Ratramnus on the Eucharist (II)

For my introduction to this little project, see here.  Next post in the series here.

The interesting thing about these opening lines, other than the statement of the two questions in #5, is the way in which Ratramnus frames his entire project.  In the opening paragraphs of his letter to Charles the Bald, Ratramnus sets up Charles as a New Constantine solving a new Arian controversy for the sake of both the spiritual and political realms. Is this flattery of the cleverest sort, addressed to the grandson of Charlemagne?  Or did Charles himself set the terms of the argument this way?  Or did Ratramnus’s entanglement in matters Greek influence him to see the situation this way?  In any case, it seems unlikely to have been the real theo-political situation, since no wide controversy seems to have erupted from the exchange and no councils took canonical action on the matter for generations.

Still, the theological claim is interesting: should St. Paul’s classic exhortation to unity of thought and confession (ut idem sapiant et idem dicant omnes) apply to this question about the Eucharist?  It seems unlikely at the time to have been much more than an academic battle over how to interpret St. Augustine and the other Fathers on the Eucharist, nor does there seem to have been much appetite within the Church to settle the matter definitively.  But in that sense Ratramnus was either ahead of his time or forced the issue himself, since indisputably this set of questions would soon come to be critical and would become a definitive chapter in the deposit of faith.

Grammatically there are a few frustrating points throughout the paragraphs but I’ve streamlined out all but one: the irritating relative pronoun in the second sentence.  The sentence as a whole is clear: What could be worthier than A and B, where A is to understand something (sapere) and B is to allow something (pati).  Each of A and B are further modified by their own relative clause whose antecedent “must” be found inside A and B respectively.  B’s relative clause is quite clear: the antecedent is the last phrase of B, the body of Christ, in which is found the “source and summit,” to steal a much later phrase, of the Christian life.  But now the irritating part: A’s relative clause “must” have some hidden masculine noun as its antecedent, and the only nouns in A are mysteriis (neuter plural) and the hidden noun modified by catholicae (feminine singular).

While it deeply offends my grammatical sense, and while I fear I must be overlooking some better solution in which illius is somehow a masculine form referring to Charles, I have judged that qui must in fact be quae and refer to the Church.  Checking a critical edition would help a lot there, but what can you do?  It’s just a hobby!

Enough of that problem.  Without further ado:

Ratramnus, de corpore et sanguine Domini liber

Against Paschasius Radbertus (His Abbot!)

1. Iussistis, gloriose princeps, ut quid de sanguinis et corporis Christi mysterio sentiam, vestrae magnificentiae significem: imperium, quam magnifico vestro principatu dignum, tam nostrae parvitatis viribus constat difficillimum.  Quid enim dignius regali providentia quam de illius sacris mysteriis catholicae sapere, qui sibi regale solium dignatus est contribuere, et subjectos pati non posse diversa sentire de corpore Christi, in quo constat Christianae redemptionis summam consistere?

You have commanded, glorious prince, that what I think about the mystery of the blood and body of Christ I should signify to your magnificence; an order well known to be as worthy of your magnificent principate as it is difficult for the powers of our weakness.  What indeed is worthier of regal providence than to be wise concerning the sacred mysteries of that Catholic [Church] who has deigned bestow of Herself the regal seat, and to suffer [one’s] subjects not to be able to think diverse things about the body of Christ, in which is well known to consist the summit of Christian redemption?

2. Dum enim quidam fidelium corporis sanguinisque Christi, quod in Ecclesia quotidie celebratur, dicant quod nulla sub figura, nulla sub obvelatione fiat, sed ipsius veritatis nuda manifestatione peragatur; quidam vero testentur quod haec sub mysterii figura contineatur, et aliud sit quod corporeis sensibus appareat, aliud autem quod fides aspiciat: non parva diversitas inter eos dignoscitur.  Et cum Apostolus fidelibus scribat (I Cor 1:10), ut idem sapiant et idem dicant omnes, et schisma nullum inter eos appareat, non parvo schismate dividuntur, qui de mysterio corporis sanguinisque Christi non eadem sentientes eloquuntur.

