Bernard Botte, OSB
1983 - 1980
1983 - 1980
On March 4 Dom Bernard Botte died at the Abbey of Mont César in Louvain, where for so many hears he had devoted his unique talents to the cause of liturgical renewal. As Cardinal Knox, Prefect of the Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, noted on the occasion, we are all deeply indebted to him. His contribution to liturgical scholarship was equaled by few, if any, in this century.
For Dom Botte scholarship was not an end in itself. It was love of liturgical prayer that led him to monastic profession at Mont César more than sixty years ago, and it was love of liturgical prayer that motivated him throughout his long career of research and teaching.
Dom Botte began his career as a professor of Greek and Scripture, and he was very content with that. But Abbot Bernard Capelle, himself originally a scripture scholar, had become convinced that the liturgical movement, of which Mont César had become a center through the enterprise of Dom Lambert Beauduin, needed a scientific foundation. He proposed to institute a program of courses in liturgical studies, and he recruited Dom Botte to assist him in this.
As Dom Botte explained, he initiated himself in liturgical studies by preparing his courses. He had received a good philological formation, and in time he developed a rare degree of philological expertise. This, combined with a rigorous historical methodology and an abundance of good common sense, accounts for his eminence as a liturgical scholar.
I shall not attempt here to record Dom Botte's contributions to liturgical studies and liturgical renewal. An entire issue of Worship would hardly suffice for this. Furthermore, most of our readers are quite aware of the scope of his contributions.
Let me recall his long collaboration with the Centre de Pastoral Liturgique, beginning in 1948, and its study sessions at Vanves, as well as his involvement, from the beginning, with the ecumenical conferences conducted at the Russian Orthodox Institut Saint-Serge in Paris.
One could think that it was Dom Botte who inspired the insistence of the Constitution on the Liturgy that efforts of liturgical renewal would be futile without proper liturgical formation of priests, since that had long been his deep conviction. In the early 1950's he orgainzed summer study sessions for liturgy professors at Mont César. In 1956 he was named director of the Institut de Liturgie in Paris; he continued in this position for eight years and left a permanent mark. Scholars to whose formation he contributed are a major part of his legacy.
Anyone familiar with Dom Botte's research could point to particularly valuable contributions to liturgical scholarship. I recall, for instance, several articles on the development of the epiclesis in Eastern eucharistic liturgies. However, there can be no doubt that his major contribution to scholarship was his edition of the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus and his many articles establishing its importance in Catholic Tradition. We have him to thanks that the eucharistic anaphora of Hippolytus, as well as his prayer for the ordination of a bishop, havebeen incorporated into the Roman liturgy.
Those of us who had the great good fortune of having Dom Botte as a mentor in liturgical studies remember him as more than a great scholar. Père Bernard, as we called him, was a devoted monk, a rare human being, a free spirit.