Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Open-church night spreads" in Austria

From The Tablet:
In Austria more than a third of a million people flocked to a spectacular array of late evening events staged on Friday night in hundreds of churches across the country.

Co-ordinators of the Long Night of the Churches said some 330,000 people attended 3,250 free events such as concerts, debates and lighting displays that took place in some 739 churches that are all part of the Ecumenical Council of Churches.

Since the first Long Night of the Churches was held in Vienna nine years ago it has been adopted by the Czech Republic - where 1,300 churches were involved this year - and in Slovakia, Hungary, South Tirol and Estonia.

The Long Night of the Churches was a "many-faceted door-opener to Christianity", Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said in his welcome to the participants in the Czech Republic this year.

Above: Austrian tightrope walker Christian Waldner makes his way along a wire above the roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral at the start of the Long Night of the Churches. The wire was fixed between the cathedral's south towers about 200 feet off the ground. Photo: CNS/Leonhard Foeger, Reuters

"New York Polyphony: Early music. Modern sensibility"

Here's a new NYP video - nice! It includes one of the entries from their recent Remix project. That's the Church of St. Mary the Virgin there, at the end.

From the YouTube page:
Praised for a "rich, natural sound that's larger and more complex than the sum of its parts," (National Public Radio) NEW YORK POLYPHONY is regarded as one of the finest vocal chamber ensembles in the world. The four men "sing with intelligence, subtlety and consummate artistry," (Richmond Times-Dispatch) applying a distinctly modern touch to repertoire that ranges from austere medieval melodies to cutting-edge contemporary compositions.


Video produced by Marchmen Media

Song credit:
Victimae paschali laudes (VPL Cubist Remix)
New York Polyphony/ David Minnick
Devices & Desires
© 2013 Polyphonic Productions

Sunday, May 26, 2013

For Trinity Sunday: Te Deum

Sung by Schola Bellarmina:

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.

Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

We praise thee, O God :
    we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
    the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
    the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim :
    continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
    Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
    of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
    doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
    thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
    thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
    whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people :
    and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
    as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
    let me never be confounded.
(English translation from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Learning about Gregorian Chant, from Solesmes

From the YouTube page:
Do you want to learn more about Gregorian chant? This highly pedagogical presentation by a monk of Solesmes, Dom Daniel Saulnier, is read by Sarah Moule and gives the amateur listener basic notions about the chant, its history, musical forms and genres, with a generous selection of examples culled from Solesmes recordings.

This seems to be the order of program on the video; I haven't watched it through yet.
History of Gregorian chant
1 Gloria With ringing of the bells
2 Gloria Ambrosian
3 Antiphon In mandatis & Psalm 111
4 Psalm Psalm 110
5 Psalm Psalm 111
6 Introit Nos autem
7 Gradual Concupivi
8 Alleluia Pascha nostrum
9 Offertory Lætentur
10 Communion Pascha nostrum
11 Kyrie III
12 Gloria IX
13 Sanctus XVIII
14 Agnus XVIII
15 Antiphon Dixit Dominus & Ps 109
16 Antiphon Si offers & Magnificat
17 Response Credo
18 Hymn Lucis creator
19 Hymn Salve festa dies


HT Chant Cafe.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Choir Books, at the Biblioteca Nacional de España

Here's something interesting from a page at the National Library of Spain (Spanish language page here); a Chantblog reader just pointed it out to me:
Choir books

The collection of choir books belonging to the Biblioteca Nacional de España, which originated in large from the ecclesiastical confiscations of the 19th century, comprises almost one hundred liturgical books which came from a number of ecclesiastical centres and are now held in our library.

These lectern books provide key testimony to the tradition of Gregorian chant in Spain. It is very different from any other cathedral or monasterial a collection as its features are heterogeneous, both in terms of origin and format. This collection contains a wide codicological and melodic representation of the copious production of choir books over the centuries, which is of great interest both to musicologists and Gregorian experts and for philologists and scholars of ancient Spanish books.

All of this reveals the need to develop the current database to provide a solution and service to the various essential issues regarding cataloguing and research. On the one hand, it will enable the Library to achieve a more detailed level of bibliographic description, in accordance with the peculiarities of this repertoire. And on the other, this systematisation and standardisation of all the aspects of the lectern books (missals, graduals, antiphonal books, etc.) should become a benchmark for the Spanish-speaking world and any institution with this singular kind of bibliographic collection.

There are two links on the page:  one that gives Access to the database; the other links to The music and musicology collection.  I believe that "the ecclesiastical confiscations of the 19th century" is a reference to this event described at Wikipedia:
The Ecclesiastical Confiscations of MendizabalSpanishDesamortización Eclesiástica de Mendizábal, more often referred to simply as La Desamortización, encompasses a set of decrees from 1835–1837 that resulted in the expropriation, and privatisation, of monastic properties in Spain.

The legislation was promulgated by Juan Álvarez Mendizábal, who was briefly prime minister under Queen Isabel II of Spain. The aims of the legislation were varied. Some of its impulses were fostered by the anticlerical liberal factions engaged in a civil war with Carlist and other reactionary forces. The government wished to use the land to encourage the enterprises of small-land owning bourgeoisie, since much of the land was underused by languishing monastic orders. The government, which did not compensate the church for the properties, saw this as a source of income. Finally, wealthy noble and other families took advantage of the legislation to increase their holdings.

Ultimately, the desamortización led to the vacating of most of the ancient monasteries in Spain, which had been occupied by the various convent orders for centuries. Some of the expropriations were reversed in subsequent decades, as happened at Santo Domingo de Silos, but these re-establishments were relatively few. Some of the secularised monasteries are in a reasonably good state of preservation, for example theValldemossa Charterhouse, others are ruined, such as San Pedro de Arlanza.

Shades of Henry VIII; I didn't know about this.

The database, though, is very interesting.  Things are happening!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

O ignis Spiritus Paracliti (Hildegard von Bingen)

For Pentecost, "O fire of the Spirit, the Comforter," by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179); this is among my favorite texts.   The original Latin, with an English translation, is below the video.  

O ignis spiritus paracliti,
vita vite omnis creature,
sanctus es vivificando formas.

Sanctus es unguendo
periculose fractos,
sanctus es tergendo
fetida vulnera.