For while some of the faithful say of the body and blood of Christ which in the Church is daily celebrated, that it is made under no figure, under no veil, but is done by the bare manifestation of its truth; others indeed testify that these things should be held under the figure of mystery, and that it is one thing which appears to corporeal senses, but another which faith beholds; between these no small diversity is discerned.  And while the Apostle to the faithful writes (I Cor 1:10) that all should think the same thing and say the same thing, and let there appear no schism among them, by no small schism are they divided, who speak of the mystery of the body and blood of Christ while not thinking the same thing.

3. Quapropter vestra regalis sublimitas zelo fidei provocata, non aequanimiter ista perpendens, et secundum Apostoli praeceptum cupiens ut idem sentient et idem dicant omnes, veritatis diligenter inquirit secretum, ut ad eam deviantes revocare possit.  Unde non contemnitis etiam ab humillimis huius rei veritatem perquirere, scientes quod tanti secreti mysterium non nisi Divinitate revelante possit agnosci, quae sine personarum acceptione, per quoscunque delegerit, suae veritatis lumen ostendit.

For which reason your regal sublimity, provoked by zeal of the faith, not calmly [indifferently?] weighing these things, and desiring, according to the precept of the Apostle, that all should think the same thing and say the same thing, diligently inquires into the secret of the truth, in order that it may be able to recall to it [the truth] those deviating [from it].  Whence you have not scorned also to thoroughly inquire the truth of this thing ab humillimis [from the humblest], knowing that the mystery of so great a secret cannot be known except by Divinity revealing it, Which shows the light of Its truth without respect of persons, through whomsoever It choose.

4. Nostrae vero tenuitati quam sit iucundum vestro parere imperio, tam est arduum super re humanis sensibus remotissima, et nisi per sancti Spiritus eruditionem non posse penetrare, disputare.  Subditus igitur vestrae magnitudinis iussioni, confisus autem ipsius de quo locuturi sumus suffragio, quibus potuero verbis, quid ex [de?] hoc sentiam aperire tentabo, non proprio fretus ingenio, sed sanctorum vestigia Patrum prosequendo.

Indeed for our weakness it is as pleasant to obey your command as it is difficult to dispute over a matter so very removed from human senses and, except through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, impossible to penetrate.  Obedient therefore to the command of your greatness, and further trusting in your election of that thing about which we shall speak, by whatever words I can, I shall attempt to make plain what I think about this matter, not relying on my own cleverness, but by following the tracks of the holy Fathers.

5. Quod in Ecclesia ore fidelium sumitur, corpus et sanguis Christi, quaerit vestrae magnitudinis excellentia, in mysterio fiat an in veritate.  Id est, utrum aliquid secreti contineat, quod oculis solum modo fidei pateat, an sine cuiuscunque velatione mysterii hoc aspectus intueatur corporis exterius, quod mentis visus aspiciat interius; ut totum quod agitur in manifestationis luce clarescat: et utrum ipsum corpus quod de Maria natum est, et passum, mortuum et sepultum, quodque resurgens et coelos ascendens, ad dexteram Patris consideat.

What in the Church is consumed by the mouth of the faithful, the body and blood of Christ, the excellence of your greatness inquires whether it is done in mysterio or in veritate–that is, whether it contains something of secret, which lies open in some way only to the eyes of faith, or whether without the veil of any sort of mystery this appearance of the body is looked upon outwardly, which the vision of the mind beholds inwardly, so that the whole thing which is done begins to shine in the light of manifestation; and [the excellence of your greatness inquires] whether it is the same body which was born of Mary, and suffered, died and was buried, and which rising and ascending the heavens, sits at the right hand of the Father.

4 thoughts on “Ratramnus on the Eucharist (II)

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