Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Feast of St Mary Magdalene 2015

From the Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (The Great Hours of Anne of Brittany), made by Jean Bourdichon, 1503-8, for Anne, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France (1477-1514), and considered to be one of the finest illuminated Books of Hour ever made. These two leaves come from the part of a book of Hours known as the Suffrages, a series of commemorations of the Saints, each consisting of an antiphon from that Saint’s Office, a versicle and respond, and the prayer. Here we see St Mary Magdalene before she meets the risen Christ on Easter morning, with tears on her face, holding the jar of ointments which she has brought to anoint His body; in the background, the other two Marys are shown in a similar attitude. Particularly striking is the representation of the earliest moments of sunrise behind the city of Jerusalem on the left, while the stars are still seen in the night sky above.

Antiphona: María ergo unxit pedes Jesu, et extersit capillis suis, et domus impléta est ex odóre unguenti. - Therefore Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair, and the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.

V. Dimissa sunt ei peccáta multa - Many sins are forgiven her.
R. Quoniam dilexit multum. - Because she hath loved much.

Oratio: Largíre nobis, clementíssime Pater: ut, sicut beáta María Magdaléna, Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum super omnia diligendo, suórum obtínuit veniam peccatórum; ita nobis apud misericordiam tuam sempiternam ímpetret beatitúdinem. Per eundem Christum, Dóminum nostrum. Amen. - Grant to us, most clement Father, that just as the blessed Mary Magdalene, by loving our Lord Jesus Christ above all things, obtained the forgiveness of her sins; so may she obtain blessedness for us before Thy everlasting mercy. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen. (This prayer of St Mary Magdalene is not that of the use of Rome, but was very common elsewhere; it is said in the Uses of the Premonstratensians, Dominicans, and Carmelites.)

The Great Hours of Anne of Brittany can be seen in full on the website of the Bibliothèque National de France. In addition to the liturgical texts and the very large number of sacred illustrations of the highest quality, they are also remarkable for the decorative borders; these show a great variety of plants and flowers, and small animals of every kind, all labelled in Latin, and painted with a really impressive degree of realism.

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