JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS 1997-2015 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || Reprinted with permission of the Editor, Father John Halborg, from St Ansgar's Bulletin


NICHOLAS ROGERS

ABOUT THE XV O'S, THE BRIGITTINES AND SYON ABBEY



 Domine Jesu Christe eterna dulcedo.

 Jesus Christ! Eternal sweetness to those who love Thee, joy surpassing all joy and all desire, salvation and hope of all sinner; Thou Who hast proved that Thou hast no greater desire than to be amongst men even assuming human nature during the course of time for love of men, recall all the sufferings that Thou has endured from the first moment of Thy conception, and especially during Thy passion, as it was decreed and ordained from all eternity in the Divine plan.

Remember, O Lord, that during the Last supper with Thy disciples, having washed their feet, Thou gavest them Thy Precious Body and Blood, and while at the same time Thou didst sweetly console them, Thou didst foretell them Thy coming Passion.

Remember the sadness and bitterness which Thou didst experience in thy soul as Thou prayed: 'My soul is sorrowful even unto death'.

Remember all the fear, anguish and pain that Thou didst suffer in Thy delicate Body before the crucifixion, when, after having prayed three separate times, bathed in a 'sweat of blood', Thou wast betrayed by Judas, Thy disciple, arrested by the people of a nation Thou hadst chosen and elevated, accused by false witnesses, unjustly judged by three judges, all this in the flower of Thy youth and during the solemn Pascal season.

Remember that Thou wast despoiled of Thy garments and clothed with the garments of derision, that Thy face and eyes were veiled, that Thou was buffetted, crowned with thorns, a scepter placed in Thy hands, that Thou was fastened to a column and crushed with blows and overwhelmed with affronts and outrages.

In memory of all these pains and sufferings which Thou didst endure before Thy Passion on the Cross, grant that before I die, I may with true contrition make a sincere and entire confession, make worthy satisfaction and be granted the remission of all my sins. Amen.

Pater noster, Ave Maria.


his is an adaptation of a translation, published in Bruges in 1576 for the use of English Catholics, of the first of the XV O's, a series of fifteen meditations on the Passion, each beginning with an O. These are commonly ascribed to St Birgitta of Sweden, but they are not to be found in the corpus of her writings compiled by Prior Peter Olafsson and Alfonso de Vadaterra, and have been rejected as suppositions by Wilmart and others.

Willmart, writing in 1935, noted the prevalance of the XV O's in England. On the Continent their appearance is occasional. I have encountered them in less than half a dozen continental books of hours of the 15th and early 16th centuries. It was not until they were published in pamphlet form in Rome about 1478 that they achieved some measure of popularity, running to 21 Latin editions and five German ones between then and 1500. By contrast, I have calculated that they appear as an original part of the text in over 60% of books of hours produced in England, or in the Low Countries for the English market, in the 15th and early 16th centuries.

The earliest example of the devotion I have discovered so far occurs in British Library Additional Manuscript 16998, a missal illuminated by the famous London illuminator, of Netherlandish extraction and training, Herman Scheerre. On stylistic grounds it is to be dated circa 1405-10. Unfortunately nothing can be said for certain about the patron, a layman, who is depicted in one of the miniatrues. The XV O's are unattributed in this manuscript, but a link with St Birgitta is established in Aberdeen University Library Manuscript 25, a Sarum Book of Hours. This contains calendrical tales fixing its date between 1406 and 1424, and costume and other details suggest that it should be placed toward the end of that period. For the time being, it is sufficient to note that the XV O's , which are prefaced by a lengthy rubric, are illustrated by an initial depicting St Birgitta seated reading to two nuns. In most early instances of the XV O's the prefatory rubric, if there is one, is brief and non-committal, usually describing the devotion as 'a good and devout prayer to Our Lord Jesus Christ'. Trinity College, Cambridge, Manuscript B.11.18, of circa 1430, has a rubric referring to the number of Christ's wounds 'according to Bernard'. I suspect a scribal error has led to the substitution of his name for that of Birgitta. The connection with the Mother of Vadstena is clearest in York Chapter Library, Manuscript 16.G.5, dated to circa 1420 by Christopher Wordsworth, in which the prayers are called 'XV orationes sancte Brigitte'.

