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Audi, Benigne Conditor

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As Holy Lent goes forward, I am offering my own translation of some of the hymns for the Divine Office. Although not strictly literal, my translations do adhere to the sense of the traditional Latin texts. I have prayed with these texts and sung them for a number of years. The melodies given in the Liber Hymnarius work well, although minor adaptations of the neums are needed in a few instances.

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Vespers I

Kind Maker of the world, give ear,
Accept the prayer and own the tear,
Before your Seat of Mercy spent
In this most holy fast of Lent.

The secrets of each life you see:
You measure our infirmity;
Teach wisdom in the inward parts;
Refresh and heal our broken hearts.

Our sins are manifold and sore;
Our spirits now to health restore;
And for your Name’s sake, make each soul,
That feels and owns its sickness, whole.

Give watchfulness o’er every sense
Give grace for outward abstinence,
That far from Egypt’s spread of sin
The soul may keep her fast within.

Hear us, O Blessed Trinity!
Shine bright within, O Unity!
That at the end of Forty Days
Our healing may become your praise. Amen.

Iam, Christe, Sol Iustitiae

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This is, I think, my favourite Lenten Office hymn. I cannot help but pair it with one of Turner's magnificent sunrises. You can find the melody in the Liber hymnarius.

The third strophe makes an incisive petition: "Remove the things that, of ourselves, / We cannot reach, or put aside." It reminds me of the prayer of Mère Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit: "O my Jesus, do Thou in me whatsoever Thou desirest to find in me."

Lauds II

The darkness flees, and dew-kissed earth
Sings welcome to the waking day;
Hope holds to Christ the mirror high
To catch the Dayspring's healing ray!

You fill with light this sacred time,
Give tears as well to purify;
Give flames of love to purge our hearts;
In us your mercy magnify.

The hidden wound whence flow our sins,
Wash clean by bathing in the tide;
Remove the things that, of ourselves,
We cannot reach, or put aside.

The Day draws near when all re-blooms --
Your Day, O Christ, life-giving Lord!
We too will joy, by your right hand
From death's dark tomb to joy restored.

To God, the loving Trinity,
Let earth and sky adoring bend;
And evermore from hearts renewed
Let songs fresh sprung of praise ascend. Amen.

Precemur Omnes Cernui

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Lauds I

Come, weep before the Judge, and seek
With broken hearts his grace to win;
Be bold, and trusting meet his gaze,
And trembling claim the hope within.

Much have we sinned, O Lord! and still
we fall again and seek to rise;
Look down in pity from on high;
Be dawning light to searching eyes.

Remember that we yet are yours
Though fashioned of a fragile frame;
And take not from our gasping souls
The Breath by which we praise your Name.

Undo past evil; heal the wounds,
And guide our steps in faith’s dark night;
So may we now and ever find
Joy pure and boundless in your sight.

Blest Trinity in Unity!
Uphold our weakness in your love,
That we to death may die with Christ
and rise with Christ to life above. Amen.

Iesu, Quadragenarie

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Vespers II

Jesus! You taught and sanctified
Observance of this Lenten tide;
Be pleased our fast to consecrate,
And by it mend our broken state.

Now unto Paradise once more,
By penitence our souls restore;
Without the gates our souls were thrust
Where thorns and toil turned pride to dust.

Be with your Church in saving pow'r
In this her death and rising hour;
When for the sins of bygone days,
With Word-pierced heart she weeps and prays.

For all our grievous past offence,
Your gracious pardon, Lord, dispense;
Henceforth, O gentle Guardian, shield
From sin each sense by mercy sealed.

So cleansed and chastened in your eyes,
By this our gladsome sacrifice,
May we for Pascha's joys prepare,
Who now a joyful sorrow share.

Infuse us, Father, with your Breath,
The Crucified's last Gift in death;
That in that Spirit we may raise
New paschal hymns of living praise. Amen.

Clarum Decus Jejunii

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Daniel in the lions' den, his hands raised in prayer, is an apt illustration of this hymn for Vigils. The hymns marked I are for Sundays; the hymns marked II are for weekdays. One might also alternate them.

Vigils or Office of Readings II

Bright beauty of the Lenten Fast
By heaven taught, on earth displayed;
Which Christ, in silent desert hid,
By his own fast has sacred made.

On Sinai's height with trumpet blast
The Law to Moses fasting came;
Elijah, fasting, rose aloft
In soaring chariot of flame.

So Daniel, saved from lions, saw
God's mysteries in coming years;
So John, the Bridegroom's loving friend,
In chaste and radiant truth appears.

O grace us, God of love, we pray,
Their paths of temperance to choose;
To those made weak by sin, give strength,
In ev'ry soul your joy infuse.

Grant this, O Father, through the Son,
In Spirit-Breath, bestow your grace,
That when these forty days are passed
We may exult before your face. Amen.

Ex More Docti Mystico

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Vigils or Office of Readings I

Now, with the slow revolving year,
Again the sacred Fast we greet;
Which in its mystic circle moves
In Forty Days to be complete.

That Fast by Law and Prophet taught,
A sacred sign by Christ restored;
He is, of seasons and of times,
The fullness and the timeless Lord.

Henceforth more sparing let us be,
of food and drink, of words and sleep;
And let us by a closer guard
Our roving senses cloistered keep.

Quick! Let us shun whatever things
Distract the careless eye and heart;
And let us shut our minds against
The tyrant tempter’s lying art.

Blest Trinity in Unity!
Uphold our weakness in your love,
That we to death may die with Christ
and rise with Christ to life above. Amen.

The Virgin of the Passion

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Commemoration of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Did you know that tomorrow, Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent (Passiontide), is the Commemoration of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary? The 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum restored this most fitting commemoration to the Roman liturgy.

