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.


prince Matecki said...

Dear father Hunwicke,
dunno what you are writing about. I know you think we german catholics are all crypto lutherans, however, the liturgical directory for the archdiocese of Hamburg tells me for today, 2nd July, that I am obliged to pray the office of our Lady for the feast of the Visitation. The same holds true for my directory of the Teutonic Order.
My latin 1962 breviary has for lauds o gloriosa virginum sublimis inter sidera and Ave maris stella as hymn for vespers.
The old 1954 breviary (still in four volumes) has
O gloriosa virginum for lauds and ave maris stella for vespers
so whatever changes were made were before 1954 for those books approved for german dioceses.

Jesse said...

I am always fascinated, Father, by your accounts of the work of Dom Lentini. Would you be so kind as to tell us where his writings on the work of the Coetus can be found? Are they all in the Hymni instaurandi breviarii romani (1968)? Or must one hunt them down in various issues of Notitiae?

(I suppose I could find the answer in Stanislaus Campbell's book From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours, but it's in my office at the college, and we're all still under enforced work-from-home conditions.)

Marc in Eugene said...

Germany and Slovakia ("because of an important national pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Visitation in the town of Levoča that has been held in the first weekend of July since the 13th century") were both permitted to keep the feast on the 2nd July, says Wikipedia.

Dom Anselmo's Hymni is only available second-hand and that rarely. (There is a second book, if I recall correctly, similarly unavailable.)

Jesse said...

I am happy to discover that a scan of Lentini's Hymni instaurandi is now freely accessible at the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/HymniInstBR1968/page/n2/mode/1up

Jesse said...

I have not been able to find a scan of Lentini's later volume, Te decet hymnus: L'innario della "Liturgia horarum" (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1984), which gives an expanded and corrected edition, with Italian commentary, of the hymns of the Liturgia horarum. (We don't even have a copy of it in the whole of the University of Toronto library system.)

Nevertheless, the introduction to that volume (in Italian) was printed in Notitiae 216-217 (July-August 1984), pp. 491-515.

This is freely accessible at the CDW's website: http://www.cultodivino.va/content/cultodivino/it/rivista-notitiae/indici-annate/1984/216-217.html