chapter  2
22 Pages

The echoes of victory: liturgical and para-liturgical commemorations of the capture of Jerusalem in the West

WithM. Cecilia Gaposchkin

The liturgy was (and is) at once a mechanism of commemoration and celebration. Through the cycle of prayers repeated daily and yearly, events of sacred history were remembered and their importance interpreted. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’, Christ had said (Luke 22:19), and the mass that lay at the very heart of the Christian rite thus both remembered and re-enacted His sacrifice. The events inscribed into the liturgical calendar were the events of sacred history. Foremost, the Temporale (feast days whose dates were dependent on the lunar calendar and thus movable) commemorated the life of Christ, the Incarnation (the Advent Cycle), His sacrifice, and His Resurrection (in the Easter cycle), and the associated events from the life of the Virgin Mary. Likewise, the saints as exemplars of Christian virtue and providential history were included in the Sanctorale (feasts with fixed dates, mostly of the saints). Yet, sacred history was not static. With the development of the Church and the expansion of the liturgy, new events were inscribed into this form of ecclesiastical memory. New saints, whose lives offered continuous witness to Christ, were regularly added to the calendar. New feasts (for instance, Corpus Christi) were inaugurated that celebrated particular aspects of sacred history. The events were by definition sacred. Yet, inherently – tautologically – the liturgy also sacralised the events and figures that it celebrated. And by very virtue of the fact that a saint (say, St Paul or St Francis) or an event (such as the Decollation of John the Baptist or the translation of the Crown of Thorns) was inscribed into the liturgical calendar, the liturgy not

*Email: [email protected]

of Vol. 40, No. 3, 237-259,

f i t , arson Hal , Dartmouth Col ege, Hanover, NH, United States of America

only institutionalised the memory of that person or event, but, by definition, situated it within the framework of providential history. The liturgy both reached backward, commemorating a past event, and forward within the arc of salvific history. In the Middle Ages, liturgy was memory. And it was also sacred history.1