Friday, September 27, 2013

The Hymns at the Lesser Hours: Sext

The following are the hymns listed for Sext, in  Hymn melodies for the whole year, from the Sarum service-books:
Daily throughout the year :
Rector potens verax Deus

(i) On all 'Double Feasts throughout the year  ... ... ... 9

(2) On the Vigil of Epiphany & on all Sundays & Simple Feasts throughout the year ... ... ... ... ... 10

(3) On all Ferias throughout the year ... ... ... 7

[At Christmas-tide (York) Presepe poni pertulit ... ... ... 55]

Sext is the "Little Hour" said at noon (referring to the sixth hour of the day after dawn).   I've quoted extensively below from The Catholic Encylopedia (1917) on the topic; here's a bit from that citation about some of the original thought about the significance of this hour:
Noon is the hour when the sun is at its full, it is the image of Divine splendour, the plenitude of God, the time of grace; at the sixth hour Abraham received the three angels, the image of the Trinity; at the sixth hour Adam and Eve ate the fatal apple. We should pray at noon, says St. Ambrose, because that is the time when the Divine light is in its fulness.[2] Origen, St. Augustine, and several others regard this hour as favourable to prayer. Lastly and above all, it was the hour when Christ was nailed to the Cross; this memory excelling all the others left a still visible trace in most of the liturgy of this hour.

All these mystic reasons and traditions, which indicate the sixth hour as a culminating point in the day, a sort of pause in the life of affairs, the hour of repast, could not but exercise an influence on Christians, inducing them to choose it as an hour of prayer.

Follow along with the full office here, at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885).    I'll link-in via iFrame at the bottom of the post too.

TPL says the hymn Rector potens verax Deus is "attributed to St. Ambrose," and offers these Latin words, with the English translation by J.M. Neale:
RECTOR potens, verax Deus,
qui temperas rerum vices,
splendore mane instruis
et ignibus meridiem,    

Extingue flammas litium,
aufer calorem noxium,
confer salutem corporum
veramque pacem cordium.    

Praesta, Pater piissime,
Patrique compar Unice,
cum Spiritu Paraclito
regnans per omne saeculum. Amen.    


O GOD of truth, O Lord of might,
Who orderest time and change aright,
and sendest the early morning ray,
and lightest the glow of perfect day.

Extinguish Thou each sinful fire,
and banish every ill desire:
and while Thou keepest the body whole
shed forth Thy peace upon the soul.

Almighty Father, hear our cry
through Jesus Christ, Our Lord most High
Who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
doth live and reign eternally. Amen.

This is the hymn tune used for "all ferias throughout the year":
 

And here's is an mp3 of melody #7 from the Liber Hymnarius Wiki; this tune is the same simple tune used at Terce for Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus on ferias throughout the year, and is used here at Sext again.




I haven't found sound files for either melody #9 or #10Liber Hymnarius Wiki, though, again offers sound files for seven different melodies used for this hymn.  These may be the same melodies posted for Terce; I will have to take the time to check at some point.   Again I've pasted them in here; you can easily substitute the "in festis" tune below for melody #10 (used for Simple Feasts throughout the year), and "in sollemnitatibus" for melody #9 (used for Double Feasts throughout the year) - or use some other scheme of your own choosing.   (I will note that a couple of these melodies are well-known, and used at other times in the Divine Office.) 

Download in feriis per annum, H.D, p. 193
Download in memoriis, H.VIII, p. 193

Download in festis, H.VIII, p. 193
Melody: d c d f e d d c

Download in dominicis per annum, H.II, p. 186
Melody: g g ab b ag abCb ag g

Download in sollemnitatibus, H.VIII, p. 187
Melody: f e d e dc de e e

Download in Adventu, H.IV, p. 8
Melody: d d d c d f e d

Download in Nativitate, H.II, p. 25

Here are a couple of Giovanni Vianini's videos of this hymn; the first is the Gregorian melody and the second is an Ambrosian one.  Again, neither is any of the Sarum tunes, but here they are anyway:







Here's an interesting New Advent piece on Rector Potens, Verax Deus:
The daily hymn for Sext in the Roman Breviary finds its theme in the great heat and light of the noonday (hora sexta, or sixth hour of the day) sun, and prays the Almighty Ruler to take from the heart the heat of passion. Baudot ("The Roman Breviary", London, 1909, 34) thinks the hymn "probably" by St. Ambrose: "We know, moreover, that the hymns for Vespers, Terce, and None (probably also the hymn for Sext) are his." Perhaps, however, Baudot refers to other hymns ascribed to the saint by Bäumer ("Gesch. des Breviers", 1895, 135). Whatever probability attaches to the hymns for Terce and None affects equally that for Sext, none of the three being found in the oldest Benedictine cycle, while all three are found in the later Celtic cycle. (For discussion of authorship, see RERUM DEUS TENAX VIGOR.) It is interesting to note that the second stanza is in rhyme throughout:

    Extingue flammas litium,
    Aufer calorem noxium,
    Confer salutem corporum
    Veramque pacem cordium.

