Tuesday, 3 December 2013

An abbot wrongly accused.

The following story is taken from the Liber de Miraculis by Johannes Monachus. I found this story in A Primer of Mediaeval Latin by Charles Beeson. Not much is known about this Johannes, except that he lived in Italy in the period 950 – 1050 and belonged to a monastery near Amalfi in South-Italy. During a visit to Constantinople he became acquainted with these miracle stories and made a translation into Latin.
The reason why my eye fell on this story is quite simple: a city named Petra is mentioned, which must be the city of Petra in Jordan. I have been there a few years ago and it was a magnificent tour, walking along all those dwellings hewn out of the rocks. So in order to revive my memories and as a tribute to Petra, I decided to post this story. Not that Petra plays any part in it, but it is told by some abbot Johannes living there. Indeed, there are still ruins of churches and monasteries there.
The story is quite simple and has no literary value whatever, but it is an example of how texts of the Greek Church were transmitted to the West. It must be kept in mind that knowledge of Greek was almost extinct in Europe at that time, so when this manuscript was investigated and edited in the 19th century, it was quite a surprise. Its content reminds of the simple miracle stories of the Coptic Church and it could well be that its source is ultimately Coptic.
A certain Abbot Daniel is asked by a young man to make a prayer over his wife (super uxorem meam) as she is sterile. The abbot does so and indeed she got pregnant. Wicked voices however tell it was the abbot who made the wife pregnant. Apparently they had other ideas by super uxorem meam. The abbot hears this rumour and goes to the young man and his wife when she has given birth. He orders to prepare a meal and that everyone should be invited. Everyone comes and then the abbot asks the baby, 25 days old, who his father is. The baby points with his finger to the young man and says: `He is, my lord!’ Isn’t that a miracle?
The other miracle for me is that the speakers of this evil did not go immediately to hell, but just put a disappointed face on…

Johannes Monachus, Liber de Miraculis, miraculum 8. De quodam iuvene.

Narravit abbas Johannes, qui manebat in loco qui dicitur Petra, de abbate Daniele Egiptio dicens, quia cum ascendisset senex in locum qui dicitur Terenuthi ut venderet opus manuum  suarum, iuvenis quidam accessit deprecans eum dicens : Propter Deum te rogo, pater, ut venias in domum meam et facias orationem super uxorem meam, quia sterilis est. Senex autem victus a prece iuvenis, eo quod per nomen Domini eum adiuraverat, abiit cum eo. Et facta oratione super uxore eius recessit et abiit in cellam suam.
Non post multum vero tempus concepit mulier. Quod ut viderunt pravi homines Deum non timentes, detrahebant seni dicentes: Vere scimus quia iuvenis ingenerabilis est et non generat, sed de abbate Daniele concepit mulier. Devenit autem hec fama usque ad senem. Quod cum audisset, misit ad virum mulieris dicens: cum genuerit uxor tua, notifica illud mihi.
Quando uero genuit mulier, nunciatum est a iuvene abbati Danieli in Cithi, quia cum Dei adiutorio et orationibus tuis genuit mulier. Tunc abiit abbas Daniel dixitque iuveni: Fac prandium et invita omnes parentes et amicos tuos. Cum autem omnes pranderent, accepit senex infantem in manibus suis et coram omnibus dixit ei: Quis est pater tuus, o infans? Dixit puer: Iste est, domine mi ; demonstrans iuvenem digito manus sue. Erat enim puer dierum viginti quinque. Quod videntes omnes qui aderant glorificaverunt Deum.
Ex tunc obstrusa sunt labia loquentium iniqua, qui Dei homini detraxerant.

abbas, abbatis (m.): abbot
quia cum: that, when
maneo mansi mansum: to stay, live
senex: abbot Daniel
Terenuthi: Terenouthis is a place in Egypt, nowadays Kom Abou Billo.
vendo vendidi venditum: to sell
opus manuum  suarum: self-made goods. In order to earn money, monks made items like clay ware and baskets.
accedo accessi: to approach
deprecor deprecatus sum: to plea, ask urgently
propter Deum: for God’s sake
vinctus a prece: overcome by the plea
eo quod: to that place, because
adiuro: to swear (the subject of adiuraverat is the young man.)
concipio concepi conceptum: to conceive, become pregnant
pravus: wicked, evil
detraho detraxi detractum (+ abl.): to pull down, speak evil of
hec = haec
ingenerabilis: impotent
misit: he went
gigno genui genitum: to give birth
Cithi: a place, but I haven't been able to identify this place.
adiutorium: help
prandium: meal
parentes: relatives
coram (+ abl.): in front of
sue = suae
Ex tunc obstrusa sunt labia loquentium iniqua: and then the lips of the speakers of evil were thrown out in a pout
homini = homine

Here is the text of the edition, with an introduction in German:

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