- Johannes Soreth: Expositio paraenetica in Regulam Carmelitarum. Ein Kommentar zur Karmelregeltrans. by Leo Groothuis
The German translation of this 1455 text by John Soreth, Prior General of the Carmelites, is based on the critical edition of the Latin original by Bryan Deschamp (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016). The publication of this new translation is an important contribution to the history of religious life in the fifteenth century, because it is a significant example of a much-needed reformation of the order more than a century before Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross in Spain. The original text was published for the first time in 1625 by Léon de Saint Jean in Paris, within the context of the reform of Touraine, France, at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
John Soreth was born in 1394 in Caen, France, and entered the Carmelite order in that city. He received a master's degree in theology at the University of Paris in 1438. Two years later, he was elected prior provincial of the province of Francia. In 1450 he became vicar general, and in 1451 he was elected prior general of the order, a function he held until his death in Caen in 1471.
Soreth chose the convent of Liège as the residence of the General Council. In 1455, he wrote the Third Rule of Carmel for lay people and was the founder of the first Carmelite communities for women, whose first members were beguines. With the help of Françoise d'Amboise, he founded a monastery at Bondon, Brittany (France), where she wrote the Constitution for the first Carmelite nuns. Soreth's efforts at renewal and reform of the French convents began during his term as prior provincial, and continued through his tenure as prior general of the order. His detailed commentary on the Rule of Carmel has as its point of departure the original contemplative experience of the hermits on Mount Carmel. In his commentary, he emphasized a simple and hidden life centered on God alone.
Using the method of the connexio auctoritatum, he highlighted how the Carmelite charism was embedded in the broad mystical and monastic tradition of the Middle Ages. In keeping with the times, differentiation of a particular identity was less important for him than the shared culture of religious life. Although it seems impossible to prove any real influences of the Modern Devotion of Geert Groote and Thomas à Kempis, they shared the same climate of reform.
The German translation is excellent and gives the reader a good insight into the original text. However, modern readers will miss a mystagogic presentation of the chapters, since such an ascetic interpretation might too easily hamper a spiritual interiorization of its essence. Publication of a similar translation in English, as well as in other languages, would be valuable. Hopefully, this publication will act as an incentive for the future publication of the collection of Soreth's sermons, which are buried in the Liège archives. [End Page 577]