Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dominican Compline II: The Processions

Before I describe the ceremonies at the end of Compline in the Dominican Rite and the Liturgy of the Hours according to Dominican use, here is a link to a video of the Salve Procession at San Clemente in Rome, the Irish Dominicans, accompanied, on this occasion, by some visitors who can be recognized as they are not in Dominican habits. You will note how the procession moves from choir to the people's part of the church, has the genuflection at the traditional time, and the sprinkling with Holy Water.

Although Dominican Compline is musically and liturgically well known, perhaps even more famous is the procession by which it is traditionally followed. The institution of the singing of the Salve Regina after Compline, according to Bl. Jordan of Saxony, who witnessed the events, occurred in the Dominican priory of Bologna about 1221. A Brother Bernard had been tormented by doubts and temptations. Jordan, then Master of the Order, decided that the community would invoke the help of the Blessed Virgin through a penitential procession while singing the antiphon Salve Regina after Compline. Bernard was immediately freed of his tribulations and the practice was spontaneously imitated in Lombardy and then throughout the entire Order. The sprinkling of the friars with Holy Water by the prior or hebdomadarian was added at this time or soon after.

The Salve Regina (see Dominican version to the right), sung after Compline, is not original to the Dominicans. The Dominican melody is part of a family of twelfth-century variants on a more ancient melody, of which the solemn Roman-Benedictine, the Carthusian, and others are also examples. The antiphon itself dates to the late eleventh century and was in common use first among Benedictines and Cistercians. The Cistercians already used it as processional chant, before or after chapter meetings, in the 1210s. But its use for a procession to the people's part of the church is distinctively Dominican. Traditionally, in the Dominican Rite, the antiphon for the Virgin after Compline never varies, but is always the Salve Regina, but an alleluia is added to it and ti the verses following it during Easter time.

The ritual of the Salve Procession is as follows. On every day of the year (except Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Holy Week) two acolytes, wearing surplices and carrying candlesticks with lighted candles, took up their positions before the altar. For the intoning of the Salve, the entire community fell to their knees and remained kneeling until the word "Salve" had been finished; then the friars rose and went in procession behind the two acolytes to the outer church of the laity. There the brethren knelt in place facing the altar or shrine and were sprinkled with holy water by the hebdomadarian. By the late middle ages, the custom was introduced of the community also kneeling at the words: Eia ergo advocata nostra. The antiphon ended, the acolytes sang the versicle: Dignare me laudare te, Virgo sacrata; to which the community responded: Da mihi virtutem contra hostes tuos. The final prayer Concede nos was the sung by the hebdomadarian.

By the fourteenth century, it become a common practice to sing the antiphon O lumen Ecclesiae, the Magnificat antiphon of the feast of St. Dominic, while returning in procession to the choir. The procession ended with the verses and the collect of St. Dominic. Like the Salve, this antiphon and its verses had alleluias in Easter time. But its use was never absolute. Some provinces and houses substituted the antiphon of another saint for the O Lumen.

Those interested in the way medieval music was put together will find the thirteenth-century antiphon O Lumen to have interesting similarity to another well-known piece of chant:

This kind of borrowing was very common in the middle ages, and in the modern period.

There are two other processions traditionally attached to Compline. The first, and best known, is the interpolation between the Salve and O Lumen of a Procession to the Holy Rosary Altar or shrine, while singing the Litany of Loreto. This procession is early modern in origin. The Litany concluded with the singing of the prosa Inviolata and the collect. In Easter time, the Inviolata was replaced by the Regina Caeli, sung to a Dominican version of the solemn tone. The other procession was on the first Tuesday of the month and also placed between the Salve and O Lumen. This is the Procession to the Altar of St. Dominic, during the singing of the prolix responsory O spem miram, which is taken from Matins of the saint. There two are not the only processions that local priories and provinces added to Compline, but they are the ones most commonly performed, even today.

Again, these chants have been preserved for use with the new Liturgy of the Hours according to the provisions of the Proprium Ordinis Praedicatorum of 1982. The use of the Salve throughout the year may be maintained, as well as, if desired, the procession and the verses and collect. In addition, provision is made also for the substitution of the famous antiphon Sub tuum presidium or, during Easter time, the Regina Caeli. The Litany on Saturday may also be continued, and an alleluia added to the Inviolata during Easter time. Finally, the traditional freedom of choice for ways of commemorating St. Dominic is preserved. There is the option of singing the O spem miram or the Magne pater, another well-known antiphon from the saint's office, in place of the O Lumen. I have seen all of these options taken, using the original Latin or English adaptions.

These musical options are included in the new Compline Book available for consultation or download at Dominican Liturgy on the sidebar under "Completorii Libellus Novus (2008)." I will soon be posting an update on this booklet. I thank readers who have called typos and errors to my attention. These will soon be corrected and the revised version put up for consultation and download.

And here is a link to an (admittedly truncated) celebration of the Salve Procession at Blackfriars, Oxford, December, 2007, with thanks to Engish Dominican students.

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