Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the Feast of the Decollation of S. John the Baptist (Aug. 29)

August 29 is the day the church (most all of it, although some on the old Orthodox calendar use September 11) observes the beheading of John the Baptist; this is one of the few occasions when a saint's primary feast day is not the day of his death.   (John's major feast day is June 24, the Feast of his Nativity.)

Here's what Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service books prescribes for today, short and sweet:
On the Feast of the Decollation of S. John the Baptist (Aug 29), as on the Feast of one Martyr.
So, let's back up and talk about the hymns for "the Feast of one Martyr"; again from Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum services books:
1st Ev. & Matt.: Martyr Dei, qui unicum
At 1st Ev. (except in Xmas & Paschal-tides) ... ... 25
At 1st Ev. in Xmas-tide & М. throughout the year (except in Paschal-tide ) ... ... 26
During Paschal-tide (1st Ev. & М.) ... ... 39
On Simple Feasts of the lowest class throughout the year (1st Ev. & M.) ... ... 6 or 76

Lauds & 2nd Ev.: Deus, Tuorum Militum
At L. (except in Xmas & Paschal-tides) ... ... 25
At 2nd Ev. (& L. when no 2nd Ev.) ... ... 49
During Xmas-tide (L. & 2nd Ev.) ... ... 27
During Paschal-tide (L. & 2nd Ev.) ... ... 39
On Simple Feasts of the lowest class throughout the year (L.) ... ... ... 40

Follow along with the Offices for this feast at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston) (published in 1885). You can get all the Psalms, the collect, Chapter, antiphons, etc., for each of the offices of the day at that link, although no music is provided; check the iFrame look-in at the bottom of this post.)

The Latin words for Martyr Dei, qui unicum are these:
Martyr Dei, qui (quæ) unicum
Patris sequendo Filium,
victis triumphas hostibus,
victor (victrix) fruens cælestibus.

Tui precatus munere
nostrum reatum dilue,
arcens mali contagium,
vitæ repellens tædium.

Soluta sunt iam vincula
tui sacrati corporis;
nos solve vinclis sæculi,
amore Filii Dei.

Honor Patri cum Filio
et Spiritu Paraclito,
qui te corona perpeti
cingunt in aula gloriæ.


Here's an English translation of this hymn, at Cyberhymnal, where it is called "Martyr of God, whose strength was steeled." Cyberhymnal notes that the hymn is by an: "Unknown au­thor, 10th Cen­tu­ry (Mar­tyr Dei qui un­i­cum); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Per­cy Dear­mer in The Eng­lish Hymn­al (Lon­don: Ox­ford Un­i­ver­si­ty Press, 1906), num­ber 180."
Martyr of God, whose strength was steeled
To follow close God’s only Son,
Well didst thou brave thy battlefield,
And well thy heavenly bliss was won!

Now join thy prayers with ours, who pray
That God may pardon us and bless;
For prayer keeps evil’s plague away,
And draws from life its weariness.

Long, long ago, were loosed the chains
That held thy body once in thrall;
For us how many a bond remains!
O Love of God release us all.

All praise to God the Father be,
All praise to Thee, eternal Son;
All praise, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
While never ending ages run.


Deus tuorum militum can be found at "Early christian hymns," listed as a "Vesper hymn, for the feast of a martyr." CPDL offers a couple of Latin versions; here's one:
Deus, tuorum militum
sors et corona, præmium,
laudes canentes martyris
absolve nexu criminis.

Hic (Hæc) nempe mundi gaudia
et blandimenta noxia
caduca rite deputans,
pervenit ad cælestia.

Pœnas cucurrit fortiter
et sustulit viriliter;
pro te refundens sanguinem,
æterna dona possidet.

Ob hoc precatu supplici
te poscimus, piissime;
in hoc triumpho martyris
dimitte noxam servulis.

Ut consequamur muneris
ipsius et consortia,
lætemur ac perenniter
iuncti polorum sedibus.

Laus et perennis gloria
tibi, Pater, cum Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito
in sæculorum sæcula.
Amen

 Here are the English words to this hymn, noted as from an unknown author in the sixth century, with a translation by J.M. Neale:
O God, thy soldiers' crown and guard,
and their exceeding great reward;
from all transgressions set us free,
who sing thy martyr's victory.

The pleasures of the world he spurned,
from sin's pernicious lures he turned;
he knew their joys imbued with gall,
and thus he reached thy heavenly hall.

For thee through many a woe he ran,
in many a fight he played the man;
for thee his blood he dared to pour,
and thence hath joy for evermore.

We therefore pray thee, full of love,
regard us from thy throne above;
on this thy martyr's triumph day,
wash every stain of sin away.

O Christ, most loving King, to thee,
with God the Father, glory be;
like glory, as is ever meet,
to God the holy Paraclete.


Below are all the chant scores for this great variety of melodies, along with music files where I've found them.   In use again are the Christmas and Christmastide melodies (25, 26, and 27), one from Easter (as at the Most Sweet Name of Jesus), plus a few others, a couple of which we haven't seen before.



Melody #6 is used at Terce "on Feasts throughout the Year" (Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus) and at None "on Feasts throughout the Year" (Rerum Deus tenax vigor). Unfortunately, I don't have a sound file to post for it; working on that!


Here again is LLPB's recording of melody #25, as used for the familiar Christmas First Vespers hymn Veni, Redemptor Gentium.


LLPB also provides a recording of Hymn tune #26;  the cantor is singing the Christmas Evensong hymn "Jesus, the Father's Only Son."  


LLPB has a recording of melody #27here's a recording of it sung as "From East to West, from shore to shore" (A solis ortus cardine), the Lauds and 2nd Vespers hymn for Christmas Day. 


Here's an mp3 of an example of alternate melody #39 again from LLPB;  it's the same melody as that used for the Easter Mattins hymn, Aurora Lucis Rutilat ("The Day Draws on with Golden Light").
Melody #40 (mp3) is used for the (ferial) Eastertide Sarum hymn for 2nd Evensong, Ad cenam Agni providi ("The Lamb's High Banquet").

The LLPB offers this mp3 of Hymn #49, "O God Thy Soldiers Crown and Guard," as a "Hymn about the Martyrs (male)."   (Hymn #49 is also the tune used for "O Glorious King of Martyr Hosts" (mp3) at LLPB; that's sung on the feast days of several martyrs, such as the Feast of Constance and her Companions.)


I have no information about Melody #76 - nor do I know anything about Hereford hymnal.  As always, though:  I'll return to post audio of it if I find it.


Here's a peek-through to the SSM Breviary; rather than clicking the link above, you can just scroll through the day's offices here, if you'd rather:





There are, as you can imagine, many paintings and other works that deal with this subject; some in Western art are quite gruesome.   Here's one, painted in 1869 by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes , that's not, so much:



Here's a very complicated icon of the beheading of St. John the Baptist; I'm assuming it's Greek (the artist is given as "unknown") because it's today in the Benaki Museum in Athens.  The Wikipedia page says that it's from the 18th Century:



A standard iconographic representation of this event, though, presents John as carrying his own head in a basket (or perhaps on a platter?):

  


The Wikipedia description says that this is "Russian: John the Baptist, Angel of the Desert, with Life in 16 marginal scenes.  School or bad. center: Yaroslavl XVI century. 142 × 96 cm Yaroslavl Art Museum, Yaroslavl, Russia."

I didn't know he was referred to as "the Angel of the Desert"; it's a beautiful name.


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