Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Hymn of the Ember Saturday Masses

As I noted earlier this week, the Ember Days are one of the oldest parts of the Roman Rite; Pope St Leo I (444-61) preached many sermons on them, and believed them to be of apostolic institution. One liturgical feature which argues strongly in favor of their great antiquity is the inclusion in all four of the Saturday Masses of a reading from the third chapter of Daniel, in which the three children, Ananiah, Azariah and Misael, are thrown into a furnace as punishment for refusing to worship the statue of the Babylonian Emperor. This is the single most frequently represented Biblical story in pre-Constantinian Christian art, since it reflects exactly the situation of the Christians in the Roman Empire, who were persecuted for refusing to worship the statue of the Roman Emperor. (Already in the New Testament, Babylon, the persecutor of the Jews, is twice taken as a symbol of Rome, the persecutor of the Christians, in 1 Peter 5, 13, and six times in the Apocalypse.) The universal custom of singing the canticle which the children sing in the furnace, the Benedicite, as part of the Divine Office, also attested to its great significance for the ancient Church.
Detail of a Christian sarcophagus of the Constantinian period (ca. 305-335), known as the Sarcophagus of Adelphia, discovered in the church of St John in Syracuse, Sicily, in 1872. On the far left, the Emperor Nebuchadnezzar points to a bust of himself set on a column, the gesture by which he commands the three children to worship it. Even though the Biblical text states quite unmistakably that Emperor made an enormous “statue”, in early Christian art it is usually represented as a bust on a column, since that it what the Romans used. (On the right side are represented the Miracle at Cana and one of the three Magi. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Davide Mauro; CC BY-SA 4.0)
The reading consists of only five verses, Daniel 3, 47-51, which are presented in a slightly different order from that of the Biblical text, as noted below. The five words in italics are paraphrased from verse 46. (We may note in passing that no historical Chistian lectionary presents all of its readings according to the strict letter of the Bible itself.)

Lectio Daniélis Prophétae. In diébus illis: 49 Angelus Dómini descendit cum Azaría et sociis ejus in fornácem: et excussit flammam ignis de fornáce, 50a et fecit medium fornácis quasi ventum roris flantem. 47 Flamma autem effundebátur super fornácem cúbitis quadraginta novem: et erúpit, et incendit, quos répperit juxta fornácem de Chaldáeis, ministros regis, qui eam incendébant. 50b Et non tétigit eos omníno ignis, neque contristávit, nec quidquam molestiae íntulit. 51 Tunc hi tres quasi ex uno ore laudábant, e glorificábant, et benedicébant Deum in fornáce, dicentes:

A reading of the Prophet Daniel. In those day, 49 the angel of the Lord went down with Azarias and his companions into the furnace: and he drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, 50a And made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew. 47 And the flame mounted up above the furnace nine and forty cubits: and it broke forth, and burnt such of the Chaldeans as it found near the furnace, the ministers of the king who were heating it. 50b and the fire touched them not at all, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm. 51 Then these three as with one mouth praised, and glorified, and blessed God in the furnace, saying:

The reading ends abruptly (and should always be chanted without the notes that indicate the conclusion) to segue into the following hymn, the only case where a reading is followed by a hymn instead of a gradual, tract, or alleluia. The text is to closer to that of the Septuagint version, and the Old Latin version which depended upon it, rather than the Vulgate, a fact which also indicates its great antiquity. The words “and praiseworthy and glorious unto the ages” are very cleverly incorporated into the doxology.


Benedictus es, Dómine,
Deus patrum nostrórum.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou, o Lord, God of
our fathers,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Et benedictum nomen glo-
riae tuae, quod est sanctum.
Et laudábile et gloriósum
in sáecula.
And blessed is the name of Thy
glory, which is holy,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es in templo
sancto gloriae tuae.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou in the holy
temple of Thy glory,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es super thronum
sanctum regni tui.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou upon the holy
throne of Thy kingdom,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es super
sceptrum divinitátis tuae.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou upon the scepter
of Thy divinity,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es, qui sedes super
Chérubim, íntuens abyssos.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou who sittest upon
the Cherubim, looking upon the
depths, And praiseworthy and
glorious unto the ages.
Benedictus es, qui ámbulas su-
per pennas ventórum et super
undas maris.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou who walkest
upon the wings of the winds,
and upon the waves of the sea,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedícant te omnes Angeli et
Sancti tui.
Et laudent te et gloríficent
in sáecula.
Let all Thy Angels and Saints
bless Thee,
And praise Thee, and glorfy Thee
unto the ages.
Benedícant te caeli, terra, mare,
et omnia quae in eis sunt.
Et laudent te et gloríficent
in sáecula.
Let the heavens, the earth, the sea
and all things that are in them bless
Thee, And praise Thee, and glorify
Thee unto the ages.
Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spirítui Sancto.
Et laudábili et glorióso
in sáecula.
Glory be to the Father, and to the
Son, and to the Holy Spirit, And
praiseworthy and glorious unto
the ages.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc,
et semper, et in sáecula saecu-
lórum. Amen.
Et laudábili et glorióso
in sáecula.
As it was in the beginning, is now
and ever shall be, and unto the ages
of ages. Amen.
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Benedictus es, Dómine,
Deus patrum nostrórum.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou, o Lord, God of
our fathers, and praiseworthy and

glorious unto the ages.

On the Ember Saturday of Pentecost, the reading is the same, but the hymn is replaced with an Alleluia, which is then repeated the following day on the feast of the Holy Trinity. “Alleluia. Benedictus es, Dómine, Deus patrum nostrórum. Et laudábilis et gloriósus in sáecula.”

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