Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/57

This page needs to be proofread.




sillon delivered that discourse "On the Fewness of the Elect", which is considered his masterpiece. Never- theless, whether liecause the compromising relations of the orator with certain great families had produced a bad impression on the king, or because Louis ended by believing him inclined — as some of his brethren of the Oratory were thought to be — to Jansenism, Massillon was never again summoned to preach at the Court dur- ing the life of Louis XIV, nor was he even put forward for a bishopric. Nevertheless he continued, from 1704 to 1718, to preach Lent and Advent discourses with great success in various churches of Paris. Only in the Advent of 1715 did he leave those churches to preach before the Court of Stanislas, King of Lorraine. In the interval he preached, with only moderate success, sermons at ceremonies of taking the habit, panegyrics, and funeral orations. ( )f his funeral ora- t ions that on Louis \1V is still fa- mous, above all for its opening: "God alone is great" — littered at the yrave of a prince to whom his con- temporaries had \ ielded the title of ■'The Great".

After the death of this king Mas- sillon returned to favour at Court. In 1717 the regent nominated him to tiie Bishopric of Clermont (Au- vergne) and caused him to preach before the young king, Louis XV, the lenten course of 1718, which was to comprise only ten sermons. These have been published under the title of "Le Petit Careme" — Massillon's most popular work. Finally, he was received, a few months later, into the French Academy, where Fleury, the young king's preceptor, pronounced his eulogy.

But Massillon, consecrated on 21 December, 1719, was in haste to take possession of his see. With its 29 abbeys, 224 priories, and 758 parishes, the Diocese of Clermont was one of the largest in France. The new bishop took up his residence there, and left it only to assist, by order of the regent, in the negotiations which were to decide the case of Cardinal de Noailles {q. v.) and certain bishops suspected of Jansenism, in accept- ing the Bull " LTnigenitus", to assist at the coronation of Louis X\', and to preach the funeral sermon of the Duchess of Orleans, the regent's mother.

He made it his business to visit one part of his dio- cese each year, and at his death he had been through the whole diocese nearly three times, even to the poor- est and remotest parishes. He set himself to re-estab- lish or maintain ecclesiastical discipline and good morals among his clergy. From the year 1723 on, he annually assembled a synod of the priests; he did this once more in 1742, a few days before his death. In these synods and in the retreats which followed them he delivered the synodal discourses and conferences which have been so much, and so justly, admired. If he at times displayed energy in reforming abuses, he was generally tender and fatherly towards his clergy; he was willing to listen to them; he promoted their education, by attaching benefices to his seminaries, and assured them a peaceful old age by building a house of retirement for them. He defended his clergy against the king's ministers, who wished to increase their fiscal burdens, and he never ceased to guard them against the errors and subterfuges of the Jansenists,

who, indeed, assailed him sharply in their journal " Les Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques".

Thoroughly devoted to all his diocesan flock, he busied himself in improving their condition. This is apparent in his correspondence with the king's intend- ants and ministers, in which he does his utmost to alle- viate the lot of the Auvergne peasantry whenever there is a disposition to increase their taxation, or the scourge of a bad season afflicts their crops. The poor were always dear to him: not only did he plead for them in his sermons, but he assisted them out of his bounty, and at his death he instituted the hospital of Clermont for his universal heirs, the poor. His death was lamented, as his life had been blessed and admired by his contemporaries. Posterity has numbered him with Bossuet, Fenelon, Flechier, and Mascaron, among the greatest French bishops of the eighteenth century. As an orator, no one was more appreciated by the eighteenth century, which placed him easily — at least as to preaching properly so called — above Bossuet and Bourdaloue. ( )ur age places him rather lower. Mas- sillon has neither the sublimity of Bossuet nor the logic of Bourdaloue: with him the sermon neglects dogma for morality, and morality loses its authority, and sometimes its security, in the eyes of Christians. For at times he is so severe as to render himself suspect of Jansenism, and again he is so lax as to be accused of complaisancy for the sensibilities and the philoso- phism of his time. His chief merit was to have ex- celled in depicting the passions, to have spoken to the heart in a language it always understood, to have made the great, and princes, understand the loftiest teachings of the Gospel, and to have made his own life and his work as a bishop conform to those teachings. During Massillon's lifetime only the funeral oration on the Prince de Conti was published (1709) ; he even dis- avowed a collection of sermons which appeared under his name at TrevoiLx (1705, 1706, 1714). The first authentic edition of his works appeared in 1745, pub- lished by his nephew. Father Joseph Massillon, of the Oratory; it has been frequently reprinted. But the best edition was that of Blampignon, Bar-le-Duc, 1865-68, and Paris, 1886, in four vols. It com- prises ten sermons for Advent, forty-one for Lent, eight on the mysteries, four on virtues, ten panegyrics, six funeral orations, sixteen ecclesiastical conferences, twenty synodal discourses, twenty-six charges, para- phrases on thirty psalms, some peiisces choisies, and some fifty miscellaneous letters or notes.

d'Alembert, Eloffe de Massillon in Histoire des membres de VAcademie fTaiu;aise (Paris. 17S7), I; V; B.\YLE, Massil- lon (Paris, 1867) ; Blampignon, Massillon d^aprt-s des documents inedits (Paris, 1879); L'episcopat de Massillon (Paris, 1884); Att.iis, Etude sur Massillon (Toulouse. 1882); Cohendy, Correspondance Mandements de Massillon (Clermont, 1883); Pauthe, Massillon (Paris, 1908). Antoine Degert.

Massorah, the textual tradition of the Hebrew Bible, an official registration of its words, consonants, vowels and accents. It is doubtful whether the word should be pointed mbo (from "IDX. "to bind") orniDD (from the New Ih'brew verb, IDD "to hand dowii"). The former pointing is .seen in Kzech. xx, 37; the latter is due to the fact that, in the Mishna, the word's primary meaning is "tradition". Our chief witness to Massorah is the actual text of MSS. of the Hebrew Bible. Other witnesses are several collec- tions of Massorah and the numerous marginal notes scattered over Hebrew M.SS. The upper and lower margins and the end of the MS. contain the Greater Massorah, such as lists of words; the side margins con- tain the Lesser Massorah, such as variants. The best collection of Massorah is that of Ginslnirg, "The Mas- sorah compiled from M.SS. alphabet ically and lexically arranged" (3 vols., London, 1880-85). This article will treat (I) the history and (II) the critical value of Massorah. For the number and worth of Massoretio MSS., see MSS. of the BiptE.