Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bonaventurian Humor

In his very first post on The Smithy, way back in May, Faber indicated that the site would focus especially on St Bonaventure and Bl John Duns Scotus. Since he's been embarked on the heroic project of reading through Scotus' Ordinatio, however, it's really been all Scotus and, I believe, not any Bonaventure at all. I haven't read the Ordinatio, unfortunately, being already occupied with other massive projects, including among them my dissertation and a reading through of St Bonaventure's Commentary In Libris Sententiarum. So while Faber continues to regale us with tales of his Itinierarium across Scotus' masterpiece, I will perhaps do the same with my journey in Bonaventure's. Luckily or otherwise for the reader, I am by now in book IV, so there's only a thousand pages left to go.

I thought I'd use my inaugural post to display an instance of Bonaventurian humor, if the following quotes can be called humor. At any rate they're as close as you get in scholastic writings.

The question (IV Sententiarum, Dist.3, Pars I, Art. II, Q. III) is about how much variation in the words of Baptism there can be while preserving the validity of the sacrament. If, for instance, the priest interjects something while performing the rite, must the baptism be repeated? No, says Bonaventure:

Interpositio est, cum in medio cadit actus, ut sternutatio vel verbum, ut: in nomine Patris, et aqua ista est frigida, et Filii etc. --Et quod hoc non impediat videtur quia totum est salvum, quando aliquid interponitur; et aliqui homines ita sunt obliviosi quod semper interponunt aliquid, antequam possint complere orationem inceptam.

"There is an interjection, when in the midst [of the rite] falls some act, such as a sneeze or a word, for instance: 'In the name of the Father, and--this water is cold!--and of the Son', etc. --And that this does not impede [the validity of the sacrament] is clear, because the whole [form] is preserved when something is interjected; and some men are so oblivious that they always interject something before they can finish a speech they've started."

I thought it was funny, anyway.

A little later an question is asked: what if the rite is actually interrupted? Must it be started over? The Seraphic Doctor responds:

Ad illud quod obicit de interpositione sive intermissione, dicendum quod aut est tanta intermissio quod discontinuet intentionem et longam faciat moram, utpote si longum facit sermonum vel vadit ad uninam faciendam; et tunc necesse est quod reincipiat. Sed si intervenit pava morula oblivione vel sternutatione, non discontinuatur actus nec oportet reincipere.

"To the objection about interjection or intermission, it should be said that there is a kind of intermission which interrupts the intention [of the rite] and makes a long delay, as if [the priest] were to make a long speech or leave to urinate; and then it would be necessary for him to start over. But if there intervenes [in the performance of the baptism] a small delay from forgetfulness or a sneeze, the act is not interrupted, nor does it need to be started over."

There you have it, folks. If the priest sneezes in the middle of your baptism, you're still cool. If the water is freezing and he says "I baptize you--Damn, this water's cold!" and then finishes, everything's fine. On the other hand, if the water is so warm that when he dips his hand in it he immediately feels the call of nature and has to leave, then when he gets back he must start over.

The moral of the story is obviously that having heated baptismal fonts is proximate to contempt of the sacrament. This comes as little surprise to me. Near my house is a hippie parish notorious for liturgical abuses, and their font (at the back of the church by the door, right in the middle of the center aisle, and the only source of holy water in the place) is actually a three-foot bubbling fountain kept heated to around ninety degrees. I wonder how many of their baptisms are interrupted.


Michael Sullivan said...

Now that I think about it I recall that I was in fact there once (by accident) for a group baptism of about 15 children of various ages. If memory serves, there was indeed an "interpositio verborum" for each--lots of lame jokes, etc.--but never an actual "longam moram".

As a Franciscan once told me: "An invalid sacrament is when Jesus doesn't come. In an illicit sacrament, Jesus comes, but he's pissed." Unfortunately that's how I feel too much of the time.

Lee Faber said...

That Franciscan is awesome