13 April 2009

Ante torum huius virginis frequentate nobis dulcia cantica dramatis

Fr Zedtype translation: Before the couch of this Virgin repeat for us sweet songs of ?love.

I am convinced that this is a quotation which was already venerable when it entered the Divine Office on celebrations of our Lady (I have traced it in liturgical books as far back as about 860). An undatable medieval homilist ('Ps.-Ildephonse') gets round his inability to provide a historical provenance by suggesting a lofty but unverifiable provenance: the chorus of the prophets, the wisdom of God the Father, the Holy Spirit!

It is clear that most of those who quote this antiphon felt a need to explain to their hearers what dramatis' (which does not occur in the Latin Bible) meant. There is a persistent tendency to link it with the Song of Solomon ('SS'). Aldhelm (d.709) refers to SS as a 'sponsale drama'. A writer who died in 1089 calls SS 'cantica dramatis'. A writer of the 1150s says that SS is called 'drama' 'because it is a love son, which is sung by lovers without personae (named characters?); whence that song is called "dramaticum" where different characters are introduced but not named'. Another medieval writer refers 'drama' to the 'change of character, as also in SS'. An Assumption Day hymn desires all things earthly, and the stars, 'to alternate a song of dramata before the bridal chamber of the Virgin'. It is difficult to prove negatives, but I have a suspicion that people associated 'drama' with the SS - and with this anthem - and knew of very little else in the way of contextual evidence to help them guess its meaning. (Ends later)


Pastor in Valle said...

Euge! And happy Easter.

David said...

Another one I have found a bit of confusion with is "ut per Eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae."

That seems to imply some sort of mediation on the part of Our Lady. In fact, taken literally it would seem to imply a solitary mediation by Our Lady.

I have never gotten a good explanation for this. The closest I heard was from an Oratorian theology professor who suggested that it was an example of devotion running ahead of theology. He seemed not to have noticed it before which, I suppose is not unususl when you say the prahyer for years as I myself have without noticinig it.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

It seems to me, rather like the Byzantine refrain "Most Holy Mother of God, save us", to be a natural thing for people to say who rightly assume that the Theotokos is Mediatrix of All Graces. This function of hers, while unique among creaturely mediations, does not of course alter the fact that her theandric Son is our only mediator, advocate, and redeemer.