Thursday, March 21, 2024

A Sequence for the Feast of St Benedict

For the feast of St Benedict, here is the Sequence which is sung at his Mass by those Benedictines who use Missale Romano-Monasticum. It is first documented in a missal printed for the use of the Monte Cassino Benedictine congregation in 1506, and was later adopted by some other congregations, including the Cluniacs. The opening words were originally “Laeta quies – the happy rest”, since March 21 is the day of Benedict’s death; for the use of those who keep the feast on July 11th, this is changed to “Laeta dies – the happy day.” (This variant is attested very close to the time of its composition.)

(My dull prose translation)
The joyful day of the great leader, bringing the gifts of a new light, is celebrated today.

Grace is given to the loving soul; let that which is brought forth (in song) resound in ardent hearts.
Let us admire him as he ascends by the way of the East in the likeness of a patriarch.
The greatness of his posterity made him like the sun, and similar to Abraham.
You see the crow that serves him; hence, recognize one like Elijah, lying hidden in a little cave.
Elisha is also recognized (in him) when the axe is called back from the bed of the river.
His purity made him like Joseph, his mind that knew the future made him like Jacob.
May he, mindful of his people, bring us to the joys of Christ, who endureth forever. Amen.
St Benedict at Prayer in the Cave, by the anonymous Master of Messkirch, ca. 1520-40. Early on in his career as a monk, St Benedict withdrew to a cave at Subiaco, and was fed by another monk called Romanus, who was the only who knew he was there. In the upper part, a devil is breaking the bell which Romanus would ring to let Benedict know that he had arrived. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
The mention of Elijah here refers to a time when St Benedict had his food provided for him by a crow, when Romanus was unable to come to him, and just like Elijah, Benedict made an axe head lost in a river float so it could be recovered.

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