So, this evening, we shall celebrate First Vespers of S Gabriel the Archangel.
Oh Yeah? you cry. What's all this about First Vespers? But you do know that according to our delightfully Semitic Catholic Tradition, days began (if you're still with me) the evening before. One of the things I find least satisfactory about the 1962 (Papa Pacelli) rite is the implicit attack it makes on this tradition, perhaps one of the most venerable in our entire Tradition. I feel its absurdity particularly on Festa, Second Class Feasts with a Vigil, when the question arises of how Vespers fits in between the Vigil and Mattins.
Well; there you go. S Gabriel was historically a Greater Double (festum; Second Class). We owe his feast entirely to Benedict XV in 1921 ... er ... well, not quite. As with so many celebrations, this one was around long before that; it swirled around in an ever-changing and really fun-section of our liturgical books called the Appendix Pro Aliquibus Locis. In my 1874 Breviary, there it is. Er ... but ...
But it is on the day before S Joseph, 18 March.
The APAL is a sort of ante-room to the full acceptance of a feast into decent society. And S Gabriel has now become incredibly decent: the 2020 CDF liturgical decrees make him one of the privileged commemorations on the Calendar.
Generations ago, Dom Gueranger discussed S Gabriel (on the 18th). In the course of his exposition, he offered us a couple of Franciscan, and one Dominican, hymn. That was another feature of the old system: in the 'candidate' feasts within the APAL there might be a certain very local and experimental quality to the propers locally authorised and used.
But Stay. I would not like you to be ignorant of Walter Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter 1258-1280. S Gabriel was his Patron. So Bishop Walter decreed a feast of the Holy Archangel on the first Monday of September, and gave it a high liturgical rank. He ordered that his own obit should be kept the following day (just as Bishop Grandisson was to order his own obit to be kept on the day after the Octave of the Assumption).
Here comes my plea for YOUR HELP!
Bronescombe (I presume it was he) made liturgical provision for this important festival. The Collect was to be Absterge quaesumus Domine; the hymns were to be Laudes solvant; Supra choros angelorum; Fideles novi (Vespers, Mattins, Lauds ... these incipits are in the Ordinale Exoniense Volume I p 187).
I have not been able to find the texts in the obvious places. I am intrigued to know whether they were being passed around in the Middle Ages and were picked up, so to speak, by Bishop Walter.
Or whether he commissioned them and ordered their construction.
Does anybody know of any evidence?
Absterge, quæsumus, Domine, Christiani populi caliginem tui luminis illustratione; et præsta ut beati Gabrielis archangeli tui salutatione et omnium angelorum tuorum protectione munitus, in tua semper visitatione clarescat. Per. (ex Missale Sarum)
(Dispel, we beg, O Lord, the fog [enveloping] Christian people by the enlightenment of thy light; and grant that, strengthened by the greeting of thy blessed archangel Gabriel and the protection of all thy angels, in thy visitation [they] may ever be illuminated. Through...)
An interesting collect, suffused by the theme of (dare I say "uncreated"?) light...
The collect seems to have been popular in France, see
You are so right about First Vespers and this is something that goes completely unnoticed by those Catholics who are overly Mass focused in their understanding of Catholic liturgical life, think that Vatican II was the cause of all our problems, and therefore worship at the altar of 1962. In 1955 they literally changed the (beautiful and magical) structure of the day that had endured for millennia. How ridiculously arrogant was that? Isn't there some prophecy somewhere about somebody who wants to change the times and seasons?
It maybe was the most absurd liturgical move of the entire 20th century, and it completely slips under the radar of most people, myself included until somebody pointed this out to me a couple of years ago. I hope you post more on this topic.
It is one interesting observation that the young really love to "celebrate into" days of celebrations (which is mostly birthdays), and that to do so has never quite lost the touch of being, well, legitimate (if you stay up meticulously until midnight to say your happy birthday then, but not quite the thing a decent philistine citizen does.
Who'd'a thunk (as the Americans say) that this was a particularly pious custom. "I've been all here", the Church is saying, quoting the hedgehog's wife's legendary words to the hare.
The presumption that piety and fun are on the opposite ends of some spectrum has always been mistaken.
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