The Ascension in a manuscript from Fecamp
How wonderful are the love, the kindness, the condescension that God shows towards his creatures! Where the Lord is, there is his servant to be! What greater honour could a servant be granted than to share his master's royal power? O Lord our God, how can we ever repay you for the surpassing bounty which, in your mercy, you lavish upon us! To think that you have given us your Son to be our king! To realize that it was not to angels but to the descendants of Abraham that he took to himself., becoming like us in every way except sin! And now, having assumed our human nature, he has endowed it with the glorious power of rising from the dead, never to die again. He has raised it above the heavens, above all the angel choirs, higher than cherubim or seraphim, and has set it in his own person at your right hand. It is this human nature of ours that all the angels, all the powers of heaven, cherubim and seraphim, worship with endless praise.
Here rests all my confidence and hope: in Christ the man, each one of us finds a brother who shares his own flesh and blood. This means that when I see my brother reigning on high, I believe that I share his royal power. When I see my own flesh and blood crowned with glory and ruling as Lord, I know that his glory is mine and am conscious that I am rulling too. Sinner though I am, I have no doubt that I am one with the Lord through grace. My sins may hinder my steps, but the Lord has claimed me as his own. My own guilt may threaten to separate me from him, but Christ does not reject me because we share a common nature. The Lord is not so lacking in tenderness as to forget the human race, to be unmindful of the form in which he himself is clad. He took this form for love of me; how can he fail to acknowledge me as his own. No, the Lord is not so cruel that he cannot help loving his own flesh, his own members, his own heart's blood.
Jesus Christ is our Lord and God. In him we have already risen from the dead and received new life in him, too, we have already ascended into heaven and are now enthroned with him in the heavenly kingdom. He is all tenderness, goodness and compassion, and he loves us because we are his own flesh and blood. And so I dance for joy, thanking God again and again with heart and voice and the whole of my being; this is my prayer:
Almighty God, so rich in mercy that, because of the great love you bore us, you gave us new life in Christ when we were dead in our sins; now that we have been saved by your grace do not let us prove ourselves unworthy of such mercy. Rouse up your might, I pray, and strengthen the foundations you have laid in us. Finish the work you have begun, so that we may be found worthy to attain the fullness of your gracious gift. Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may always be able to recognise what you have done for us and with fitting honour and praise worship this great mystery of your love that was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed in throughout the world, taken up in heavenly glory.
JOHN OF FECAMP
John of Fecamp
JOHN of FECAMP .(source: click here) Also known as Jeannalin (Little Johnny), on account of his diminutive stature, Ascetic writer, b. near Ravenna about the beginning of the eleventh century; d. at Fécamp, Normandy, 22 February, 1079. He studied at Dijon under his compatriot William, Abbot of St. Benignus, whom he had accompanied to France. Under this skilled master John acquired an extensive acquaintance with all the sciences, making a special study of medicine, of which he is reckoned by Bernier among the cleverest exponents trained in the monastic schools of the Middle Ages. When William was commissioned to reform the Abbey of Fécamp and to establish there a colony of Benedictine monks, John again accompanied him and discharged under him the office of prior until 1028. In this year, worn out by his labours in the service of the Church, and seeking a more tranquil refuge for his old age, William appointed John his successor as abbot and retired to Italy. Taking his master for his model, John succeeded in winning an almost equal renown, and, if his authority was exercised with an defending the privileges of his house against every attack. In 1052, on the elevation of Helinard to the archiepiscopal See of Lyons, John was invited to succeed him as Abbot of Dijon. At first he retained also the abbacy of Fécamp, but, finding himself unable to carry the double burden, he resigned this office in 1056. Towards the close of his life he undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, desiring to see before his death the sanctified places towards which his thoughts had so often turned during his meditations. Seized and thrown into prison by the Turks, it was only in 1076 that he could return to France. He then retired to Fécamp.
