10 August 2015


THE GOOD NEWS One of the little luxuries one gets from the Divine Office is the days when, not confined to the Commons of Saints, one has antiphons proper to the day. S Lawrence's day is an example.

THE BAD NEWS But the Liturgia Horarum is squeamish. We've lost that nice old antiphon to the Magnificat at II Vespers
While Blessed Laurence was being burned, stretched upon the gridiron, he said to the wicked tyrant "It's just about done this side; turn it over and tuck in [assatum est iam, versa et manduca], as for the goods of the Church which thou demandest, the hands of the poor have already carried them off into the heavenly treasures". Funny how our 'liberated' and 'uncensored' age has more hang-ups, and a greater tendency to bowdlerise, than allegedly less relaxed ages. I miss the antiphon on S Agatha's day with the lovely lingering alliterative Ms: He that hath vouchsafed to heal me from every blow, and to put my poor little breast back onto my chest [mamillam meam meo pectori], upon him do I call, the living God. And on Caecilia's day we've lost the antiphon which, by being slightly mistranslated, made her Patron of musicians: Cantantibus organis, Caecilia Domino decantabat ... (and notice the Cs and and Ts and Ds here). [The ablative absolute 'As the organs were playing' was mistakenly taken to mean that Caecilia was playing them.]

THE GOOD NEWS Following the mandate of the Council, the revisers brought into the new Office some gems of ancient Christian Latin hymnography. Today's Liturgia Horarum Office Hymns include a cento from Prudentius, the classicising Spaniard who wrote around 400ish. He delightfully describes the Roman Martyr Lawrence as now a citizen of heaven and a member of the eternal Senate (curia) and as wearing the Corona Civica: the crown/wreath of oak leaves given to a soldier who had saved the life of a comrade in battle, but often included among the insignia of Augustus. Prudentius wrote at just the time when the Church in Rome was coming to a cultural consensus to present itself as the guardian and exemplar of the old Romanitas; it was around now that the Canon Romanus was revised in the style of the ancient pre-Christian liturgical formulae of the City (vide Christine Mohrmann).

THE BAD NEWS For those of you who say the office in English: ICEL decided not to bother you anyway with the ancient hymns which the reformers had only just (in obedience to the Council) brought into the Liturgia Horarum. So you won't be reading Prudentius after all. Surprising how often ICEL promptly nullified the good initiatives of the Council. In our modern English vernacular, this is sometimes known as 'Sod's Law'.


  1. It is probably nothing to do with being squeamish, just a realisation that the quaint phraseology of yesteryear can hardly be said today in any serious way. Of course if what you are really interested in is playing religious games …

  2. Beátus Lauréntius, dum in cratícula superpósitus urerétur, ad impiíssimum tyránnum dixit: Assátum est iam, versa et mandúca; nam facultátes Ecclésiæ, quas requíris, in cæléstes thesáuros manus páuperum deportavérunt.

  3. Father, is there one book generally used by Ordinariate clergy for the Divine Office? What do you use?

  4. Fr., great post, a few questions: Where do you get this information about this Latin hymn? When I Google some of the Latin phrases from the hymn I can't find anything (perhaps my Googling skills are not the best--or maybe you simply have an encyclopedic knowledge of these things which even Google cannot match. Also (maybe you've written about this before and I've missed it) what are your thoughts on the new Liturgy of the Hours? Obviously you think the English translators should have included the Latin hymns and not replaced them with "Faith of our Fathers" (all the time). What do you pray as it relates to the Ordinariate? Is there any sense in jumping between the 1962 Missal and the new LOTH? Etc.

  5. Reading your commentary, Father, is always a pleasure—even if this time it's about the lack thereof—; but your tone suggests that you are not aware of an ICEL project, already underway, to translate "the 285 hymns of the office" (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2013/06/msgr-andrew-wadsworth-on-life-of.html).

    Executive director, Mgr Wadsworth, goes on to say that "many of them [have been] not previously seen in English", but Hymnal for the Hours should disprove this. Edited by Fr Samuel Weber, OSB, it's another way for Proper hymns to be sung in English: https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=hymnal+for+the+hours&type=