13 January 2022

Rhodanus Eloquentiae Latinae ... the Feast of S Hilary and of All Holy Airport Bishops

 "The Rhone of Latin Eloquence": is that how you would characterise S Hilary of Poitiers? Truth to tell, I am not totally sure that I understand what S Jerome meant when he thus described the great Athanasius of the West. Or when he used another phrase: that S Hilary was the 'Gallic Cothornus'. The Rhone, of course, for the Romans, was the great River of Gaul ... flowing down through a coastline civilised for centuries by Greek colonies, temples, theatres, vineyards; the river of the city of Arles, which was for late Antiquity one of the world's great, primatial, cities. As one looks across from the pons abruptus at Avignon, one is certainly aware of the might of this river. Perhaps there ought to be a special word for the world's really great rivers. Megalopotamoi?

Today is the "real" festival of S Hilary; it was only because they wanted to disentangle him from the Octave Day of the Epiphany that some usages eased him onto the following day.

I think it was in 2013 that PF coined that inspired and wonderful phrase "airport bishop". Keen though the Airport Pope has himself been (like his predecessors from S Paul VI onwards) to swing around the globe like a besequinned and idolised pop-star, PF is dead scared of anybody else getting in on the same act. But S Hilary was ... whatever "an Airport bishop" would have to be in Greek or Latin (any ideas?). 

One powerful Arian crook, the Primate of Arles himself, by insidiis et dolo got S Hilary exiled to Syria. But ... gracious me ... we orthodox don't play by the rules, do we? Just recall how the Ss Eusebii I mentioned in December, and S Athanasius himself, made good use of their government-imposed exiles. S Hilary did exactly the same. He spread the horrors of Catholic Truth wherever he went. The Arian bully-boys hand-in-glove with the government found him most terribly off-message.

This, of course, was an era very much like our own, when, in S John Henry Newman's neat expression, the Church's Teaching Authority was In Suspense. I don't think you'll find much mention of the Roman Bishopric in the old Breviary readings for S Hilary. In a couple of centuries, when you look at the Breviary Readings for S Raymond Burke and S Athanasius Schneider, you may not find many references to PF.

S Hilary is most definitely, and in so very many ways, a Saint For Our Time.

So ... S Hilary was such a nuisance to the Arians in the East that they were soon plotting to get him out of their hair by sending him back to Poitiers! From there, he seems to have converted the whole of Gaul ... all three parts ... from dozy old unreflective Arian-like assumptions to full-blooded and explicit Nicene Christianity, doing it partly (as S Ambrose was to do later) by composing Catholic hymns with sound Christology for his laity to sing. (One of the metres he used was the trochaic tetrameter catalectic, a 'triumphalist' metre, associated with Victory [Pange lingua gloriosi ...] ... S Venantius Fortunatus ... S Thomas Aquinas ...)

Dom Gueranger says that at Poitiers in his own time, the Preface of the Holy Trinity was used on the Feast of S Hilary. Not a bad idea. Unrubrical; but we mustn't be Rigid.

No; "Airport bishops" don't fit into a Bergoglianical agenda, do they ... and rumour had it that Bishop Schneider was addressed strictly about the need to cut down on his travels and to hand his airmiles over to Cardinal Parolin.

When you are a pope and you have an ingenious master-plan, carefully crafted and based on using your office to spread error and immorality thoughout the world (and to suppress the Authentic Use of the Roman Rite and to miserify those who love it), you're not exactly going to be pleased when some German bishop from Kazakhstan starts popping up all over the place with orthodoxy and orthopraxy springing up around him like the fritillaries along Addison's Walk.

Not quite the sort of "Surprise" the Bergoglians thought they had scripted, is it?

Nor precisely the right sort of "Mess".


Compton Pauncefoot said...

It is indeed remarkable that Pope Francis appears never himself to be Surprised by the workings of the Holy Spirit. But wasn't there that incident at a Family Synod when the Holy Spirit got somewhat out of control and had, er, to be treated as advisory only? Or was it not the working of the Holy Spirit at all? It seems that a Surprise is not a Surprise unless it tends in an entirely predictable direction?
I do tire of all these deceptive Synods on issues which are doctrinally entirely settled.