As Abbot of St. Benignus John had been brought into close relations with Emperor Henry III — after 1038 also King of Burgundy — and with his spouse, Agnes of Poitiers. After Henry’s death his widow placed herself entirely under the spiritual guidance of the abbot, and for her John composed a series of ascetical works. These were entitled [NB recent studies group a number of his texts in the Confessio Theologica, often wrongly attributed to Augustine]the “Liber precum variarum”, “De divina contemplatio Christique amore”, “De superna Hierusalem,” “De institutione viduae,” “De vita et moribus virginum”, “De eleemosynarum dispensatione” (P.L., CXLVII, 147 sqq., 445 sqq.). A good indication of John’s value as a writer is afforded by the fact that the “De divina contemplatione” was for a long time regarded as a work of St. Augustine, although it is now certain that it was composed either wholly or partly by John. Some letters dealing with incidents in the life of the cloisters are also collected in P.L. loc. cit., 153 sq.
From the end of the eleventh century, one of the activities of prayer began to be the object of a special kind of literature, which came to include two genres. The first consisted in the extension of texts in which Augustine addressed God or himself in prayer (e.g., the Confessions and Soliloquies). John of Fécamp (d. 1078) composed three successive editions of a long prayer of praise and supplication. The edition entitled The Theological (i.e., "contemplative") Confession was afterwards divided into short sections which, combined with similar selections from Augustine and other authors, was widely read under the title of Meditations of St. Augustine.
The Abbey of Fecamp is famous as the place of origin of a liquor called "Benedictine"
The Abbey of Fecamp is famous as the place of origin of a liquor called "Benedictine"
JOHN OF FÉCAMP
Thanks to the work of Dom Wilmart,(22) the name and the works of John of Fécamp have been rescued from oblivion, although John himself perhaps would have preferred to be forgotten. He always referred to himself in deprecatory terms, calling himself "poor John" (misellus Johannes), and for many years his writings were wrongly attributed to such great authors as St. Ambrose, Cassian, Alcuin, St. Anselm and St. Bernard. For example, John of Fécamp was the author of the prayer, Summe sacerdos, that is given under the name of St. Ambrose in the prayers before Mass. Until the wide popularity of The Imitation of Christ, beginning in the fifteenth century, the devotional works of John of Fécamp were the most widely read in Christendom.
Born near Ravenna, he lived as a hermit until he went to the monastery of St. Benignus at Dijon and then, in 1017, to the monastery at Fécamp. After travels that took him to England and back to Italy, he died in 1076.
The spirituality of John de Fécamp is eminently Christocentric and he loved to dwell on those aspects of the life of Christ that show his love for mankind. In his longing to enjoy the sweetness of union with God, he realized that there are no methods that can provide this sweetness. Nevertheless, he provided contemplative souls with a kind of lectio divina that could dispose them for an experience of the divine.
Indeed, Sitwell maintains that John of Fécamp's writings illustrate perfectly the type of spirituality that developed from the lectio divina.(23) Wilmart praises him as the most remarkable spiritual author of the Middle Ages before St. Bernard.(24) His descriptions of prayer are a refinement and advancement of the silent mental prayer to which Hildemar referred in his commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict. After chanting the Divine Office or reading the word of God in Scripture, the monk may be moved by divine inspiration to enjoy an affective, silent prayer which will sometimes blossom into genuine infused contemplation. John describes this type of prayer in his Confessio theologica:
There are many kinds of contemplation in which the soul devoted to thee, O Christ, takes its delight, but in none of these do I so rejoice as in that which, ignoring all things, directs a simple glance of the untroubled spirit to thee alone, O God. What peace and joy does the soul find in thee then. While my soul yearns for the divine vision and proclaims thy glory as best it can, the burden of the flesh weighs less heavily upon it, distracting thoughts subside, the weight and misery of our mortal condition no longer deaden the faculties as usual; all is quiet and peaceful. The heart is inflamed with love, the spirit is filled with joy, the memory is powerful, the mind is clear, and the whole soul, burning with a desire for the vision of thy beauty, is ravished by a love of things invisible.
The foregoing passage illustrates clearly the importance of prayer in the Benedictine spirituality of-the early Middle Ages. However, John of Fécamp, like St. Benedict himself, while recognizing the validity of a purely contemplative life, believed it was better to live in a monastic community and thus combine the active with the contemplative life (orare est laborare).