Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Brief History of the Medieval Church 4

Michael Cerularius, Patriarch from 1043 to 1059, renewed and completed the schism.  Prior to him the mutual anathemas were hurled only against the contending heads and their party; now the churches excommunicated each other. Pope Leo IX sent three legates to Constantinople. The legates were lodged in the palace, but Cerularius avoided them.  Finally, on the 16th of July 1054, they excommunicated the patriarch and all those who should persistently censure the faith of the Church of Rome or its mode of offering the holy sacrifice. Cerularius immediately answered by a counter-anathema on the papal legates. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem adhered to the See of Constantinople. Thus the schism between the Christian East and West was completed. The number of sees at that time was nearly equal on both sides, but in the course of years the Latin Church quickly outgrew the East. During the Crusades the schism was deepened by the brutal atrocities of the French and Venetian soldiers in the pillage of Constantinople in 1204, the establishment of a Latin empire and the Pope’s appointment of Latin bishops in Greek sees.

Corruptions of the Church

This period saw the introduction of several corruptions of the Church’s practice. The most important was the worship of Mary, which Mary entered into the soul of medieval piety and reached its height in the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception. The titles given to Mary were far more numerous than the titles given to Christ and every one of them is extra-biblical except the word "virgin." 

The medieval estimate of Mary found its highest expression in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: the doctrine that Mary herself was conceived without sin. In 1854 the Pope (Pius IX) made it a dogma of the Church that Mary in the very instant of her conception was kept immune from all stain of original sin.

Another degradation of the Church’s worship was the veneration of relics. The worship of relics was based by Thomas Aquinas upon the regard nature prompts us to pay to the bodies of our deceased friends and the things they held most sacred. Following the seventh ecumenical council the Scholastics denied that when adoration is paid to images, worship is given to the image itself. It is rendered to that for which the image stands. In the earlier years of the Middle Ages Italy was the most prolific source of relics.

Among the objects transmitted to Western Europe from the East were Noah’s beard, the horns of Moses, the stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel, the branch from which Absalom hung, our Lord’s foreskin, his navel cord, his coat, tears he shed at the grave of Lazarus, milk from Mary’s breasts, the table on which the Last Supper was eaten, the stone of Christ’s grave, Paul’s thorn in the flesh and a tooth belonging to St. Lawrence. Christ’s tooth was only debunked because Guibert of Nogent argued that when Christ rose from the dead he was in possession of all the parts of his body. He also attacked the genuineness of the umbilical cord. The true cross was found more than once and fragments of it were numerous that one could build an entire forest from the fragments.

Another defect of this age was the neglect of preaching. True preaching was virtually forgotten in the Middle Ages. The office of the preacher was overshadowed by the function of the priest. The 12th and 13th centuries have each contributed a single pulpit orator of the first order: St. Bernard and Berthold of Regensburg. Probably one-half of the priests in Germany in the 12th century did not preach. The synod of Treves in 1227 forbade illiterate priests to preach. Before the arrival of the friars, a sermon in England was rare.

This began to change in the thirteenth century through the example of the friars. They were preachers and went among the people. Vast audiences gathered in the fields and streets to listen to a popular preacher like Anthony of Padua and Berthold of Regensburg. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Franciscans received formal permission from Clement V, "to preach on the streets the Word of God."

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