IT has long been a matter of surprise to those who have studied the history of Bosnia and Bulgaria that the Bogomils, who for so many centuries were numerous and powerful not only in those states, but in Western Europe also, should have left such slight traces of a literature behind them. That it was not for want of culture or learning was certain, for on at least two occasions the popes, and those the most accomplished occupants of the papal throne, issued their bull requiring that the most learned men of the universities of Italy and France should be sent to Bulgaria and Bosnia to reason with the elders of the Bogomils and confute their heresies. These Roman Catholic scholars did not succeed in convincing either the elders or their followers. A passage from Mr. Evans' Illyrian Letters, which we have quoted elsewhere, gives the probable explanation of the scarcity of the Bogomilian literaturethat it was concealed at the time of the Turkish invasion, and will probably be brought to light soon.
Meantime, a careful search has discovered a single document (aside from the Bogomil Gospels, a Codex of 14O4, but preserving the primitive forms of speech) which illustrates their doctrines or practices. This is a manuscript of wholly uncertain date, partly in the Romance and partly in the Provencal language, discovered in France in 1851, and now in the Palaisdes Arts at Lyons. This was published by Cunitz in Jena in 1852.* It is rather a liturgy and book of forms than a confession or declaration of faith, and, if genuine, pertains to the very latest period of their history, and to the French and Italian rather than the Bosnian branch of the church. The work is not complete. It commences with a short liturgy, of which the Lord's Prayer and the Doxology are in the Romance language, and the first seventeen verses of St. John's Gospel in Latin. The remainder of the work is in the Provencal tongue, and consists, first, of an act of confession; secondly, of an act of reception among the number of Credentes or believers; thirdly, of an act of reception among the Perfecti, or perfect; fourthly, of some special directions for the faithful; and fifthly, of an act of consolation in case of sickness. It is prescribed that the act of confession is to be made to God only, and it is concluded with the following form of prayer: " O thou holy and good Lord, all these things which happen to us in our senses and in our thoughts, to thee we do manifest them, holy Lord; and all the multitude of sins we lay upon the mercy of God, and upon holy prayer, and upon the holy gospel: for many are our sins. O Lord, judge and condemn the vices of the flesh. Have no mercy on the flesh born of corruption, but have mercy on the spirit placed in prison, and administer to us days and hours, and genuflections, and fasts, and orisons, and preachings, as is the custom of good Christians, that we may not be judged nor condemned in the day of judgment with felons."
The act of reception into the number of Credentes, or believers, seems to have been. analogous to "the hand of fellowship " in many of the modern churches, and, contrary to the conjectures of some of the Germail critics, seems to have presupposed baptism. It was called the delivery of the orison, because a copy of the Lord's Prayer was given to the new believer. The following is the form as given in this manuscript:
If a believer is in abstinence, and the Christians are agreed to deliver him the orison, let them wash their hands, and the believers present likewise. . And then one of the bons hommes, the one that comes after the elder, is to make three bows to the elder, and then to prepare a table, then three more bows, and then he is to put a napkin upon the table; and then three more bows, and then he is to put the book upon the napkin; and then let him say the Benedicite, parcite nobis. And then let the believer make his salute and take the book from the hand of the elder. And the elder must admonish him and preach to him. from fitting testimonies (or texts). And if the believer's name is Peter, he is to say, 'Sir Peter, you must understand that when you are before the church of God you are before the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.' For the Church is called 'assembly,' and where are the true Christians, there is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost."
The formula of the Consolamentumwhich by this and perhaps other branches of the Catharists was called "the baptism of the Spirit" was as follows: "Jesus Christ says in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts i. 5) that John surely baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. This holy baptism of imposition of hands wrought Jesus Christ, according as St. Luke reports; and he said that his friends should work it, as reports St. Mark: They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall receive good. And Ananias wrought this baptism on St. Paul when he was converted. And afterward Paul and Barnabas wrought it in many places. And St. Peter and St. John wrought it on the Samarit tans. This holy baptism, by which the Holy Spirit is given, the church of God has had it from the apostles until now, and it has come down from bons hommes to bons hommes, and will do so to the end of the world."
We do not attach much importance to this manuscript. It is probably a manual of forms written out for the convenience of some of the elders or bons hommes of the Toulouse Albigenses or Catharists, or perhaps the Vaudois, as late as the fifteenth century, or possibly even in the sixteenth; but the evidence is conclusive that these forms were a departure from the practices of the Bogomils. They and all the earlier Catharists utterly repudiated the practice of speaking of the evangelists or apostles, or indeed any one else, as saints-as, for instance, St. Paul, St. John, etc.; and this was one of the accusations brought against them by their enemies. Another point upon which they were strenuous was that all the Scripture readings and all the prayers, hymns, and responses should be in the common or vulgar tongue. In this, on the contrary, the Gospel is in Latin and the Psalm is referred to by its Latin title, while the Lord's Prayer and the Doxology are in the Romance tongue, which to them was a foreign Ianguage. The ideas of apostolic succession and of the repeated reverences to the elder are also wholly foreign to the views or practices of the Bosnian or Bulgarian Bogomils. These departures from the ancient faith and practice make it probable that the congregation or congregations for whom this manuscript manual was prepared were composed of converts from Romanism, who had retained some of their old forms and doctrines and incorporated them into their new faith.
* The extracts from this document given below are from the able though somewhat prejudiced article on the Cathari in McClintock and Strong's Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. ii. pp. 155-157.
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved