Sunday, April 15, 2012

Endless Alleluia

Whilst in this vale of tears Kyrie eleison is our song, in heaven for ever down all the ages of the ages we shall cease not from singing Alleluia to God the Lord.

Those holy souls the Dormitionists know this well, for at all Hours of their Office they cry Kyrie ere the Lord's Prayer they pray; but, so great is their wordless, inexpressible, unquenchable joy at the Resurrection, Christ's triumph and ours in Him, that they "make all things new" by devoting their Paschal Hours to some foreshadowing of that endless Alleluia sung by those in endless rest above.

The Monastic Office, as is well known, only follows that of Rome for the Easter Triduum, when no hymns are sung, and from Easter Sunday onwards reverts to its usual use of hymns, little chapters and whatnot, liberally adorned with the Easter cry of Alleluia, Praise the Lord; the Roman Breviary and kindred Uses such as the Dominican, however, retain for the Easter Octave an ancient form of solemnity, joyful indeed, but as with the Triduum still laying aside hymns and capitula, in place thereof repeating Hæc dies - "This is the day the Lord hath made".

The Dormitionist Breviary takes up, extends, and in a manner simplifies further the manner of simply celebrating Easter without hymns and short readings from Scripture at the Hours, by inserting yet more cries of jubilation – the ineffable Alleluia, again and again - and prolonging the time for special forms of the Hours over the whole of Eastertide, not just the Octave.  For as Augustine notes, when our joy soars beyond all form of words, then truly we sing with jubilation, crying Alleluia.

Therefore, during Paschal Time, Matins begins, as in other Uses, with the Invitatory Alleluja, alleluja, * Alleluja to garland the Venite.  There is no hymn, but at once another threefold Alleluia is read as the antiphon for the psalmody (12 psalms daily, more on Sundays, as previously noted).  The versicle after the repeated antiphon concludes the psalms is Christus resurrexit a mortuis, alleluja - Primitiæ Dormientium, alleluja – evidently chosen on account of the last word, "of the Sleepers".

Three passages from St Paul, himself a witness to the Resurrection "last of all, out of due time" are read daily, as encapsulating the doctrine of the Resurrection as Dormitionists especially view it: I Corinthians xv, 1-6; Romans vi, 3-8; and Colossians iii, 1-4 (†).  Rather than reading from the Fathers about so great a mystery, the Canons prefer to listen to the inspired preaching of the Apostle himself, eagerly repeating his words each passing day of Eastertide.

But most notably, after each Lesson is found one of the great liturgical treasures of the Order, which are together the justly famous three Alleluiatic Responsories, the first sevenfold, the next ninefold, and the last fortyfold:

R/. i. Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja, * Alleluja.
V/. Alleluja, alleluja, * Alleluja.

R/. ii. Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja,  * Alleluja.
V/. Alleluja, alleluja, * Alleluja.

R/. iii. Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja;  * Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja.
V/. Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja, alleluja.  * Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.  * Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja.
R/. Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja;  * Alleluja, alleluja, alleluja; alleluja, alleluja, alleluja.

Endless Alleluias indeed...

How repetition thus aids in attaining the special charism and grace proper to the Order, of repose in Christ – hence the proverbial expression, "From A to Z", or, in its older wording, "From A's to Z's".

It will be noted that the fifty-six Alleluia's of these three Alleluiatic Responsories equate to the fifty-six days of Eastertide, from Easter Sunday to Whit Saturday inclusive.  Many mystic reasons are adduced for this, but clearly the profound Scriptural significance of each of the numbers added together, of seven, of nine, and of forty, is sufficiently obvious?  Dormitionist novices are oft told to meditate on these numbers and their sum in order to achieve the grace of sleep in Christ.

To conclude Matins, of course the Te Deum (or "tedium" as one impatient priest refers to it, a shrewd insight shewing how all unawares the Dormitionist charism has spread everywhere through the Church as a most subtle fragrance or odour) next is prayed, and then the sacerdotal versicle preceding Lauds (a feature of non-Roman mediæval Uses, be it noted): Mortui enim estis, alleluja – Et vita vestra est abscondita cum Christo in Deo, alleluja (Col. iii, 3).  The Dormitionist Canons, following the lead of the Beloved Apostle when in exile on Patmos, love to prostrate as if dead before the Living One, imitating now what they hope to be evermore, "hid with Christ in God".

Lauds – and for that matter, all the Little Hours and Vespers (Compline always excepted) – is celebrated in a typically Paschal fashion.  The psalms of this and the other Day Hours are sung under one antiphon, a triple Alleluia (recalling, however, that by "sung" is meant "form the words upon the lips silently", as only Compline is sung in common in the Order, the rest being said whenever the brethren may happen awake in their respective cells, much psalmody being soporific and therefore dear to those who seek for rest, as all men, especially priests and religious, know).

As previously mentioned, the Dormitionists prolong the peculiar forms of the Easter Octave Hours, by continuing to omit capitulum, hymn and versicle throughout Paschaltide. In their stead, directly the psalmody is concluded with the repeated antiphon (for they always "double" antiphons, a primitive practice revived, no doubt owing to their example, in more modern times throughout the Roman Office), instead of the expected Hæc dies, instead, as a better expression of unfathomable rejoicing at the stupendous mystery, a fourfold Alleluia is uttered.  Vespers is the magnificent exception, the noble fortyfold Alleluia's of the third Matins Responsory instead being repeated, almost ad infinitum it may be said (scoffing worldlings would mistakenly add, et ad nauseam).

At Lauds and Vespers, the Easter antiphon for the Gospel Canticle is a ninefold Alleluia (found in Monastic Breviaries only as the first antiphon at Lauds of Low Sunday); after this, or directly the fourfold Alleluia is ended at Prime, Terce, Sext and None, follows the invariant Kyrie and Pater noster, with Collect and so forth – for, howsoever long we rejoice in Christ, we remain yet in the prison of our body, still in the midst of this miserable and naughty world, and so must fall to petition and prayer after exulting in the Lord and His victory.

So, too, after the Benedicamus Domino (with double alleluia on all days of the Octave, and on other Eastertide Sundays and feasts at Lauds and Vespers, and single alleluia on ferias, as in the Dominican Breviary), at those two greater Hours come the daily memorials and prayers in commemoration of the Holy Sepulchre, of the Dormition, of  St Lazarus, of  the Seven Sleepers, for Rest, and for the Living and the Dead that together constitute the staple of Dormitionist piety (with alleluias attached during all Easter Time, of course).  Then Benedicamus is repeated (another mediæval survival), this time unadorned as at the Little Hours; and so the Hours of Lauds and Vespers end.

All that remains to be noted is that, at Compline, the Canons together sing a triple Alleluia indeed as the psalm antiphon, but otherwise content themselves with the same responsory, versicles, Nunc dimittis antiphon and Marian anthem  as always, simply adding alleluias to these as done in more well-known Breviaries.

Simple calculations will demonstrate that thus the Dormitionist Breviary repeats Alleluia three hundred-odd times a day during all of Paschal Time.  It will be evident, therefore, why these good but ever-fatigued, absolutely exhausted Canons have a strange aversion to saying the Regina cæli...


† The three Matins Lessons are, in English:

From the first  Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians.

Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: and that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven. Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep. — But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.  R/. Thanks be to God.

From the Epistle to the Romans.

Brethren: Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer. For he that is dead is justified from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ. — But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.  R/. Thanks be to God.

From the Epistle to the Colossians.

Brethren: Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory. — But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.  R/. Thanks be to God.

[The third Lesson is shortened on account of the long Responsory that follows.]

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