21 August 2012

Sequentia seu Prosa

It doesn't take very long spending time with old Lutheran liturgies before one realizes the remarkable amount of space (to our view) given to the sequences - an embellishment of the Divine Service that flowered in the Middle Ages. Jungmann estimates that there were some 5,000 of them written, of which Trent left only five in Roman use. The Lutherans long continued their use and they have a beauty of their own.

I was looking over the one for Christmas Day, which appears in exactly this Latin form in the Magdeburg 1613 Cantica Sacra (and also in the Lossius, 1594, in which it is noted that the Apostrophe is to Mary "as an image of the Church"). The statement of Christ taking flesh "to make them companions of [participants in] your divinity" is rather a beautiful intro to the Christmas Gospel from Luke 2:1-14:

[la] Born before the beginning of time, the Son of
God, beyond perception, without limit,
[Ib] Through whom the workings of heaven and
earth were made, of the sea, and all things that
dwell therein,
[2a] Through whom the days and hours flicker and
then are rekindled,
[2b] Whom the angels in the celestial realm continually
proclaim with harmonious voice,
[3a] He had taken on a feeble body-without the
stain of original sin, from the flesh of the Virgin
Mary-through which the guilt of the first parent
and the lust of Eve might be wiped clean.
[3b] Hence the present short day, this day of brilliant
light, speaks forth, growing in length, because the
true Sun, the newly begotten Son, by the rays of
its light, had expelled the long-standing darkness.
[4a] Neither did the night lack the light of the new
star, for it struck fear in the knowing eyes of
the magi.
[4b] Nor was the light invisible to the shepherds,
for they were awestruck by the glory of the
heavenly host.
[5a] Rejoice, O Mother of God, whom, in place of a
midwife, angels surround singing "Glory of
[5b] O Christ, only begotten of the Father, you who
have taken human form for our sake, restore
your humble servants;
[6a] And, O Jesus, you humbled yourself that you
might share in their suffering; deign to receive
their prayers,
[6b] So that you might deign to make them companions
in your divinity, O only begotten God!

[la] Natus ante secula dei filius invisibilis interminus
[lbl Per quem fit machina celi ac terre maris et in
his degentium
[2a] Per quem dies et hora labant et se iterum reciprocant
[2b] Quem angeli in arce poli voce consona semper
[3a] Hic corpus adsumpserat fragile Sine labe originalis
criminis de carne marie virigins, quo
primiparentis culpam eveque lasciviam tergeret
[3b] Hoc presens dies ista loquitur Prelucida adaucta
longitudine quo sol verus radio sui luminis
vetustas mundi depulerat genitus tenebras
[4a] Nec nox vacat novi sideris luce quod magorum
oculos terruit scios
[4b] Nec gregum magistris defuit lumen quos prestrinxit
claritas militum dei
[5a] Gaudet dei genitrix quam circumstant obstetricum
vice concinentes angeli gloriam deo
[5b] Christe patris unice qui humanam nostri causa
formam assumpsisti refove supplices tuos
[6a] Et quorum participem te fore dignatus es hiesu
dignanter eorum suscipe preces
[6b] Ut ipsos divinitatis tue participes deus facere
digneris unice dei

- Blessed Notker of St Gall

[Translation and Latin text from this website]


The Rev. BT Ball said...

I hope you are working on publishing some of these things for us.

Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...

Excellent! Let's bring back the Sequences.