The basilicas and churches were illuminated when need was with lamps and candles, of which we have very frequent mention in the Liber Pontificalis and elsewhere. The numerous gifts, for example, recorded in the Life of St. Silvester, which although probably of later date than the time of Constantine yet belong to an early period, include large lamps in which scented oils burned, heavy silver candelabra for the nave of the Lateran Basilica, and seven bronze candlesticks before the altar in the same; and in the time of Innocent I there was said to be twenty brazen candelabra in the nave of the church of SS. Gervase and Protase, each weighing forty pounds. Later on, Pope Leo III ordained that on Sundays and festivals lights should be set on either side of the lectern during the reading of the lessons.
Prudentius makes the Prefect of the City inquire of St. Laurence for the silver scyphi in which the sacred blood was held, and for the golden candlesticks in which the tapers were set at their nocturnal meetings. Paulinus of Nola (θ 431) describes the lights in his basilica of St. Felix at the festival in the following lines:'Now the golden doors are adorned with curtains all snow-white,So, in another poem on the same subject, he mentions tapers fixed to the pillars of the church, giving forth scented odours, and lamps hanging by brazen chains in the spaces between them. These he compares to a tree full of branches, bearing little glass vessels at the end like fruit in which the lights burn: the whole candelabrum, when lit, rivalling the crowd of stars with its numerous flames.
Thickly crowned with lamps the altars are brilliantly shining:
Lights are burning, and give forth the scent of the waxen papyrus,
Night and day they shine: thus night with the splendour of daylight
Blazes, and day itself, made bright with heavenly beauty,
Shines yet brighter, its light by lamps innumerable doubled.'
We have got beyond mere lighting for necessity here, for the lamps were lit by day as well as by night at the festival of St. Felix: the lights are become signs of rejoicing, a common practice amongst most nations of antiquity. The well-known lines of Juvenal will suffice to recall the custom of pagan Rome:'All things are gay: my doorway now is decked with tall branches,
And is keeping the feast with lanterns lit in the morning.'
St. Paulinus also mentions lamps (lychni) hanging by brazen chains in the basilica of St. Felix. And in the Life of Pope Hilarus we read of four golden lamps burning before the Confession in the Oratory of the Holy Cross, and ten silver candelabra hanging before the altar of the Lateran Basilica. Belisarius is recorded, in the Life of Pope Vigilius, to have offered of the spoils of the Vandals two large silver-gilt candlesticks, which stood (at the time when the biographer wrote) before the body of blessed Peter in the Vatican Basilica. There was also a branched candelabrum hanging by golden chains in the covered space (pergula) before the same Confession, given in the time of Leo III; this pope also ordained that two lamps should burn every night before the altar in the same Basilica. Pope Paschal caused them to burn by day as well as by night.
From lights to incense is but a step. The list of gifts recorded in the Liber Pontificalis under St. Silvester mentions Donum aromaticum ante altaria, after the censers. As the latter weighed thirty pounds, the passage may mean that the aromatics were burned in censers hung before the altar of the Lateran Basilica. Boniface I (418-422) is said to have ordained that no woman or man, save only a minister, should burn incense (incensum poneret). We do not meet with censers in the Liber Pontificalis before the time of Sixtus III (432-440), except in the Life of Silvester; and these latter, as was mentioned before, seem to belong rather to the time of Hilarus.
In the church of SS. Marcellinus and Peter aromatics were burned before the relics of the patron saints who were buried therein, according to the compiler of the Life of St. Silvester. Later on, Pope Sergius (687-701) hung a golden censer, with columns and a cover, before the images of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica, 'in which incense and the odour of sweetness were put while mass was being celebrated, on festivals.' We find a similar practice at Cremona in 666, and in England under Theodore (668-690). Leo III (795-816) set up a golden censer before the vestibule of the altar in the same basilica, which weighed seventeen pounds. In the Life of Leo IV (847-855) we are told of a censer with a hanging cup (canthara) at the basilica of the Four Crowned Martyrs.
We have already dealt with the ceremonial use of incense in the pope's procession to the altar, and the deacon's procession to the ambo to read the gospel. Ordo I also mentions that the sexton and the assistant presbyter of the
stational church welcomed the pope with incense on his arrival there.
Incense was only used in the Roman rite at these two liturgical moments, save the occasional use in some basilicas of a hanging censer, burning all through the service, before some altar or image. When Amalar of Metz went to Rome for the furtherance of his liturgical studies, he found that the Ordo Romanus, by which he had set such store, had misled him in several particulars, which he recorded in the second preface to his book on the Ecclesiastical Offices. There he tells us that the Romans did not offer incense at the altar after the gospel; and there is no reference to any such practice in Ordo I, although the Gallicanized Ordo II directs it to be done.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Two random articles from E.G. Atchley's Ordo Romanus Primus that might be of some interest: