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Consolamentum (Consolament

Archive Notes

The consolamentum was a spiritual baptism, as described in the New Testament, where the ritual practice of baptism by water was abrogated and baptism by fire implemented. Only a Parfait ("Perfect one") could administer the consolamentum, which meant that every new Parfait stood at the end of a chain of predecessor Parfaits linking him or her to the apostles and to Jesus himself.

It was the most significant ceremony in Cathar theology, marking the transition from ordinary believer (auditore or credente) to a Parfait, one of the elect. During the ceremony the Holy Spirit was believed to descend from heaven, and inhabit the Parfait's corporal body. It was largely because of this indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Parfaits were expected and willing to lead such ascetic lives, and why ordinary believers were prepared to "adore" them.

The ceremony was striking in its simplicity. It required no material elements such as water or anointing oil, and seems to have preserved a ceremony of the very earliest Christian Church. Cathars claimed that the the rite had been appointed by Christ, and had been handed down from generation to generation by the boni homines. For Catholics of the time, the rite was rather a mystery and their best explanation was that the Cathar rite was a distorted imitation of various Catholic rituals.

The consolamentum was also given to sick or injured believers (see Cathar Ritual, section 6), in the expectation of death. As long as they died soon thereafter this presented no great problem, since they would have little opportunity to fall back into sin. But if they recovered, they were now Parfaits and presumably expected to behave as such. Some authorities (notably Jean Duvernoy) differentiate between the baptism of the Parfaits, from the 'Solace' baptism granted to the dying for the remission of their sins. In this case, those who received the 'Solace' baptism and survived seem to have been obliged to then undertake the normal training and receive the Consolamentum again to become a fully functioning member of the Elect.

As Wakefield and Evans put it (in Heresies of the High Middle Ages, p. 465): "Like a catechumen of the early Church - Catharist practices reflect the ancient usage - a believer had to undergo a period of probation, normally at least a year, during which he was instructed in the faith and disciplined in a life of rigorous asceticism"


Summary of the Consolamentum (Consolament)

First, the postulant would need receive the Melhoramentum, a ritual title derived from an Occitan word meaning "improving."

The Melhoramentum was the acknowledgment by a believer of the Holy Spirit dwelling with the Parfait. The believer would kneel and, with both hands folded, bow three times to the ground; on each genuflections the believer would say: "Bless me, Lord; pray for me". Then, the Cathar prayed,"Lead us to our rightful end". The Parfait, man or woman, then answered, "God bless you... In our prayers, we ask from God to make a good Christian out of you and lead you to your rightful end".

After an extended period of training and fasting, and after the applicant had gone through the Melhoramentum, the rite of the Consolamentum proceeded as follows:

  • The Parfait held the Bible above the kneeling postulant's head and recited the "Benedicite" .
  • The postulant received from a Parfait a copy of the "The Pater" (Lord's Prayer).
  • The Parfait addressed the postulant and explained to him from Scripture the indwelling of the spirit in the Parfait, and his adoption as a son by God.
  • The Lord's Prayer was then repeated by the postulant, the Parfait explaining it clause by clause.
  • There followed the Renunciation, primitive in form, except that it was adapted so that the postulant solemnly renounced the harlot church of the persecutors and their replicas of the cross, their sham baptisms and their other magical rites.
  • Next followed the spiritual baptism itself, consisting of the imposition of hands, and the touching of the Gospel on the postulant's head.
  • The Parfait's vocation was then defined, he or she was reminded of all the things that are forbidden, and of what was required of them: pardoning wrongdoers, loving enemies, praying for those who calumniate and accuse, offering the other cheek to the smiter, giving up one's mantle to him that takes one's tunic, neither judging nor condemning. Asked if he will fulfil each of these requirements, the postulant answered: "I have this will and determination. Pray God for me that he give me his strength".
  • The next part of the rite exactly reproduced the confiteor as it existed in the 2nd century, asking pardon for previous sins.
  • Then followed the act of consoling. The Parfait took the Gospel and placed it on the postulant's head. Other Parfaits present placed their right hands on the postulant's head.
  • They then three times adored the Father and Son and Holy Spirit and said a prayer asking God to welcome his servant and to send down the Holy Spirit.
  • They then said the parcias, and repeated three times the "Let us adore the Father and Son and Holy Spirit", and then pray: "Holy Father, welcome thy servant in thy justice and send upon him thy grace and thy holy spirit."
  • Then they repeated the adoration and the The Lord's Prayer, then read the John Gospel (1:1-17). This was the most solemn part of the rite, for the postulant was now a Parfait.
  • The new Parfait was girt with a sacred thread round the torso.
  • The Parfait would then be clad in a black gown.
  • All Parfaits present would give the kiss of peace and the rite was over.

