Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dominican Rite Compline I

Those who would like to see the music that I will describe in this post may do so at Dominican Liturgy, using the sidebar link to "Antiphonarium S.O.P. (Gillet 1933)," and consulting pp. 83-135. This book may also be downloaded in PDF format at the same link.

Perhaps the most famous liturgy of the Dominican Office is that of Compline, and its format shows that the Dominican Office is in origin that of canons, not monks. This is indicated by the presence of the canticle of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis (Lk 2: 29-32), at the end before the Collect, an element missing from the Benedictine Office, but found in the Roman. Compline, and especially the Procession that followed it, is the subject of so many stories of visions and miracles in Dominican lore that it was the one element of the choir Office not dispensed by the so-called lector's privilege.

That privilege, which dates back to the days of St. Dominic himself, exempted friars holding the "lectorate in sacred theology" and involved in full-time writing and teaching, as well as those appointed "preachers provincial" or "preachers general," and involved in full-time preaching, from attendance at the daily choral Office and sung conventual Mass. They where permitted to recite the Office privately, along with saying their private masses. Lectors and preachers did, however, have to attend Compline, so much was it considered part of our spirituality. This privilege was abolished in 1968, during the reforms after Vatican II.

In its basic structure, Dominican Compline remained unchanged from the liturgical reform of Humbert of Romans (1256), until the adoption of the Roman Office in 1969, with the exception of the Psalms. Those who know the older Roman Office will recognize the structure. It began with the examination of conscience: the invocation Noctem quietam, the chapter Fratres sobrii, the verse Adiutorium nostrum, and the Confiteor in its short Dominican form by the prior and the community. Usually the confession was made standning and bowed profoundly, but during Lent, Ember Days, Vigils and other days of penance, it was done while "prostrate on the forms" as seen in this photo. The Proprium O.P. of 1982, which provided for Dominian elements to be included in the new Mass and Office allows the retention of this custom (n. 38c).

Then followed the Office itself: the verses Converte nos and Deus in adiutorium, the antiphon Miserere and Psalms 4, 30, 90, and 133; the chapter Tu in nobis, the short responsory In manus tuas, the hymn of the season (usually the Te lucis) with the verse Custodi; then the Nunc Dimittis with its antiphon Salva nos; the short preces (if a feria), the collect Visita, and the blessing by the prior. I will discuss the Procession after Compline later. In 1922 we adapted the Psalter reform of Pius X and the traditional Psalms (minus Ps. 30) were relegated to Sunday. The other days of the week had the same cycle of Psalms as the revised Roman Office--with Roman antiphons when no Dominican variant could be found. Otherwise the traditional office remained intact.

In addition, Dominican Compline had rich temporal and sanctoral variations. In common with the Roman, we had a rich variety of melodies for the hymn Te Lucis, which varied according to the grade of the feast, the time of year, and the particular feast--usually paralleling hymn melodies from the major hours. In addition, this hymn had extra verses and doxologies, especially for Marian feasts, as did the hymn Christe qui lux (Lent) and Iesu nostra redemptio (Easter time). We also used the short response In manus tuas with alleluias on solemnities as well as in Easter time. Here is an example of the Te Lucis for Saturday evening, in my opinion one of the most beautiful of the melodies. It is from the famous fourteenth-century Poissy Antiphonal:

In addition to this, our Office provided a variety of proper and common antiphons. For the Psalms these not only include the triple Alleluia of Easter time, but also antiphons for Christmas Eve (Completi), Christmas Day (Natus est), Epiphany (Lux de luce), Purification (Sancta Dei), Annunciation (Ecce Virgo), and two versions of that for the other Marian feasts (Virgo Maria). The variety of antiphons for the Canticle of Simeon was even greater: Christmas Eve (Ecce completi), Purification (Nunc dimittis), Annunciation (Ecce ancilla), Lent (Evigila), Passiontide (O Rex), and Marian feasts (Corde et animo and Sub tuum).

The special Nunc Dimittis antiphon of Eastertide Alleluia, resurrexit Dominus, alleluia, sicut dixit vobis, alleluia, alleluia in mode 5 is paralleled in melody and structure by others using a scriptural verse and four alleluias: those of Christmas Day (Verbum caro factum), Epiphany (Omnes de Saba), Ascensiontide (Ascendens Christus), Pentecost (Spiritus Paraclitus) and Corpus Christi (Panem quem ego dedero). In 1948, one other antiphon on this model was created: Haurietis for the feast of the Sacred Heart. Here is example of this famous Alleluia chant, that for Easter, again from the Poissy Antiphonal:

During Lent on Saturdays, Sundays, and major feasts, the short response was replaced by the famous responsory, In pace. Every friar (yes, every friar) took a turn, in order of religion, singing that chant's verse, as the others sat and mediated (?). The same discipline applied to the responsory, Media vita, which was used as the "antiphon" for the Nunc Dimittis during the third and fourth weeks of Lent. This respond contains an interesting Latin version of the Trisagion. For those of us who are not great singers, its verse was mercifully simple and short. The In manus tuas of Passiontide, dropped, of course, the Gloria Patri; and was replaced in the Triduum by Christus factus (sung simply to Psalm tone 8b) and by the antiphon Haec dies on Easter Sunday to Tuesday.

Before you begin to think, how could the Dominicans have abandoned all this? You should know that we have not. According to the Proprium Officii Ordinis Praedicatorum (1983), which I mentioned earlier, all the chants I have mentioned have been approved for use with the new Liturgy of the Hours. The only major change is that the Media vita is now restored to its more logical use as a responsory. The proper also approved the use of the Dominican Confiteor for the examination of conscience. I know that English versions of many of these chants are use in the American Dominican Provinces, along with the original Latin versions.

A second post will follow on the processions and chants after Compline.

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