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More On the Christian Practice in Carolingian Times

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Baptism by spray, which turned given to children, became a sign of integration in the Christian society as it acquired the strength of a automatic and quasi-magical link of sort (that was that view which determined Charlemagne to force Saxons to baptism). For fear of sacrilege, eucharist, at the initiative of Alcuin, was since those times given, with unleavened bread, into the faithful's mouth and not in his hand anymore. Public penance, at last, which was ill-borne by the Germanic warriors like a disgrace, was transformed, under the impetus of Columbanian monks about 600 A.D., of the aural, secret and with a rate system like the Germanic laws were. Church placed at the top of faults lust, violence and perjury at the contrary of the Germans' views which were theft, rape and rapt. Under the Merovingians, the Franks changed the practice of cemeteries as they made them distant from the living; then between 650 and 750 A.D., Church brought tombs back around parish churches like what had been already done in the 6th century aroung suburban basilicae. The Church also directed Greats to a moral training through the first princes' 'specula' and also through a call to develop Christian qualities (faith, hope, charity, caution, justice, strength, and temperance), personal prayer and even silent reading, which had been developed by the Benedictines. Through such a personal culture, the private conviction of Christians built upon sturdy grounds and allowed to avoid instinctive reactions. Personal consciousness thus was one of Church's victories during the Carolingian times. Hermits, which were often confused with insane, ventured into forests as they contributed in a important way to the neighbouring communities. Rulers however were distrusting them and they took laws to regulate. Protected spaces like the right of refuge in churches and sanctuaries, or the immunist domains, were the sole way to allow for a individual as such as that concept also was related to the one of enclosing family's property, and the one of garden, or orchard. Hospitality was more or less performed


Festivals, in the Roman Catholic Church, are those days which, along the year, commemorate the holy events in relationship with Christ, the Apostles, the Virgin Mary and the martyrs and saints. Special services and/or mandatory rest are held. Down to the 3rd century, only the former Jewish solemnities of Easter and Pentecost, along with the Lord's Day were the Christian feasts. Two were added in the 4th century, Epiphany and Christmas. Then came the feasts of the Apostles and martyrs in some provinces, as, later, some confessors, like St. Martin or St. Gregory, were added. It seems to have been about 11 feasts in all in 620, 19 at the time of St. Boniface. Under Charlemagne, a capitulary specifies that '[The] feasts which have to be respected during the year are those of Christmas and the Epiphany, with the octave; Purification, Easter and its octave; the Great Litanies, or the Rogations; Ascension, Pentecost, the feasts of St. John, St. Peter and St. Andrew. About the Assomption of the Virgin Mary, we reserve ourselves to ask for advice [the Assomption eventually was counted like a feast through another capitulary].' In England, in the 9th century, the feasts were Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Assumption, Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Gregory, and All Saints, with the addition, in the 10th century of three festival for the Virgin Mary and days for the Apostles. All Saints, the 'feast of all saints,' became affixed to November 1st, in the 9th century A.D. by Pope Gregory IV. All Saints allows to celebrate all saints, the forgotten or unknown ones included, who do not have any dedicated feast day in the year. During the first centuries of Christendom, All Saints was concerning those who had 'entered God forever' as it was celebrated about Easter or Pentecost, a tradition which maintained itself in the East. It is possible that All Saints been born in the palace of Charlemagne. As far as the legend of Magi is concerned, their names were given by the 7th century A.D. by a Armenian as the tradition of Magi was adopted in the West by the 9th century A.D. Worship of Virgin Mary was to have developed in Rome during the 7th century due to the Byzantine influence which was to be found there at the time

The Mass

The liturgy of the mass, as it was known before the reform of Vatican II, took form under Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), after that major changes were brought to it at some uncertain period between the 4th and the 6th and 7th centuries, as the canon then keeps being different in the Gallican and the Roman rite, with a partial melding coming later. This took place from the 9th to the 10th century, when Charlemagne asked to Pope Adrian to be sent with the Roman sacramentary and that the king ordered it to be the sole used in the kingdom. People being attached to their use however -which already was partly Roman and partly Gallican at that time- and copists of the sacramentary -of them Alcuin- added to the Roman canon Frankish supplements. Those became gradually incorporated into the it. Just like for the Gregorian chant, as the rite got back to Rome with the Frankish influence, it was kept like it was, with the additions, as he became the 'use of the Roman Church'. As Pope Gregory had given the Mass its uniformity, akin to the unchanging Eastern liturgies, some variety for the different days and seasons was brought by the Gallican influence, along with some dramatic and symbolic gestures like the blessing of candles, ashes, palms, or the Holy Week ritual. Here is how the mass at Rome was occurring in the 8th or 9th century, hence with the rite in the Frankish kingdom unluckily a guess. The Pope entered, with his retinue, while the Introit psalm was sung. After a prostration, the Kyrie eleison came. On feasts, the Gloria followed. The Pope sang the prayer of the day with 2 or 3 lessons following, interspersed with psalms. Most of the prayers of the people had gone. The bread and wine was brought while the Offertory psalm was sung. The Secret -the only Offertory prayer- was sung. The Preface, Sanctus followed, then the Lord's Prayer and the Fraction, the kiss of peace, the Agnus Dei, the Communion under both kings -with the Communion psalm sung. The post-Communion prayer and the dismissal occurred and the procession of the Pope went back to the sacristy