This MS 16.G.5 is a Book of Hours of the use of York, which belonged to someone connected with the parish of All Saints Pavement, York; and several of the early texts of the XV O's prove to have links with Yorkshire. From a study of the calendar, litany and memorials of saints in Aberdeen 25 it can be deduced that it was executed for someone living in the vicinity of Selby. Of about the same date as Aberdeen 25, and also produced in Flanders for an English client, is the badly mutilated Bodleian MS Lat. liturg.f.9 The XV O's (unfortunately beginning imperfectly) are to be found in a supplement executed for the first owner, a woman called Katherine. Among the other prayers in the supplement are a memorial of St Birgitta (with an antiphon beginning 'O brigida swecie beata principessa') and one of St John Bridlington, the prior of an Augustinian house in Yorkshire, who had been canonized in 1401.

Wilmart spotted this Yorkshire connection, and suggested that the XV O's were in fact composed by an anchoress living in that area. But why, then, should the prayers be ascribed to St Birgitta, rather than some local mystic such as Richard Rolle? Yorkshiremen early showed an interest in Brigittine spirituality. One of the earliest defenses of St Birgitta's Revelationes was written by Geoffrey, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Byland in the North Riding of Yorkshire, circa 1397-1400.

Active lay interest in the Brigittine order in England dates from 1406, when Philippa, the daughter of Henry IV, married Eric XIII. She was accompanied to Sweden by a Yorkshireman, Sir Henry FitzHugh, Lord FitzHugh, whose family seat was Ravensworth in Richmondshire. He visited Vadstena, where he announced that he had undertaken to found a Brigittine house at Cherry Hinton, near Cambridge. This plan proved abortive, as did that of Henry IV, who was caught up in the initial enthusiasm, to convert the decayed hospital of St Nicholas at York into a Brigittine house. But they laid the ground for Henry V's foundation of Syon Abbey in 1415. To assist Lord FitzHugh in his plans two Brigittine monks, John Peterson and Katillus Thorberni, came over to England in 1408, where they remained until the foundation of Syon. Where they lived while recruiting postulants for the new order is something of a mystery. Perhaps they resided at Ravensworth, where they would have been in an ideal position to introduce the devotion of the XV O's to Yorkshire.

There is another interesting group of early English examples of the XV O's. They occur in Bodleian MS Lat. liturg. g.8, a prayer book written at either St Albans Abbey or its northern cell of Tynemouth in the 1440s or 1450s, and, together with a St Albans litany, were added to Bodleian MS Gough Liturg. 18 in the mid 15th century. This suggests that they had become a standard part of the devotional life of St Albans Abbey. This interest is understandable in view of the important part which the Benedictines of St Albans played in the foundation of Syon Abbey. Two St Albans monks helped draw up the Additiones to the Brigittine Rule of St Saviour for the local use of Syon. The first regularly appointed confessor-general at Syon was Thomas Fishbourne, a former steward to the abbot of St Albans who had become a hermit. Fishbourne also provides another link to the north of England. Thomas Gascoigne records that 'before his entry into religion he was a great squire, and a devout, in the north of England'. Not far from St Albans is Markyate, from where came Joan North, the first Abbess of Syon.

Thus there is a good degree of circumstantial evidence to support the Brigittine origin of the XV O's. This is not to say that they were composed by St Birgitta herself. The phrase 'orationes sancte Brigitte' does not necessarily have that implication. Perhaps the circumstances of their origin are most truly reflected in the rubric to the 1576 translation: 'Fifteene Prayers righte good and vertuous, vsually called the .XV.Oos, and of diuers called S. Brigets prayers, because the holye and blessed Virgin vsed dayly to say them before the Image of the Crucifix, in S. Paules Church in Rome'.


 


See the XV Os of Syon Abbey


JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS 1997-2015 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||