Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Medieval Liturgical 'Commentary' on the O Antiphons - Part 2

In the Middle Ages, many uses of the Roman Rite added one or more new O antiphons to the well-known ancient series of seven. Of these additions, the first given here, O Virgo virginum, was certainly the most widespread, and in fact is still used by the Premonstratensians; many places in Germany lengthened the series to eleven or twelve. There was also one written for Vespers of St. Thomas the Apostle, O Thoma Didyme, since the ferial antiphons of the 20th and 21st would normally be used only for the commemoration of Advent in his feast. As noted earlier, the Use of Augsburg supplemented the O antiphons not only by the addition of four new ones, but also with a special chapter and concluding oration assigned to each, which refer back to the antiphon itself. The O series began on December 13th; the four additions were then sung from December 20th to the 23rd.

December 20
Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium, et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. Butyrum et mel comedet, ut sciat reprobare malum, et eligere bonum.

The Chapter          Isaiah 7, 14-15
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
  Aña O Virgo virginum, * quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

  Aña O Virgin of virgins, * how shall this come to pass? for Thou seemest to have none like Thee before, nor any such to follow. Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you regard me in wonder? This which you see is a divine mystery.
Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus, Creator humanae substantiae, qui Verbum tuum in Virginis uterum venire voluisti: supplicantium tibi preces benignus intende. Per eundem.

The Prayer
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, creator of our human nature, who didst will that Thy Word come into the womb of the Virgin; listen kindly to the prayers of them that beseech Thee. Through the same.
 December 21
Vidi portam in domo Domini clausam, et dixit ad me Angelus: Solus Dominus veniens ingreditur per eam, et semper erit clausa.

The Chapter
I saw a closed door in the house of the Lord, and the Angel said to me, “Only the Lord will come and enter through it, and it will always be closed.”
  Aña O Gabriel, * nuntius caelorum, qui januis clausis ad me intrasti, et Verbum nuntiasti: Concipies et paries, Emmanuel vocabitur.

  Aña O Gabriel, * messenger of the heavens, who came to me through closed doors, and announced the Word: Thou shalt conceive and bear, He shall be called Emmanuel.
Deus, qui de beatae Mariae Virginis utero Verbum tuum, Angelo nuntiante, carnem suscipere voluisti: praesta supplicibus tuis; ut, qui vere eam Genitricem Dei credimus, ejus apud te intercessionibus adjuvemur. Per eundem.

The Prayer
God, Who willed that Thy Word should, by the message of an Angel, take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grant unto us, we beseech Thee; that all we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God, may be helped by her intercessions. Through the same.
 December 22
Magnificabitur Dominus usque ad fines terrae, et in diebus ejus pax et laetitia erit multis.

The Chapter
The Lord shall be magnified unto the ends of the earth, and in His days there shall be peace and joy unto many.
  Aña O Rex pacifice, * ante saecula nate, per auream egredere portam, redemptos tuos visita, et eos illuc revoca, unde ruerunt per culpam.

  Aña O peaceable King, * born before the ages, go out through the golden gate, visit those whom Thou hast redeemed, and call them back there, whence down they fell through sin.
Redemptor noster aspice, Deus, et veni ad liberandum nos de profundo iniquitatis, et dona Ecclesiae tuae perpetuam tranquillitatem. Qui.

The Prayer
Look upon us, o God, our Redeemer, and come to deliver us from the depth of iniquity; and grant perpetual peace to Thy church. Who livest.
The chapter Vidi portam is actually the text of an antiphon written for the feast of the Annunciation, which, however, was apparently not used at Augsburg itself; it alludes to, but does not exactly quote the prophet Ezechiel's vision of the new and eternal Temple in the final chapters of his book. The chapter of the following day begins as a quotation of Micah 5,4, but is more allusion than quote. As with many such expansions of earlier liturgical customs, these are not of a uniform literary quality. The antiphon O Gabriel is a grammatical fragment, and the prayer assigned to O Virgo virginum is fairly vague. Three of the four are not addressed to the Lord, and therefore do not end as the classic seven do with an invocation to Him to finally come to us in His Nativity, as we have longed for throughout Advent.

On the night of December 23, the last of the O Antiphons is sung; in the Middle Ages, this final Vespers of the Advent season was celebrated in many places with great solemnity like the First Vespers of a feast. At Augsburg (and elsewhere) it had the peculiar name “Vigil of the Vigil of the Nativity”; the word "vigilia" was often used in medieval liturgical books to mean "First Vespers".  The psalms were said of the weekday, but with a special antiphon; after the chapter a responsory was added, according to the general medieval custom for First Vespers. The responsory in question, De occulta illa, is very ancient, and found in many medieval breviaries; the custom of the special antiphon for the psalms appears to be uniquely German, and varies from use to use.
December 23
  Aña super psalmos Levate capita vestra, ecce appropinquat redemptio vestra.

  Antiphon for the psalms Lift up your heads, behold, your redemption approacheth.
Leva, Jerusalem, oculos et vide potentiam Regis; ecce Salvator venit solvere te a vinculo.

Chapter (really the text of an antiphon)
Lift up your eyes, o Jerusalem, and see the might of the King; behold the Savior cometh to release Thee from thy bond.
  R. De illa occulta habitatione sua egressus est Filius Dei: * Descendit visitare et consolari omnes qui eum devoto corde desiderabant. V. Ex Sion species decoris ejus: Deus noster manifeste veniet. Descendit. Gloria Patri. Descendit.

  R. From His hidden abode the Son of God has gone forth: * He has come down to visit and console all them who long for Him with devout heart. V. Out of Sion the loveliness of his beauty, our God shall come manifestly. He has come down. Glory be unto the Father. He has come down.
  Aña O Jerusalem, * civitas Dei summi, leva in circuitu oculos tuos, et vide Dominum, Deum tuum, quia jam veniet te solvere a vinculis.

  Aña O Jerusalem, * city of God most high, lift up thy eyes around about thee, and see the Lord, thy God, who will now come to release thee from thy bond.
Vincula, quaesumus, Domine, humanae pravitatis abrumpe; ut ad Unigeniti tui Nativitatem libera mente curramus. Qui tecum.

The Prayer
Break, we beseech Thee, Lord, the bonds of human wickedness, so that with free minds we may run forth to the birth of Thy Only-begotten son. Who liveth.

The east choir of Augsburg Cathedral. The town of Wigratzbad, the home of the Fraternity of St. Peter's European seminary, is within the diocese of Augsburg.

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