Cathar Stone Memorial


Search the entire library index


Collection Index:
Library Main Page
Nag Hammadi Library
Gnostic Scriptures
GRS Mead Collection
Polemical Works
Christian Apocrypha
Corpus Hermeticum
Manichaean Writings
Mandaean Writings
Cathar Writings
Alchemical Writings
Modern Gnostic Texts
Dead Sea Scrolls

Return to
Gnosis Archive

The Gnostic Society Library

Cathar Texts and Rituals

Archive | Library | Bookstore | Index | Web Lectures | Ecclesia Gnostica | Gnostic Society

Traditio: Rite for the Transmission of the Prayer
(from the Cathar Ritual)

Archive Notes

This is the ritual for reception of the Pater noster prayer by a Cathar credente. The Occitan text included is from the Cathar Ritual, also known as the Lyon Ritual, (ms. Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale, PA 36, 235v-241). Two separate versions of the Cathar Ritual survive (one in Occitan and one in Latin); it is the most important extant record of Cathar liturgical forms.

We recommend reading this text as a meditation, placing yourself into the twelfth century and taking the role of the credente with your own responsive voice. In this action of meditation, by consciously entering the ritual, you will learn more about the Cathar tradition than any book can teach.

The reconstructed version below reflects the Occitan and Latin rituals, but is not identical with either or with the English versions in W. Wakefield & A. Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (2nd ed., New York: Columbia University Press, 1991). In the later parts it extends beyond the Occitan text, and includes litugical formula associated with first sections of the Consolamentum ritual. We are not able to presently identify the first source of this version, which we obtained before 1995, but it is a beautiful and fairly accurate rendition of the original texts.

The Occitan text of the ritual, appended at the end, is from the Occitan manuscript edition of the Cathar Ritual (or Lyon Ritual).

This version of the text is one of the mysteries of the Gnosis Archive. We obtained it in the very first years of putting together this collection, edited it for our presentation, and then never identified a published source. (If you know the source, please send us a note.) It has now been reproduced widely around the internet without a citation, and so we preserve it here in a new corrected edition. Whatever the source of this version, it is interesting to carefully read the English text and then try to read the Occitan. If you have some familiarity with Romance languages, you will be able to hear the Occitan voice. This was the poetic tongue of the time, it reached across France and Spain to Galicia; it was the language of many Troubadours. Give it a try -- read the two texts, see where the translation differs. Listen to the first voice of the text....

- Lance S. Owens

Traditio: Rite for the Transmission of the Prayer (from the Lyon Ritual)

[Beginning at line 3.10]

...You must realize that when you are before the Church of God you are before the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, as the Scriptures teach. For Christ said in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in the midst of them."

And in the Holy Gospel according to Saint John he said, "If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him."

And Saint Paul says in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, "Ye are the Temple of the Living God, as God hath said by Isaiah, his prophet; I dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord; and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

And in another place he says, "Seek ye the proof of Christ Who speaketh in me."

And in the First Epistle to Timothy he says, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

And he said also to the Hebrews, "But Christ is a Son over His own house, Whose house we are."

That the Spirit of God is with the followers of Jesus Christ, Christ has shown thus in the Gospel according to Saint John, "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you."

And in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew He said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

And Saint Paul said in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the Temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."

Christ shows it thus in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew, "For it is not ye that speak but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you."

And Saint John says in his epistle, "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, for He has given us His Spirit."

And Saint Paul said to the Galatians, "Because ye are sons God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying "Father! Father!"

Wherefore be it understood that your presentation made before the sons of Jesus Christ confirms the faith and teaching of the Church of God as the Holy Scriptures tell us. For in former times the people of God separated themselves from the Lord their God. And they abandoned the will and guidance of their Heavenly Father through the deceptions of the wicked spirits and by submission to their will.

And for these reasons, and many others, we are certain that the Heavenly Father would have pity on His people and receive them again in peace and concord by the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, and now is the time.

For you are here before the disciples of Jesus Christ in the place where Father, Son and Holy Ghost have their spiritual abode as is shown above, to receive that Holy Prayer which the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples, so that your prayers might be granted by our Heavenly Father.

Therefore must you learn that if you would receive this Holy Prayer you must repent your sins and forgive all men. For Our Lord Jesus Christ says, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father, forgive your trespasses."

