17 November 2023

Three Cheers for Vatican II (not III)

 As any Fule do Kno, under Papa Barberini, known often as Urban VIII, the hymns of the Roman Breviary were 'revised' ... or, if you are a classicising pedant, 'corrected' ... so that that obeyed the 'laws' of the Latinity (Prose and Verse) of the Augustan period.

Even S Ambrose was not spared humiliation. I offer a few words about a locus in his hymn Splendor paternae gloriae, which pops up at ferial Lauds on Mondays. 

[I wish, by the way, that not so many ferial offices fall victim to those never-ending Confessor Bishops who founded religious orders. I believe that the old Lauds Office hymns offer an unbeatable sweep of teaching on the spirituality of Light and on the rhythmic return of Light, the daily Ikon of Christ.]

Splendor paternae gloriae expresses a hope that Christ might be our Food; that Faith may be our Drink; that, "rejoicing, we may imbibe the sober/ drunkenness of the Spirit": "laeti bibamus sobriam/ ebrietatem Spititus".

Surely, an exquisitely eloquent oxymoron.

But Barberini gave a supercilious sniff [have I just perpetrated another oxymoron?] and emended ebrietatem to profusionem.

Happily, Sacrosanctum Concilium ordered the restoration of the original texts of the hymns ... in most cases. (Unhappily, the overconfidence of those charged with implementing the wishes of the Council led to excessive creativity in the latter years of the post-Conciliar period ... but that's another story.)

This conciliar restoration means that, in the Liturgia Horarum, S Ambrose's text is restored to due honour. Hooray!

Wozzat you say? The Barberinians perhaps thought that ebrietatem was insufficiently 'classical'? Pull the other one ... If it was good enough for Tully in the Tusculan Disputations ...

But what d'you think about this ... the conciliar chappies rejected the customary doxology on the grounds that "Haec strophe [they are referring to the last stanza, Aurora cursus ...], certe doxologica, reicit aliam doxologiam"? This stanza which seems to them certe doxologica only mentions the first two Persons of the Blessed and Undivided Trinity ... yes; I know the Spirit is mentioned twice earlier in the hymn, but, all the same, don't we nowadays rather expect ... er ...


Luke said...

Father, I am somewhat baffled by your discussion. I am assuming that the hymns to which you refer are in what is marked as the "foreign language" section of my thick* Parish hymnbook here in America, if they are in it at all. I've never had occasion to peruse that section.
(*"Thick" describing the book, and not necessarily the Parish.)

Oliver Nicholson said...

What was Urban thinking of ? S. Ambrose's most famous catechumen praises the sobria ebrietas of the Milanese bishop's ministry in a well-known passage:
Veni Mediolanium ad Ambrosium episcopum, in optimis notum orbi terrae, pium cultorem tuum, cuius tunc eloquia strenue ministrabant adipem frumenti tui et laetitiam olei et sobriam vini ebrietatem populo tuo
Augustine Conff. V, 12, 23.