Friday, November 6, 2009

Fourfold Gospel of the Incarnation

Here's a nice little bit of mediæval liturgy: the pre-Tridentine Cistercian Breviary included special blessings to be pronounced at the Lessons of the Third Nocturn of Christmas Matins, referring to each of the four Gospel passages read at the head of each Lesson - for, while in the Roman Rite, at Christmas Matins' Third Nocturn three Lessons were read, each with a passage from the one of the Gospels used at the three Masses of Christmas, in the Benedictine and Cistercian Breviaries four Gospels are referred to and commented on, the fourth being the opening of St Matthew's Gospel, which according to monastic custom is read at the very end of Matins.

So, as a meditation upon the Incarnation suitable for looking forward through the approaching season of Advent to Christmas (only fifty days away), I append these blessings, with my doggerel translations (to get the right sense, I had to change active subjunctives into passive), paired with the Gospels to which they refer (with an apposite quotation from the Scriptures attached):

Mysterium sanctæ incarnationis:
aperiat nobis Liber generationis.

The mystery of the holy Incarnation:
be opened unto us by The book of the generation.

St Matthew i, 1-16

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas and his brethren. And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse. And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abia. And Abia begot Asa. And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. And Joram begot Ozias. And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias. And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. And after the transmigration of Babylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobabel. And Zorobabel begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, Who is called Christ.

[...Israelites, to whom belongeth the adoption as of children, and the glory, and the testament, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, Who is over all things, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans ix, 4-5)]

Virgineum partum in præsepio angusto:
doceat nos Edictum a Cæsare Augusto.

The Virgin birth in the poor manger be taught us:
by A decree from Caesar Augustus.

St Luke ii, 1-14

At that time: there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her Firstborn Son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.

[And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet Him. ...and they that were ready, went in with Him to the marriage, and the door was shut. (St Matthew xxv, 6. 10]

Puerum in præsepio jacentem:
demonstrent nobis Pastores loquentes ad invicem.

The Child lying in the manger:
be shewn unto us by The Shepherds saying one to another.

St Luke ii, 15-20

At that time: The shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us. And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this Child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

[Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith: Today if you shall hear His Voice, harden not your hearts. (Hebrews iii, 7-8a)]

Ille qui In principio erat Verbum:
doceat nos qualiter sit hodie caro factum.

He Who In the beginning was the Word:
teach us how this day He flesh was made.

St John i, 1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him: and without Him was made nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the Only Begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

[God, Who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by Whom also He made the world. (Hebrews i, 1-2)]

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