Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A Carmelite Prayer to the Virgin

In the Breviary of the Carmelite Order, which keeps its patronal feast today, the following antiphon is appointed to be said every day after Vespers or Compline. (The English translation is taken partly from this post on Vultus Christi, the blog of Silverstream Priory, with several alterations of my own.)

Ave, Stella matutina,
Peccatorum medicina,
Mundi princeps et Regina.

Virgo sola digna dici,
Contra tela inimici
Clypeum pone salutis
Tuae titulum virtutis.

Tu es enim virga Jesse,
In qua Deus fecit esse
Aaron amygdalum,
Mundi tollens scandalum.

Tu es area compluta,
Caelesti rore imbuta,
Sicco tamen vellere.

Tu nos in hoc carcere
Solare propitia,
Dei plena gratia.

O Sponsa Dei electa,
Esto nobis via recta
Ad aeterna gaudia,

Ubi pax est et gloria.
Tu nos semper aure pia,
Dulcis, exaudi, Maria
Hail, morning star,
Medicine of sinners,
Ruler and Queen of the world,

Alone worthy to be called a virgin,
Against the spears of the enemy
Set the shield of salvation,
The sign of Thy virtue.

For you are the rod of Jesse,
In whom God made to be
Aaron’s almond, taking away
the scandal of the world.

Thou are the ground rained upon,
Imbued by heaven’s dew,
Though the fleece stayed dry.

In this prison do thou console us ,
Mercifully console us,
Who art full of God’s grace

O chosen spouse of God
Be for us the straight road
To eternal joys

Where peace and glory are.
Do Thou ever hear us
With devoted ear, sweet Mary.

In the following recording of it, note that the cantor has taken the common medieval habit of pronouncing Latin more or less like the vernacular to extremes, exaggerating the U of modern French. (The ensemble who recorded this, Diabolus in Musica, takes its name from a common term for the tritone, a dissonance which was generally disliked and avoided in medieval music theory, hence the name “the devil in the music.”)

According to Archdale King in his book The Liturgies of the Religious Orders, Fr Benedict Zimmerman O.Carm., a great scholar of his order’s liturgy, claimed that this antiphon was “without any doubt” composed by St Simon Stock himself, the English Carmelite and general of the Order to whom the Virgin revealed the brown scapular. However, Guido Dreves, the author of the 48th volume of the Analecta hymnica, attributed it to Peter the Venerable, an abbot of Cluny who died a century before St Simon’s time. The words “Aaron’s almond” refer to the episode of the flourishing of Aaron’s staff in Numbers 17, generally understood in the Middle Ages as a prophetic symbol of the Mother of God’s virginity, as was the episode of Gideon’s fleece in Judges 6, 36-40.

The antiphon is then followed by a versicle and prayer.
V. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. Defend, we ask, o Lord, by the intercession of the Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, this Thy family, from every adversity, and in Thy great mercy protect it, that boweth before Thee with all its heart, from the snares of all enemies. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen. (Defende, quaesumus, Domine, beata Maria semper Virgine intercedente, istam ab omni adversitate familiam tuam, et toto corde tibi prostratam, ab hostium proitius tuere clementer insidiis. Per Christum...)

Then the following invocation is said.
V. In omni tribulatione et angustia, sucurrat nobis pia Virgo Maria. R. Amen.
(In every tribulation and anguish, may the Holy Virgin Mary come to our aid.)

And a final prayer, which mentioned several of the more important Carmelite Saints.

Oremus. Omnipotens, et clementissime Deus, qui Montis Carmeli Ordinem gloriosissimae Virginis Mariae Genitricis Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi, sacrato titulo insignitum, Sanctorum tuorum Patris nostri Eliae, et Elisaei Prophetarum, Angeli et Anastasii Martyrum, Cyrilli et Alberti Confessorum, Euphrasiae, Teresiae et Mariae Magdalenae Virginum, et aliorum plurimorum meritis decorasti: tribue nobis quaesumus, ut per eorum suffragia ab instantibus malis animae et corporis liberati, ad te verum Carmeli verticem gaudentes pervenire valeamus. Per eundem... (Almighty and most merciful God, who hast adorned the order of Mount Carmel, that is distinguished by the sacred title of the most glorious Virgin Mary, the Mother of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the merits of Thy Saints, the prophets Elijah, our father, and Elisha, the martyrs Angelus and Anastasius, the confessors Cyril and Albert, the virgins Euphrasia, Theresa and Mary Magdalene, and very many others; grant us, we ask, that, being delivered by their prayers from present evils of soul and body, we may be able to come rejoicing to Thee, the true height of Carmel. Through the same...)

The Virgin Mary and Carmelite Saints, by Pietro Novelli, 1641; from the Carmelite church of Palermo, Siciliy.
I have written previously about the Carmelite tradition by which the order regards the Prophets Elijah and Elisha as its founders. The martyr Angelus named here was a converted Jew from Sicily, who was murdered by a man of notoriously evil life whom he had publically rebuked ca. 1220; his feast is kept on May 5th. The martyr Anastasius is the same traditionally celebrated on January 22nd together with St Vincent of Saragossa; he was a Persian who died in the 7th century, and whom the Carmelites claim as one of their own. This is part of a rather dubious hagiographical tradition by which the Order expropriated a number of Saints of the distant past (among them the 8th Pope, St Telesphorus, who reigned ca. 125-136) to establish its antiquity among the mendicant orders that emerged in the early 13th century. Of the two Confessors named here, St Albert was the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (1205-14) who gave them the earliest written form of their rule; St Cyril was an early prior general of the Order in the Holy Land, to whom an extravagant hagiographical legend was later attached. St Euphrasia, a kinswoman of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, was one of the most famous of the ascetic Saints of the Egyptian desert, and died in 420 AD; her life is well and reliably attested, and was also later expropriated by the Carmelites. The Theresa named here is she of Avila, who died before the formal separation of the Order into two branches; the Mary Magdelene is a Florentine nun surnamed de’ Pazzi, who died in 1607.

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