Monday, December 14, 2015

Ambrosian Prefaces for Advent - Part 3

Before the construction of the current cathedral, which began in the late 14th century, the city of Milan had two cathedrals, on opposite sides of what is now the great Piazza del Duomo. One was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but also known as “the winter church”, since it was used from the third Sunday of October, the day of its dedication feast, until Easter; the other was dedicated to the Virgin Martyr St Thecla, and used in the summer. For this reason, the Ambrosian Rite occasionally has two different Masses assigned to the same day, one to be said in each of the two cathedrals; the days in question are Easter and Pentecost, their respective vigils and octaves, and the Sixth Sunday of Advent. The two Masses of the last share five of the seven chant Propers, but have different Ingressae and Psalmelli (the equivalents of the Introit and Gradual); the prayers, Scriptural readings and prefaces are also different. The Mass at St Thecla is called “the Mass of Advent”, celebrated in violet vestments, and the Gospel of the Visitation is read. The Mass at St Mary is called “of the Incarnation” in the Ambrosian Breviary (although not in the Missal), and is celebrated in white vestments; the Gospel is that of the Annunciation.

The current cathedral of Milan is dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, as marked by a plaque over the central door with the words “Mariae Nascenti - to Mary as She is born.” The ancient summer church of St Thecla was destroyed in the mid-16th century; its memory is preserved by the presence of this altar dedicated to her in the cathedral’s left transept, and by the fact that the cathedral parish as a corporate entity is named for her. The sculpture of St Thecla in the Lions’ Den is by Carlo Beretta, 1754. (Photo from wikipedia by Giovanni Dall’Orto.)
We continue, therefore, our series of the Ambrosian Prefaces of Advent, with those of the two Masses for the Sixth Sunday, and that of the vigil of Christmas. The second of these is particularly beautiful, a text of the 5th century to which no translation can really do justice. (Click the following links to read part one and part two.)

The opening formula of the Ambrosian Preface is the same as that of the Roman, except that the word “quia” is added after “Vere”. In manuscript sacramentaries and missals, this formula was usually abbreviated to a highly stylized V and D joined together, a custom which carried over into some early printed editions; I have used it below from a printed Ambrosian Missal of 1522. The concluding formula “Per quem majestatem tuam” is longer than it is in the Roman Rite, including the names of all nine choirs of Angels. “Per quem maiestatem tuam laudant Angeli, venerantur Archangeli, Throni, Dominationes, Virtutes, Principates, et Potestates adorant. Quem Cherubim et Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti iubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes.” When Christ is mentioned near the end of the Preface, the first part of the conclusion is changed as follows: “Quem una tecum, omnipotens Pater, et cum Spiritu Sancto laudant Angeli etc. - whom together with Thee, almighty Father, and with the Holy Spirit, the Angels praise etc.”

The Mass of Advent
... et salutáre: nos beátae semperque Vírginis Maríae solemnia celebráre. Quae parvo útero Dóminum caeli portávit, et Angelo praenunciante, Verbum carne mortáli édidit Salvatórem. Quem castis concépit viscéribus, clausa ingrediens et clausa relinquens. Quem una tecum…

Truly … profitable to salvation, that we celebrate the solemn feasts of the blessed and ever-Virgin Mary. Who in the smallness of Her womb bore the Lord of heaven, and, as the Angel foretold, brought forth the Word in mortal flesh, [our Savior, whom she conceived] in her chaste womb, that was closed as He entered and as He came forth. Whom together with Thee etc.

The Latin text contains what grammarians and rhetoricians call an “anacolouthon”, a discontinuity in the grammatical structure, which other people call “a mistake”. The phrase “that was closed as He entered and as He came forth” is literally “entering closed things and going out of closed things.” The participles “ingrediens” and “egrediens” modify the word “quem – whom”, and should be in the accusative case to agree with it grammatically, (“ingredientem” and “egredientem.”) This mistake is the reading found in the early manuscripts and first printed editions of the Ambrosian Missal. In an edition of 1712, however, we find “Quem castis concépit viscéribus” changed to “Hic est mundi Redemptor, castis conceptus viscéribus, clausa ingrediens etc. – He is the Redeemer of the world, conceived in (Her) chaste womb, that was closed as He entered etc.” Printed editions of the 20th century then return to the original reading.