O spiraculum sanctitatis,
o ignis caritatis,
o dulcis gustus in pectoribus
et infusio cordium
in bono odore virtutum.

O fons purissime,
in quo consideratur
quod Deus alienos colligit
et perditos requirit.

O lorica vite
et spes compaginis membrorum omnium
et o cingulum honestatis:
salva beatos.

Custodi eos qui carcerati sunt
ab inimico,
et solve ligatos
quos divina vis salvare vult.

O iter fortissimum
quo penetravit omnia
in altissimis et in terrenis
et in omnibus abyssis
tu omnes componis et colligis.

De te nubes fluunt, ether volat,
lapides humorem habent,
aque rivulos educunt,
et terra viriditatem sudat.

Tu etiam semper educis doctos
per inspirationem sapiente

Unde laus tibi sit,
qui es sonus laudis
et gaudium vite,
spes et honor fortissimus
dans premia lucis.

O fire of the Spirit, the Comforter,
Life of the life of all creation,
Holy are you, giving life to the Forms.

Holy are you, anointing
The dangerously broken;
Holy are you, cleansing
The fetid wounds.

O breath of sanctity,
O fire of charity,
O sweet savor in the breast
And balm flooding hearts
With the fragrance of virtues.

O limpid fountain,
In which it is seen
How God gathers the strays
And seeks out the lost:

O breastplate of life
And hope of the bodily frame,
O sword-belt of honor:
Save the blessed!

Guard those imprisoned
By the foe,
Free those in fetters
Whom divine force wishes to save.

O mighty course
That penetrated all,
In the heights, upon the earth,
And in all abysses:
You bind and gather all people together.

From you clouds overflow, winds take wing,
Stones store up moisture,
Waters well forth in streams --
And earth swells with living green.

You are ever teaching the learned,
Made joyful by the breath
Of Wisdom.

Praise then be yours!
You are the song of praise,
The delight of life,
A hope and a potent of honor,
Granting rewards of light.

 Note: The English version is adapted from Barbara Newman's literal English translation, in Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia: A Critical Edition of the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, 2nd ed. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998), 151.

My favorite translation of the first section of this text, though - and I'm not sure where it came from - goes like this:
O Holy Spirit,
Giving life to all life,
Moving all creatures,
Root of all things,
Washing them clean,
Wiping out their mistakes,
Healing their wounds,
You are our true life,
Luminous, wonderful,
Awakening the heart from its ancient sleep.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Dufay)

Here's a wonderful recording of Guilliaume Dufay's (ca. 1400-1474) setting of the exquisite Pentecost Sequence hymn,  Veni, Sancte Spiritus.  It's sung here, I believe, by La Capella Reial de Catalunya; M. Figueras, M.C.Kiehr (sopranos); K. Wessel (contre-ténor):

The original hymn is one of the most beautiful in the entire Gregorian repertoire, especially in its text (Latin and English below the video):

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum,
veni, lumen cordium.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.

Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From the clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure;
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die,
Give us life with thee on high,
Give us joys that never end.


TPL says this about the hymn:
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, known as the Golden Sequence, is the sequence for the Mass for Pentecost. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of sacred Latin poetry ever written. Its beauty and depth have been praised by many. The hymn has been attributed to three different authors, King Robert II the Pious of France (970-1031), Pope Innocent III (1161-1216), and Stephen Langton (d 1228), Archbishop of Canterbury, of which the last is most likely the author.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"The Lord himself is signified" - Augustine's Christological reading of the Good Samaritan

A great post from catholicity and covenant today.  He's referring to the Church of Ireland here, but TEC has the same Daily Office reading today.  Sometimes Augustine's allegorical readings get on my nerves - but this one is fantastic!  
Today the CofI daily office lectionary NT reading for MP was the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is appropriate, therefore, to revisit Augustine's Christological reading of the Good Samaritan, reminding us that the parable - rather than being a moralistic addendum - coheres with and flows from the Church's proclamation of the Cross and Resurrection:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, an dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come.

Alleluia, Emitte Spiritum Tuum ("Send forth Thy Spirit") - an Alleluia for Pentecost

Alleluia, Emitte Spiritum Tuum is the first Alleluia for the Day of Pentecost; here it's sung by the monks of Prinknash Abbey.

The text is from the wonderful Psalm 104, v. 30; here are the words and a translation from a William Byrd page at CPDL (the text of the second Alleluia is in brackets, following that of this, the first):
Alleluia. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur et renovabis faciem terrae.
[Alleluia. Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in ei ignem accende. Alleluia.]
Alleluia. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
[Alleluia. Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful: and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. Alleluia.] 
(See also this older post on Alleluia 2.)

Here is the full chant score for Alleluia, Emitte Spiritum Tuum:

Here's Byrd's setting of this text; beautiful!

Recorded LIVE June 2012 as part of the Pentecost Concert "A Musical Festival of Joy and Thanksgiving".
Location: Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Annandale, VA

Sopranos: Allison Mondel & Emily Noel
Altos: Chris Dudley (Director) & Kristen Dubenion-Smith
Tenors: Joe Regan & Jerry Kavinski
Basses: Doug Yocum & Karl Hempel
Classical Concert

Don't forget to read Full Homely Divinity's Pentecost entry!

Here are links to all the propers on the day, from the Benedictines of Brazil:

Dominica Pentecostes ad Missam in die
Introitus:  Spiritus Domini (cum Gloria Patri)(5m07.0s - 4798 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Emitte Spiritum tuum (1m55.4s - 1806 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m02.9s - 1922 kb)  view score
Sequentia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m29.7s - 2341 kb)  view score
Offertorium: Confirma hoc, Deus (1m35.3s - 1491 kb)  view score
Communio: Factus est repente (1m16.3s - 1195 kb)  view score
Ad dimittendum populum: Ite missa est (28.7s - 451 kb)  view score

And here are Chantblog posts on the Pentecost propers:

For some reason, I always really like Pentecost icons; here are three. The first is described as 18th Century Russian, "egg tempera on a wood panel":

There's no information at all on this one (although it's clearly Russian):

This one comes from the website of St. Mark's Coptic Church in Toronto; it's described as "above the South Altar Door by Bedour Latif and Youssef":

And wow!  How great is this 1534 painting by  "Vasco Fernandes, aka. 'Grão Vasco'"?  It's "da capela da portaria do mosteiro de Santa Cruz de Coimbra" - "over the door of the Santa Cruz de Coimbra monastery," that is.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Hallo again to all....."

