Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ad Horam Orationis Nonam

The Athanasian Creed, and indeed all abstruse theology, is beloved of the Dormitionists.  For does not all serious study fatigue?  If there be no sermon to lull one, a strong dose of Trinitarian contemplation will lead either to ecstasy or holy slumber.  (I certainly recall one sermon, delivered years ago at the Church of Apostles for Trinity Sunday, at which I am convinced I and the preacher were the only ones not yet asleep.)

It is of course no wonder that a wholly contemplative Order, entirely focussed on the Eschaton, should be intent upon study of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and subtle questions in theology, philosophy, and related sciences, let alone that old stand-by, lectio divina.  Indeed, what would be blamable curiosity in others is no vice in the elect unworldly state of these religious.  Not for nothing did one of the first Popes after Innocent III (who approved ad experimentum, as it were, the novus Ordo of the Dormition) compare it to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II: if he was the stupor mundi, the Dormitionists were the stupor Ecclesiæ, he considered, or at least a good imitation of the stupor Curiæ.

As well as treasuring the many intricate treatises of their friends in the Dominican Order down the ages, the Dormitionists are considered the traditional custodians of the Summa Triviæ, that compilation of every last point disputed among the Scholastics and their heirs (such as "Whether Cats may be Ordained?").

It is unsurprising therefore, that at None (or later still in the afternoon), which is pre-eminently "the hour of prayer" (Acts iii, 1), the thoughts of earnest Dormitionist Canons turns to what, in other liturgical rites, is especially associated with Prime: that is, the Athanasian Creed.  For this reason, as also because the Breviarium O.Dorm., if said at all, is read in the cell, and usually recited by aggregation all at once at a late hour (excepting only Compline, sung still later in the church), the so-called Chapter Office or Pretiosa in other rites attached to Prime (or to Lauds, as in the Breviarium S.O.P.) is instead postponed till after None, "the hour of prayer", and prefixed by the Quicumque vult – which is daily used by these zealous Canons; indeed, their spiritual practice earnestly recommends its repeated use when attempting to fall asleep.

Previously, extracts from the Regula Patrum Soporificum were given as an aid to devotion; now, let it be noted that their reading takes place during what the Dormitionists term the Quicumque devotions, as follows:

  1. Athanasian Creed, with versicle Benedicamus Patrem and an Ambrosian Collect (Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut sicut te Unum ac Trinum confitemur, ita divinitatis tuæ perpetuo fruamur aspectu. Per Christum...);
  2. Reading from the Martyrology (the brief listing of the succeeding day's saints, since the next day's Office begins with the immediately following Vespers), with the usual versicle and prayer;
  3. Prayers for the Lord Pope (see below);
  4. Reading from the Rule;
  5. Prayer for Deceased Brethren, Sisters, Familiars and Benefactors: De profundis &c., with the collect Deus veniæ largitor.

It will be noted that this arrangement is somewhat of a compromise between the Roman, the Monastic and other forms of the Chapter Office that in all other churches is read after Prime – unsurprisingly so, since the three Founders of the Dormitionists were alert to select carefully the most suitable elements for the restful and relaxing observances of their nascent Order.  Furthermore, the five parts thereof correspond mystically to the Five Wounds.

No one can become a Saint (as enumerated in 2.) if he scoff at belief in the Trinity (as stated in 1.), nor if he refuse due obedience to Christ's Vicar (3.), even if, as a religious, he keep the Rule (4.); and may those who have gone before us in the Faith, now rest without end in peace (5.).  I leave it to the reader's ingenuity to relate each of these parts of the fivefold Quicumque devotions to each respective Wound – another favourite suggested topic for thought if dreaded insomnia strike.  (It ill-behooves Christians to count sheep, as if in mockery of Christ's careful shepherding of His flock within the One Fold.  We know from Holy Writ, too, that God hates the taking of a census – see II Kings xxiv.)

Liturgiologists will be no doubt interested to learn that the Dormitionists do not maintain a separate Martyrology, but have long combined its daily entries with the rest of their Breviary, for the more convenience of the Canons in their cells.  Similarly, those interested in Papal history will also remark with liturgical persons on the chance occurrence that led to the Dormitionists inserting prayers for the Lord Pope in place of the expected prayers for the day's work: according to the account general in the Order, Innocent III, after approving, in his Bull O res mirabilis, this experiment of a novus Ordo dedicated to emulating the eternal rest of the blessed, remarked that "If they ever wake up, let them at least pray for the poor Pope kept awake by many cares" – words taken as a command by these obedient sons of Peter.  

Thus it is that they pray for Christ's Vicar, and not for any blessing on their own work, since, they reasoned, it would be strange indeed for holy religious, bound even more strictly than the secular clergy to abstain from all servile labours, to presume to ask a blessing for such unholy actions!

(Such is their devotion to Innocent III, whom they style "the Great", that these Canons would long ago have pushed for his canonization, were it not for the inconvenient truth that he appeared to St Lutgardis at his death, confessing to her that he would be in Purgatory for centuries due to three faults – I wonder what they were? – he had committed.  To intercede for this beloved foster-father or Papal midwife, as it were, each Dormitionist Dorter or Dormitory celebrates a Requiem on the day of his decease, the 16th of July, each passing year.)

The prayers for the Pope of the day consist, first of a responsory in honour of St Peter – with an added versicle commemorative of the permission granted by the Pope, who alone may bind and loose, that their Order be established to seek for rest – and then follows the expected Kyrie, Lord's Prayer, versicle and collect:

R/. Quodcumque ligaveris ſuper terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: * Et quodcumque ſolveris ſuper terram, erit ſolutum etIn cælis
V/. Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus, et ſuper hanc petram ædificabo Eccleſiam meam. * Et quodcumque ſolveris ſuper terram, erit ſolutum etIn cælis
V/. Dormite jam et requieſcite.In cælis. 
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. 
R/. Quodcumque ligaveris ſuper terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: * Et quodcumque ſolveris ſuper terram, erit ſolutum etIn cælis.
Kyrie, eleiſon. Chriſte, eleiſon. Kyrie, eleiſon. 
Pater noſter (ſecreto uſque ad)
V/. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
R/. Sed libera nos a malo.
V/. Oremus pro Domino Papa
R/. Dominus conſervet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum ejus.
Or. Omnipotens ſempiterne Deus, qui facis mirabilia magna ſolus, prætende ſuper famulum tuum N. Papam noſtrum, et ſuper cunctas congregationes illi commiſſas ſpiritum gratiæ ſalutaris: et ut in veritate tibi complaceant, perpetuum eis rorem tuæ benedictionis infunde. Per Chriſtum Dominum noſtrum. R/. Amen.

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