Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Lamest Canticle

I have no objection to the use in the modern Office of New Testament Canticles at Vespers in an analogous manner to the immemorial use of Old Testament Canticles at Lauds (and Monastic Vigils), in addition to the traditional three Gospel Canticles (Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis) used at Lauds, Vespers and Compline.  Scholarly research revealed good suggestions that certain passages in the epistles of St Paul were hymnic in structure, after all.

However, the excuse for a Canticle slotted into 1st Vespers of the Epiphany and the Lord's Baptism is just dreadful, because it is a failed pastiche: it interlards the sublime concision of I Timothy iii, 16 with a response (yuk! deliver me from the Responsorial Psalm, too-aptly defined as "an exercise in short-term memory"), worked in poorly, from Ps 116:1a.  It would have been better far to either use I Tim. iii, 16 as a short reading at one of the Hours of these feasts (for which it is manifestly appropriate, excuse pun), or have it as a super-short canticle (longer at least than Psalm 116, and only a bit shorter than Psalm 132 or the Canticle from Apoc. xv, 3-4).

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