal envoy had come to bring the soon-to-be martyr his pallium as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket went out to meet the diplomat in his bare feet, as a sign of humility. His service in Canterbury was to become deeply troubled only two years later, mainly through the Constitutions of Clarendon, King Henry's attempt to gain jurisdiction over matters usually reserved to ecclesiastical courts.
Special veneration for Thomas among Cistercians dates back to Becket's exile in Pontigny, one of our French abbeys. Roger, a monk there, documented this long visit in his vita of Saint Thomas. While there during 1164 and 1165, Thomas clearly enjoyed the Cistercians' favor, ordaining several of them (including Roger) to the priesthood during his stay. It was in Pontigny that he befriended Isaac of Stella, who may have lost the abbacy of Stella as a result of this alliance; Isaac soon fled to the Isle of Ré, perhaps because King Henry had threatened the entire Order with severe sanctions if it continued to protect Becket.
Becket's assassination in the cathedral led to an unusually rapid canonization and widespread veneration across Europe, remarkable in its own right because of the slightly arcane nature of the dispute. Western dramatists from the Romantic and Modernist eras took to the subject matter again; literary treatments by Tennyson (1884), Anouilh (1959) and most of all T.S. Eliot (1935, filmed in 1951) reached wide audiences.

Donnerstag, 10. Dezember 2015

Palindrome in klösterlichen Gratulationsschriften

Ein Palindrom (griechisch für ‚rückwärts laufend‘) ist eine Zeichenkette, die dieselbe Reihenfolge ergibt, egal ob von vorn oder von hinten gelesen. Gratulationsschreiben der Barockzeit greifen oft auf dieses rätselhafte Wortspiel zurück, wie wir anhand der folgenden Textbeispiele sehen.

In einem Fall kommt bei der Buchstabenfolge die Abbildung eines Kelches durch buchstäbliche Wortmalerei (!) zustande, denn man feierte in diesem süddeutschen Kloster das Weihejubiläum des Abtes. Zugegeben: Bei manchen Palindromen ist es gar nicht so einfach, den Sinn zu entziffern; manche sind auch fantasievoller als andere. Das kürzeste und wohl verbreiteste Palindrom geht auf Tertullian zurück und hat auch einen tiefen theologischen Sinn: Ave Eva! Damit wird der Sündenfall der einen Frau durch die Auserwählung der Immakulata (Grußwort des Engels Gabriel an Maria) geheilt. Mehr Beispiele von Palindromen gibt es hier