Monday, February 25, 2013

The re-birth of the birthday

"the first European since antiquity known to have celebrated his own birthday":  Albertino Mussato (d. 1329).

     Alexander Murray, reviewing Ronald G. Witt, The two Latin cultures and the foundation of Renaissance humanism in medieval Italy (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2012), in the Times literary supplement, January 11, 2013, p. 3.

     But given the evidence assembled in the RAC and other sources (below), whether this is an accurate statement must surely depend on what, precisely, MurrayI don't see a reference to this in Wittmeans by "antiquity".  Does it encompass the prayers offered "in natale genuinum [(on the occasion of a natural birthday)]" in the Gelasian sacramentary, for example?

“All are born impure.  In the Bible the only two who celebrate their birthday are Pharaoh and Herod.”

     Henry Chadwick on Origen, in Early Christian thought and the classical tradition: studies in Justin, Clement, and Origen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966), 90.
     In this Origen was following Philo (ebr. 208 ff.):  Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum 9 (1976), s.v. Geburtstag, by A. Stuiber (col. 226 (cols. 217-243)), where references to the Fathers are plentiful.
     From col. 233, though, Stuiber takes up the "Postive Bewertung des Geburtstags" in the East (from the late second-century reference at Protoevangelium of James 6:2 ff., according to Stuiber the oldest positive reference in the Christian tradition) and in the West, including the fifth-century passage from St. Peter Chrysologus around which I built my birthday card of over ten years ago now:

May the delights of your festivals be circumspect, and the exultation of your birthday celebrations be kept to moderation.  May Christ take part in your banquets; may they be eaten in the presence of the Author.  May the very nature that produces us be, by the probity of the feast, honored.  May the gladness of your hearts extend to the poor; may the members of your households dance the dance of innocence.  May prodigality depart and licentiousness flee. May the plague of the dancing girls, the enticements of the singers, the instigations of pleasure, the burdens of gluttony, the shipwrecks of mind be with Herod's birthday feasts wrenched away, so that your present delight may become eternal joy

(Sermon 127 on Mt 14:1-12, my translation).
     W. Dürig, in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart3 2 (1958), s.v. Geburtstag (col. 1242), treats the Cappadocians, the author of the Quaestiones verteris et novi Testamenti, and Chrysologus as a "correction of the unbiblical body-hatred of Origen" that culminated in the Missa (Oratio[nes]) "in natale genuinum [(on a natural birthday)]" of the 8th-century Gelasian Sacramentary.  Here, for example, is the first of these, as translated on p. 108 of Ancient collects and other prayers, selected for devotional use from various rituals, with an appendix, on the collects in the prayer book, by William Bright, M.A. . . . (Oxford & London:  J. H. & Jas. Parker, 1862):

“Almighty and everlasting God, the Maker of all creation, mercifully hear our prayers, and grant many and happy years to Thy servant N., whom Thou didst cause to come forth from his mother’s womb into this life, that he may spend all his life so as to please Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, totius conditor creaturae, preces nostras clementer exaudi, et annos famuli tui Illius, quem de maternis visceribus in hac vita prodire iussisti, prosperos plurimosque largire, ut omni tibi exigat placiturus aetate.  Per Dominum nostrum.

There is a variation on this translation here.

The others, in my own translations (such as they are!), follow:

O God, [you] who govern the course of all generations and the movements/turning points of times, [being] propitious hear us, and grant [(pAI2S)] that—[as] we by the consecration of the divine mystery celebrate [(pAi1P)] today the birthday of this your servant N.—you (may) grant [(pAS2S)] to him old age, so that [(quatenus)] this devotion/piety/prayer of the solemnity/celebration may issue [(perseveret, pAS3S, continue, persevere)] in an augmentation [(reading augmento (Thommasi) rather than augmentum)] of his faith and many revolutions of years.  Through.

Deus qui saeculorum omnium cursum ac momenta temporum regis, exaudi nos propicius, et concede ut famuli tui Illius cuius hodie natalem divini [(V.:  divinae)] celebramus consecratione mysterii, longaevam ei largiaris aetatem, quatenus fidei eius augmentum multisque annorum curriculis haec solemnitatis devotio perseveret: per.

(I have no good idea what to do with "concede ut . . . celebramus . . . largiaris . . . , quatenus . . . perseveret", and would welcome any suggestions for improvement.)