Anglicans Online's article about Marcella Pattyn is so lovely that it actually deserves its own post. Here it is, in full.
Hallo again to all.

We're people with what some may think quirky habits.

When we first learn a route through a city, we tend to keep using that route even if navigation software tells us there is a better or shorter one. On Sundays, we sit in the same pew week after week. We eat the same lunch nearly every Thursday, and read the newspaper in the same spot nearly every Thursday evening with the same beverage at our side. On Tuesday mornings, we drink coffee in the same spot with the same company. We like to sit to the left of our conversation partners, and to read The Towers of Trebizond once a year. We choose a window seat when we can on trains and aeroplanes. We take off our shoes as often as decent, and wear pyjamas whenever possible. These habits aren't objectively good, and we have enough self-knowledge to understand that. But they are little bricks in the architecture of our days and weeks, and they help us to bring comfort and order out of what might tend otherwise in the direction of chaos.

One of the most consistent of our habits over the last decade has been reading The Economist on Saturday mornings. We often find ourselves a little more bolshy than they; a little amused at their reference to themselves as a 'newspaper'; somewhat vexed by the incessant gift subscription solicitations; and sometimes wishing the price were a bit lower; but always a touch refreshed by contrariety, consistency, hilarity—have you seen the photo captions?—and variety.

The first thing we read every week is the obituary (singular, as there is only ever one) printed on the second to last page of each issue. This is no morbid fascination; the obituary is written in exquisite English without fail, and it is never a bare recitation of dates and places. Instead, one learns something about the shape of a person's life and impact on the wider world. Ecclesiastical obits in The Daily Telegraph—especially those by Trevor Beeson—also do this, but they only appear when someone churchly and important dies, rather than every week without fail.

Our devotion to the penultimate page of The Economist is the only reason we learned of the death in Belgium on 14 April this year of Marcella Pattyn, the last Beguine. Though this 92 year old was touted as the last living link to a way of life stretching back some 800 years, her death went unnoticed in wider news outlets. We felt compelled to write in praise of Beguines and their distinct way of living out the Beatitudes.

Beguines* were lay women throughout what are now France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany who organized their lives around shared religious ideals but did not take vows as nuns—and, in fact, could and did leave their communities to return to their families or to marry if they wished. From the 1200s until 2013, they lived out Christ's declarations about the blessedness of the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and those who mourn, in ways that were and still are revolutionary. These women retained rights to own and inherit property. They were highly educated, and shared their education with the inhabitants of the cities where they lived. They chose to form urban families of affinity whose temporal stability was rooted in the beautiful béguinages that are still the architectural-historical pride of many northern European cities. The names of some Beguines are bright stars in the history of Christian mysticism: Hadewijch, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete, for example. It may come as no surprise that some of them were also accused of heresy, and that they suffered their own persecutions at the hands of the Church whose best ideals they refreshed and enlivened through many generations.

To our mind, one of the most significant things about the Beguines was their decision to live lives of Christian fruitfulness, simplicity and seriousness not in isolation or rural retreat, but rather in the heart of bustling cities. With remarkable wealth around them thanks to the cloth trade in particular, Beguines situated themselves outside of prevailing economic patterns in favour of an individualism-in-community that allowed them both urban solitude and opportunities for effective service. Urban solitude is a thing known well to thoughtful persons who live in cities, but generally experienced only by individuals, and not in ways that make for wider cultural constructiveness. Whilst sleeping and rising alone-together, Beguines prayed bright fires of joy into being through dark nights near the North Sea, and they forged attitudes of apostolic generosity outside the conventions of their time.

As Anglicans, we believe that there are many good flavours and streams in the broad river of Christian spirituality. When identifiable emphases—in this case, on the gift of the individual to community without a loss of autonomy, on the ability of women to make their own religious decisions, on the primacy of mystical, contemplative prayer to bring about the soul's right relationship with its creator, and on the humble goodness of the created world—we can't help but see a wonderful way of doing something beautiful for God. Nobody who has read and understood John Keble could reject this confluence of attitudes as outside the inheritance of all Anglicans and Episcopalians.

We also can't help but reject the idea that Marcella Pattyn was really the last of her kind. Maugre the fact that all the béguinages of the middle ages are now empty but for scents and books and ghosts, we don't have enough fingers and toes to count all the urban mystics we have met in our lives. Some have jobs in cubicles or at desks in nondescript office buildings; some are homeless; some are clergy who have bloomed where they were planted, and never sought other soil or toil; some are waitresses; one is a barber; one shined our shoes last week; one is a phlebotomist; two are cooks; and most are not aware themselves of the reality of the effect of their concentrated prayer on the lives of the world around them. We feel a fair certainty that the things separating today's Beguines from the now-defunct Beguines who perpetuated much that was beautiful and good from the late medieval northern European world are linguistic, cultural, chronological and structural rather than otherwise substantial.

The Economist's obit ended with a line from Agatha Christie: 'And then there were none'. Our preference would be the more joyful 'Their sound has gone out unto the ends of the world, and their words unto the ends of the earth'.
See you next week.

12 May 2013

* Some men, called Beghards, also embraced this way of life, but they were never the dominant participants in the movement.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Marcella Pattyn, the world’s last Beguine, died on April 14th, aged 92"

Here's Marcella Pattyn's obituary from The Economist.  (HT Anglicans Online.)

I'm especially moved by the idea that "The beguinages had originally been famous for taking the 'spare' or 'surplus' women who crowded into 13th-century cities in search of jobs."   We are headed towards this kind of society today, if we're not already there; global poverty is rising, and unemployment among some sectors of the population is very high.  Decent jobs are becoming scarcer.  The world doesn't seem to care for its "surplus" people much these days, either.  And, of course:  it's easy to understand why Marcella Pattyn would have been attracted to the Beguines; "But she was blind, or almost so, and no other community would accept her. She wanted to work, too, and was not sure she could in an ordinary convent."

