Thursday, August 16, 2018

Vespers and Procession of the Assumption in Paris

In February of 1638, the wife of King Louis XIII of France, Anne of Austria, was in the early months of her fifth pregnancy, after four stillbirths; this was in the twenty-third year of their marriage, the Queen then being thirty-seven years old. Hoping to obtain by the Virgin Mary’s intercession the safe birth of a royal heir, the king declared a vow of consecration to Her of his own person and family, and of France itself, promising to honor Her by a special procession every year on the feast of the Assumption. On September 5 of that year, the Queen gave birth to a son who was called Louis “Dieudonné - given by God”, the future Louis XIV, who would rule France for so long (1643-1715) that he was succeeded by his great-grandson. In the 19th-century editions of the Parisian Missal and Breviary, this event was even marked by a special feast on the Sunday within the Octave of the Assumption, called “The Commemoration of the Vow of the Most Christian King Louis XIII.”

The Vow of Louis XIII by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, an 1824; from the Cathedral of the Assumption in Montauban. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
In this video taken yesterday at the church of St Eugène in Paris, you can hear Second Vespers of the feast of the Assumption sung by our friends of the Schola Sainte-Cécile, with a particularly good polyphonic Magnificat, followed by the procession. The Litany of Loreto is sung as the procession makes it way to the Lady altar, where the choir sings Sub tuum praesidium, followed by a versicle and prayer; the celebrant then reads the text of the vow of King Louis. Psalm 19 as the choir procession returns to the main sanctuary, followed by the another versicle and the following prayer. “O God, governor and guardian of kings and kingdoms, Who will that Thy only-begotten Son our Lord should be subject upon the earth to the most holy Virgin Mother, that Thou might show us in Him an example of humility and obedience; bestow Thy merciful favor upon the vows of Thy servant the most Christian King Louis: so that those who consecrate themselves to the protection of the same Virgin by this devout promise, may obtain the rewards of perpetual tranquility in this life, and everlasting freedom in heaven.” The full progam of the ceremony can be seen here in Latin and French; the text of the vow is available here in English.


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