Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Translated vs. Original Literature: Religious Mentalities Mirrored in Medieval Texts in the Romanian Area

Academic journal article Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations

Translated vs. Original Literature: Religious Mentalities Mirrored in Medieval Texts in the Romanian Area

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Starting from the idea that every society, in a certain moment of its history, has its own vision on the individual, on the environment and on life, as well as a specific sensitivity, the present paper tries to follow the fundamental mental attitudes of Romanians in the Middle Ages regarding divinity, death and the afterlife, as well as the earthly ruler (representative of the Mighty One), regarding the invasion of the country by "the others" (who worshiped other God). In order to demonstrate this, I took into account that the first defining structure of the medieval collective mental is the religious one.

Keywords: mentalities regarding divinity; death and the afterlife; regarding the earthly ruler (the representative of God) and regarding "the others" (who worshiped other God)

1. Middle Age Romanian conception of the world was dominated by a strong instinct of the divine presence, the Romanians being touched by the fervency of the religious manifestations and keeping the traditions inherited from the Byzantine world: the cult of the martyr saints, of the icons, of the healing saints. The introduction of the Romanian language in churches was made in such a way as the Romanians could directly participate in the prayers performed by the priest at the altar. The Orthodox Romanian Church did its duty, being also supported by the different reigns that treasured the orthodox settlements and gave them economic, judicial and commercial privileges.

Romanians in the Middle Age, being convinced by the truth of the Scriptures "God's Kingdom is within you" (Luca XVII: 21), followed the urge of Apostle Paul: "Persist in prayer" (Epistle to the Colossians IV: 2). Against all historical obstacles that marked their existence, they lived with the firm belief in the spiritual values of Christianity, Orthodoxy representing a real "modus vivendi" of this world. If in the West, iconography highlighted the theme of the Cross and Passions of Christ, in the Orthodox East - and also in the Romanian Principalities - it gravitated around the honour of the Saviour, in His role as a God conquering sufferance and death. Neagoe Basarab, in învâtâturile catre fiul sâu, Theodosie, says it clearly that all limbs and senses have been given to man to praise the Lord: "Limbä ne-au dat ca sä slävim çi sä trimitem laudä în sus neîncetat numelui säu celui sfant...".1 Because of the place held by religion in the Romanian Principalities and because of the influence of the church over the souls (just like in the Byzantium), religion deeply influenced literature.

The main book of the 16th century in Romania is the Psalm Book; Romanian writing was bom under the noble sign of poetry, as, in all the rhymed cases, we deal with remakings, prosody imposing deviations from the original. Of all canonical texts, psalms are the closest possible to what we now call lyric poetry, its main themes being found here: the yearn, doubt, revolt, humiliation, imploration, bliss, etc. These texts involuntarily prove themselves modem, by the frenzy of the confession; the psalmist speaks in full honesty, revealing the thread of his thoughts and consciousness.

Illustrative for the above seems to be Psalm 89 in the Slavic-Romanian Psalm Book, because of Coresi (church books publisher). One of the central motifs that can be identified here is the one of man's fragility of life, compared to the duration of a day, where the "morning" represents the living itself and the "evening" the crépuscule, the death: "Demâneafa înfluri-va çi treace-va, /e seara cade, veçtejaçte §i usucä-se". In such circumstances, the individual remembers death, some anamnesis that shatters his entire self, because he discovers not only that he will die but also that he is already in death. The vision of death was according to the vision of life but, since for Medieval man the value of life was minimal, all that was left for him was to appeal to transcendental in its different versions and to try to obtain its grace and help. …

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