AT THE heart of several cities in Belgium lies an unexpected treasure. A gate in a high brick wall creaks open, to reveal a cluster of small, whitewashed, steep-roofed houses round a church. Cobbled alleyways run between them and tiny lawns, thickly planted with flowers, grow in front of them. The cosiness, the neatness and the quiet suggest a hortus conclusus, a medieval metaphor both for virginal women and the walled garden of paradise.

Any veiled women seen there now, however, processing to Mass or tying up hollyhocks in their dark habits and white wimples, are ghosts. Marcella Pattyn was the last of them, ending a way of life that had endured for 800 years.

These places were not convents, but beguinages, and the women in them were not nuns, but Beguines. In these communities, which sprang up spontaneously in and around the cities of the Low Countries from the early 13th century, women led lives of prayer, chastity and service, but were not bound by vows. They could leave; they made their own rules, without male guidance; they were encouraged to study and read, and they were expected to earn their keep by working, especially in the booming cloth trade. They existed somewhere between the world and the cloister, in a state of autonomy which was highly unusual for medieval women and highly disturbing to medieval men.

Nor, to be honest, was it the first thing Juffrouw Marcella thought of when, as a girl, she realised that her dearest wish was to serve her Lord. But she was blind, or almost so, and no other community would accept her. She wanted to work, too, and was not sure she could in an ordinary convent. The beguinages had originally been famous for taking the “spare” or “surplus” women who crowded into 13th-century cities in search of jobs. Even so, the first community she tried sent her back after a week, unable to find a use for her. (In old age she still wept at the thought of all the rejections, dabbing with a handkerchief at her blue unseeing eyes.) A rich aunt intervened with a donation to keep her there, and from the age of 21 she was a Beguine.

Contentedly, in the beguinage at Ghent from 1941 and at Courtrai from 1960, she spent her days in tasks unaltered from the Middle Ages. She knitted baby clothes and wove at a hand loom, her basket of wool beside her chair, chatting and laughing with the other women. At lunchtime, like the others, she ate her own food from her own cupboard (identified by the feel of the carvings under her hands), neatly stocked with plates, jugs, coffee and jam. Cooking she was spared, ever since on the first occasion she had failed to see the milk boiling over, but she washed up with a will.

A good part of the time she prayed, all the prayers she could remember, but especially her rosary whose bright white beads she could almost see. Most usefully, since she was musical, she played the organ in chapel; and she cheered up the sick, as she nursed them, by serenading them on banjo and accordion. Almost her only concession to modernity was the motorised wheelchair in which she would career around the alleyways at Courtrai in her later years, wrapped in a thick knitted cape against the cold, her white stick dangerously levelled like a lance.

Love’s light

In her energy and willpower she was typical of Beguines of the past. Their writings—in their own vernacular, Flemish or French, rather than men’s Latin—were free-spirited and breathed defiance. “Men try to dissuade me from everything Love bids me do,” wrote Hadewijch of Antwerp:
They don’t understand it, and I can’t explain it to them. I must live out what I am.
Prous Bonnet saw Christ, the mystical bridegroom of all Beguines, opening his heart to her like rays blazing from a lantern. But a Beguine who was blind could take comfort in knowing, with Marguerite Porète, that Love’s light also lay within her:
O deepest spring and fountain sealed, Where the sun is subtly hidden, You send your rays, says Truth, through divine knowledge; We know it through true Wisdom: Her splendour clothes us in light.
When she was known to be the last, Juffrouw Marcella became famous. The mayor and aldermen of Courtrai visited her, called her a piece of world heritage, and gave her Beguine-shaped chocolates and champagne, which she downed eagerly. A statue of her, looking uncharacteristically uncertain, was cast in bronze for the beguinage.

The story of the Beguines, she confessed, was very sad, one of swift success and long decline. They had caught the medieval longing for apostolic simplicity, lay involvement and mysticism that also fired St Francis; but the male clergy, unable to control them, attacked them as heretics and burned some alive. With the Protestant Reformation the order almost vanished; with the French revolution their property was lost, and they struggled to recover. In the high Middle Ages a city like Ghent could count its Beguines in thousands. At Courtrai in 1960 Sister Marcella was one of only nine scattered among 40 neat white houses, sleeping in snowy linen in their narrow serge-curtained beds. And then there were none.

"The immense dignity conferred upon the human person...."

From David Bentley Hart's introduction to his Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies:
This book chiefly - or at least centrally - concerns the history of the early church, of roughly the first four or five centuries, and the story of how Christendom was born out of the culture of late antiquity.  My chief ambition in writing it is to call attention to the peculiar and radical nature of the new faith in that setting:  how enormous a transformation of thought, sensibility, culture, morality, and spiritual imagination Christianity constituted in the age of pagan Rome; the liberation it offered from fatalism, cosmic despair, and the terror of occult agencies; the immense dignity it conferred upon the human person; its subversion of the cruelest aspects of pagan society; its (alas, only partial) demystification of political power; its ability to create moral community where none had existed before; and its elevation of active charity above all other virtues.  Stated in its most elementary and most buoyantly positive form, my argument is, first of all, that among the many great transitions that have marked the evolution of Western civilization, whether convulsive or gradual, political or philosophical, social or scientific, material or spiritual, there has been only one - the triumph of Christianity - that can be called in the fullest sense a "revolution":  a truly massive and epochal revision of humanity's prevailing vision of reality, so pervasive in its influence and so vast in its consequences as actually to have created a new conception of the world, of history, of human nature, of time, and of the moral good.  To my mind, I should add, it was an event immeasurably more impressive in its cultural creativity and more ennobling in its moral power than any other movement of spirit, will, imagination, aspiration, or accomplishment in the history of the West.    And I am convinced that, given how radically at variance Christianity was with the culture it slowly and relentlessly displaced, its eventual victory was an event of such improbability as to strain the very limits of our understanding of historical causality.

