10 March 2018

Mary Mother of the Church (3): Magnum principium and the Office Hymns

A final aspect of the promulgation of this new memoria, now to be universal in the Novus Ordo, is the provision, as part of the newly authorised liturgical texts, of 'proper' Latin Office Hymns for this particular celebration*. These will be needed for clergy using the Liturgia Horarum.

Readers will remember the widespread popular joy, which led to dancing in the streets and a great bonfire in the piazza in front of Westminster Cathedral, when, by a motu proprio called Magnum principium, PF gave to episcopal Conferences the happy duty of preparing vernacular translations of liturgical texts. (That jubilation was scarcely less exuberant than when, last August, PF assured us "with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible".)

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Latin Rite clergy do not need a vernacular Office Book because they say their Office in Latin. They do this out of a very proper obedience, rigorously enforced by the bishops, to the irreversible Decree of the much-respected Second Vatican Super-duper-Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium Para 101: 1 "Iuxta saecularem traditionem ritus latini, in Officio divino lingua latina clericis servanda est, facta tamen Ordinario potestate usum versionis vernaculae ... concedendi, singulis pro casibus, iis clericis quibus usus linguae latinae grave impedimentum est quominus Officium debite persolvant").

But that irreversible Decree, you are about to remind me, did allow bishops, as a special concession in individual cases considered one by one, to permit linguistically challenged priests to say their Office in a vernacular. Quite so. I am indeed both glad and relieved, whenever I go into the bookshop next to Westminster Cathedral (now almost rebuilt after the damage caused by the fire), to see that the needs of this (albeit very tiny) minority of Catholic clergy are still fully provided for by the copious abundance of English-language Office Books on sale. It is good to be sensitive and generous towards that particular cultural periphery, however small and eccentric it may be. My fear had been that the irreversible Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia (1962; in which that good and great pope S John XXIII with certainty and Magisterial authority ordered the wholesale dismissal of all seminary teachers incapable of teaching in Latin) might have impacted the numbers of clerical aspirants with irreversibly weak Latin.

All the world's Episcopal Conferences, therefore, with the fresh new wind of Magnum principium billowing in their joyful sails, will be enthusiastically translating Latin hymnody into their respective crude, modern vernaculars. (Imagine how the mighty Christine must be rotating in her grave.) Just think of them vying with each other as they seek the most euphonious vernacular renderings for the tiniest nuances in the Latin! How the poor things find the time to spend on such civilised literary pursuits when they have been charged by a Higher Authority to be busy in coming to a common mind on Amoris laetitia, I cannot possibly imagine. They are far bigger men (and much more irreversible) than I could ever be.

A warning, however.

Their lordships would not be well advised to try to get away with some cheeky schoolboy trick like offering Marian hymns already composed in vernacular languages instead of real translations of the newly authorised Latin hymns, because the CDW, who still have to approve vernacular translations sent in by the Conferences, would of course instantly spot the dodge and send such drafts back to the Conferences irreversibly marked in angry schoolmaster's red ink "Not good enough. This simply WILL NOT DO". I am sure Cardinal Sarah will be an absolute martinet in enforcing Magnum principium down to the very last Yod, and the newly emancipated episcopates, bursting with and uplifted by grateful loyalty to PF, would themselves wish for nothing less.

(No, I would not be prepared to give them a helping hand. I am quite hopeless at writing English or Cornish verse. At my incredibly advanced age, I am far too old a dog to learn new tricks. Besides, I am confident that I would never be given a nulla osta to do such sensitive work. As my blog demonstrates, I am an irreversibly unsuitable and very loose canon cannon.)

I am now willing to consider Comments on these three posts. They should be composed in a suitably sombre and sober and responsible register.

*Footnote: Two of the three hymns are in fact from the Liturgia Horarum, where Dom Anselmo Lentini's Coetus offered  them as alternatives to the ancient Marian hymns for our Lady on Saturday. They are (very) free translations into Latin of a passage in Dante's Paradiso. B Paul VI liked them: it would be nice to think that this is the reason for their inclusion in the new memoria. The third hymn is medieval, and indexed in the Thesaurus.  I'm not sure how good it is ... but you are allowed to use the Ave Maris Stella instead.

I know what you're thinking: the glorious days have sadly passed when Leo XIII himself (died 1903) spared the time to compose new Office Hymns; also the days when Pius XII could turn to Fr Genovesi (died 1967); indeed, Dom Anselmo himself, no mean liturgical poet, has irreversibly passed from us (in 1989). I wonder when last the Vatican maintained officials styled "Sacrae Rituum Congregationis Hymnographi". I wonder if there was ever a post denominated "Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Archihymnographus". Wow!


Feed Room Five said...

There is a medieval trope on the Salve Regina, which could be used:

Virgo mater ecclesiae,
Aeterna porta gloriae,
Esto nobis refugium
apud patrem et filium.

O clemens,

Virgo clemens, virgo pia,
virgo dulcis, O Maria.
Exaudi preces omnium
Ad te pie clamantium.

O pia,

Dele culpas miserorum,
terge sordes peccatorum,
dona nobis beatorum
vitam tuis precibus.

O dulcis Maria, salve.

This on the basis of the first line.

A Daughter of Mary said...

Poor Francis. Adding a feast of Our Lady instead of helping us celebrate the ones we have. I wonder what he thinks of First Saturday devotions? But I guess because these were requested in a private revelation he wouldn't think much of them. Is this akin to John Paul II adding five mysteries to the Rosary? Took away the link to the Psalms. Oh well, the Merciful God has given us a Mother who knows - Francis' intentions may be good if his clumsiness is obvious.

Walter said...

Does Feed Room five realize the Virgo Mater Ecclesiae is the actual hymn Fr.Hunwicke is referring to? Daniel's Thesaurus points to Mone's vol.2 Hymni Latini Medii Aevi no.494 on page 214. But there are extra verses in the new Memorial Vesper's hymn added to the above mentioned 3 verses. Check out this link for the full Latin texts:

I personally have been wondering [for 30 years now] why this hadn't already been done by JP2

Feed Room Five said...

Thanks. It is just a matter of old age and declining memory!

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I suspect that some centonising might have led to the final text of that hymn.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Banshee: I did not enable a comment of yours, because it seemed to be unaware of the opening paragraph of the second part of this series.

Feed Room Five said...

Actually it was not infirmitas mentis in this case. I had not seen the official Latin texts. Thanks for the link. Maternitas ecclesiae BVM is not a common theme in the hymns of the Office.