06 October 2010

6 October - Saint Bruno

Feast of the uncanonized saint, Bruno (c1030 - 1101), scholar, professor, hermit, Papal adviser, and prolific writer.  Being called to a solitary life, he removed with six companions to a desolate area of the Chartreuse mountains, fourteen miles north of Grenoble in the French Alps. In keeping with the desire for an eremitical life, they built an oratory, where they met twice a day for Matins (morning worship) and Vespers (evening worship), and several individual cells at a distance from each other, where they spent their days in solitude, engaged in copying manuscripts, study, and prayer. This was the beginning of the Carthusian order.

The story of the event which caused Bruno to retire into solitude was a favorite of the Medieval period.  Miniatures, such as those found in The Belle Heures of Jean Duke of Berry, related the tale of the death and burial of the eminent Parisian theologian and doctor, Raymond Diocres. 

According to the story, Diocres, a famous professor of theology, died, and fellow clerics, students, and theologians gathered in Paris to honor the man at his obsequies.

But during the ceremonies, the corpse rose up on its bier in front of all and called out, saying, "I have been called to the just judgment of God!"  [This, not unnaturally, stunned the mourners into silence.]

Again, on the following day, while the funeral was being celebrated, the dead man again cried out, "I have been justly accused in the judgment of God!" The mourners, greatly astonished [which must be the understatement of the day], considered among themselves whether the judgment could be for good or for evil.

On the day of the burial, as the coffin was being lowered into the grave, again the corpse cried out, "Justly I am judged by God and I am damned!"  Whereupon everyone was terrified that a man of such accomplishments could be lost. [I probably would have dropped the body and run; Medieval folk were obviously made of sterner stuff.]

This caused Bruno to exclaim to his companions, "What hope is there for us, miserable as we are?  Let us flee and live in a solitary place!"  And so they did.

Of course, everyone knows that the Carthusian monks created a medicinal concoction named after their mother-house, La Grande Chartreuse.  It would be fitting to honor Bruno and his sons and daughters in the faith with a glass of the green elixir.

As Reginald says in his discourse on Christmas presents, "...people may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die."

True words.