7 December 2020

Leo XIII??

A really big Thank You to all those who enabled me to track down the Breviary propers for the Feast of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. I am truly grateful.

At Mattins, this hymn was is used:

Tutela praesens omnium, 

Salveto Mater Numinis;

Intacta in Hevae filiis,

Tu foeda munda pectora.


5. Numisma quos ornat tuum,

Fove benigno lumine;

Virtus sit inter proelia

Aegisque in hostes praepotens.


Sit flentibus solatium, 

10. Aegris levamen artubus,

In mortis hora, fulgidae

Aeternitatis sponsio.


Iesu, tuam qui finiens

Matrem dedisti servulis,

15. Precante Matre, filiis

Largire coeli gaudia. Amen.


Ever a schoolmaster, I will point out the importance of distinguishing your short a from your long a. In line 4, getting this wrong would make all the difference between asking our Lady to clean our defiled hearts, and asking her to to defile our clean hearts. Grammar matters!

I think there is a good chance that this hymn was written by that consummate Latinist, Papa Pecci., otherwise known as Pope Leo XIII. (We need another Pope Leo ... it would establish a fine precedent if Leo XIV were a person one of whose baptismal names had been Leo ... )

It was, indeed, Leo XIII who granted the Mass and Office "ad singulos Episcopos ac Religiosas familias petentes". The SRC had decided that this would be kosher, on the grounds that the Liturgy already took note of Devout Objects such as the Rosary and the Carmelite scapular.

But why might Leo himself be the poet? In lines 2/3, Mater Numinis /Intacta reminds us of Intacta Mater Luminis in Te dicimus praeconio, which Dom Alselmo Lentini intelligently surmised was composed by Pope Leo. Mind you, that didn't stop Dom Anselmo from emending 'numen' out of his text, crying "sapit Mythologiam"! Pope Leo got the line from Praeclara custos virginum, a seventeenth century hymn probably originally composed for the Feast of the Purity of the BVM. In that hymn also (now attached to the Immaculate Conception) Dom Anselmo bowdlerised the text!

It might occur to you to wonder whether Tutela was written by the same classicising poet who wrote Praeclara. Nice one! He had included the remarkable line "syrtes dolosas amove", which Dom Anselmo failed to emend (he could have explained "nimis sapit catillos tectonicos"). I prefer my Leo hypothesis because I can't find Tutela in the Thesaurus but mostly because the Miraculous Medal was not in circulation in the seventeenth century!

Tutela contains other matters of interest: not least the sense, not common in Christian Latin, of finiens in the sense of 'dying' (line 13). And there is the highly unusual final stanza which is not-at-all a Trinitarian doxology. But most readers will, I suspect, raise an eyebrow at Aegis. Originally, of course, the Aegis was the shield of Jove or of Minerva, with Medusa's head fixed on to it to apotrepein enemies ( we don't want to go into the use of it in Ovid's Remedium Amoris, do we?). 

I believe our Lady suggested that the Medal should be worn around the neck. Suitably apotropaic!




PM said...

Leo XIII, in my humble opinion, would be a dry worthy candidate for a papal canonisation.

PM said...

My apologies: 'very worthy', not 'dry worthy'.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Your "foeda munda" comment is a nice example of the chant tone determining the word order, a subtlety absent in the meter. It would be interesting to know what tone this was meant to have, but trying, logically, the Marian office-hymn tone (O Gloriosa Virginum), or Creator Alma Siderum, or indeed O Salutaris, we see that the syllable for mundA is slightly lengthened, stressed. To reverse the words, which their meaning might logically allow, would drop us firmly into Fr Hunwicke's dirty trap.

Buona festa to all one's fellow readers! The first, and third (like a train), of the Immacolata feasts!

Stephen v.B. said...

It might be of interest to note that Leo XIII had used the phrase tutela praesens - which stems from Horace, of course, Ode 4.14, where it refers to Augustus - in the opening line of a hymn to Saint Herculanus, patron of Perugia, written in 1878:

Tutela praesens patriae
Salve, Herculane; filiis
Adsis, precamur, annuo
Qui te celebrant cantico.

That might tend to support your hypothesis, Father. On the other hand, Leo was not the only one who had taken the phrase to heart. There is a rather pretty mid-16th C. poem by Marcantonio Flaminio - a religious poem in a hymnic meter, addressed to Christ - which opens thus:

Tutela praesens omnium
Qui mente pura te colunt,
Da, quaeso, nil ut cogitem,
agam, loquar quod Numini
tuo placere non queat ...

(In another poem, Flaminio applies the phrase tutela praesens to the power of the Holy Spirit.)