Πολλοὶ μὲν ναρθηκοφόροι, παῦροι δὲ τε Βάκχοι (VIII)



We return to the function of the virgines puerique in the cult proper. Fowler already pointed out the analogy between this function of the patrimi et matrimi and the ritual of the Roman Chureh: “This is one of the most beautiful features of the stately Roman ritual, and has been handed on to the Roman Chureh. It was, of course, derived from the worship of the household” 122). And indeed a link of ritual practiee seems to exist between the oldest domestic cult of the Italian peasant and that of the Chureh of Rome.

The acolytes serving the priest at Mass are mentioned as far back as the 3d century at Rome, but they we re not children, but derks of the highest or fourth degree of the minor orders. Their task consisted in running errands, lighting lamps, fetching wine and water for the Eucharistie sacrifice, especially carrying of the fermentum, i.e. the consecrated particle of the Host. Their attributes we re a small sack, a candelabrum and a jug 123). In course of time these acolytes were replaced by laymen serving at the altar and, in spite of the injunctions of the council of Trent which demanded the service of derical persons the ministri altaris are now generally boys. The Abbé Migne depicts the graduallessening of the qualifications demanded for serving in w,>rship : at first ministri should be deacons, then subdeacons, th en it was only required that they should have taken the minor orders, then only th at they should have received the tonsura. Finally the ministry was left to laymen who however in their capacity as ministri we re called clerici 124). Is the institution of the ministry of children in the Roman Church, in spite of a quite clearly established historical discontinuanee, a revival of a very ancient custom and is it inspired by the realisation of the special “disposition” of virgin children for worship? Perhaps the ancient notion of the special aptitude of children serving in worship is more clearly apparent in another closely related function, th at of singer in the choir. From the beginning children took part in Christian worship and their participation was of some importance because their tender age was esteemed to influence God and to stimulate his philanthröpy, as Gregorius of Nazianze puts it 125). Choirs of women, especially virgins, were found in worship in Asia; some of these female singers were a sort of Vestals who had taken the vow of lifelong virginity. The T estamentum Domini nostri J. C. (5th century) even speaks of virgins and boys just as in pagan antiquity: “ei, qui in ecclesia psallit, virgines et pueri respondeant psallentes” 126). The singing of women seems to have been especially in vogue with heretics, like Paul of Samosata, and this is the reason – together with the gradual de cline of the position of women in genera I in the church – that in the end the singing by female voices was entirely prohibited. The singing of boys however remained. It is quite certain th at it existed already in the Ancient Church. The pilgrim from Gaul, Aetheria, heard at Jerusalem the singing of boys. Other instanees are enumerated by Quasten in his excellent treatise on music and song in early Christianity 127). The institution of a special category of pers ons singing in Christian worship seems to have originated in the Lectorate. The lector was at first a layman who could read. About 150 in the West, 225 in the East the lectorate became an office and the person filling it was called

, the Reader. Already in the 4th century this Reader is a young boy; a decretale of Pope Siricius stipulates: “quicumque itaque se ecclesiae vovit obsequiis a sua infantia, ante pubertatis annos baptizari et lectorum debet ministerio sociari” 128). Scholae lectorum were installed, in which a primicerills directed the tuition of boys. From these scholae lectorum originated the scholae canto rum, hierarchically built up on the basis of the singing boys 129). The Schola cantorurn at Rome consisted of seven sin gers who were clerks; one was primicerius or prior scholae, the other six were subdeacons. The Quartus scholae or ArchiParaPhonista directs the exercises of the boys who were chosen by preference from orphan homes – a curious reversion of the status of the

. – Throughout the Middle Ages choral singing was performed in churches with the cooperation of boys 130). In the 16th century the sopranos of the papal choir we re Spanish falsettos: a musical device comparable to the use of eunuchs in cult. An artificial purity replaced the natural “virginity” of the boys’ voices 131). For the singing in chorus of boys’ voices is indeed immensely superior to that of grown women. The purity and sereneness which characterizes them is the musical part of the majestas pueri. It is all unspent force, untouched power. There is nothing of pathos, nothing of craving or of satisfied sensuality in their untrammelled energy. They “glide over the surface of the frozen lake of music, without troubling about the depths slumbering below”, as Spitta says when describing the singing of Bach’s Cantatas by the boys of the School of St. Thomas. The pref eren ce for the trehle voices of hoyhood is a link between christianity and paganism 132).




122) Fowler, Rel. Exp. 195.


124) Abbé Migne, Encyclop. H andb. der kath. Uturgie, 1850, 609 sqq. Remarkable is the positiveness with which Migne excludes women from the ministry. He thinks boys arc not very apt, but women arc impossible: “Tn kcinem Fal1e darf cine weibliche Person den Celebranten beim Altarc bedienen. Sie kann höchstens in Ermangelung eines l\.finistranten respondieren. muss aber dabei ausserhalb des S:lI1ctuariums sich hefinden, und darf nie in dasselbe treten, um auch nur den geringsten Dienst am Altar zu leisten”. The “disposition” of \\”omen in relation to worship is not favorablc.

125) Quasten, MUSIC UND Gestang, J 35.

126) Quasten, 119.

127) Quasten, 136 sqq.

128) Quasten, 138 sq.

129) Otto U rsprung, Die katholische Kirchenmusik {in: E. Bücken, H andbuch del’ Mu.sikwissenschaft, 9 sq. The Gnosttc Bardesanes had sung his ritual by boys. Generally the heretics were very musical anel by their singing provoked the church either to prohibition (as is the case oi female singers) or emulation (as in that of thc boys) ; cf. Quasten, 140. See also G. van der Leeuw and K. Ph. Beroet Kempers, Beknopte Geschiedenis van het Kerklied, 1939, 44 sqq.

130) R. Haas, AufführuIIgspra:ds der Musik (in: E. Bücken, HUIldb. der il’Ilisikwiss.), 34.

131) Haas, Attfführmlgspraxis; already in ancient Egypt eunuchs were employed as hymmodes, see F. Cumont, L’Egypte des Astro- /oglles, I93ï, 125 sq., 133.

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