Hence it is meet and right that you be resolved in your heart to keep this Holy Prayer all your life according to the custom of the Church of God, in purity and truth, and in all other virtues which God would bestow upon you.

Wherefore we pray the good Lord who bestowed upon the disciples of Jesus Christ the virtue to receive this Holy Prayer steadfastly that He may grant to you also the grace to receive it steadfastly, in His honour and for your salvation.

[The Elder then says the Lord's Prayer and the postulant follow him phrase by phrase:]

Our father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our supplementary bread,
And remit our debts as we forgive our debtors.

And keep us from temptation and free us from evil.
Thine is the kingdom, the power and glory for ever and ever.

Pater noster qui es in celis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua sicut in celo et in terra.
Panem nostrum supersubstancialem da nobis hodie.
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in temptationem sed libera nos a malo.
Quoniam tuum est regnum et virtus et gloria in secula.

[After which the Elder will say:]

"We deliver you this Holy Prayer that you may receive it of us and of God and of the Church, that you may have the power to say it all your life, day and night, alone or in company, and that you must never eat or drink without first saying it. If you omit to do so you must do penance."

The Postulant replies: "I receive it of you and of the Church."

Then he turns and give thanks and make his melioramentum (bowing at the feet of the Elder).

Then the Elder asks the postulant, "My brother, do you desire to give yourself to our faith?"

The postulant being asked three times, and answering "Yes" on all, makes a bow and advances one step between each, saying "Bless me," to which the Elder replies, "God bless and keep you."

At the third time bowing thus the postulant adds, "Lord, pray to God for me, a sinner, that He will lead me to the good end," and the Elder replies,"God bless you and make you a good Christian and bring you to the good end."

Elder: "Do you give yourself to God and the Gospel?

Postulant: "Yes"

Elder: "Do you promise that henceforth you will eat neither meat nor eggs, nor cheese, nor fat, and that you live only from water and wood (i.e. vegetables and fish), that you will not lie, that you will not swear, that you will not kill, that you will not abandon your body to any form of luxury, that you will never go alone when it is possible to have a companion, that you will never sleep without breeches and shirt and that you will never abandon your faith for fear of water, fire or any other manner of death?"

Postulant: "Yes"

[...] You wish to receive the spiritual baptism whereby the Holy Spirit is given in the Church of God with the Holy Prayer by the laying on of hands of the Good Men. Of this Baptism Our Lord Jesus Christ said in the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

"Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." And in the Gospel of Saint Mark he said,"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned".

And in the Gospel of Saint John He said to Nicodemus, "Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and the spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."

And John the Baptist spoke of this baptism when he said, "I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loosen; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."

This gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands has been instituted by Jesus Christ as Saint Luke tells, and he said that his friends would confer it as Saint Mark says, "They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."

And Ananias conferred this Baptism on Saint Paul when he was converted. For Saint Luke says thus in the Acts of the Apostles, "Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent unto them Peter and John, who when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive of the Holy Spirit, for as yet He was fallen upon none of them."

Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. This Holy Baptism by which the Holy Spirit is given the Church of God has kept from the Apostles until now, and it has come from the Good Men to the Good Men until now and shall do till the end of the world.

And you must understand that power is given to the Church of God to bind and to loose, to forgive sins and to retain them, as Christ said in the Gospel of Saint John, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this he breathed on them and saith unto them "Receive Ye the Holy Ghost"; whatsoever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whatsoever sins ye regain, they are regained."

And in the Gospel of Saint Matthew he said to Simon Peter, "I say unto thee that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

And again, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them"

And in another place he said, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils"

And in the Gospel of Saint John he said, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do he shall do also."

And in the Gospel of Saint Mark he said, "These signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils,they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover."

And in the Gospel of Saint Luke he said, "Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

And if you wish to receive this power you must keep all the commandments of Christ and the New Testament according to your ability. And know that He has commanded that man shall not commit adultery or murder or lie, that he must not swear any oath, that he shall not seize or rob, nor do to others what he would not have done to himself, that man must forgive whoever wrongs him and love his enemies, pray for his detractors and accusers and bless them; and if anyone strike him on one cheek, turn to him the other also, and if anyone takes away his cloak, to leave him his coat also; and that he should neither judge nor condemn, and many other commandments which the Lord made for His Church. Also you must hate this world and its works and the things of the world, for Saint John says in his epistle:

"O my beloved, love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life , is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

And Christ said unto the Gentiles, "The world cannot hate you, but me it hates because I bear witness of it that its works are evil."