Biraghi thinks the rhyme merely a matter of chance; Piedmont thinks it deliberate, but finds no sufficient reason in this fact for denying it to St. Ambrose. Johner ("A New School of Gregorian Chant", tr. New York, 1906, 55) selects the first line to illustrate his contention that whilst in ordinary speech anyone would pronounce the line thus:

    Réctor pótens vérax Deús,

a singer commits no fault in stressing as follows:

    Rectór poténs veráx Déus.

"In German (or English), this kind of thing is impossible. But that does not give us a right to forbid the composer of Gregorian melodies to make use of this and similar licenses. We Germans (and English-speaking people) frequently pronounce Latin with such an exaggerated accent that the words fall too heavily on the ear. Other nations, the French, for example, pronounce the words more smoothly, with a lighter accent." (For the full argument, see pp. 55, 56.)

Again, York goes with a different hymn for Sext in Christmastide; the melody is the same one used at Terce:


Still no sound file for this one, sorry to say.  The hymn itself, Presepe poni pertulit, is again part of the longer Fortunatus hymn hymn/poem whose first line is "Agnoscat omne saeculum."   This time, the hymn begins with verse 5.  Here again is that entire poem/hymn from this book about the Christmas season by Dom Gueringer
Agnoscat omne saeculum
Vemsse vitae praemium;
Post  hostis asperi jugum
Apparuit redemptio

Esaias quae cecinit
Complete sunt in Virgine
Annuntiavit Angelus
Sanctus replevit Spiritus.

Maria ventre concipit
Verbi fidelis semine:
Quem totus orbis non capit
Portant puellae viscera.

Radix Jesse floruit,
Et Virga fructum edidit;
Foecunda partum protulit,
Et Virgo mater permanet.

Praesepo poni pertulit
Qui lucis auctor exstitit,
am Patre coelos condidit,
Sub Matre pannos induit.

Legem dedit qui saeculo,
Cujus decem praecepta sunt,
Dignando factus est homo
Sub Legis esse vinculo.

Adam vetus quod polluit
Adam novus hoc abluit:
Tumens quod ille dejicit
Humiliimus hie erigit,

Jam nata lux est et salus,
Fugnta nox et victa mora,
Venite gentes, credite,
Deum Maria protulit. Amen.


Let all ages acknowledge  that he is come,
Who is the reward of life.
After mankind had carried the yoke of its cruel enemy
Our Redemption appeared.

What Isaias foretold,
has been fulfilled in the Virgin;
an Angel announced the mystery to her,
and the Holy Ghost filled her by his power.

Mary conceived in her womb,
for she believed in the word that was spoken to her:
the womb of a youthful maid holds Him,
whom the whole earth cannot contain.

The Root of Jesse has given its flower,
and the Branch has borne its fruit:
Mary has given birth to Jesus,
and the Mother is still the spotless Virgin.

He that created the light
suffers himself to be laid in a manger;
He that, with the Father, made the heavens,
is now wrapt by his Mother's hand in swaddling-clothes.

He that gave to the world the ten
commandments of the law, deigns,
by becoming Man, to be
Under the bond of the law.

What the old Adam defiled,
that the new Adam has purified;
and what the first cast down by his pride,
the second raised up again by his humility.

Light and salvation are now born to us,
night is driven away, and death is vanquished:
oh! come, all ye people, believe;
God is born of Mary. Amen.



Here's a peek-in to the SSM Breviary entry for Sext (spelled "Sexts" here):





This long article about Sext comes from Wikipedia, and quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917:
Sext, or Sixth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It consists mainly of psalms and is said at noon. Its name comes from Latin and refers to the sixth hour of the day after dawn.

Meaning, symbolism and origin

From the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917; note that this describes the office before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council; the numbering system of psalms is that of the Septuagint and are said in Latin

The hora sexta of the Romans corresponded closely with our noon. Among the Jews it was already regarded, together with Terce and None, as an hour most favourable to prayer. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that St. Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray (Acts 10:9). It was the middle of the day, also the usual hour of rest, and in consequence for devout men, an occasion to pray to God, as were the morning and evening hours.

The Fathers of the Church dwell constantly on the symbolism of this hour; their teaching is merely summarized here: it is treated at length in Cardinal Bona's work on psalmody.[1] Noon is the hour when the sun is at its full, it is the image of Divine splendour, the plenitude of God, the time of grace; at the sixth hour Abraham received the three angels, the image of the Trinity; at the sixth hour Adam and Eve ate the fatal apple. We should pray at noon, says St. Ambrose, because that is the time when the Divine light is in its fulness.[2] Origen, St. Augustine, and several others regard this hour as favourable to prayer. Lastly and above all, it was the hour when Christ was nailed to the Cross; this memory excelling all the others left a still visible trace in most of the liturgy of this hour.

