2 July 2021

Visitation Hymns; the gradual elimination of our Lady Mediatrix of all Graces

Readers will be aware that today, July 2, is the authentic Festival of the Visitation of our Lady in the Latin Church. And that in the post-Conciliar period  it was discovered that "Certain Necessity" rrquired it to be moved back to May 31. This mean that the Feast of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces was displaced ... as I explained on May 31.

The Coetus charged with revising the provision of hymns in the Breviary was led by Dom Anselmo Lentini. He was a man of considerable erudition and a fine Latinist. He duly set about reconsidering the hymns allotted to the Visitation.

For Vespers, he suggested De sacro tabernaculo, written by our own beloved Cardinal Adam Easton, who, after a career including teaching at Oxford, survived torture by Urban VI through being rescued by the King of England. Pope Urban had objected to being sent a Filial Correction from some of his cardinals. All very natural. Plus ca change ...

For the Office of Readings, Dom Anselmo suggested some stanzas from the 100-stanza fifteenth century "Golden Jubilee", rightly describing the hymn as "most beautiful, and perfect". You can hear it being sung on the video by hundreds of SSPX priests and seminarians as they precede H E Bishop Fellay into the Concrete Submarine at Lourdes for Pontifical High Mass, with the  haunting refrain O Maria. The first line is Salve Mater Misericordiae. 

Interestingly, Lentini comments "Notice that in this feast [he means on May 31] the Blessed Virgin is venerated by the people as Mother of Graces".

He also, alternatively, suggested Veni praecelsa Domina (twelfth century); this had been criticised (e.g., by Gueranger) because of phrases like Veni Salvatrix saeculi. Insisting that this phrase can be said in a Catholic sense, Lentini nevertheless emended it "to avoid all offense" to Veni iuvamen saeculi.

For Lauds, Lentini offered a hymn of his own composition in the Sapphic metre, Concito gressu petis alta montis. It included the words populi ... te credunt Domini favorum/ esse ministram.

In other words, Lentini was doing his best in 1968 to preserve the theme of our Lady as Mediatrix of Graces in the hymns he suggested for May 31.

In the next edition of his draft Hymnarium, Cardinal Easton's hymn disappeared. Anglophobia!!! In came a ?Sixteenth century hymn Veniens mater inclita which at least included a stanza inviting Mary to lift up her eyes and see the believing peoples.

And, when the Liturgia Horarum was itself published, Salve Mater Misericordiae, most sadly, had been removed. Lentini's own composition Concito gressu survived, with its phrase Domini favorum ... ministram. So did Veni praecelsa and Veniens mater inclita.

Not, in my view, an attractive story. But I feel most sorry for Dom Anselmo and his associates. They were learned; they worked very hard; and nobody had quite remembered to tell them that the Enemy and the entire Low Command had already decided to ensure that the clergy would no longer know Latin. And that the Divine Office was to be carefully impoverished.

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