Monday, December 16, 2013

Ave, Cruor Christi

Would it be in bad taste to pray, Ave, cruor Christi – in parallel to Ave, caro Christi?

Rather than Corpus (Body), Caro (Flesh) is the Johannine equivalent; so as to keep up the theme of synonyms, would Sanguis (Blood) be appropriately replaced on occasion with Cruor (blood from a wound, hence gore)? It was after all not an incruentum sacrificium, no bloodless sacrifice, but on the Cross a very bloody sacrifice, cruentum sacrificium: Christ Himself, His spotless flesh all torn and wounded, beaten, whipped, pierced through with nails and thorns and lance, weeping tears of blood, blood trickling down from every wound… 

That said, cruor and cruentus are related to crudus (bloody, raw, harsh, cruel…), and I wonder whether, since "Hail, Christ's Gore" really seems too nasty an expression in English, the Latin Ave, cruor Christi would be revolting rather than affecting.

All this comes from my long use of variants of the common mediæval Mass prayers Ave in æternum, sanctissima caro Christi, mihi ante omnia et super omnia summa dulcedo (Hail forevermore, O most holy flesh of Christ, to me before all and above all things the supreme delight) and its parallel Ave in æternum, cælestis potus, mihi ante omnia et super omnia summa dulcedo (Hail forevermore, heavenly drink, to me before all and above all things the supreme delight). These appear in the Sarum Rite, for instance.

It seemed to me from my first reading of these that "heavenly drink" was too vague an expression (redolent of the second of the berakoth at modern Mass), and a truer parallel would be to name that which is in the Chalice as sanctissime Sanguis Christi, "most holy Blood of Christ" (it would I think lessen the parallel to use pretios[issim]e Sanguis, "[most] precious Blood", though that is the standard epithet). However, further reflection led me to seek a synonym for Blood, just as caro is a synonym for Body.

The '62 Missal and Breviary use cruor in but a few places: in Passiontide at Lauds; on Good Friday; at the Easter Vigil; formerly, during Eastertide, at Vespers; on the feast of the Most Precious Blood, at Lauds; and in the Sequence Stabat Mater for Our Lady of Sorrows. 

Among the Improperia (Reproaches) sung on Good Friday, the fourth part thereof is the Passiontide hymn beginning with Crux fidelis (which supplies a variable refrain) and continuing Pange lingua gloriosi (not the Corpus Christi hymn with the same first line). This hymn (which is also used at Matins and Lauds in Passiontide, split into two parts, only the second of which is relevant) contains two references to cruor: in the seventh stanza, we read spina, clavi, lancea Mite corpus perforarunt, unda manat et cruor (the thorn, the nails, the lance hath pierced the tender Body, whence floweth water and cruor) and in the ninth, Quam sacer cruor perunxit, fusus Agni corpora (Which the sacred cruor hath anointed, poured from the Body of the Lamb).

After the general Communion on Good Friday was restored in the nineteen fifties (yes, it had been a custom in many places both in East and West - interestingly, the Byzantines once had a Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, but no longer; and in Westphalia for example there was a general Communion at the Roman Missa Præsanctificatorum on Good Friday during the Baroque period), three collects were added at the end of the ceremony (and another at the start – it seems to me unfortunately, since these four wholesome prayers do detract from the sober solemnity by trying to express what was better left unsaid), and the last of these contains the phrase Christus, Filius tuus, per suum cruorem, instituit paschale mysterium (Christ, Thy Son, by His cruor, instituted the paschal mystery).

The famous Exsultet of the Paschal Vigil contains the words Qui pro nobis æterno Patri Adae debi- turn solvit: et veteris piaculi cautionem pio cruore detersit – that is, "Who for us to the eternal Father paid the debt of Adam: and cancelled the ancient guilt by [His] pious cruor."

Furthermore, the Eastertide Vesper hymn Ad cenam Agni providi originally contained the words (sadly altered by classicising revisers in the early 17th C.) cruorem roseum / gustando, Dei vivimus – "and tasting of the roseate gore, we live to God."

At Lauds on the 1st of July, being the Feast of the Most Precious Blood (hmm… to an outsider, this  phrase might sound odd, reminiscent of that Gothic potboiler Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood), the hymn contains the lines Quot scissa pellis undique / Stillat cruoris guttulas! (In English verse, "From His torn Flesh how red a shower / Did round His sacred Person fall!"

 The Stabat Mater meanwhile contains the verse Fac me plagis vulnerari, / Fac me Cruce inebriari, / Et cruore Filii. (Make me to be wounded with [His] Wounds, Make me to be inebriated with the Cross, And with [Thy] Son's cruor.) This appears in English verse as "Wounded with His every Wound, Steep my soul till it hath swooned In His very Blood away."

An update – having leafed through the relevant pages of Jungmann's Missarum Solemnia, vol. II, I find that the Missal of Troyes (c. 1050) gives the following prayers at reception of the Sacrament: Ecce Jesu benignissime (a rarely used text from the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Agnes), then Ave in ævum sanctissima caro, mea in perpetuum summa dulcedo (ævum being an alternative to æternum, and similarly for the second phrase compared to the text I cited above), Perceptio Corporis (a shortened form of the pre-communion prayer still in the Roman Missal), Ave in æternum cælestis potus, mihi ante omnia et super omnia dulcis (rather than summa dulcedo as above) and finally Cruor ex latere D.N.J.C. mihi indigno maneat ad salutem et proficiat ad remedium animæ meæ in vitam æternum. Amen. This last prayer may be rendered as "Cruor (i.e. Blood from wounds, or, Gore) from the side of Our Lord Jesus Christ for unworthy me abide unto salvation and profit unto a remedy of my soul in life eternal. Amen." So cruor has been used in such a sense in the Liturgy.

It seems to me that Ave, cruor Christi might be acceptable as devout Latin: any comments gratefully received.

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