Friday, May 10, 2013

An antiphon for Eastertide: Surrexit Dominus Vere

We've been singing this lovely fraction anthem at the Eucharist during Eastertide; it's S167 in the 1982 Hymnal.  The setting cited there is "Mode 6 melody, adapt. Mason Martens (b. 1933)."   The parts in italics below are congregational; the other lines are sung by a soloist in the choir.
The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
The bread which we break, alleluia, is the communion of the body of Christ.
The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
One body are we, alleluia, for though many we share one bread.
The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
I searched for audio or video of this online, but to no avail.  Then, I happened to stumble upon the Easter antiphon Surrexit Dominus Vere - I can't remember how or why - and lo and behold:  this is the very same melody sung by the soloists in the fraction anthem above. (The congregational response is very beautiful, but not part of this antiphon, apparently.)  Here Giovanni Vianini sings it:

V. Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia, alleluia. 
R. Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia, alleluia. 
Glória Patri, et Fíllio, et Spirítui Sancto.

V.  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia, alleluia.
R.  And has appeared to Simon [Peter], alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Fisheaters mentions the original verse/response on their Easter page:
On this, the holiest day of the entire year, and for the entire Octave of Easter, Latin Catholics greet each other with the words of Luke 24:34, "Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!" ("The Lord is risen indeed!"). The person so greeted responds, "Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia!" ("And hath appeared unto Simon!"). Catholics may even answer their telephones with this greeting. An old Ukrainian legend relates that, after His Resurrection, Christ threw Satan into a deep pit, chaining him with twelve iron chains. When Satan has chewed through each of the twelve chains, the end of the world will come. All year long, the Evil One gnaws at the iron, getting to the last link in the last chain -- but too late, for it is Easter, and when the people cry "Christ is risen!" all of Satan's efforts are reversed. When the faithful stop saying the Easter acclamation, the end of time has come...

Searching on "Et apparuit Simoni" brought up this page at Cantus database - and the numerous links to the phrase in various manuscripts, including a few images.  The Verse/Response was used at many different offices throughout at least the Octave of Easter - although DivinumOfficium has it used mainly, as far as I can tell, as the Verse/Response before the first reading at Matins in early Eastertide.  (Searching just "Surrexit Dominus vere" brings up lots of citations - this one, for example - but we're interested in including the "Simoni" ("Simon") language, since that does seem to be part of this antiphon in particular.   The reference for all of these is from Luke, and "Surrexit Dominus vere," with or without "Simoni," is used frequently throughout Eastertide, as you can imagine.)

For instance, this is from the Antiphonarium Massiliense 1201-1300 (a book from Marseille, France):

And this is from Fribourg/Freiburg, Couvent des Cordeliers/Franziskanerkloster: (an "Antiphonary for Franciscan use")

Here, the Schola Cantorum de Regina Pacis (Klaipeda, Lithuania) sings it:

Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia, alleluia. Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia, alleluia. Glória Patri, et Fíllio, et Spirítui Sancto.

Viešpats tikrai prisikėlė, aleliuja, aleliuja. Ir pasirodė Simonui, aleliuja, aleliuja. Garbė Dievui Tėvui, ir Sūnui, ir Šventajai Dvasiai.

FIlmuota 2010 m. balandžio 25 d. Klaipėdos šv. Kazimiero bažnyčioje.

Schola Cantorum de Regina Pacis choir is based in the church of St. Mary, Queen of Peace (Klaipeda, Lithuania)

More info: www.regina-pacis.org
It seems several composers have set the text; here are the words from Jacquet de Bechem's setting.  He includes the text from the Gradual for Easter Day, Haec dies:
Alleluia. Quia surrexit Dominus vere,
et apparuit Simoni, alleluia.
Exultemus et laetemur
dies ista laetitiae.
Haec dies, quam fecit Dominus
Exultemus et laetemur in ea.

Alleluia. The Lord has truly risen
and appeared to Simon, alleluia.
Let us rejoice on this day of joy,
which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice in it.

And there's a Taize Surrexit dominus vere, also:

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The 2nd Alleluia for Ascension Day: Dominus in Sina ("The Lord is in Sinai")

Here's a video of this chant, sung by the Congregation of St. Lazarus Autun:

The text comes from Psalm (67/)68, vv (18-19/)17-18; here's CCWatershed's translation of the proper itself:
The Lord is in Sinai, in the holy place; ascending on high, he has led captivity captive.
Here's the full chant score:

Psalm 68 is a long - and obscure! - Psalm; here are the first 19 verses, for a little bit of context:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.

1 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
and those who hate him shall flee before him!
2 As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
as wax melts before fire,
so the wicked shall perish before God!
3 But the righteous shall be glad;
they shall exult before God;
they shall be jubilant with joy!

4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord;
exult before him!
5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

7 O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
8 the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
10 your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

11 The Lord gives the word;
the women who announce the news are a great host:
12 “The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!”
The women at home divide the spoil—
13 though you men lie among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with shimmering gold.
14 When the Almighty scatters kings there,
let snow fall on Zalmon.

15 O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
yes, where the Lord will dwell forever?
17 The chariots of God are twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands;
the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.
18 You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Paul cites these verses Psalm in Ephesians 4:8, in what to my eyes appears to be a very complex - and again, obscure! - rabbinic argument.   Here are the first 16 verses of that chapter:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.  Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here, from ChristusRex.org, are all the Mass Propers for Ascension, sung by the Sao Paulo Benedictines:
In Ascensione Domini
Introitus: Act. 1, 11; Ps. 46 Viri Galilæi (2m48.4s - 2635 kb) score here
Alleluia: Ps. 46, 6 Ascendit Deus (1m50.2s - 1725 kb) score here
Alleluia: Ps. 67, 18.19 Dominus in Sina (2m33.9s - 2409 kb) score here
Offertorium: Ps. 46, 6 Ascendit Deus (1m33.8s - 1469 kb MONO due to problems with my recording setscore here
(anno A)Mt. 28, 18.19 Data est mihi (1m21.9s - 1283 kb) score here
(anno B)Mc. 16, 17.18 Signa (1m05.5s - 1027 kb)
(anno C)  Ps. 67, 33.34 Psallite Domino (59.0s - 925 kb MONO due to problems with my recording setscore here

You can read other posts about the day's propers on Chantblog as well:

And don't forget to read Full Homely Divinity's article on Ascension.