Attend, O Lord, to our supplications, and this oblation of your servant N. [(famuli tui Illius, of this your servant)]—which he offers to you in consideration of the natural day of his birth, on which day from the maternal womb into this world you, gentle and kind, ordered him to be born—accept.

Adesto, domine, supplicationibus nostris, et hanc oblationem famuli tui Illius, quam tibi offert ob diem natalis sui genuinum, quo die eum de maternis visceribus in hunc mundum nasci iussisti, placidus ac benignus assume.

("gentle and kind" goes with the Lord considered as the subject of assume (accept), not iussisti (have ordered him to be born).  But I couldn't get that into English without turning placidus and benignus into adverbs.  For eum V. (Vat. MS Reginae 316) has cum:  on which day when you have ordered [him] . . . to be born.)

Therefore this oblation, O Lord, of N. your servant—which to you he, in celebration [(caelebrans)], offers [(tibi offert)] in consideration of the natural day of his birth, on which [(quo die cum)] from the maternal womb into this world you ordered him to be born in order that he might know you, O God, true and living—we entreat you, appeased, to accept [(placatus suscipias deprecamur)]; in consideration of which, therefore [(ob hoc igitur)], he renders to you [(reddit tibi)], O God living and true, his vows:  for which we, to your majesty, pour out humble prayers [(supplices fundimus praeces)], that you add to him years and seasons of life, that through many revolutions of the years [(curricula annorum)] he may in joy [(laetus)] pay to you [(tibi . . . persolvat)] these his vows and attain to the old age for which he longs [(ad optatam . . . senectutem)] and bless you all the days of his life.  Through.

Hanc igitur oblationem, Domine, famuli tui Illius, quam tibi offert ob diem natalis sui caelebrans genuinum, quo die cum de maternis uisceribus in hunc mundum nasci iussisti ad te cognoscendum deum verum et vivum, placatus suscipias deprecamur; ob hoc igitur reddit tibi vota sua Deo vivo et vero:  pro quo maiestati tuae supplices fundimus praeces, ut adiicias ei annos et tempora vitae, ut per multa curricula annorum laetus tibi haec sua vota persolvat atque ad optatam perveniat senectutem et te benedicat omnibus diebus vitae suae: per.

O God, life of the faithful, savior and guardian of those who fear you, who have deigned to lead your servant N. to this day of his natural birth, one year further on [(exemto, taken away)], increase in him the grace of the protector of life [(gratiam in eo vitae protectoris augmenta)], and multiply his days by a great number [(numerositate)] of years, that, by acknowledging [(annuente)] you, he, having been carried forward [(provectus)] through a fruitful lifetime, may merit to attain to the beginning [(principatum, beginning, origin, first rank)] of celestial joys.

Deus, vita fidelium, timentium te salvator et custos, qui famulum tuum Illum ad hanc diem natalis sui genuini, exemto anno, perducere dignatus es, gratiam in eo vitae protectoris augmenta, et dies eius annorum numerositate multiplica, ut te annuente, per felicem provectus aetatem, ad principatum caelestium gaudiorum pervenire mereatur.

     Finish mining this article in the RAC, and the other materials I gathered at that time and placed on file.

The "birthday is not usually celebrated by Catholics," who refer to the doctrine of original sin, and who celebrate the deathdays of the saints instead, the only exceptions being being the birthdays of Christ, Mary, and John the Baptist, who were all in one way or another preserved from original sin.

     Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche2 4 (1932), s.v. Geburtstag, by R. Hindringer (p. 325).  In many areas (and it is here a question of Catholic practice), only the nameday was of any importance, it being the custom to celebrate the birthday only at important turning points:  "z. 1. Widerkehr als 'Jahrestag' u. nach 50, 60, 70 oder 75 Jahren als 'Jubiläum'" (Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche3 4 (1960), s.v. Geburtstag, by K. Beitel (p. 570)).

“Le seule fête chrétienne, c’est Pâques, et elle n’est chrétienne que parce que célébrée en memorial et non pas comme anniversaire:  seule la fête de Pâques est un «sacramentum», un «mysterium», dit Augustin; Noël n'est qu' un Natale, un anniversaire.  Ce qui veut dire que Noëne pourrait pas être célébrée chrétiennement s’il n’était situé dans le memorial sacramentel de Pâque:  c’est la naissance du Seigneur Jésus que l’Église y fête.”

     Louis–Marie Chauvet, “Sacramentaire et christologie,” 238; cf. also Du symbolique au symbole, 234n54.

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