Friday, December 24, 2010

Dominican Lessons and Sequence for the Christmas Masses

The Rite of the Friars Preachers retains several ancient elements not conserved in the wider Roman Rite; which is only to be expected, as it was codified and therefore fixed in form earlier, during the thirteenth rather than the sixteenth century.  Readers may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the Old Testament readings appointed for the four Masses of Christmas – for the Vigil, the Midnight, the Dawn and the Day Masses – in the modern Roman Rite are not innovations but attempted restorations, more or less (with a verse or more added or subtracted); for the Dominican Missal never abandoned them.  

(Likewise, the Carthusians, Premonstratensians and Carmelites retained these lessons; alas, the Cistercians removed them in 1657, out of misplaced zeal for conformity to the Roman liturgical books.  As the extinct English order of the Gilbertines apparently used these lessons, so sure enough they were also used in the Sarum Rite.)

Christmas Vigil

Lesson: Isaias lxii, 1-4a [the Novus Ordo adds vv. 4b-5]

Hæc dicit Dominus Deus:
Propter Sion non tacebo, et propter Jerusalem non quiescam donec egrediatur ut splendor justus ejus, et salvator ejus ut lampas accendatur.  Et videbunt gentes justum tuum, et cuncti reges inclytum tuum: et vocabitur tibi nomen novum, quod os Domini nominabit.  Et eris corona gloriæ in manu Domini, et diadema regni in manu Dei tui.  Non vocaberis ultra Derelicta, et terra tua non vocabitur amplius Desolata: sed vocaberis, Voluntas mea in ea, et terra tua Inhabitata, quia complacuit Domino in te.

Thus saith the Lord God:
For Sion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for the sake of Jerusalem, I will not rest till her just one come forth as brightness, and her saviour be lighted as a lamp.  And the Gentiles shall see thy just one, and all kings thy glorious one: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.  And thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.  Thou shalt no more be called Forsaken: and thy land shall no more be called Desolate: but thou shalt be called My pleasure in her, and thy land inhabited, because the Lord hath been well pleased with thee.

Marvellous prophecy!  The "Just One" cometh, and the "Saviour" shining as a lamp in the darkness, to be seen not by Jerusalem only, but by the Gentiles and "all kings", beholding the "Glorious One": Jesus. God will bestow a new name, that of Christian, on those He shall call; and He shall crown them with glory and honour, being well-pleased in His people in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Christmas Midnight

Lesson: Isaias ix, 2. 6-7a [N.O. includes vv. 3-5 & 7b also]

Hæc dicit Dominus:
Populus qui ambulabat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam: habitantibus in regione umbræ mortis, lux orta est eis.  
Parvulus enim natus est nobis, et Filius datus est nobis, et factus est principatus super humerum ejus; et vocabitur nomen ejus Admirabilis, Consiliarius, Deus, Fortis, Pater futuri sæculi, Princeps pacis.  Multiplicabitur ejus imperium, et pacis non erit finis: super solium David, et super regnum ejus sedebit, ut confirmet illud et corroboret in judicio et justitia, amodo et usque in sempiternum.

Thus saith the Lord:
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
For a Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever.

Nobis natus, nobis datus: "born for us, given for us" – Christ is come, Emmanuel, Whose kingdom shall have no end.  At midnight we hear the cry, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh!" – and to them that sit in darkness, a great light appeareth in dead of night, in the bleak mid-winter, in the darkness of the weary, fallen world, in its last age: "the Light that enlighteneth every man", born into this world.  Let us not slumber and sleep, but run with glad hearts to greet Him, "born this happy morning: Jesu, to Thee be glory given, Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing".

Christmas Dawn

Lesson: Isaias lxi, 1-3 [N.O. omits these]; lxii, 11-12a [N.O. adds v. 12b]

Hæc dicit Dominus:
Spiritus Domini super me, eo quod unxerit Dominus me: ad annuntiandum mansuetis misit me, ut mederer contritis corde, et prædicarem captivis indulgentiam, et clausis apertionem: ut prædicarem annum placabilem Domino, et diem ultionis Deo nostro: ut consolarer omnes lugentes: ut ponerem lugentibus Sion: et darem eis coronam pro cinere, oleum gaudii pro luctu, pallium laudis pro spiritu mœroris: et vocabuntur in ea fortes justitiæ, plantatio Domini ad glorificandum.
Ecce Dominus auditum fecit in extremis terræ, dicite filiæ Sion: Ecce Salvator tuus venit: ecce merces ejus cum eo, et opus ejus coram illo.  Et vocabunt eos: Populus sanctus, redempti a Domino Deo nostro.

Thus saith the Lord:
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up.  To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn: to appoint to the mourners of Sion, and to give them a crown for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of grief: and they shall be called in it the mighty ones of justice, the planting of the Lord to glorify him.
Behold the Lord hath made it to be heard in the ends of the earth, tell the daughter of Sion: Behold thy Saviour cometh: behold his reward is with him, and his work before him.  And they shall call them, The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord our God.

Here we hear Messiah proclaim His mission, sent by the Lord His Father, anointed with the Holy Spirit, to announce and preach salvation.  "Behold, thy Saviour cometh" with His work to do and his rewards to bestow, that His people may be holy, "the redeemed of the Lord our God".

Christmas Day

Lesson: Isaias lii, 6-10 [N.O. omits v. 6]

Hæc dicit Dominus:
Propter hoc sciet populus meus nomen meum in die illa; quia ego ipse qui loquebar, ecce adsum.  Quam pulchri super montes pedes annuntiantis et prædicantis pacem: annuntiantis bonum, prædicantis salutem, dicentis Sion: Regnabit Deus tuus!  Vox speculatorum tuorum: levaverunt vocem, simul laudabunt, quia oculo ad oculum videbunt cum converterit Dominus Sion.  Gaudete, et laudate simul, deserta Jerusalem, quia consolatus est Dominus populum suum: redemit Jerusalem.  Paravit Dominus brachium sanctum suum in oculis omnium gentium: et videbunt omnes fines terræ salutare Dei nostri.
Thus saith the Lord:
Therefore my people shall know my name in that day: for I myself that spoke, behold I am here.  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, and that preacheth peace: of him that sheweth forth good, that preacheth salvation, that saith to Sion: Thy God shall reign!  The voice of thy watchmen: they have lifted up their voice, they shall praise together: for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall convert Sion.  Rejoice, and give praise together, O ye deserts of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people: he hath redeemed Jerusalem.  The Lord hath prepared his holy arm in the sight of all the Gentiles: and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Indeed and Amen!  The Lord Himself that spoke, "behold, I Am" is "here": thus His Name shall be known by His people, "He hath redeemed Jerusalem", and yet more, the Lord hath made known "His holy arm", that is, His Son, in the sight of all nations: "and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God", since God has become incarnate and visible and "dwelt amongst us" and "we have seen His glory, the glory as of the Onlybegotten of the Father, full of grace and truth".  Let these glad tidings be spread by the joyful evangelists, and the great company of preachers!


Furthermore, the Dominican Rite retains the beautiful mediæval sequence Lætabundus, sung at the Day Mass, and repeated in the Mass of the Epiphany, on the twelfth day of Christmas; and in the Mass of the Baptism of the Lord, on the Octave of the Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season; and yet once more in the Mass of the Presentation, that last re-echo of Christmastide forty days' hence, just before Lent.

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