In the inquisitorial deposition of Guillaume Tardieu de la Galiole (translated by Jean Duvernoy, Le Dossier de Montségur : interrogatoires d'lnquisition 1242-1247), the following ceremony is recounted:

... Then, on this Parfait's request, I devoted myself to God and the Gospel and promised to no longer eat meat, eggs, cheese and fat apart from oil and fish. I also promised not to swear in all my life, and to forsake the sect out of fear of fire, water and other kinds of death. After this oath, I recited the Pater Noster in the Parfaits' manner, then the Perfait held the book above my head and read the Gospel of Saint John. After this, they gave me peace first with the book and then with the mouth, kissing me twice across the mouth and prayed God, amidst much kneeling and "venias."

-- Lance S. Owens

Ritual Text of the Consolamentum (in Occitan, from the Cathar Ritual)

The following original Occitan text is found in the critical edition of the Lyon Ritual at Rialto:


IV. Rite for the Ministration of the Consolamentum

[4.1] E si deu esser cossolatz ades, fasa so milhoirer e prega le Libre de la ma de l’ancia.

[4.2] E l’ancia deu le amonestar e prezicar ab testimonis covinentz et ab aitals paraulas co·s coveno a cossolament.

[4.3] E diga enaissi: En Peire, voletz recebre lo bab- /238c/ tisme esperital per lo qual es datz Sant Esperit en la Gleisa de Deu, ab la santa Oracio, ab l’empausament de las mas dels bos homes?

[4.4] Del qual babtisme dix lo nostre Senhor Jesu Crist en l’Avangeli de sanh Mateu a sos decipols: Anatz et essenhatz totas las gentz, e batejatz les el nom del Paire e del Filh e del Sant Esperit, et essenhatz lor a gardar totas las causas que eu comandei a vos.

[4.5] E vec vos que eu so com vos per totz dias entro a l’acabament del segle.

[4.6] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Marc dix: Anatz en tot lo mon, prezicatz l’avangeli a tota creatura.

[4.7] E qui creira e sera batejatz sera sals, mas qui no creira sera cumdampnatz.

[4.8] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Joan, dix a Nicodemus: Verament, verament, dic a tu que ja negus no intrara el regne de Deu si no sera renatz d’aiga e de Sant Esperit.

[4.9] E Joan Babtista parlec d’aquest babtisme can dix: Acertas eu bategi en aiga, mais aicel que es a venir seguentre mi es plus fortz de mi, del qual eu no so dignes deliar lo /238d/ correg de la causamemta de lui.

[4.10] El vos batejara en Sant Esperit et en foc.

[4.11] E Jesu Crist dix es Fait dels Apostols: Quar acertas Joan bategec en aiga, mais vos seretz batejat en Sant Esperit.

[4.12] Aquest sanh babtisme de mas‑emposetio fe Jesu Crist segon que retra sanh Luc; e dix que li sei amic le farian, enaissi co retra sanh Marc: Sobre·ls malautes pausaran las mas et auran be.

[4.13] E Ananias fe aquest babtisme a sanh Paul can fo covertitz.

[4.14] Et enapres Paul e Barnabas fero lo e moutz lox.

[4.15] E sanh Peire e sanh Joan fero lo sobre·ls Samaritas, quar aissi o dix sanh Luc el Fait dels Apostols: Cum aguesso auzit li apostols que eran en Yerusalem que Samaria receub la paraula de Deu, trameiro ad els Peire e Joan li qual, co fosso vengut, orero per els que receubesso Sant Esperit.

[4.16] Quar encara en alcu de lor no era vengutz.

[4.17] Adoncas pausavan las mas sobr’els, e recebio Sant Esperit.

[4.18] Aquest sanh /239a/ babtisme, per lo qual Sant Esperit es datz, a tengut la Gleisa de Deu dels apostols en sa, et es vengutz de bos homes en bos homes entro aici, e o fara entro la fi del segle.

[4.19] E devetz entendre que pozestat es dada a la Gleisa de Deu de liar e de desliar, e de perdonar pecatz e de retenir, enaissi co Crist dix en l’Avangeli de sanh Joan: Enaissi cum lo Paire me trames et eu trameti vos.

[4.20] Cum agues dithas aquestas causas, espirec e dix ad els: Recebetz Sant Esperit.

[4.21] Dels quals perdo[na]retz los pecatz, so perdonatz ad els; e dels quals los retenretz, so re[te]ngut.

[4.22] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Mateu, dix a Simon Peire: Eu dic a tu que tu est Peire, e sobre aquest[a] peira eu endeficarei la mia gleisa, e las portas d’ifern no auran forsa encontra lei.

[4.23] E a tu donarei las claus del regne dels cels, e qual que causa tu liara[s] sobre terra sera liada els cels; e qual que causa tu desliaras sobre terra sera desliada els cels.

[4.24] Et en autre loc /239b/ dix a sos decipols: Verament dic a vos que qual que causa liaretz sobre terra sera liada els cels; e qual que causa solveretz sobre terra sera souta els cels.

