Wednesday 6 August 2008

A little more enrichment?

Another way, perhaps, the EF could benefit from the OF concerns the Office. Now, actually, I think that the modern breviary is one of the reforms I like least. But its hymns are, on the whole, very much an improvement on the EF breviary. The hymn for Vespers today, the Feast of the Transfiguration, is a good example.

Extraordinary Form:

Quicumque Christum quaeritis,
Oculos in altum tollite:
Illic licebit visere
Signum perennis gloriae.

Illustre quiddam cernimus,
Quod nesciat finem pati,
Sublime, celsum, interminum,
Antiquius coelo et chao.

Hic ille Rex est Gentium,
Populique Rex judaici,
Promissus Abrahae patri,
Ejusque in aevum semini.

Hunc et prophetis testibus,
Iisdemque signatoribus
Testator et Pater jubet
Audire nos et credere.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui te revelas parvulis,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Pretty good, but now read the Ordinary Form:

O nata lux de lúmine,
Iesu, redémptor sæculi,
dignáre clemens súpplicum
laudes precésque súmere.

Præ sole vultu flámmeus,
ut nix amíctu cándidus,
in monte dignis téstibus
apparuísti cónditor.

Vates alúmnis ábditos
novis vetústos cónferens,
utrísque te divínitus
Deum dedísti crédere.

Te vox patérna cælitus
suum vocávit Fílium,
quem nos fidéli péctore
regem fatémur cælitum.

Qui carne quondam cóntegi
dignátus es pro pérditis,
nos membra confer éffici
tui beáti córporis.

Laudes tibi nos pángimus,
diléctus es qui Fílius,
quem Patris atque Spíritus
splendor revélat ínclitus. Amen.

O nata lux, I will acknowledge, has particular resonances for me. Tallis set part of the text particularly gloriously, and this was sung at my ordination. 

Here are two forms of the same hymn (for Lauds in Eastertide). If I'm not wrong, the OF has restored the original mediæval words, whereas the EF retains the text 'improved' (=classicized) under Pope Clement (?) the something. [Urban VIII, commentators tell me; thanks.]

Aurora cælum purpurat,
Æther resultat laudibus,
Mundus triumphans iubilat,
Horrens avernus infremit.

Rex ille dum fortissimus
De mortis inferno specu
Patrum senatum liberum
Educit ad vitæ iubar. &c

Aurora lucis rutilat,
Cælum resultat laudibus,
Mundus exsultans iubilat,
Gemens infernus ululat

Cum rex ille fortissimus
mortis confractis viribus
pede conculcans tartata
solvit catena miseros. &c.

I find the OF version much edgier, more thrilling. But then again, perhaps I'm recalling the fabulous setting of it by Lassus, and the Magnificat to match. On the other hand, I have to confess that I can't quite get accustomed to the OF's Easter Vespers hymn:

Ad cenam Agni providi,
stolis salutis candidi,
post transitum maris Rubri
Christo canamus principi.

(though actually I think it's better) when I'm so used to the EF:

Ad regias Agni dapes
Stolis amicti candidis
Post transitum Maris Rubri
Christo canamus Principi.


Anonymous said...

One can only strongly agree with your sentiments Fr.

The Urban VIII hymns (although familiar for those of us accustomed to the Breviary) are a scar on the Roman liturgy and the restoration of the authentic form a true gain.

The worst, IMHO, has to be Alto ex Olympi vertice, for Lauds of the Dediction of a Church. What the home of the Greek pantheon has to do with Christianity rather puzzles me.

One would suggest that the words of St. Gregory the Great to St. Augustine are worth bearing in mind about taking the best from Rome to England but if anything better was found en route to incorporate that. One of the big problems facing Roman liturgy is the polarisation that has come about. If one could get beyond that and look at what was truly good...

Anonymous said...

