Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mass of St Melchiades - Late!

I left home this morning running rather late, but felt that at least I would get to Mass after it had started...

In due course, I arrived about ten minutes late, supposedly - at the Pater noster!

(I suspect Fr Rowe began Mass rather before ten o'clock - he has a weekly Wednesday Holy Hour from a quarter to nine till a quarter to ten, and most probably he commenced Mass soon afterward rather than at its official starting time.)

Since a priest may be asked to give one Holy Communion, for a just cause, at any time, and then must administer it according to the due forms - albeit it is most strongly recommended that persons receive It during Mass (Canon 918) - and that the only time when one is forbidden to receive Communion is when one has not kept the fast or is conscious of grave sin (Canons 919 and 916), and moreover there is no obligation to hear Mass on weekdays, nor for that matter to only receive if one has heard all of the service (though of course that would be best), I nonetheless presented presented myself at the altar rail to receive Our Lord in the Sacrament.  

Certainly I was present for the Lord's Prayer, Pax Domini, Agnus Dei, private prayers before Communion (Domine Jesu Christe Fili Dei vivi... Perceptio Corporis tui...), Confiteor, Misereatur, Indulgentiam and triple Domine non sum dignus - the Church's own proximate preparation for reception of the Eucharist - just as afterward the Communion and Postcommunions were read, Ite missa est declared, the Placeat prayed (during which I say my own parallel prayer*) and blessing given, followed by the Last Gospel, Leonine Prayers and the final hymn.

*During the Placeat, I pray this prayer, from the 1954 South African BCP:

Look with favour, most Holy Trinity, on this our act of worship and service; and may this sacrifice set forth before thine eyes be acceptable to thy Divine Majesty, and avail for us and all for whom we have offered it; who lived and reignest, [ever] one God, [blessed for ever,] world without end. Amen.

After Mass, in thanksgiving and to unite myself to the whole of the action just completed, I read over the principal parts of the liturgy - the Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Collects, Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, Gospel, Offertory, Secrets, Preface, Sanctus and Doxology.  The Mass had been of St Melchiades, Pope and Martyr, so all was from the Common of Supreme Pontiffs, with commemoration of the Advent feria, and Fr had worn red.

Curiously, Pope St Melchiades (reigned 310 t0 314) - called Μελχιάδης ὁ Ἀφρικανός, Melchiades the African, since apparently he was not just born in Roman North Africa, but was a Berber and not a Latin colonist - is both sometimes known by the alternate name of Miltiades (Μιλτιάδης), and oscillates between being called a Martyr and a Confessor!  My 1962 Breviary, for instance, refers to his commemoration today as being of Papæ et Confessoris, but the antiphon and versicle are from the Common of a Martyr, and in his Collect he is referred to as Martyrem tuum atque Summum Pontificem.  As my missal put it, he wasn't put to death during the last great persecution under Diocletian, but he did suffer much, before he died having seen the triumph of the Church over all her foes.


Son of Trypho said...

Miltiades is actually quite an interesting historical figure - he came to prominence interestingly at the same time that the proto-Donatists started to emerge as a signficant faction in Africa.

We certainly know that he was asked by Constantine to examine the situation concerning the schism and make a judgement on this. (cf. Eusebius) This must have been because, from his own background, he was aware of the players and issues involved. He ruled (after a lot of complications detailed in Optatus) against the Donatists who went into a type of schism.

Of further interest is the background to the ruling - Miltiades appears to have judged the Cyprianic sacramental theology (Cyprian being the father of African theology at this time) and was the position adopted by the Donatists, as being incorrect, and adopted the sacramental theology of Pope Stephen who had argued with Cyprian over similar issues a century earlier. This is a very interesting study into Papal authority esp. considering that Miltiades was himself African and influenced by Cyprianic thinking.

If anyone else has some thoughts/reflections on this, I'd love to read them. :)

Joshua said...

Very interesting - I had noted his actions regarding the Donatist schism, confirming Caecilian as Archbishop of Carthage in opposition to their claims, but had not paid it much attention.

What else is known of this Pope?

To begin with, why the confusion over his name? Is it a Greek name, or is it a Greek version of some Berber name?

Son of Trypho said...


Well I can advise the following from what I know about the Donatists;

The proto-Donatists originally actually referred the matter to Constantine for his own personal intervention in the matter.

I refer to them as proto-Donatists because Donatus (of Casae Nigrae) -[note that there are actually several Donatus' involved in different Sees which makes it even more confusing!] formally caused the schism and he pops up later.

The proto-Donatists had referred it to Constantine because it had become critical for them; after the election/consecration of Caecilian as Bp of Carthage (following on from the undisputed Mensurius) the proto-Donatists had elected and organised for the consecration of Majorinus. The consecration of Caecilian was done in an unorthodox manner - traditionally the Bp of Carthage was consecrated and approved by the Primate of Numidia IIRC and he did not do this but circumvented them. There are also a whole lot of petty issues around the original fight if your interested. The Numidian Bps opposed Caecilian and consecrated Mensurius and alleged that Caecilian and/or his consecrators had been involved in some form of "traditor" action which made him unworthy of the bishopric and this impacted on his sacrament.

Caecilian appears to have been in contact with Bp Ossius of Cordova (Constantine's close spiritual
advisor) as is suggested by the fact that Constantine acknowledged him as Bp of Carthage and crucially provided Caecilian's clergy with the financially beneficial exemption from public office. At this point the proto-Donatists appealed to Constantine to arbitrate the dispute as they could not financially compete in the urban areas.

Interestingly, the proto-Donatists requested that Constantine use Gallic bishops to assist him in arbitration - they did not consider the Spanish bishops (influenced by Ossius of Cordova) or the Italian bishops (influenced by Miltiades) as impartial.

Constantine directed Miltiades to set up some form of ecclesiastical investigation using 3 Gallic bishops (who he nominated, no doubt with Ossius' advice and his own knowledge of the Gallic clergy). (Augustine refers to this in one his letters) The factions were directed to attend.

On the way to Italy, Majorinus died and Donatus succeeded him. When he arrived, he (and no doubt Constantine too) were surprised to find out that Miltiades had actually personally ordered a further 15 Italian bishops to attend to assist him (in direct contravention of Constantine's instructions btw!). This council was probably far outside of what was originally envisioned by Constantine or either party but was clearly of benefit to Caecilian because most of the participants were sympathetic to him.

Btw, I should note also that some of the dynamics here may have been motivated by the Donatists arguing something along the lines of Cyprian's earlier arguments against Pope Stephen - i.e. challenging his authority to define theology, particularly concerning the validity of sacraments. They may have thought that Miltiades, as an African, would be sympathetic to their views but didn't take into account that he had taken up the role as Bp of Rome and, like many popes, developed different priorities. Miltiades ruled against Donatus despite very vigorous debate offered by all sides.

Interestingly, Donatus appealed this ruling to Constantine, and it would appear that he had some valid grounds for complaint as Constantine referred the matter to the Council of Arles for consideration.

The Council of Arles agreed with the earlier rulings and the formal split accelerated and solidified(this can all be tracked down in Optatus, Augustine and Eusebius).

A little known side issue is that Donatus several years later appointed his own Bp of Rome (an anti-pope!) and the Donatists set up their own structure for a while in Rome in opposition to the legitimate Bps of Rome. They were unable to establish themselves anywhere else in the Christian world - despite this they almost took over the entire church in North Africa. Another interesting thing is that while the western church opposed the Arians, the Donatists briefly reached out to them, apparently in an effort to gain recognition from the eastern churches!

As to Miltiades (I think that is the correct name btw, I can't recall where Melchiades comes from right at this moment) - he is actually a significant figure because he was right there at the critical point where Church and State first met with the Church inviting State interference in its matters. Apart from this very little else is known aside from the above details. I'll look further into it and see if I can turn anything else up.

Joshua said...

Thanks for so learned and interesting a comment!

Wasn't there some dreadful woman involved in all of this? I seem to recall that one of the Donatists (not, surely, Donatus himself...) was a creature of, supported by and indebted to a wealthy society dame of Carthage, who had taken umbrage at Caecilian when he refused an offering she was rather proudly proffering.

Do you recall the details?

Son of Trypho said...

Indeed, that was part of the pettiness I mentioned earlier.

IIRC she had some relic (a finger of a martyr?) that she would take with her into church during the services. (Folks could carry around their own relics in those days and display them apparently! and the North African church was BIG into the cult of martyrs, much more than other parts of the church IMO)

I think, Caecilian, while not yet a bp but definitely some member of the clergy and assistant to Mensurius, questioned her relic and practices and she developed a grudge against him. (I think you can see this thing today with a lot of modern parishes and the grey-hairs that interfere with others!)

I don't think Majorinus was her creature (and certainly Donatus wasn't - he was, aside from getting it totally wrong theologically, was particularly rigorous and scrupulous, a fanatic in some ways - sort of like Lefebvre if I had to think of a contemporary example - sorry if that is controversial!) - she just opposed Caecilian with all her resources, which were considerable.

I think that Optatus suggests that Majorinus had a closer relationship with this woman but this could be criticism cast back onto the scenario - both sides threw nasty accusations at each other and some are disproved on both sides. Besides, the Numidian senior clergy would not have consecrated Majorinus unless they thought there was a legitimate case to do so IMO. (They were annoyed that Caecilian did a quickie-consecration so to speak without utilising their services which was traditional.)