10 August 2009


One of the little luxuries one gets from the Divine Office is the days when, not confined to the Commons of Saints, one has antiphons proper to the day. S Lawrence's day is an example.

But the new Office Book is squeamish. We've lost that nice old antiphon to the Magnificat at II Vespers
While Blessed Laurence was being burned, stretched upon the gridiron, he said the wicked tyrany "It's just about done this side;turn it over and tuck in [assatum est iam, versa et manduca], as for the goods of the Church which thou demandest, the hands of the poor have already carried them off into the heavenly treasures".

Funny how our 'liberated' and 'uncensored' age has more hang-ups, and a greater tendency to bowdlerise, than allegedly less relaxed ages. I miss the antiphon on S Agatha's day with the lovely lingering alliterative Ms: He that hath vouchsafed to heal me from every blow, and to put my poor little breast back onto my chest [mamillam meam meo pectori], upon him do I call, the living God. And on Caecilia's day we've lost the antiphon which, by being slightly mistranslated, made her Patron of musicians: Cantantibus organis, Caecilia Domino decantabat ... (and notice the Cs and Ds here). [The ablative absolute 'As the organs were playing' was mistakenly taken to mean that Caecilia was playing them.]

Robbed of our heritage, that's what we've been.

Following the mandate of the Council, the revisers brought into the new office some gems of ancient Christian Latin hymnography. Today, we get a cento from Prudentius, the classicising Spaniard who wrote around 400ish. He delightfully describes the Roman Martyr Lawrence as now a citizen of heaven and a member of the eternal Senate (curia) and as wearing the Corona Civica: the crown/wreath of oak leaves given to a soldier who had saved the life of a comrade in battle, but often included among the insignia of Augustus. Prudentius wrote at just the time when the Church in Rome was coming to a cultural consensus to present itself as the guardian and examplar of the old Romanita; it was around now that the Canon Romanus was revised in the style of the ancient pre-Christian liturgical formulae of the City (I plan some posts on this in September).

Those of you who say the office in English: ICEL decided not to bother you with the newly introduced ancient hymns in the Liturgia Horarum.


Scott said...

From the Anglican Breviary:

Ant. on Mag. As blessed Lawrence lay on the gridiron, † whereto with forks they held him fast over the burning coals of fire, he cried out to the wicked magistrate, * The roasting is done, turn now the carcase, and devour ; for the rest of the Church's substance, which thou desirest, hath been garner'd up into heaven by the hands of the poor.

Pastor in Valle said...

And the OF substitutes St Augustine for the EF magnificent sermon of St Leo!

rev'd up said...

The third responsory of the first nocturn lifted my spririts:

iii.R. They laid him on the gridiron, and stretched out his limbs: Christ's Levite mocked those who brought fuel: x Blessed Laurence, Martyr of Christ, intercede for us.
V. The darkness is no darkness with me, but the night is as clear as the day. x Blessed.

I use the Monastic Breviary Matins and Monastic Diurnal reprinted by (St.) Lancelot Andrews Press.