Monday, March 05, 2012

Transitus Domini

The privilege of Paschal I (817-824), issued in 819 for the Church of Ravenna, the most ancient and most solemn among papal documents. It is written on papyrus in the typical “Roman curial” script

ASV, A.A., Arm. I-XVIII 3747
Instrument of possession of the Castle of Miranda (5 April 1287)

ASV, Arch. Nunz. Berlino 92, fasc. 4, f. 53r
Minute of the Nuncio to Berlin then Mons Eugenio Pacelli to the Secretary of State Cardinal Gasparri

Lux in arcana - The Vatican Secret Archives is the exhibition in Rome celebrating the 400th year of the foundation of the Vatican`s Secret Archives by Pope Paul V

The website is a fascinating preview of the highlights of the exhibition

On 31st January 1612 Pope Paul V appointed Baldassarre Ansidei (1612-1614)  former custodian of the Vatican Apostolic Library, custodian of the new archives. The official history of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano dates back to this day, and today the Archives are still a sort of department of the Papal Library. 

The documents stored go back far before 1612

It was Pope Leo XIII who opened the archives to scholars and developed the archives. He founded «La Scuola speciale di Paleografia e di Storia Comparata" as part of the Archives

So is it simply a history geek`s dream come true ? More for scholars interested in dry dust documents rather than everyday life and true religious life ?

Pope Paul VI answered this question in a speech on 26th September 1963 to the archivists while the Second Vatican Council was in progress: In those days of modernism and destruction of the old, an archivist`s job may not have seemed in the vanguard of Reform towards a reformed and revitalised Church. 

Pope Paul VI on the contrary stressed the importance and  necessity of the vocation of the ecclesiastical archivist
"Egli è convinto che la coltura storica sia necessaria, parta dal genio, dall’indole, dalla necessità, dalla stessa vita cattolica, la quale possiede una tradizione, è coerente, e svolge nei secoli un disegno, e, ben si può dire, un mistero.  
È il Cristo che opera nel tempo e che scrive, proprio Lui, la sua storia, sì che i nostri brani di carta sono echi e vestigia di questo passaggio del Signore Gesù nel mondo. 
Ed ecco che, allora, l’avere il culto di queste carte, dei documenti, degli archivi, vuol dire, di riflesso, avere il culto di Cristo, avere il senso della Chiesa, dare a noi stessi, dare a chi verrà la storia del passaggio di questa fase di «transitus Domini» nel mondo. "

 Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI in a different way expressed the same thoughts as Pope Paul VI when he wrote:
"“It is part of the mystery of God that he acts so gently, that he only gradually builds up his history within the great history of mankind; that he becomes man and so can be overlooked by his contemporaries and by the decisive forces within history; that he suffers and dies and that, having risen again, he chooses to come to mankind only through the faith of the disciples to whom he reveals himself; that he continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to him” (Jesus of Nazareth II, 2011, p. 276).

Or as he said of Pope John Paul II`s view of the Church and its history:
"The entire Church, as beloved Pope John Paul II used to say, is one great movement animated by the Holy Spirit, a river that travels through history to irrigate it with God's grace and make it full of life, goodness, beauty, justice and peace."