Simon Cotton said...

The parts of Gaul which Saint Hilary did not convert were mopped up by Saint Martin.

Colin Spinks said...

Any attempt to render "Airport Bishop" in Latin or Greek (beyond my current wit) needs to distinguish between that and the "flying" Bishops of recent Anglican vintage, although perhaps Fr Hunwicke may see some parallels between them.

LordofByzantium said...

Episcopus aeronavium portus?

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

St Hilary was also a married bishop.


Thomas said...

@Albrecht von Brandednburg;
Yes, there were married priests and bishops in the earliest centuries, including St. Hilary who was married before his conversion and was baptised along with his wife and daughter. However it is frequently overlooked that those who served at the altar were also bound to observe perpetual continence. This is what lies behind St. Paul's injunction that a bishop should be the "husband of one wife" (1Timothy 3:2). It does not mean that candidates for the episcopacy were obliged to be married men, but they must not have remarried if they were widowed. A second marriage might indicate inability to embrace the abstinence expected of bishops after ordination.

The oldest extant ecclesiastical canons specifying celibacy for bishops, priests and deacons date from the regional synod of Elvira (between 295 and 302 AD) and the First Council of Arles (in St. Hilary's native Gaul in 314 AD), which was the first organised council of the Western church just a year after the legalisation of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Getting married at all after ordination was forbidden for priests on pain of laicisation by very first canon of the Council of Neo-Caesarea (315 AD). The Council of Nicea (325 AD) forbade clergy from sharing private living quarters with any female "except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion".

Far from such provisions being an innovation, they are clearly aimed at correcting lapses from an already established practice There are numerous Church fathers who affirm that the demand of perpetual continence for those in holy orders goes back to the Apostles themselves. The first papal decree on the subject is from 385 AD.

For scholarly references and in-depth exposition of this topic:

• Priestly celibacy in patristics and in the history of the Church, Roman Cholij, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_chisto_en.html

• Celibacy in the Early Church: The Beginnings of Obligatory Continence for Clerics in East and West, Stefan Heid, trans. Michael J, Miller, Ignatius Press (2000).

• Christian Cochini, The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, Ignatius Press (1990).

Frugifex said...

Jerome sets out to explain who were the Galatians. He follows the opinions of various authors and mentions, among other things that the city of Massilia (Marseille) was founded by Greeks and that a Phokaian colonization founded Rhode from which the river Rhodanus is named. Hilarius was a native of that region and so Jerome refers to him as the "Latinae eloquentiae Rhodanus, Gallus ipse et Pictavis genitus." The Phokaians were tri-lingual, as Jerome explains: "Massiliam Phocaei condiderunt: quos, ait Varro, trilingues esse, quod et Graece loquantur, et Latine, et Gallice."

Frugifex said...

The river Rhodanus is named after the region of Rhode colonized in antiquity by the Phokaians, thus "Latinae eloquentiae Rhodanus" is a reference to a place. "Cothurnus" is a reference to elegance of style, similar to that of the Greek actors who wore in the theater a certain kind of shoe called a cothurnus. "Cothurnata eloquentia" means a dramatic elegant style. Jerome uses the expression on occasion, such as when he says: "sermo compositus, et Gallicano cothurno fluens" or "Sanctus Hilarius Gallicano cothurno attollitur: et cum Graeciae floribus adornetur, longis interdum periodis involvitur, et a lectione simpliciorum fratrum procul est."

Banshee said...

When he became a presbyter, he embraced celibacy and apparently lived separately from his wife and daughter. And he ended up being exiled away from them, so he couldn't have been with them anyway. From exile, he recommended to his newly teenage daughter that she become a consecrated virgin rather than marry the suitor her mother was thinking of picking, but he didn't order her to do it.

He apparently sent "Lucis largitor" with his letter, to be her own hymn, so that was pretty cute.

Bertie Wooster said...


Pulex said...

"... they must not have remarried if they were widowed." See cardinal Manning as a more recent example.