And in the Book of Solomon, it is written, "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and vexation of Spirit."

And Jude the brother of James said for our instruction in his Epistle, "Hate the solid garment of flesh."

And by these witnesses and any others you must keep the commandments of God and hate the world. And if you continue well to the end, we have the hope that your soul shall have life eternal.

And the Credent shall say, "I have this will, pray to God for me that He will give me His power"

Witness (says):

"Parcite Nobis. Good Christians we pray you by the love of God that you grant this blessing, which God had given you, to our friend here present."

Credent, after making his melioramentum (says):

"Parcite Nobis. For all the sins I have ever done in thought, word and deed. I ask pardon of God, of the Church, and of you all."

Assembly of Cathars and Witnesses (say):

"By God and by us and by the Church, may your sins be forgiven and we pray God to forgive you them."

Adoremus, Patrem, et Filium et Spiritum Sanctam.

Adoremus, Patrem, et Filium et Spiritum Sanctam.

Adoremus, Patrem, et Filium et Spiritum Sanctam.


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

III. Rite for the Transmission of the Prayer

[3.1] Si crezent esta en l’astenencia, e li crestia so acordant que li liuro la Oracio, lavo se las mas.

[3.2] E crezent, si n’i a, eissament.

[3.3] E puis la i dels bos homes, aquel que es apres l’ancia, fa‹s›za iii revenencias a l’ancia.

[3.4] E puis aparele i desc; e puis autras iii.

[3.5] E meta touala sobre·l desc; e puis autras iii.

[3.6] E meta le Libre sobre la touala.

[3.7] E puis diga: Benedicite, parcite nobis.

[3.8] E puis le crezent fasza so meloier, e prenga le Libre de la ma de l’ancia.

[3.9] E l’ancia deu lo amonestar e prezicar ab testimonis covinentz.

[3.10] E si·l crezent a nom Peire, diga enaissi: En Peire, vos devetz entendre que can esz denant la Gleisa de Deu, que vos esz denant le Paire e·l Fil e·l Sant Esperit.

[3.11] Quar la Gleisa es dita ajustament; et aqui on so li ver crestia, aqui es le Paire e·l Fil e·l Sant Esperit aissi co las devinas Escriupturas o demostran.

[3.12] Quar Crist dix en /237b/ l’Avangeli de sanh Matheu: En qual que loc seran ii o iii ajustat el meu nom, eu so aqui e meg de lor.

[3.13] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Joan dix: Si alcus amara mi, la mia paraula gardara, e·l meu Paire amara lui, e venrem a lui et estaja farem ab lui.

[3.14] E sanh Paul dix en la segonda Pistola als Corintias: Vos esz temples de Deu lo viu aissi co Deus dix per Ysaias: Quar eu estarei en els, et irei e serei Deu de lor, et eli seran pobles de mi.

[3.15] Per la qual causa: Issetz de meg de lor e siatz departit, so ditz lo Senhor.

[3.16] E la laja causa no tocaretz et eu recebrei vos.

[3.17] E serei a vos em paire.

[3.18] E vos seretz a mi en fils et e filhas, so ditz lo Senhor Deus totz poderos.

[3.19] Et en l’autre loc dix: O quiretz l’esproament de Crist que parla e mi.

[3.20] Et en la primeire Apistola a Timoteu dix: Aquestas causa[s] escrivi a tu esperantz mi venir a tu viasament, mais si eu me tarzarei, que sapias en qual maneira te covenga coversar en la maiso de Deu, la quals es /237c/ Gleisa del viu Deu, coronda e fermament de veritat.

[3.21] Et el meteis dix als Ebreus: Mais Crist es enaissi coma Fils en la sua maiso, la qual maiso em nos.

[3.22] Quar l’Esperit de Deu sia com li fizel de Jesu Crist, enaissi o demostra Crist en l’Avangeli de sanh Joan: Si mi amatz, li mei comandament gardatz.

