Monday, 16 August 2010
It is quite interesting to see intelligent criticism of the 'makeover' the feast of the Assumption suffered in the 1950s on the blogosphere such as here and here.
Picking up my copy of F.E. Warren's translation of the Sarum Missal of 1526, the collect for the Mass of the Assumption, Veneranda nobis, different from our familiar Famulorum tuorum, caught my eye and seemed worthy of a little more thought.
'Let the honoured festival of today, O Lord, bring us continued aid; on which the Holy Mother of God underwent temporal death, yet could not be holden by the bonds of death because she bore incarnate of herself Thy Son our Lord. Who liveth etc.'
The other texts, apart from the collect are essentially the same as in the Roman rite. However, Sarum gives two Epistles, the first the familiar In omnibus requiem (the same as in the, slightly out of focus, photograph from a Book of Epistles and Gospels above) but the other is a cento from the Canticle of Canticles (3:11; 4:1, 7, 8, 10 -13, 15; 5:1, 6: 8, 9; 7: 6, 7). An interesting rubric directs that the two epistles are sung in alternation during days within the Octave ensuring that the second is sung on the Sunday within the Octave and on the Octave Day itself. The text of the cento reads thus:
'Go forth, ye daughters of Zion, and see King Solomon in the diadem, wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the joy of his heart. How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou! thy eyes are dove’s yes, besides what is hid within. Thy hair is as a flock of goats, which come up from mount Galaad. Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee. Come from Libanus, my spouse, come from Libanus, come: thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana, from the top of Sanir and Hermon, from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards. How beautiful are thy breasts, my sister, my spouse! Thy breasts are more beautiful than wine, and the sweet smell of thy ointments above all aromatical spices. Thy lips, my spouse, are as a dropping honeycomb, honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments, as the smell of frankincense. My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. Thy plants are a paradise of pomegranates with the fruits of the orchard. Cypress with spikenard. The fountain of gardens; the well of living waters, run with a strong stream from Libanus. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat the fruit of his apple trees. I am come into my garden, O my sister, my spouse, I have gathered my myrrh, with my aromatical spices: I have eaten the honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved. One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. The daughters saw her, and declared her most blessed: the queens and concubines, and they praised her. Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array? How beautiful are thou, and how comely, my dearest in delights! Thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breast to clusters of grapes.'
In the 1526 Missal the 14th of August is the Octave of the Holy Name of Jesus. The collect for Vespers of the Assumption appears to be the collect Deus, qui virginalem, which in the Roman rite is the collect for the Vigil of the feast. Veneranda nobis also appears as the collect for Mass of the Assumption in Henderson's translation of the 1502 Hereford Missal. It seems likely that Kalendar development caused the migration of Veneranda nobis to Mass. Gueranger mentions that in Rome a procession was held in honour of the Assumption linked to Vespers and that the collect used was Veneranda nobis, with Famulorum tuorum being sung at Mass on the feast. Looking at the Henry Bradshaw Society's volumes I have I noted this arrangement, or at least its implication, can be found in the following, mostly tenth-century, sacramentaries:
HBS CXIV The Leofric Missal
HBS CXVI The Sacramentary of Ratoldus
HBS CI The Fuldense Sacramentary
HBS CX The Sacramentary of Echternach
(Three further volumes I have show both collects but are unclear about their use: HBS CIX The Winchcombe Sacramentary, CVII The Durham Collectar and XI The Missal of Robert of Jumieges)
Moving on several centuries The Westminster Missal (available as a reprint of HBS I, V & XII) has the same arrangement as the Hereford and Sarum Missals referred to.
I would be interested to know whether the migration of Veneranda nobis to Mass is a practice confined to English use. Does anyone have examples from elsewhere? Looking at the richness and diversity of the traditional texts surrounding this lovely celebration, the Tradition of the Church, in both East and West, is clear that the Virgin died but death could not hold her. The events of 1950 muddied this clarity and resulted in the destruction of ancient texts and their substitution by mediocre and banal compostions. The delightful, charming and (frighteningly) erudite Fr. John Hunwicke describes the novel 1951 collect, Omnipotens, as 'a modern composition which I would describe as a dollop of dogma followed by a platitude' in his post linked to above.