Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Visitation - Roman and Dominican Offices

To-day I was very thankful to have the time and earnest desire to read the Hours in sequence, more or less at their proper times, including Matins - for to-day is the feast of the Visitation of Our Blessed Lady to her cousin St Elizabeth, and the secret synaxis of the Unborn Christ and His unborn Herald, St John the future Baptist.  Matins features three strong sets of readings: passages from the Canticle of Canticles (ii, 1-17); a vivid elevated passage from Chrysostom (reworked by the Metaphrast, then done into Latin); and an extract relevant to to-day's Gospel from the Commentary on St Luke's Gospel from St Ambrose.  It was a wonderful beginning to the day.

Something reminded me to look to my copy of the Dominican Breviary, that I might compare and contrast it with the Roman Breviary (I have the latest ad last editions of both: those of 1962).  Matins in the Office of the Friars Preachers has the same selection of lessons, but, in line with the Dominican custom of having even shorter readings, in each of the three Nocturns the O.P. version's three lessons equate to only two or two and a half of their Roman equivalents.  

Evidently the Dominican book based its Visitation Hours on the Hours of Our Lady's Birthday - at Matins, the responsories and suchlike come from the Office for the 8th of September, with only the word Visitation substituted for Nativity - while the Roman Matins responsories are more scriptural.  This is likewise true regarding the antiphons at Lauds.

However, there is one evident improvement in the Dominican Breviary relative to the Roman: the former appoints, not the usual extracts from Ecclesiasticus for the Little Hours that traditionally are applied to Holy Mary, but passages taken (as are the first Lessons at Matins of this feast) from the Canticle of Canticles, of evident application to the Visitation:

Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.  For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers have appeared in our land.

– Little Chapter at Lauds, Terce and Vespers (Cant. ii, 10b-12a)

Behold [my beloved] cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills.  My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart. 

– Little Chapter at Sext (Cant. ii, 8b-9a)

Shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.

–Little Chapter at None (Cant. ii, 14b)
The Dominican Collect I think also superior to the Roman (albeit longer), since the Roman seems clumsily to pray for peace as a kind of afterthought, whereas the Dominican more closely adheres to the thought of the feast:

Omnipotens et misericors Deus, majestatem tuam suppliciter exoramus: ut, sicut Unigenitum tuum per Visitationem et salutationem Genetricis ejus puero clauso in utero revelasti, ita, meritis ejusdem Genetricis et precibus, ipsum nos facias revelata facie perpetuo contemplari: Qui tecum vivit...

(Almighty and merciful God, bowing low we pray Thy Majesty: that, as Thou didst reveal Thy Onlybegotten by the Visitation and salutation of His Mother by a child in the womb, so, by the merits and prayers of His same Mother, Thou may make us to contemplate forever the Same revealed face to face: Who with Thee liveth...)

May this indeed be our goal; and may the Communion we receive - as all unworthy I did this day - hasten our tracks to heaven.

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