Rites of Public Celebration

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Rites of Public Celebration [deluxe edition], edited by Mesniu, from Behutet Publishing.

Fr. Mesniu is to be applauded for his work in assembling this convenient and attractive collection of liturgical materials for the use of Gnostic Catholic clergy in the United States. The physical design and composition of the book are admirable, and his editorial introduction is clear and to the point. The title is Rites of Public Celebration, and yet the final text included, a “Last Rites” ceremony composed by Helena and Sabazius, is not one that would be conducted publicly in the vast majority of cases. Still, it completes the set of current “official” liturgical texts (i.e. those approved by the Patriarch and Primate for standard use), excepting only the ceremonies of priestly ordination (useful only to bishops) and consecration to the episcopate (private and officially secret).

The purpose of this book is to serve for study and aide memoire. It will suitably adorn any Gnostic Catholic Church sanctuary. With respect to Liber XV (the rule of the Mass), it should be noted that this edition is not “authorized,” and cannot settle disputes regarding the genuine text or instructions. I must admit that I am myself referenced as an authority in this book, but without any self-interest I encourage all EGC clergy to acquire it, both for its basic usefulness (and attractiveness), and because proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the operation of the Church.

At the same time, there are any number of small criticisms that occur to me. Fr. Mesniu disavows any attempt to interpret Liber XV in the document at hand, and yet there are several points where he tacitly does so. He has not noted any of the instances where there are variations among authorized editions, and in some cases he has muddied the water by dropping brackets that served to distinguish interpolated direction from Sabazius and Helena in their annotated version of Liber XV. (For example, “The PRIEST [hands the lance to the Priestess,] genuflects…” etc. on page 40.) As Sabazius and Helena note, “These bracketed [ ] stage directions are added for clarity. They reflect our experience and opinions, and do not represent definitive standards.”

The various art images and illustrative photos throughout the book are all attractive and well-presented, but there is at least one with debatable implications regarding ritual performance. The photo at the top of page 13, captioned “Raising the Lance,” actually shows the lance in a lowered position. Moreover, the manner in which it is lowered in that picture, while not uncommon, contradicts the practice described by Sabazius and Helena thus: “According to Agapé Lodge tradition, the Priest holds the Lance vertically upright before him with both hands, the butt end of the Lance on the floor, during the entire time the Priestess runs her hands up and down its shaft.”

Finally, while the verbal content of the texts seems to have been reviewed with care, and despite the overall beauty of the book, the typography fails to excel. The generous font size is suited to the book’s purpose, but the Times-style face betrays too obviously the cut-and-paste incorporations of the source texts, through such stigmata as the inconsistent appearance of straight and curly quote marks and double hyphens for dashes. Italics are used for rubrics in the supplementary rituals, but not in Liber XV.

As the reader can infer from the trivial nature of my objections, this book, while imperfect, is very good, and in fact the best yet of its kind. [via]