Reviews of

Les hymnes de la Résurrection II & III

In Brepols, Hymns, Ionuț Băncilă, Patrologia Orientalis on May 6, 2015 at 12:53 am


2015.05.11 | Charles Renoux. Les hymnes de la Résurrection II. Hymnographie liturgique géorgienne: texte des manuscrits Sinaï 40, 41 et 34: Introduction, traduction et notes. Patrologia Orientalis 231 (52.1); Turnhout: Brepols, 2010, 308 pp. ISBN 9782503541594.

Charles Renoux. Les hymnes de la Résurrection III. Hymnographie liturgique géorgienne: introduction, traduction et annotation des manuscrits Sinaï 26 et 20, et index analytique des trois volumes. Patrologia Orientalis 232 (52.2); Turnhout: Brepols, 2010, 124 pp.  (= pp. 309-432); ISBN 9782503541600.

Review by Ionuț Băncilă, Berlin.

Many thanks to Brepols Publishing for providing us with the review copies.

These two books are a sequel of a previous volume published by the author with Éditions de Cerf, Paris, in 2000 (references to the three volumes are made by indicating with roman numerals the volume and with arabic the page numbers).[1] Its aim is to offer a French translation of seven old Georgian manuscripts containing the oldest Hymns celebrating weekly the event of Christ s Resurrection. Contrary to the editorial habit of the Patrologia Orientalis series, the old Georgian text is not presented together with its translation, and the reader who wants to have access to it has to look in the critical edition published in 1980 at Tbilisi by a team of Georgian scholars.[2] One of the shortcomings of the Georgian edition (mainly as it is striving to give as much as possible a unitary text of the office, sacrificing instead the individual profile of the various manuscripts it uses) prompted the renown Benedictine Liturgist and Orientalist Charles (Athanase) Renoux to individuate the structure of each manuscript for itself and to make this a brilliant lesson in the history of liturgical worship.

Liturgically the text translated here stems from the so-called Oktoechos, a collection of hymns to be sung as part of the Byzantine divine office of the Saturday evening, of Sunday morning, and of the Eucharistic celebration of the same day, chanted from the Feast of Pentecost to the beginning of Lent.

The manuscripts of the Georgian text were copied for various reasons, thus reflecting a variety of reading practices and purposes, be it liturgical or simply devotional. Particularly interesting is the case of Ms. Sinai 34 (translated in II.227-306), a vast encyclopaedical collection of liturgical hymns (II.11), revised and enriched with additional material by the famous Georgian monk Ioane Zosime in the 10th century. The purpose of this compilation was to preserve hymnal readings from various sources, without any interest in their liturgical uses (II, 14-16). The material gathered by Ioane Zosime is at the same time an important witness to some “ancient hymns on Resurrection” (old Georgian:  ʒvelni dasadebelni adgomisani, II.15 und III.314, for Ms. Sinai 26), but also to the emergence of new structures of the divine office in his time (II. 16-17).[3]

The French translation of the Resurrection hymns according to their various old Georgian manuscripts manages to be at the same time a brilliant essay in applied historical and comparative Liturgical studies. New insights would delight the Liturgists among the readers. To mention just a few topics: the liturgical status and historical origin of the Marian Hymns at the end of the Morning Office, some of which preserve material attested in the fifth century (II, 20-23), albeit, significantly, with no hint to a celebration of the feast of the Dormition or Ascension of the Theotokos (II, 22-23); some textual vestiges, as the use of the adverbs “here” (old Georgian: aka) or “there” (old Georgian: mun) testifying to the fact that some of the hymns were indeed chanted in various Jerusalem churches (II, 18 and 117, note 10; III, 329-330 and 336, note 153.). The puzzling absence of the nine (in fact eight) hymns sung according to the different melodic modes from the text transmitted by Mss. 26 and 20 (translated in III.345-414 and discussed in III.313-324) is carefully interpreted not as a hint to a “new redaction” (as the first editors of the Georgian text thought), but as proof that these hymns were sung after the Feast of the Resurrection, as evidenced by the oldest preserved Lectionary of the Jerusalem liturgy, concordant with the liturgical reports of Egeria (III. 317-323). To these one may add the learned discussion of the Psalms sung at various moments in the Vesperal or Matinal liturgical office (III.331-336).