[4.25] E de rescaps verament dic a vos: Si doi de vos se cosentiran sobre terra de tota causa, qual que causa queran sera faita ad els del meu Paire qui es el cel.

[4.26] Quar aqui on so doi o trei ajustat el meu nom, eu so aqui e meg de lor.

[4.27] Et en autre loc dix: Los malautes sanatz, los mortz resuscitatz, los lebrosses mondatz, los demonis gitatz.

[4.28] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Joan dix: Qui cre e mi, las obras que eu fas, fara.

[4.29] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Marc dix: Mais aquels que creiran, aquestas signas los segran: El meu nom gitaran demonis; et ab lengas novas parlaran; e serpentz ostaran; e si beuran alcuna causa mortal, no nozera ad els; sobre·ls malautes pausaran las mas, et auran be.

[4.30] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Luc dix: Vec vos que eu dei a vos poder caucigar sobre·ls serpetz, et /239c/ els escorpios, e sobre tot le poder de l’enemic; e re a vos no nozera.

[4.31] E si aquest poder ni aquesta pozestat voletz recebre, cove vos tenir totz los comandamentz de Crist e del Novel Testament a vostre poder.

[4.32] E sapiatz que el a comandat que hom no avoutre, ni ausisa, ni memta, ni jure negu sagrament, ni pane, ni raube, ni faza az autre so que no vol que sia fait a ssi, e que hom perdone qui li fa mal, e que hom ame sei enemic, e que hom ore e benezisca als encausadors et als acusadors de si.

[4.33] E qui·l ferra e la una gauta, que li pare l’autra, e qui li tolra la gonela, que li laisse lo mantel; e que hom no juge ni cumdampne; e moutz d’autres comandamentz que so comandat del Senhor a la sua Gleisa.

[4.34] Et eissament, vos cove que aziretz aquest mon e las suas obras, e las causas que de lui so.

[4.35] Quar sanh Joan dix en la Pistola: O mout cari, no volhatz amar lo mon ni aicelas causas que so el mon.

[4.36] Si alcus ama lo mon, la caritat del Paire no es en lui.

[4.37] Quar tot aco que /239d/ es el mon es cobezesa de carn, e cobezesa d’uls, et ergulh de vida, la qual no es del Paire, mais del mon es.

[4.38] E·l mons traspassara, e la cobezesa de lui, mais qui fa la volontat de Deu esta en durabletat.

[4.39] E Crist dix a las gentz: Lo mon no pot azira vos, mais mi azira quar eu porti testimoni de lui que las obras de lui so malas.

[4.40] Et el libre de Salamo es escriut: Eu vi totas aquelas causas que so faitas jos le solelh; e vec vos que totas so vanetatz e turmentz d’esperit.

[4.41] E Judas Jacme dix, essenhatz nos en la Pistola: Aziratz aicela gonela solada la quals es carnals.

[4.42] E per aquestz testimonis e per moutz d’autres vos cove a tenir li comandament de Deu et azira aquest mon.

[4.43] E si be o faitz entro a la fi, avem esperansa que la vostra arma aja vida durabla.

[4.44] Et el diga: Enaissi ei volontat.

[4.45] Pregatz Deu per mi que m’en do la sua forsa.

[4.46] E puis la i dels bos homes fasa so miloirer ab le crezentz /240a/ a l’ancia, e diga: Parcite nobis.

[4.47] Bo crestia, nos vos pregam per amor de Deu que donetz d’aquel Be que Deus vos a dat ad aquest nostre amic.

[4.48] E puis le crezent fasa so miloirer, e diga: Parcite nobis.

[4.49] De totz les pecatz qu’eu anc fi, ni parlei, ni cossirei, ni obrei, venc a perdo a Deu, et a la Gleisa, et a totz vos.

[4.50] E li crestia digan: De Deu, e de nos, e de la Gleisa vos sian perdonat; e nos preguem Deu que l‹e›s vos perdo.

[4.51] E puis devo lo cossolar.

[4.52] E l’ancia prenga lo Libre e meta le·i sus lo cap, e li autri boni homi, cascu la ma destra.

[4.53] E digan las parcias e iii adoremus, e puis: Pater sante, suciper servum tuum in tua iusticia et mite graciam tuam e Spiritum Santum tuum super eum.

[4.54] E pregon Deu ab la Oracio, et aquel que guisa lo menester deu ecelar a la vi, e can la vi sera dita, deu dire iii adoremus e la Oracio una vetz en auzida, e puis l’Avangeli.

[4.55] E can l’Avangeli es ditz, devo dire iii adoremus, e la gracia, /240b/ e las parcias.

[4.56] E puis devo far patz entre lor et ab lo Libre.

[4.57] E si crezentz i a, fasan patz atressi.

[4.58] E crezentas si n’i a, fasan patz ab lo Libre et entre lor.

[4.59] E puis pregon Deu ab dobla et ab venias.

[4.60] Et auran liurat.

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