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Chapter XVI.

Of him whom the superior came upon and found in his cell, deluded by idle vainglory.

I remember an elder, when I was staying in the desert of Scete, who went to the cell of a certain brother to pay him a visit, and when he had reached the door heard him muttering inside, and stood still for a little while, wanting to know what it was that he was reading from the Bible or repeating by heart (as is customary) while he was at work. And when this most excellent eavesdropper diligently applied his ear and listened with some curiosity, he found that the man was induced by an attack of this spirit to fancy that he was delivering a stirring sermon to the people. And when the elder, as he stood still, heard him finish his discourse and return again to his office, and give out the dismissal of the catechumens, as the deacon does, 1016 then at last he p. 279 knocked at the door, and the man came out, and met the elder with the customary reverence, and brought him in and (for his knowledge of what had been his thoughts made him uneasy) asked him when he had arrived, for fear lest he might have taken some harm from standing too long at the door: and the old man joking pleasantly replied, “I only got here while you were giving out the dismissal of the catechumens.”



Celebrare velut diaconum catechumenis missam. Missa is here used for the dismissal of the catechumens, which it was the deacon’s office to proclaim. The whole service was divided into two parts, (1) the mass of the catechumens, containing the Scripture lessons, sermon, and prayers for the catechumens; and (2) the mass of the faithful, or the Eucharist proper. At the end of the first part the deacon warned the catechumens to depart, in words varying slightly in different churches, but substantially the same in all, both east and west: e.g. in the Liturgy of S. Chrysostom the form is “Let all the catechumens depart: let not any of the catechumens—Let all the faithful—”; in that of S. Mark it is still briefer: “Look lest any of the catechumens.” The Roman missal does not now contain this feature, but it was certainly originally found in it for it is alluded to by Gregory the Great (Dial. Book II. c. xxiii.), who gives the form as follows: “Si quis non communicat det locum.” It was also customary in Spain and Gaul, as well as in Africa, being alluded to by Augustine in Sermon xlix.: “Ecce post sermonen fit missa catechumenis: manebunt fideles, venietur ad locum orationis.”

Next: Chapter XVII. How faults cannot be cured unless their roots and causes have been discovered.