On March 16th many contemporary Gnostic churches commemorate the Martyrdom of the Holy Cathars at Montségur by 10,000 troops at the end of the Albigensian Crusade a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc. In March 1244, the Cathars finally surrendered and approximately 220 were burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the pog when they refused to renounce their faith. Some 25 actually took the ultimate Cathar vow of consolamentum perfecti in the two weeks before the final surrender.
Catharism was a name given to a Christian religious movement with mitigated dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Cathars, who frequently self-identified themselves as Bons Hommes or “Good Christians” were largely a grass-roots expression of piety who were acknowledged even by their Catholic neighbors as living lives of extreme devotion to the essence of Christian principals and, at the peak of their movement, were a formidable counter-religious movement to the Catholic Church which would ultimately bring about their persecution by Pope Innocent III and regional French royals.
In honor of the memory of the Holy Cathar Martyrs, below are some of my favorite pieces of Cathar scripture and verse which may be read or recited on one should so choose:
“Whereas we are taught by God`s Holy Word as well as by the Holy Apostles and the preaching of our spiritual brothers to reject all fleshly desire and all uncleanness and to do the will of God by doing good we, unworthy servants that we are, not only do not do the will of God as we should, but more often give way to desires of the flesh and the cares of the world, to such an extent that we wound our spirits.”
– Apareilementum from the Lyon Ritual
“For the Lord is called omnipotent, as our opponents avow, and He can do whatsoever pleases Him; nor can anyone resist Him,” or say, “Why dost Thou so?” As Ecclesiastes says: For He will do all that pleaseth Him and His word is full of power; neither can any man say to Him: ‘Why dost Thou so?’ ” And David says, “But our God in heaven; He hath done all things whatsoever He would,” And in the Apocalypse is written: “Saith the Lord God, who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” And again, “Great and wonderful are Thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Thy ways, O King of Ages! Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and magnify Thy name? For Thou only art holy.”
- On the Omnipotence of God, The Book of Two Principals
“Thereafter I heard a voice there and the song which I heard in the six heavens rose up and was heard in the seventh heaven. And all glorified Him whose glory I could not behold. And the song of all six heavens was not only heard but seen. And the angel said to me, ‘He is the One Living Eternal, living in the highest eternity and resting among the holy ones; we cannot endure to name or see Him who is praised by the Holy Spirit in the mouths of the holy [and] righteous.”
- Vision of Isaiah 5:1
“[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.”
- Traditio, the rite of the transmission of prayer.
“Holy Father, Rightful King of faithful souls, who never erred, who never lied, follower of the rightful course, who never doubted lest we should accept death in the realm of the wrong god; as we do not belong to this realm and this realm is not ours – teach us Your gnosis and to love what You love.”
- A traditional Cathar prayer from the 13th Century
May the memory of the Good Christians never perish and the light of gnosis never fail. In particular, I also wish to commemorate St. Esclarmonde de Foix, a Cathar parfait who is credited with opening a number of hospitals, schools and Cathar convents in a time before the Catholic Church had done so, who single-handedly refuted the attempts of conversion by Dominic de Guzeman and when pursued by those who would attempt to kill her ascended into the sky in the shape of a dove far from her captors.