To this end, a new Collect was composed:

O God, who during this time graciously grant to your Church devoutly to imitate blessed Mary in contemplation of the Passion of Christ, grant us, we pray, through the intercession of the same Virgin, to cling each day more firmly to your Only-Begotten Son,and to come at length to the fullness of his grace. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

The Roman Missal of 2002 also added to the chants of the Good Friday adoration of the Cross, the well-known sequence, Stabat Mater, thus marking in another way the presence of the sorrowful Mother close to that of her suffering Son.

These two commemorations of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin, the first on the Friday Within the Fifth Week of Lent, and the second, a week later, on Good Friday, invite us to stand by the Cross of Jesus with Mary his Mother, whose soul a sword of sorrow has pierced.

In our General Intercessions at Holy Mass, mindful of the "widowed Church" of Mosul in Iraq, we will pray:

That the Holy Catholic Church in Iraq,
suffering and crucified with her Lord and Bridegroom,
may take comfort in the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and find in her all-powerful intercession a source of perpetual help,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

The Image

The most famous image of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, also known as the Virgin of the Passion. Be sure to visit Father Scott Bailey's Mother of Perpetual Help website. Look for three characteristics in the icon of the Virgin of the Passion:

1) The depiction of the instruments of Our Lord's Passion, the Lance and the Sponge, the Cross and the Nails, carried by the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

2) The movement of the Child Jesus who gazes towards the instruments of His Passion, and seeks comfort in the arms of His Most Holy Mother. The sole of one of His feet is exposed, His sandal having fallen loose as He hastened to His Mother. The sandal hangs by its laces from His foot.

3) The Mother of God gazes out of the icon into what lies beyond it. She contemplates not only the sufferings of her Infant Son, but also the sufferings of the members of His Mystical Body. The compassion in her eyes is directed to all who, according to the word of her Crucified Son, became her children on Calvary. "Woman, behold thy son" (Jn 19:26).

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My doctoral dissertation — it seems so long ago — focused on the Proper Chants of the Paschal Triduum in the Graduale Romanum. The chants of the Church are, in effect, nothing less than sung theology. Among the chants of the Triduum is the Pange Lingua of Venantius Fortunatus (different from the Pange Lingua composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas); it is sung at the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, but also sung at the Divine Office beginning with the Fifth Sunday of Lent. I thought I might share with the readers of Vultus Christi, something of what I learned in singing, praying, and pondering this monument of Catholic hymnody.

The Pange Lingua of Passiontide

The hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, like the Holy Week Vespers hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt, is the work of Saint Venantius Fortunatus (530-600). Friend and secretary of the Queen Saint Radegonde (518-587), Fortunatus composed the hymns at her request to celebrate the arrival of a relic of the True Cross at the monastery she had founded at Poitiers. A gift of Emperor Justin II, the relic was solemnly received by Saint Radegonde on November 19, 569.

In the Divine Office

In the Divine Office of the 5th Week of Lent and Holy Week (Passiontide), the Pange lingua is divided into equal sections, the first being sung at Matins (The Office of Readings) and the second at Lauds.

On Good Friday

At the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, the hymn is sung with the refrain Crux fidelis, which appears for the first time in the seventh century. In the Romano-Germanic Pontifical of the Tenth Century Crux fidelis and Pange lingua are the last chants sung during the adoratio Crucis. In the reformed liturgy they occupy the same place. Like Gloria laus on Palm Sunday and Ubi caritas est vera on Maundy Thursday, Pange lingua has a refrain between each strophe.

Struggle and Triumph

1. Sing, my tongue,
the Savior's glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

In the first strophe Venantius Fortunatus introduces his theme: a combat to the death, a great struggle in which Christ will triumph over death by death. In like manner, the sequence Victimae paschali laudes will trumpet on Easter Day:

Fulget Crucis Mysterium

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Our Lady Saint Mary, Saint John the Beloved Disciple,
and the Wounded Side of Christ


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With First Vespers of the Fifth Sunday of Lent we enter into the last phase of preparation for the Pasch of the Lord: Passiontide. The Church places on our lips the great hymn of Christ’s Cross and Passion, and so we sing: fulget Crucis mysterium, “the mystery of the Cross shines out.” The second to the last verse of this age-old hymn is a confession of hope, hope in the power of the Cross:

O Cross, all hail! Sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passiontide:
New grace in loving hearts implant
And pardon to the guilty grant!

The station today is at Saint Peter’s Basilica. The solemnity of this Fifth Sunday of Lent required that the faithful of Rome assemble at the tomb of Saint Peter. The purple veils that, during these last two weeks before Pascha, will hide our sacred images, recall the great veil that in ancient times was stretched across the whole sanctuary, obliging the faithful to go by faith and longing into the inner sanctuary, the invisible one, where Christ is Victim, Altar and Priest.

Jesu, Quadragenariae

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VESPERS II

Jesus! You taught and sanctified
Observance of this Lenten tide;
Be pleased our fast to consecrate,
And by it mend our broken state.

Now unto Paradise once more,
By penitence our souls restore;
Without the gates our souls were thrust
Where thorns and toil turned pride to dust.

Be with your Church in saving pow’r,
In this her death and rising hour;
When for the sins of bygone days,
With Word-pierced heart she weeps and prays.

For all our grievous past offence,
Your gracious pardon, Lord, dispense;
Henceforth, O gentle Guardian, shield
From sin each sense by mercy sealed.

So cleansed and chastened in your eyes,
By this our gladsome sacrifice,
May we for Pascha’s joys prepare,
Who now a joyful sorrow share.

Infuse us, Father, with your Breath,
The Crucified’s last Gift in death;
That in that Spirit we may raise
New paschal hymns of living praise. Amen.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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