The feast of the Assumption is a Double of the First Class with an Octave.
At Mattins the lessons in the first nocturn, since the time of Pius V, are taken from the Canticle of Canticles, are particularly rich with vibrant, sensual, imagery:
Osculetur me osculo oris sui, quia meliora sunt ubera tua vino, fragrantia unguentis optimis. Oleum effusum nomen tuum; ideo adolescentulae dilexerunt te. Trahe me: post te curremus in odorem unguentorum tuorum. Introduxit me rex in cellaria sua; exsultabimus et laetabimur in te memores uberum tuorum super vinum. Recti diligunt te. Nigra sum, sed formosa, filiae Jerusalem, sicut tabernacula Cedar, sicut pelles Salomonis.
Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine, smelling sweet of the best ointments. Thy name is as oil poured out: therfore young maidens have loved thee. Draw me: we will run after thee to the odour of thy ointments. The king hath brought me into his storerooms: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, remembering thy breasts more than wine: the righteous love thee. I am black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.(1st lesson)
In the second nocturn the lessons are from St. John Damascene's second discourse on the Dormition of the Virgin:
"This day the holy and animated ark of the living God, she who conceived in her womb her Creator rests in the temple of the Lord, which was not made with hands. And her ancestor David leaps, and with him the Angels lead the dance, the
Archangels make celebration, the Virtues ascribe glory, the Principalities exult, the Powers rejoice together, the Dominations are joyful, the Thrones keep holiday, the Cherubim utter praise, the Seraphim proclaim her glory. This day the Eden of the new Adam receives the living Paradise, wherein the condemnation was made void, wherein the tree of life was planted, wherein our nakedness was covered." (4th lesson)
In the third nocturn the homily on the Gospel fragment is from St. Augustine's 27th Sermon on the Words of the Lord. The responsories after the lessons are particularly beautiful today.
At Lauds six pluvialistae in pariti assist the Hebdomadarius. The antiphons are those of Vespers and the psalms those used on Sundays, the old festal Lauds. At Prime the hymn is sung with the Doxology proper to the BVM and proper tone. In the short responsory Qui natus es de Virgine is sung today and throughout the Octave, the lectio brevis is In plateis. At the Hours the hymns are sung to same tone for feasts of the Blessed Virgin.
Festal Mass is celebrated after Terce. The Rituale gives a Blessing of Herbs for this day which takes place immediately before Mass with Psalm 64, a series of versicles and responses, three collects, whose florid style, reminiscent of those for the Blessing of Palms, suggests a Gallican origin. The Caeremoniale prescribes six candles on the altar and the Graduale four cantors, if this is possible. In some diverse places the custom of the cantors wearing copes and the acolytes tunicles on great feasts is observed.
The Mass formulary Gaudeamus is particularly beautiful set of texts. The Gloria is sung, the Epistle a sublime cento from the Book of Wisdom that also forms the chapters at the Office. The gradual Propter veritatem is very ancient. The Credo is sung and the preface that of the BVM. The composer Nicholas Wilton has set one of the chant verses, Optimam partem (communion), to two delightful arrangements.
In the afternoon Second Vespers are sung with a commemoration of tomorrow's feast of St. Joachim, father of the BVM and of the third Sunday of August. Compline is again festal with the proper Doxology at Te lucis.
The rocky horror service books (aka 'the liturgical books of 1962') have seen considerable wreckovation of the once beautiful feast. At Mattins in the first nocturn the first lesson is taken from Genesis and then, curiously, the second and third from the former Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. In the second nocturn the magnificent writing of St. Damascene is shortened by the inclusion of a sixth lesson from Pius XII's writings. The third nocturn has a homily of St. Peter Canisus on the new gospel pericope introduced in 1950. Lauds sees the affliction of a new chapter, a pedestrian and ugly hymn replacing O gloriosa virginum, and new collect. At Prime the lectio brevis is Dominus autem dirigat, of the season. At Prime and the Hours the tone of the hymns is that for greater feasts, not the BVM and the special Doxology is omitted. The 1950 mass is again banal and ugly compared with the ancient texts. At Vespers no commemoration is made of St. Joachim whose feast is not celebrated tomorrow. The Octave was abolished in 1955. Yet more tosh...
On a positive note there are a growing number of places in the world where the traditional liturgy is being celebrated. For that, and for other diverse blessings - Gaudeamus omnes in Domino!
Art: Icon from the Melkite tradition in Australia.