Quicumque Christum quaeritis is also the hymn in the OF for First Vespers and Lauds of the Epiphany, if my memory serves me right. As far as the hymns are concerned, there is no contest. They are much better in the recent books. The new Liber Hymnarius also gives restored tunes. Perhaps your difficulties about the Ad cenam, one of the few hymns I know by heart, is that the tune used in the Pius X breviary is not the "genuine" one. The double doxology with Esto perenne is gloriously better even than the final verses in the monastic office. What I would like is a book of accompaniment for the Liber Hymnarius so that these "new" tunes can be known and used more widely. There are also other tunes, e.g. in the Hymnale of the EBC, which ought to be used more. There is so much in the traditition which is worth having as a resource. Petty squabbles about "old" and "new" as shibboleths just get in the way of giving due worship to the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Father, I think (almost, contrarians never lack) everyone agrees that the hymns were terribly botched under Urban VIII. Much that was strong and authentic in the old hymns was purged in favour of some aseptic, colourless classicism. Having only recently changed from the Liturgia Horarum to the 1962 Breviarium, I really miss them. It would be great if they could be restored to the EF. It wouldn't have to mean discarding the Urban VIII hymns completely, but the option could simply be generally allowed to use the old hymns. Actually, if you look at the 1911 Antiphonale Romanum, in the back there is an appendix of hmyns "secundum antiquum usum" (doesn't that sound familiar now?), "In gratiam eorum qui talibus Hymnis de jure vel ex consuetudine aut indulto uti possunt." Couldn't this provision simply be extended to everyone? Interestingly, though, in some cases this appendix has yet a different text from both the Lit. Hor. and the Brev. Rom. versions. E.g., for Lauds of Eastertide it is "Aurora lucis rutilat, Coelum laudibus intonat, Mundus exsultans jubilat, Gemens infernus ululat." Btw, if it were only up to me, and although I suspect it is more of a medieval thing: Bring back the "œ" (oe) - coelum, coenam, etc. Perhaps it is a sound that is especially dear to German speakers, as many priests here still pronounce it that way regardless.

In this context, I must confess that I have also some difficulties with the psalms of the Psalterium Gallicanum the EF Breviary uses. While a long tradition is on their side, it really is somewhat unnerving to have to pray "Mihi autem nimis honorificati sunt amici tui, Deus, nimis confortatus est principatus eorum" in Psalm 138, 17, the wonder what this means in a paragraphs about God's omniscience, look it up in a 1920 commentary, find that it really means "O God, how heavy are your thoughts for me, too great is their number for me" - and then see that it is very close to what the OF has: "Mihi autem nimis pretiosae cogitationes tuae, Deus; nimis gravis summa earum.". So while I know everyone hates the Bea psalter, and the Nova Vulgata psalter is also not perfect, I do have my problems with the "traditional psalter" - if only St. Jerome's later translation of the psalms for the Vulgata (which unlike his earlier psalteria is based on the Hebrew original, not only on the Greek) could have been adopted for liturgical use instead of the psalterium Gallicanum and Romanum.

Auricularius said...

Its an interesting point, but I wonder how much sentiment and familiarity influences individual preferences in respect of the liturgy. The hymns and (arguably) the translation of the psalms are "better" in the Liturgia Horarum, but ... I want to retain the "daemonio meridiano" in Psalm 90 and the "noctium phantasmata" in Te Lucis ante terminum. Scholars may blanch, but to me these images bring home the concrete nature of the struggle against evil in a way that their alternatives do not.

On the other hand, whilst I recognise that "my soul shall be healed" is in one sense a more accurate translation of the Latin, I believe very strongly that the dualistic mentality which has been endemic in Western Culture since Descartes, means that most people will misunderstand what the Latin actually means. Human beings are one single "suppositum" (to use the terminology of St John of the Cross) and it is the body and soul that are healed and made "whole" by the life of grace. So I prefer "I shall be healed" in English, even though, according to the principles of formal equivalence, this is less accurate.

I suspect that the process of EF/OF "mutual enrichment" will lead eventually to choices that are difficult to justify on rational grounds, or which are in some other way inconsistent with each other. But I think that the result will be all the better for it.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in 'Gregor's post. I have a 1949 edition of the Antiphonale Romanum and that does not (unfortunately) have the appendix to which he refers from the earlier edition. My copy of the Gradulae (1928) does however give though the old text of Vexilla regis for the procession on Good Friday.

I use a pre-Pius X breviary but for the hymns use either the Breviarium Monasticum or Liturgia Horarum.

I agree that we are all influenced by what we like but would suggest that is authentic liturgy. Before an aggressive centralising tendency that coincided with the development of printing good practice in liturgy codified into the various diverse variants between monastic houses and dioceses which we can see if we care to examine the various extant books. Never before have we been in a postion to select the best, following St. Gregory's maxim that I referred to earlier, and use it. Sadly I expect that a certain legalism and minimalism will prevent a genuine liturgical Renaissance - I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

The Antiphonale Monasticum uses the pre-Urban VII hymns.

Figulus said...


Try chanting the Venite exsultemus from Jerome's juxta Hebraicum sometime, and you will see why they were never used in the liturgy, and never will be.

The new vulgate psalter is really quite nice. It's well documented flaws are different from, but no worse than, those of the Gallican.