[3.23] Et eu pregarei lo Paire, et autre Cofortador donara a vos, que estia ab vos en durabletat, Esperit de veritat, lo qual lo mon no pot recebre quar no·l vi ni·l sab; mais vos le conoisseretz, quar ab vos estara et ab vos sera.

[3.24] No vos laissarei orfes; venrei a vos.

[3.25] Et en l’Avangeli de sanh Mateu dix: Vec vos qu’eu so ab vos per totz dias entro a l’acabament del segle.

[3.26] E sanh Paul dix en la primeira Pistola als Corintias: No sabetz que vos esz temple de Deu lo viu e l’Esperit de Deu esta e vos?

[3.27] Mais si alcus corumpra lo temple de Deu, Deus destrozira lui.

[3.28] Quar lo temple de Deu es sanh, lo qual esz vos.

[3.29] Enaissi o demostra Crist en l’Avangeli de sanh Mateu: Quar /237d/ no esz vos que parlatz mais l’Esperit del vostre Paire que parla e vos.

[3.30] E sanh Joan dix en la Pistola: En aisso sabem quar en lui estam et el e nos quar del seu Esperit dec a nos.

[3.31] E sanh Paul dix als Galatas: Quar esz fil de Deu, Deus trames l’esperit del seu Fil el vostre cor, cridant: Paire, Paire.

[3.32] Per que es a entendre quar lo vostre presetament, lo qual fes denant les fils de Jesu Crist, coferma la fe e la presicatio de la Gleisa de Deu segon que las devinas Escripturas o donan az entendre.

[3.33] Quar lo poble de Deu se departic ancianament del seu Senhor Deu.

[3.34] E departic se del co‹s›selh e de la volontat del seu sanh Paire per lo decebement e per lo sotzmetement dels malignes esperitz.

[3.35] E per aquestas razos, e per moutas d’autras, es donat az entendre quar lo sanh Paire vol mercenejar del seu poble e recebre lui a patz e a la sua concordia per l’aveniment del seu Fil, Jesu Crist.

[3.36] Don es aquesta l’ocaizo quar esz aici denant los decipols /238a/ de Jesu Crist, el qual loc abita esperitalment lo Paire e·l Fil e·l Sant Esperit, aissi co desus es demostrat, que vos dejatz recebre aicela santa Oracio, la qual donec lo Senhor Jesu Crist a sos decipols, enaissi que las vostras Oracios e las vostras pregueiras sian eissauzidas del nostre sanh Paire.

[3.37] Per la qual causa devetz entendre, si aquesta santa Oracio voletz recebre, quar cove vos pentir de totz les vostres pecatz e perdonar a totz homes.

[3.38] Quar lo nostre Senhor Jesu Crist dix: Si no perdonaretz als homes li pecat de lor, ni·l vostre Paire celestial no perdonara a vos los vostre pecatz.

[3.39] De rescaps se cove que perpausetz e vostre cor de gardar aquesta santa Oracio totz les temps de la vostra vida, si Deus donara a vos gracia de recebre ela, segon la costuma de la Gleisa de Deu, ab castetat, et ab veritat, et ab totas bonas autras vertutz las quals Deus volra donar a vos.

[3.40] Per la qual causa pregam le bo Senhor, lo qual donec vertut de recebre aquesta santa Oracio als decipols de Jesu Crist ab fer- /238b/ metat, que el mezeis done a vos gracia de recebre ela ab fermetat, et a onor de lui e de la vostra salvatio.

[3.41] Parcite nobis.

[3.42] E puis l’ancia diga la Oracio e·l crezentz que la seguia.

[3.43] E puis diga l’ancia: Aquesta santa Oracio vos liuram que la recepiatz de Deu, e de nos, e de la Gleisa, e que ajatz pozestat de dir ela totz les temps de la vostra vida, de dias e de nuitz, sols et ab cumpanha, e que jamais no mangetz ni bevatz que aquesta Oracio no digatz primeirament.

[3.44] E si o faziatz en falha, auria vos obs qu’en portessetz penedensa.

[3.45] Et el deu dir: Eu la recebi de Deu, e de vos, e de la Gleisa.

[3.46] E puis fassa so miloirer e reda gracias.

[3.47] E puis li crestia fasan dobla ab venias, e·l crezent detras els.

Return to Cathar Texts Section