This is Andrei Rublev's lovely Ascension, from around 1408; it's now in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

The Gallery's website has some interesting things to say
about this icon:
From the Prazdnichny Chin (row) which was located above the Deisus and which illustrated events from the Gospel, only five icons have been preserved. Three of them are in the collection of the Tretyakov Gallery and two icons from this row – the “Baptism” and the “Feast of the Purification” – are in the collection of the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. Most researchers are inclined to view these icons as works coming from the atelier of Andrei Rublev and Daniil. The best done is thought to be the icon of the “Ascension” and many researchers attribute it to Andrei Rublev himself. The icon of the «Ascension» differs from all the other multi-figure icons in the Prazdnichny Chin in the way it possesses a special rhythmic organisation of the composition. Here there appeared the feeling of harmony and plastic balance characteristic of Andrei Rublev. The iconography of the «Ascension» was formed in Byzantine art on the basis of texts from the Gospel According to Mark (XVI, 15–20) and the Gospel According to Luke (XXIV, 42–52), as well as on the Acts of the Apostles (1, 4–12), which tell of the ascension of Christ to heaven after his resurrection from the dead on the fortieth day. This miracle occurred on the Eleon Hill before the disciples when they saw the ascending Christ. Before the apostles there were «two men in white garments» –angels who spoke of the second coming of the Teacher to Earth. The icons come from the Prazdnichny Chin of the iconostasis of the Church of the Assumption in the city of Vladimir. During the period 1768–1775, the dilapidated iconostasis dating from 1408 no longer corresponded to the tastes of the age of Catherine the Great and was taken out of the church and sold to the village of Vasilievskoye, near Shui (present-day Ivanovskaya Oblast). During 1918–1920s, the icons were removed by an expedition of the Central State Restoration Workshops.

    Tuesday, May 07, 2013

    Chanted monastic offices, live for desktop or iPhone

    Here's something pretty interesting, from the Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux:
    Listen to our offices live

    “There is only one problem in the whole world: restoring spiritual sense in people. Showering on them something like a Gregorian chant.”

    - Saint-Exupéry

    The monks of Le Barroux invite you to follow live the liturgical offices, entirely sung in Gregorian in the extraordinary form of the Roman Catholic rite. This initiative is supported by Mgr Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, the archbishop of Avignon.

    Four times a day, on your iPhone with the Barroux application, or on your computer, you will be able to connect to the great liturgical prayer of the Church.

    The offices broadcast live are :
    Prime: 7:45 or 8:00 (see the time-table)
    Sext: 12:15 every day.
    Vespers: 17:30 every day.
    Compline: 19:45 every day.
    They offer some help with office materials, too:
    Books to follow the offices — Two choices are available :

    Latin/French booklets
     containing the main part of the offices: psalms, antiphons and hymns of various liturgical periods : see the selection.

    Monastic ‘Diurnal’ containing all of the day’s Benedictine office, in Latin/French (from Lauds with Compline), according to the monastic breviary of 1963, with all the festivals of Temporal and the Sanctoral : see the diurnal.

    I had some problems getting the files to play on my PC from that site, and I don't have an iPhone - but there is another site, barrouxchant.com, that seems to post all four daily files for listening at any time during the day.  (Obviously, time zone differences have to be taken into account).

    Here's the blurb from the barrouxchant.com site:
    The monks of the Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux stream their chanted Office each day as explained on their website. For those of us who do not live in European time zones, this project attempts to automatically record their hours and make them available for download.
    You can also subscribe to the hours as a podcast or on iTunes.

    These are automatically generated, so there may be some errors. If you find any (or if you have any other comments), please let me know!

    I did have some problems playing a couple of the files from that page; perhaps they'll work out the kinks eventually.  (The podcast seems to work well, though; I just listened to Vespers in its entirety, without a problem.  The feed is run through Feedburner and points to files on archive.org.)  There are links at barrouxchant.com to the office texts at DivinumOfficium.com; the texts are side-by-side in Latin and English, so it's very easy to follow along. (You can always go to DivinumOfficium.com directly and find these texts, anyway!  Use the arrows at the top of the page to get the right date, and choose the office itself in the links at bottom; the BarrouxChant seems to point generally to "Pre-Tritdent Monastic.")

    So, interesting things are happening!   As far as I can tell, this is a new monastery; the history given at the site begins in 1970, and starts this way:
    August 24th, 1970: A Benedictine monk arrives on a moped, with a few belongings, at the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalen in the Vaucluse region of south-east France. What is he doing here ? At a time of turbulent change, he intends simply to continue his monastic life with his Abbot’s permission and to live according to the tradition of prayer, silence, manual work, the divine office in latin and the traditional liturgy. What will the future hold ? “That’s God’s business !”, replies Dom Gérard.

    Here's a picture of the place; image by "Jean-Marc Rosier from http://www.rosier.pro."

    Monday, May 06, 2013

    A Rogation Days processional hymn: Ardua spes mundi (Ratpert († c.890))

    The hymn Ardua spes mundi was apparently sung at Rogation Day processions, according to David Hiley's Western Plainchant. (The Rogation Days are the three weekdays prior to Ascension Day; we're in the middle of them now.)

    Here is a recording of the hymn; Dominique Vellard conducts the Ensemble Gilles Binchois:

    In a section on "Processional Hymns" (note that "versus" is another word for "hymn"), Hiley says:
    Ratpert's Ardua spes mundi may serve as an example of the St. Gall versus....In the Rouen Cathedral manuscript (Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, lat. 904, thirteenth century), from which [the illustration] is transcribed, both Ardua spes and Humili prece are sung in the procession before Mass on the Rogation Days leading up to Ascension Day (the weekdays following the fifth Sunday after Easter). In both chants, verses in honor of Rouen saints are added to those already present; Ardua spes invokes Romanus and Audoenus.  The same melody is used for the refrain and the strophes (some other processional hymns have two different melodies).
    Other examples of "processional hymns" cited by Hiley are the more well-known Pange lingua and Crux fideles.  "Ratpert," who wrote this text, was a monk of St. Gall and a composer of liturgical poetry; according to BrillOnline, Ratpert:
    (after 850 – before 912), was educated at Saint Gall Abbey and lived there as monk and teacher until his death. In the Middle Ages he was known as the author of liturgical poems in Latin, especially an All Saints Day litany. His Old High German Galluslied now survives only in the Latin retro-translation by Ekkehard IV. His Casus sancti Galli form the prelude to the Saint Gall house chronicle that was continued up to the 13th century.

