Friday, February 24, 2012

What the Heck is a Florilegia Anyway?

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.Image via WikipediaWhat are "florilegia?"  I'm sure you've been asking that question.  Here's a definition from The Catholic Encyclopaedia:

Florilegia (Lat., florilegium, an anthology) are systematic collections of excerpts (more or less copious) from the works of the Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers of the early period, compiled with a view to serve dogmatic or ethical purposes. These encyclopedic compilations — Patristic anthologies as they may be fitly styled — are a characteristic product of the later Byzantine theological school, and form a very considerable branch of the extensive literature of the Greek Catenæ
Two classes of Christian florilegia may here be distinguished: the dogmatic and the ascetical, or ethical. The dogmatic florilegia are collections of Patristic citations designed to exhibit the continuous and connected teaching of the Fathers on some specific doctrine. The first impulse to compilations of this nature was given by the Christological controversies that convulsed the Eastern Church during the fifth century, when, both at the gatherings of the great church councils and in private circles, the practical need had made itself definitely felt, of having at hand, for ready reference, a convenient summary of what the Fathers and most approved theologians had held and taught concerning certain controversial doctrines. Such a summary, setting forth the views of Nestorius and the mind of the orthodox Fathers, was first laid before the Council of Ephesus, in 431, by St. Cyril of Alexandria. Summaries of dogmatic utterances were used also at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and at the Fifth General Council in 533. But it was not until the seventh century that the dogmatic florilegia assumed a fully developed and definite form. At the Sixth General Council, in 680, two of these collections played a very prominent rôle, one, constructed by Macarius, the Patriarch of Antioch, in favour of the Monothelites, and the other, a counter collection presented by the legates of Pope Agatho. During the Iconoclastic controversy similar collections were produced. Mention is made of one on the cult of relics and images which the Synod of Jerusalem sent to John, Bishop of Gothia, about 760.

I learned from Fr. Michael Casey's excellent book, Toward God, that the term has been applied to compiliations of memorable Scripture passages done by medieval monks and I choose to take that meaning as the title for the lectio texts I post each week.  It's a stretch, but what can be done?
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