Greek is the language of the first times of Christianity. The Greek -it's a simplified Greek- is spoken in the whole Roman empire and by the Jewish communities. In Rome, it's the urban proletariat which speeks Greek. In the eastern part of the Empire, Greek is spoken in Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Greek thus becomes the language of the Christian liturgy. Latin, like the tongue of the Church, paradoxically, comes from North Africa where the converts are speaking it and, about 250, its influence tends to win over Greek. The process is increased when the migratory flows are decreasing by the second half of the 3rd century. Greek then stays in use in the Roman liturgy, at least at a certain level, until the second half of the 4th century. Latin however definitively becomes the official tongue of the Church under Pope Damase Ist (366-384), with the Kyrie only remaining Greek and the lectures during the pontifical mass. That supremacy is to be understood too as a part of the effort which is led at that moment to totally christianize the Roman world: the small Saint Paul Out-the-Walls church is re-built on the model of St. Peter, the former pagan temples are inscribed into cycles of Christian festivals, for example. The latin which becomes the tongue of the Church is a much stylicised one and it is estranged from the vernacular Latin spoken by the common people of Italy and Rome. Such a Latin gives to the liturgy a form of Roman 'gravitas', at the opposite of a form of Oriental exuberancy. Latin, too, at last, at the difference of what had happened in the East, where several languages -like the Syrian, the Coptian, the Armenian, or the Ethiopian, for example- coexisted with Greek, is walking hand in hand with the papacy's centralisation as it becomes the liturgical tongue of whole of the West

The Sacraments

It's not before the council held in London in 1237 that the Church gave a first enumeration of the sacraments, at the number of 7, that is the baptism, the confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony. It might that it's Peter Lombard (d. 1164) who was the first to establish this number 7. It's not before after the 9th century, on the other hand, that the sacraments proper were distinguished of the sacraments, generally -all any sign of sacred things- with which they had been mingled until then. The Fathers had mentioned the sacraments here and there as, eventually, in the centuries before the reception of the Aristotelician philosophy, the sacraments mostly were accepted and used in those times when Christians were more concerned with a Christian practice that with the neat and precise theorization of them. The Church, however, once the great debates triggered by the heresies -in the 4th century for example- over, could dedicate more attention to questions regarding sacraments. The sacramentaries, on the other hand, begin to develop, fixing the rites. Such writers like Isidore of Seville, Bede, or Alcuin himself, have written about the sacraments


As 'Lent' in the Teutonic language, meant the spring season, it came to translate the Latin 'quadragesima', the 'fortieth day', the Lent, this period in the Church which comes before Easter. It seems like there was, since the Apostolic times, a variety of usages related to Lent, but, no, in any case, period of 40 days. It seems that Lent developed in relation to Easter like an annual festival. The fasting of Lent seems to have been observed in all of the Christendom by the 330's A.D. Lent, then, kept on to be diverse, as far as fasting is concerned, according to the regions, as the length of it eventually came to be of 36 or 40 days. A variety was observed too as far as the nature of the fast is concerned, from abstention from various food to one or two meals a week only. The ordinary rule however seems to have been to take just one meal a day, in the evening, as meat and wine were entirely forbidden. The fast, during the Holy Week or, at least, on Good Friday, transformed into a diet of dry food, bread, salt and vegetables. St Gregory, in the 6th century precised that abstention of flesh and all things related to flesh, like milk, cheese and eggs, to be observed, becoming the common law of Christendom in the West

For as far as we come to the Carolingian times, the practice was now well established that the Lent encompassed 40 days of fasting, beginning on the Ash Wednesday, and 6 Sundays. Any meat, eggs, cheese, milk was forbidden on the 40 days and 6 Sundays, as, each of the 40 days, the faithfull was allowed one meal only, in the evening. This last point had come to be relaxed however. Charlemagne, for example, is described like breaking the fast by 2 p.m., definitedly linked to the passage of the Office of Vespers allowed to be said at midday during Lent. That, in the 11th century however, was still not recognized fasting according to the canons. The Council of Aachen, in the 9th century, on the other hand, came to decide that a draught of water or other beverage was legal, in the evening, even in the monasteries and abbeys, to compensate the thirst caused by the manual labor of the day. As this toleration was taken at the time when, in the monasteries, the 'Collationes' ('Conferences') of Abbot Cassian were read aloud to the brethren, it came to be known like a 'collation'. Theodulf of Orleans, as far as he is concerned, considered like exceptionally virtuous, during Lent, the abstinence of eggs, cheese, and even fish. It's unknown whether, generally, exemptions regarding the abstinence of milk, eggs and cheese, were already granted -at the condition of a contribution to some pious work- at the Carolingian times. The interdiction of dairy products and eggs is still perpetuated by the custom of the Easter eggs today

Of note at last, two more Lents, by those times of the Early Middle Ages, were adding to the one of Easter. The Lent before Christmas and the Lent of Pentecost, with 40 days each. Two weekly fasting was also observed, on Wednesday and Friday, which were called then the '6th and 5th feries,' days which were in the Antiquity the days for the pagan feasts of Mercury and Venus. Such lengthy lents, generally, were compensated through numerous days of feast. 156 were extant along the year as the Carolingians had added to the liturgical feast days, commemorative meals at the occasion of the anniversary of the Greats, like Impress Judith, Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald, etc.

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