All these mystic reasons and traditions, which indicate the sixth hour as a culminating point in the day, a sort of pause in the life of affairs, the hour of repast, could not but exercise an influence on Christians, inducing them to choose it as an hour of prayer. As early as the third century the hour of Sext was considered as important as Terce and None as an hour of prayer. Clement of Alexandria speaks of these three hours of prayer,[3] as does Tertullian.[4] Long previous the Didache had spoken of the sixth hour in the same manner.[5] Origen, the "Canons of Hippolytus", and St. Cyprian express the same tradition.[6] It is therefore evident that the custom of prayer at the sixth hour was well established in the 3rd century and even in the 2nd century or at the end of the 1st century. But probably most of these texts refer to private prayer. In the 4th century the hour of Sext was widely established as a Canonical Hour. The following are very explicit examples. In his rule St. Basil made the sixth hour an hour of prayer for the monks,[7] St. John Cassian treats it as an hour of prayer generally recognized in his monasteries[8] The De virginitate, wrongly attributed to St. Athanasius, but in any case dating from the fourth century, speaks of the prayer of Sext, as do also the "Apostolic Constitutions", St. Ephrem, St. John Chrysostom[9] But this does not prove that the observance of Sext, any more than Prime, Terce, None, or even the other Canonical Hours, was universal. Discipline on this point varied widely according to regions and Churches. And in fact some countries may be mentioned where the custom was introduced only later. That the same variety prevailed in the formulæ of prayer is shown in the following paragraph.

Western Office

Note: reference to Psalms follows the numbering system of the Septuagint.

Despite its antiquity the hour of Sext never had the importance of those of Vigils, Matins, and Vespers. It must have been of short duration. The oldest testimonies mentioned seem to refer to a short prayer of a private nature. In the fourth and the following centuries the texts which speak of the compositions of this Office are far from uniform. John Cassian tells us that in Palestine three psalms were recited for Sext, as also for Terce and None[10] This number was adopted by the Rules of St. Benedict, St. Columbanus, St. Isidore, St. Fructuosus, and to a certain extent by the Roman Church. However, Cassian says that in some provinces three psalms were said at Terce, six at Sext, and nine at None. Others recited six psalms at each hour and this custom became general among the Gauls.[11] In Martène will be found the proof of variations in different Churches and monasteries. With regard to ancient times the Peregrinatio Sylviæ, tells us that at the hour of Sext all assembled in the Anastasis where psalms and anthems were recited, after which the bishop came and blessed the people.[12] The number of psalms is not stated.

In the sixth century the Rule of St. Benedict gives the detailed composition of this Office. We quote it here because it is almost the same as the Roman Liturgy; either the latter borrowed from St. Benedict, or St. Benedict was inspired by the Roman usage. Sext, like Terce and None, was composed at most of three psalms, of which the choice was fixed, the Deus in adjutorium, a hymn, a lesson (capitulum), a versicle, the Kyrie Eleison, and the customary concluding prayer and dismissal [13]

In the Roman liturgy Sext is also composed of the Deus in adjutorium, a hymn, three portions of Psalm 118, the lesson, the short response, the versicle, and the prayer. (For the Byzantine Rite, see Eastern Christian Office, below.) In the modern Mozarabic Office Sext consists only of Ps. 53, three "octonaries" of Psalm 118, two lessons, the hymn, the supplication, the capitulum, the Pater Noster, and the benediction.

Eastern Christian Office


In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches the office of the Sixth Hour is normally read by a single Reader and has very little variation in it. Three fixed psalms are read at the Third Hour: Psalms 53, 54 and 90 (LXX). The only variable portions for most of the year are the Troparia (either one or two) and Kontakion of the Day.

During Great Lent a number of changes in the office take place. On Monday through Friday, after the three fixed psalms, the Reader says a kathisma from the Psalter. The Troparion of the Day is replaced by special Lenten hymns that are chanted with prostrations. Then, a special Troparion of the Prophecy is chanted, which is particular to that specific day of Great Lent. This is followed by a Prokeimenon, a reading from Isaiah and another Prokeimenon. Then there may follow a reading from the Ladder of Divine Ascent. The Kontakion of the Day is replaced by special Lenten troparia. Near the end of the Hour, the Prayer of St. Ephraim is said, with prostrations.

During Holy Week, on Great Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the services are similar to those during Great Lent (including the reading of a kathisma), but instead of the normal Lenten hymns which replace the Kontakion, the Kontakion of the day (i.e., that day of Holy Week) is chanted. On Great Thursday and Saturday, the Little Hours are more like normal. On Great Friday, the Royal Hours are chanted.

During the Lesser Lenten seasons (Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast and Dormition Fast) the Little Hours undergo changes similar to those during Great Lent, except the Lenten hymns are usually read instead of chanted, and there are no kathismata. In addition, on weekdays of the Lesser Fasts, an Inter-Hour (Greek: Mesorion) may be read immediately after each Hour (at least on the first day of the Fast). The Inter-Hours may also be read during Great Lent if there is to be no reading from the Ladder of Divine Ascent at the Little Hours. The Inter-Hours follow the same general outline as the Little Hours, except they are shorter.



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