Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26: The Feast of St. Stephen

I've missed a few items in my tour of the Sarum Office Hymns, I noticed recently!  Each feast in the week after Christmas has its own entry in the "Proper of the Season" section of Hymn Melodies for the Whole Year from the Sarum Service-Books.

Let's start with the entry for the December 26 Feast of St. Stephen:
On the Feast of S. Stephen & on the Оctave Day :
MattinsMartyr Dei, qui unicum ... ... ... 26
Lauds & Evensong:   Sancte Dei preciose ... ... ... 45

Follow along with the Office for today - including antiphons, hymns, Psalms, Chapter, etc., although no music is provided - at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885).   I'll link-in via iFrame to the SSM book at the bottom of the post too.

Below is the score for Hymn 26, listed here as the tune for the Matins hymn, Martyr Dei, qui unicum; it's the same tune used at the Christmas Office for the Matins hymn, Christe, Redemptor omnium.  Martyr Dei, qui unicum is the hymn for the Common of Martyrs; throughout the rest of the year, it's sung to tune 25, but during Christmastide tune 26 is used. 

Here's the LLPB mp3 that matches this tune (the words, though, are those for Christe, Redemptor omnium).

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.

This note at Google Books' Liturgical Prayer says: "The hymn Martyr Dei, qui unicum seems to be a continuation of Deus tuorum militum" - that is, the hymn for Lauds and 2nd Evensong for the Common of Martyrs.  Not unusual; many hymns are broken up in this way to serve several purposes.

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.

Here's the hymn tune used for Sancte Dei preciose:

Oremus hymnal online offers this this midi of the plainsongThis was a hymn, as far as I can tell, written in honor of the "protomartyr Stephen" specifically.  It's called "Saint of God, Elect and Precious" at Cyberhymnal (where it's described as from an "Un­known au­thor, 11th Cen­tu­ry"); J.M. Neale translated it this way:
Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.

Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee,
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.

Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.

Here's an image from a page at "Hymns and Carols of Christmas"; it's this hymn, in a book called Great Hymns of the Church Compiled by the Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young (New York: James Pott & Company, 1887).  The Latin and English words are both included:

Here's the Latin:
Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo:

Et coronæ quâ nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes sieri:
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flore roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo:
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

Cantus Database points to two manuscript pages in reference to Sancte Dei preciose (although I'm not sure it's pointing to an office hymn);  the first below is from a "Fourteenth-century antiphoner in two volumes (29 and 30) from the Abbey of Sankt Lambrecht (Steiermark, Austria)."  The second comes from a "Twelfth-century antiphoner from Klosterneuburg, Austria."  I can't find this particular text in either one, actually! Stephan is certainly the subject, though - and the two leaves seem to contain much of the same text.

It's interesting to me that  for each of the Feast Days in Christmas week the office hymns are sung twice:  once on the day itself, and then again eight days later.  That's kind of an unusual thing to do - at least I haven't seen it anywhere else in Hymn Melodies - and creates an interesting doubling effect in time (almost the way Psalms are often in doublets!).

The musical piece in the video below is based on this text, too - at least, the first verse is the same; it's labeled "Sancte Dei preciose V. Ut tuo propitiates" - but it's definitely not this office hymn, and there's no information about what's going on at the YouTube page.  It seems that John Sheppard wrote a mass for St. Stephen's Day called "Be Not Afraid," and it includes a "Sancte Dei preciose" (clip here) - but this is not that music, as far as I can tell.

I haven't found out anything about it, in fact.  (There's a bit of a problem in that Sancte Dei preciose is also spelled Sancte Dei pretiose, and it's taking twice as long to get any information about it!)  I suspect it may be one of those anonymously-composed early polyphony pieces.

It's just stunningly beautiful, in any case, and beautifully and expertly sung; don't miss it.  When I find out what it is, I'll come back and post it (or, if anybody out there knows....?).

Here's a little bit about Stephen from Wikipedia:
Saint Stephen (Koine Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; sometimes spelled "Stephan"), the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican[2],Lutheran,[3] Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Stephen's name is derived from the Greek languageStephanos, meaning "crown". Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs' palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon's vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. Rembrandt depicted his martyrdom in his work The Stoning of Saint Stephen.


Saint Stephen preaching.
History approximates Stephen's story around A.D. 34-35, shortly after Jesus' crucifixion[citation needed]. According to Chapter 6 ofThe Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of "Roman Freedmen," he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Templeand the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophetswho had spoken out against the sins of the nation:
"Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers." (7:52)
While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son:
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56) This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God - perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near.
He is condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which is encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. After his own conversion to Christianity, Paul makes reference to witnessing Stephen's martyrdom in his writings.[4]

Here's that peek-in to the SSM Breviary for today:

Here's Rembrandt's The Stoning of St. Stephen - painted when the artist was 19 years old; Wikipedia says it's his "first painting," but I find that kind of hard to believe.  Maybe his first commissioned painting?   (It doesn't look like Rembrandt to me, either.....)

But this is wonderful: Domenico Ghirlandaio's St Stephen, painted c. 1490.

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