Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22, the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen: Orlande Di Lasso's Lauda Mater Ecclesia

A hymn set by Lassus, "alternatim, with verses for four, three and five voices," as Howard noted a few years ago. This is the first time I've seen it online:

This was once an office hymn for today, the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen, along with Nardi Maria pythici. These lyrics seem to conflate Magdalen (in her recasting during the Middle Ages as a "woman of ill repute," something found nowhere in Scripture) with Lazarus' and Martha's sister Mary:

Lauda mater ecclesia
Lauda Christi clementiam,
Quae septem purgat vitia
Per septiformem gratiam.

Maria, soror Lazari,
Quae tot commisit crimina,
Ab ipsa fauce tartari
Redit ad vitae limina.

Post fluxae carnis scandala
Fit ex lebete phiala
In vas translata gloriae
De vase contumeliae.

Aegra currit ad medicum
Vas ferens aromaticum
Et a morbo multiplici
Verbo curatur medici.

Surgentem cum victoria
Iesum videt ab inferis,
Prima meretur gaudia,
Quae plus ardebat ceteris.

Uni Deo sit gloria
Pro multiformi gratia,
Qui culpas et supplicia
Remittit et dat praemia. Amen.

Praise, mother church,
Praise the clemency of Christ,
Which purges the seven sins
Through his sevenfold grace.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus,
Who committed many sins,
Returned from the maw of hell
To the gate of life.

After the offences of her frail flesh,
This lowly jug becomes a sacred dish,
Transformed into a vessel of glory
From one of contempt.

Sick, she runs to the physician,
Bearing a jar of perfume,
And is cured of her many ills
By the doctor’s word.

She sees Jesus rising victorious
From the infernal depths,
Thus earning that first joy
Which burns brightly beyond all others.

Glory be to the one God
For his endless grace
Which pardons sin, remits penance
And grants rewards. Amen.

I've just finished reading that Gregory the Great was the first to conflate various Marys in the Gospels! That's the 6th Century, folks; apparently one Mary was the same as the next, even to some Popes.

It's a little disturbing, actually, that so little was thought of these women that nobody seemed able to keep them lined up in their identities - or to stop making up facts about them.

Well, it's a beautiful piece of music, anyway.

Below are some paintings of Magdalen, from the 15th and 16th centuries; note the feverish  imaginations of artists who apparently never noticed that their works had nothing to do with the actual stories told!  

El Greco's "Penitent Magdalen" (c. 1585); Weyden's "The Magdalen Reading" (c. 1435), and Caravaggio's "Martha and Mary Magdalene" (this is Bethany, bud, and you've got the wrong Mary!) from about 1599. 

None, of course, represent her as what she was: "The Apostle to the Apostles" and  "Equal to the Apostles."

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