Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Favourite Advent Antiphon

On my mind and lips during Advent is the Magnificat antiphon from first Vespers of this, the Second Sunday of Advent: Veni, Domine, visitare nos in pace, ut lætemur coram te corde perfecto – "Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace, that we may joy before thee with a perfect heart."

This antiphon above all others – yes, for the moment, even the O Antiphons, and the Marian anthem of the season, Alma Redemptoris Mater – is my choice, and why? because in sundry Uses it was not a Magnificat antiphon, but the Advent Nunc dimittis antiphon.  Several forms of Compline (such as the Dominican) have variant hymns, antiphons, responsories and the like to be employed at certain times and seasons; in the Sarum Rite, though not that of the Black Friars, Veni, Domine, visitare was sung during Advent in place of the usual antiphon Salva nos Domine.

Consider the wording, unfamiliar as it may seem, of the Nunc dimittis with this antiphon:

Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace, that we may joy before thee with a perfect heart. 
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 
Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace, that we may joy before thee with a perfect heart.

I take the English wording of this from a curious little volume in my possession, The Hours of Prayer from Lauds to Compline inclusive compiled from the Sarum Breviary and other rites (3rd ed., revised), originally drawn up in 1910, but reprinted in 1946; my copy has a preface by Edward C. Trenholme, S.S.J.E., dated 1928.  This is, in other words, one of the many Sarum-ish or Roman Diurnals drawn up by Anglo-Catholics over the course of their history – Patrimony!

While many such manuals exist, I only have one other here, which also contains the "Come, O Lord": The Priest's Book of Private Devotion, originally compiled in the late 19th C. by Oldknow and Crake, revised in 1929 by Briscoe, and published in a new edition in 1952; unlike The Hours of Prayer, it contains a vast collection of prayers, meditations, and all manner of devotions – but of its 593 numbered pages, the first third, pages 3 to 221, contains "Divine Service for the Lesser Hours of the Day", that is, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline,  with full Propers of the Temporal and Sanctoral cycle, and the relevant Commons, plus Vespers of the Dead and the Penitential Psalms. These Hours are evidently meant to be said alongside daily recitation of Mattins and Evensong from the BCP.

An interesting point about both these unofficial forms of the Office is that they stick to the pre-1912 psalm cursus: Lauds has its daily Laudate psalms (Pss 148-150); during the Little Hours, each and every day, Psalm 118(119) is read through; and Compline has daily Pss 4, 30(31):1-6, 90(91) and 133(134).

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