08 August, 2010

Hierosylia--How Sad Can It Get?

Melanchthon had his Declamatio de studio linguarum [CR 11.231–9; cp. Kusukawa & Salazar 29ff.] delivered by Veit Dietrich in 1533 (the same Veit Dietrich credited with the Reformation-era “Gospel collects” that will be known to Lutherans of Scandinavian extraction). I recommend the entire declamation, but draw attention to a final flourish that Philipp, or Veit, leaves with the hearer. Here, the image of plundering the holy places, or hierosylia, expresses the outrageousness of a Church without her languages.
Has artes quas recensui obruere ac delere tristius fuerit quam solem e mundo tollere. Neque vero sine cognitione peregirnarum linguarum retineri earum possessio potest. Qua ex re facile iudicare potest, linguarum noticiam non esse leve aut vulgare Dei donum. Quae autem impietas, quod scelus est, tale donum, cuius usus tam late patet, aspernari, et divinitus illatum in has nationes rursus explodere atque eiicere? Leges publice atrociter puniunt sacrilegia; at maius sacrilegium est, Ecclesiam spoliare linguarum cognitione, quam aurea aut argentea supellectile. Haec enim coelestia dona Evangelio lucem afferunt, et verius sunt Ecclesiae supellex, quam ulla ornamenta aurea. Neque enim dubium est, quin ad hanc utilitatem Deus Evangelio addiderit donum linguarum, ut vocant, ut ad sacras literas explicandas conducant. [CR 11.238]

It would be sadder to crush and destroy the arts that I have discussed [trans. note: the useful arts to Church and state] than to remove the sun from the world; however, neither can possession of them be retained without the knowledge of foreign languages [trans. note: in the usage of this declamation, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin]. From this fact, one can easily come to the conclusion that the knowledge of the languages is not a trivial or mean gift of God. But what godlessness, what a crime, for such a gift to be shunted aside whose usefulness is so obvious and to cast it back and drive it out when it has been brought by dint of God’s disposing amongst these nations. The laws harshly punish acts of sacrilege in public; and it is a greater act of sacrilege to despoil the Church of the knowledge of the languages than of her furnishings of gold or silver. For these heavenly gifts shed light upon the Gospel and are the Church’s furnishing in a more real way than any golden decoration. Nor indeed is there any doubt but that God has conferred the gift of the languages, as they call it [cp. Acts 2; 1 Cor. 14], upon the Gospel for this purpose: to advance the explication of the Holy Scriptures. [trans. Bruss]

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