    These, I believe, are all the Latin words to Ardua spes mundi; they were incredibly hard to find!  Spes mundi is "hope of the world" - and Google Translate says that Ardua spes mundi translates as "towering hope of the world."  No English translation yet; working on it.

    Ardua spes mundi solidator & incliti Coeli; Christe exaudi nos propitius samulos. Ardua spes mundi.

    Virgo Dei genitrix rutilans in honore perennis Ora pro famulis sancta Maria tuis. Ardua spes mundi.

    Angele summe Dei Michahel míserescito nostri Adiuvet & Gabrihel atque pius Raphahel. Ardua.

    Aspice nos omnes clemens baptista lohannes. Petreque cum Paulo nos rege doctiloquo. Ardua.

    Coetus apostolicus sit nobis sautor & omnis Ac parriarcharum propheticusque corus. Ardua.

    Poscere nunc Stephanum studeamus carmine summunt

       Ut cum martyribus nos iuvet ipse pius. Ardua.

    lnclyte Laurenti qui fiammas exuperasti

       Victor ab etherio nos miserere choro. Ardua.

    Care Deo martyr patriae decus huius herile.

       Sancte Albane tuis esto savens meriris. Ardua.

    Victor, Alexander meritis utrique beati

      Nobis orate de Domino veniam. Ardua.

    Splendide Silvester Gregorie sancte magister.

      Nos quoque cum sociis serte iuvando polis. Ard.

    O Martine De¡ conseil'or summe sacerdos

      Gemma sacerdotum auxilium ser ymon. Ardua.

    O Benedicte Parer monachorum Galleque frater

      Cum reliquís Sanctis nos refovete polis. Ardua.

    Maximo de Francis superis coniuncte catervis

      Sancte Othmare tuum laetifica populum. Ard.

    lnclite Magne tuam clemens nunc inspice plebem

       Pontifices fidos ac reliquos famulos. Ardua.

    Virgineos flores Agnes Agathesque ferentes

       Auxilio vestris addite nos soclis. Ardua.

    His Waldburga comes nostras pia suscipe voces

      Nos & cum Dno protege sancta polo. Ardua.

    Innocuos pueros resonemus laude peraclos

      Qui modo nos pueros dant resonare melos. Ard.

    Omnes o sancti nostra succurrite vita!

    Perque crucem sanctam salva nos Xpe redemror.  Omnes.

    lra deque tua clemens nos eripe Christe. Omnes.

    Nos peccatores audi te Christe rogamus. Omnes.

    Ut pacem nobis dones te Christe rogamus. Omnes.

    Crimen ut omne tuis solvas te Xpe rogamus. Oms.

    Aurae ut temperiem dones te Xpe rogamus. Oms.

    Ut fruges terrae dones te Xpe rogamus. Omnes.

    Ut populum cunctum salves te Xpe rogamus. Oms.

    Ecclesiamque tuam firmes te Xpe rogamus. Oms.

    Fili celsithroni nos audi Christe rogamus. Omnes.

    Agne Dei Patris nobis miserere pusillis. Omnes.

    Christe exaudi nos o Kyrie ymon eleyson. Omnes.

    The image in the YouTube video is from the St. Gall manuscript; below  are screenshots from that same manuscript of all four pages of this hymn.

    "Happy World Organ Day"

    Today at the Chant Café:
    Today, hundreds of concerts will take place around the world to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the founding of the Paris Cathedral. This one in Boston is among them.

    Sunday, May 05, 2013

    Rogation Days

    Here's Full Homely Divinity on these three pre-Ascension days.  We had a bit of a "Rogation Sunday" today (as suggested below):  special vestments were hung and worn; special collects read; holy water sprinkled round about the grounds; kids planted flowers and trees.
    Beating the bounds in Victorian London
    The Rogation Days, the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day, originated in Vienne, France (not Vienna, Austria), in 470 after a series of natural disasters had caused much suffering among the people. Archbishop Mamertus proclaimed a fast and ordered that special litanies and prayers be said as the population processed around their fields, asking God's protection and blessing on the crops that were just beginning to sprout. The Latin word rogare means "to ask", thus these were "rogation" processions. In an agricultural society, closely connected with the soil and highly vulnerable to the uncertainties of nature, this was an idea that took root quickly, and the custom spread around Europe and over to Britain. The Sunday before the Rogation Days came to be considered a part of Rogationtide (or "Rogantide") and was known as Rogation Sunday. The Gospel formerly appointed for that day was from John 16, where Jesus tells his disciples to ask, and ye shall receive.

    Beating the bounds in Lambeth, 1961
    While technically they were days of fasting, for which they were also known as "Grass Days," for the meatless meals that were enjoined, the Rogation Days developed into a popular festival, celebrating the arrival of spring and serving other purposes, as well. Other names for these days include "Gang Days," from the Anglo-Saxon gangen, "to go," and "Cross Days," both titles signifying the processions with crosses and banners around the countryside. In some parishes, the procession took more than one day and the whole business became an occasion for several days of picnics and revels of all sorts, particularly among those who trooped along at the fringes of the religious aspects of the procession.

    Beating the bounds in Claverton, 1999
    The route of the walk was around the boundaries of the parish, which was a civil as well as a religious unit. Thus, the processions were useful in teaching people, particularly the young, their parish boundaries. Known as "beating the bounds," the processions customarily stopped at boundary marks and other significant landmarks of the parish, such as a venerable tree, or a great rock, or perhaps a pond. The priest would read the Gospel and perhaps affix a cross to the landmark. Then the boys of the parish would suffer some indignity intended to help them remember the spot. Boys were bumped about against rocks and trees, thrown into the water, held upside-down over fences, thrown into bramble patches, or beaten with willow wands--and then given a treat in compensation. In later times, the marchers beat the boundary marker with the willow wands, beating the bounds, rather than the boys.
    The reminder of boundaries had another important impact on communal life. In a poem by the 20th century American Robert Frost, the poet's neighbor asserts that "good fences make good neighbors." Boundaries are often very important in relationships. As members of parishes beat the bounds, they would often encounter obstructions and violations of boundaries. The annual beating of the bounds provided an opportunity to resolve boundary issues. It also led to the tradition of seeking reconciliation in personal relationships during Rogationtide. The sharing of a specially brewed ale, called Ganging Beer, and a mysterious pastry, called Rammalation Biscuits, at the end of the walk was a good way of sealing the reconciliation.
    George Herbert gave the following good reasons to beat the bounds: 1) a blessing of God for the fruits of the field; 2) Justice in the preservation of the bounds; 3) Charitie, in living, walking and neighbourliy accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if they be any; 4) Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largess which at that time is or oght be made.