Translating such material is not easy work, not only because of the original language, mastered by very few today, but also due to the highly intertextual material it presents. Thus, some choices had to be made, reading the use of the individual volumes for themselves almost impossible (see I.89-90; II.23-24). For example, the reader is constantly referred to all three volumes through a jungle of painstakingly accurate footnotes and text markers. While one could imagine some variants of optimising the reference apparatus, as it stands and if properly appropriated, it never fails to adequately guide in the dense web of this textual material. A sense of unity is also to be won from the useful index that includes references to all three volumes (III.413-429). The specialist is to be deeply indebted to the author for sparing him precious time in cross-referencing the rich hymnal material in the three volumes.

Philological discussions are conveyed in the footnotes, always carefully rendering the Georgian words in Georgian script and Latin transliteration. The footnotes are rich also of scattered and learned hints to parallel textual material or imagery in Greek, Georgian or Armenian, very useful for the Liturgist or for those interested in the history of doctrine (e.g. the discussion on the Georgian Christological expression šesxmaj qorcta, “to take a body”, with its Armenian and Greek parallels, cf. II.40, note 1).

The French translation is highly lyrical und undoubtedly manages to retain the poetic flavor of the original language, although verifying it proves to be difficult in absence of the old Georgian text facing the translation. It may be that the author intended a much more user friendly edition of his translation, one that lacks the original text, to be used also for private reading and devotion by those not skilled in the intricacies of the old Georgian language. In this the author manages to issue a work with much of the same profile and intent as the Ioane Zosime, previously referred to: serving the pious reading and meditation as well as the advance of scholarship in the elite discipline of Comparative Oriental Liturgy.

Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă, Berlin

[1] Les hymnes de la Résurrecton I. Hymnographie liturgique géorgienne: introduction, traduction et annotation de textes du Sinaï 18, par Charles Renoux, Sources liturgiques 3, Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2000.

[2] E. Metʾreveli, C. Čankʾievi, L. Xevsuriani (eds.), Uȝvelesi iadgari [The Oldest Iadgari], Tbilisi, 1980. For the literature on this edition, see: Stig Simeon R. Frøyshov, ‘The Georgian Witness to the Jerusalem Liturgy: new Sources and Studies’, in B. Groen, S. Hawkes-Teeples, S. Alexopoulos (eds.), Inquiries into Eastern Christian Worship. Selected Papers of the Second International Congress of the Society of Oriental Liturgy, Rome 17-21 September 2008, Eastern Christian Studies 12, Leuven: Peeters, 2012, pp. 227-267, here pp. 235-238. A recent discussion is provided by Andrew Wade, ‘ The Oldes Iadgari: the Jerusalem Tropologion – 4th to 8th Centuries, 30 Years after the Publication’, in D. Atanassova, T. Chronz (eds.) SYNAXIS KATHOLIKE Beiträge zu Gottesdienst und Geschichte der fünf altkirchlichen Patriarchate für Heinzgerd Brakmann zum 70. Geburtstag, 2. Teilband, Orientalia-Patristica-Oecumenica 6.2, Münster: Lit Verlag, 2014, pp. 717-750.

[3] The manuscript is meanwhile the object of an exhaustive Doctoral Dissertation, defended in 2003 in Paris by Stig Simeon R. Frøyshov, rumored to be prepared for print as part of the CSCO series, with Peeters: LʾHorologe <géorgien> du Sinaiticus bericus 34: édition, traduction et comentaire, Dissertation Paris, 2003.


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