The Mass of the Incarnation
... et salutáre: nos tibi Dómine, Deus omnípotens, gratias ágere, et cum tuae invocatióne virtútis, beátae Maríae Vírginis festa celebráre. De cuius ventre fructus efflóruit, qui panis angélici múnere nos replévit. Quod Eva vorávit in crímine, María restítuit in salúte. Distat opus Serpentis et Vírginis; inde fusa sunt venéna discríminis, hinc egressa mysteria Salvatóris. Inde se práebuit tentantis iníquitas, hinc Redemptóris est opituláta maiestas. Inde partus occúbuit, hic Cónditor resurrexit, a quo humána natúra, non iam captíva, sed líbera restitúitur. Quod Adam pérdidit in parente, Christo recépit auctóre. Quem una tecum…

Truly...profitable to salvation, that we should always give Thee thanks, Lord God almighty, and with the invocation of Thy might, celebrate the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From whose womb came forth the fruit, who has filled us with the gift of the bread of Angels. What Eve consumed in offense, Mary restored in salvation. The Virgin’s deed differs thus from the serpent’s; from the one were brought forth dangerous poisons, from the other the mysteries of the Savior. On the one side, the tempter’s iniquity showed itself; on the other, the majesty of the Redeemer came to our aid. On the one side, the offspring (of Eve) came to die; on the other, the Creator rose from death, and restored human nature, no longer captive, but free, regaining what it lost in its father Adam by the work of Christ. Whom together with Thee etc.

The Vigil of Christmas
Per Christum, Dóminum nostrum: Cuius hodie faciem in confessióne praevenímus, et voce súpplici exorámus, ut superventúrae noctis officiis nos ita pervígiles reddat: ut sincéris méntibus eius percípere mereámur Natále ventúrum. In quo invisíbilis ex substantia tua, visíbilis per carnem appáruit in nostra. Tecumque unus non témpore génitus, non natúra inferior, ad nos venit ex témpore natus. Per quem maiestátem tuam…

Truly...Through Christ our Lord. Before whose presence we come today in thanksgiving, and pray with humble voice, that by the offices of the coming night, He may make us ever watchful, such that we may merit to receive the feast of His Birth that is to come with all our heart. On which feast, though of Thy substance invisible, through the flesh He appeared as one visible in ours; and being one with Thee, begotten, but not in time, nor less than Thee in nature, was born in time and came to us. Through whom the Angels praise Thy majesty etc.

“the offices of the coming night”
The Ambrosian Liturgy celebrates the vigil of Christmas by a particular ritual which combines Vespers with the Mass. The first part of Vespers is sung, consisting of a responsory for the lighting of the lamps known as a Lucernarium, a hymn and another responsory. There are then read four prophecies from the Old Testament, each followed by a Psalmellus (gradual), and a prayer; the priest comes to say the prayers at the foot of the altar during the fourth Psalmellus. The Mass then continues in a special form which has no chants, except a very brief one between the Epistle and Gospel. After the Mass, Vespers resumes with two psalms and the Magnificat, each followed by a prayer. (If the vigil of Christmas falls on a Sunday, certain other elements from Sunday Vespers are added.)

As in the Roman Rite, Christmas Matins was traditionally sung before Midnight Mass, and Lauds after. Normally, on a feast of the Lord, Ambrosian Matins is at its shortest, since in place of the psalms, three canticles from the Old Testament are sung, and there is only one nocturn of three readings with two responsories. Christmas, however, is a very notable exceptions; there are three nocturns, each of which has six psalms and an Old Testament canticle (a total of 21), followed by three readings with two responsories.

The Lauds which follow the Mass begin with the very long canticle of Moses in Deuteronomy (32, 1-43), followed by a processional antiphon which is repeated seven times (with three Kyrie eleisons or the doxology between the repetitions), the canticle of Moses in Exodus, the Benedicite, the Laudate psalms, a short responsory, a psalm, a hymn, an antiphon called a “Psallendum”, another responsory, the first part of the Benedictus with one antiphon, the second part with another, and various prayers interspersed. In an Ambrosian Breviary of 1830, the Matins alone covers over 17 pages, so there shall be no complaining from any Romans that Matins and Lauds are too long to add to the celebration of Midnight Mass! (The vigil, Matins and Lauds of Epiphany are very similar to those of Christmas.)

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