    The custom of placing crosses on boundary markers and in the fields seems to derive from the fact that the Rogation Days fall near the old feast day of the Invention (or Finding) of the Cross. Crouchmas ("Cross-mass") was on May 3rd and it was the custom on that day to place crosses in fields and gardens as a way of blessing them and praying for them to be fruitful. While full Rogation processions are rare today, the blessing of crosses to be planted in the fields of the faithful is one of the ways the older customs survive.

    Keeping the Rogation Days Today

    Much of modern society has lost its direct connection with the soil, but this psychological distance does not lessen the actual dependence of all people on the gifts of nature. Furthermore, responsible stewardship of all of these gifts is increasingly being recognized as the concern of all people. Days of thanksgiving, harvest festivals, and the like are observed in many churches at the end of the growing season. The Rogation Days at the time of planting have become little more than a liturgical footnote in the American Prayer Book, but in these times of growing ecological concern the Church would do well to revive them.

    Practically speaking, the revival of Rogation observances is likely to involve more people if they are part of a Sunday service. It should be added that, while the Sixth Sunday of Easter is the traditional day, some adaptation to the local season and climate would be appropriate. After all, there is little point in blessing fields and seeds for planting at the time when crops are being harvested in the southern hemisphere. Similarly, there will be many places where farms and rural countryside will not be the locale of processions and blessings. But even in urban churches there should be an awareness of our dependence upon the fruits and resources of the earth, of the ways in which resources are wasted, of the dangers of pollution, and of our responsibility for honest labor and industry.

    A Rogation observance in church, then, can be the opportunity for a homily on the Christian stewardship of natural resources. Various symbols can be introduced into the liturgy to reinforce this theme. A procession around the whole parish might not be a possibility, but a procession around the church grounds, a local park, or a parishioner's farm would be appropriate. Parishioners can bring their own garden seeds to be blessed and crosses can be blessed for parishioners to take home and plant in their fields or gardens. Making the crosses would be a good project for the children of the church school or individual families. If the children made Easter gardens, the plants in them can be transplanted to either the parish garden or their family gardens at home, adapting some of the prayers below. Even though the Sunday readings no longer keep the Rogation theme, the hymns can. Hymns and canticles that fit the Rogation theme include, "O Jesus crowned with all renown", "Fairest Lord Jesus", "We plow the fields and scatter", "Now the green blade rises", "O worship the King", Benedicite, omnia opera, and Psalm 65.

    Here are some elements and prayers for a Rogationtide expansion of the Eucharistic liturgy on Rogation Sunday or any day designated for the observance of Rogation themes:

    At the Offertory

    Expand upon the usual Offertory of the Eucharist. Seven elements might be presented by members of the congregation and placed upon the Altar:
    money - the regular tithes and offerings;
    bread - preferably a home-baked loaf (click here for some recipes);
    wine - perhaps a bottle of table wine, rather than the usual Eucharistic wine;
    soil - a wooden or earthenware bowl of soil;
    water - in a clear vessel so that it may be seen;
    seed - a bowl of seed, or a basket of various packaged seeds (notice might be
    given beforehand for people to bring their own garden seed to be blessed
    either at the Eucharist or at the procession afterwards);
    crosses - a basket of small wooden or paper crosses.

    When the elements are brought forward, or after they have been presented, sing this hymn to the tune Lancashire ("Lead on, O King eternal"):
    We pray thee, therefore, Father, to take these gifts of ours
    Ourselves, our lives, our labors, our thoughts, our words, our powers;
    Though they all be unworthy to place upon Thy board
    We know Thou wilt accept them through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    As each element is received, an appropriate prayer is said:

    At the presentation of money:
    Accept, O Lord, our gifts of money, which represent the business of our daily lives:  Use them for the work of your Holy Church to carry out your mission; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    At the presentation of bread:
    Almighty God our Savior, who in the carpenter's shop at Nazareth labored for daily bread: Accept this bread which is both the fruit of our work and the satisfaction of our needs, and so bless all our industry and necessity; for your sake. Amen.

    At the presentation of wine:
    We offer you, O Lord, this wine, the fruit of the vine: We pray that you will accept it, that it may become for us the Blood of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    At the presentation of soil:
    Almighty Creator, we offer to you this soil in token of the fields and forests of our land on which we ask your blessing: We ask that the soil may be wholesome, the crops good, and that we may be faithful stewards of your mercies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    At the presentation of water:
    O God, who brought forth life out of the waters of creation: Bless this offering of water and grant that there may be sufficient water to raise up good crops and to serve the needs of our industries; and may we drink of the Living Water to bring forth the fruit of godly living from the soil of our souls; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    At the presentation of seeds:
    O Heavenly Father, who by your wondrous providence made all grass, herbs, and trees, each with seed after its own kind: Accept and bless our offering of seed to be planted throughout our parish, that the life in all seed sown may burst forth into fullness of its kind, according to your good creation, and especially the seed of your Word; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    At the presentation of crosses:
    O God, whose blessed Son has promised that we need only to ask in order to receive: Accept and bless these crosses, and grant that in the fields where we place them they may stand as a sign of our unfailing trust in your bounty and as encouragement to all who see them to put their faith in your providence; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Rogation procession in Bedford, 1952

    There's more at the link.

    We sang some of the hymns suggested above, including "O Jesus crowned with all renown" - the one and only "Rogation Days" hymn in the 1982 hymnal.  And, a favorite of mine,  the beautiful "Fairest Lord Jesus"; it's sung in the video below by the children of Truro Cathedral.  (You can hear both of  these hymns on the May 5, 2013 service of Compline podcast from St. Mark's Seattle.  Obviously, they were celebrating Rogation Days, too!)  


    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...