Saturday, August 15, 2015

In Assumptione Beatae Mariae Virginis - Gaudium mundi.

Gaudium mundi, nova stell caeli,
procreans solem, pariens parentem,
da manum lapsis, fer opem caducis,
     virgo Maria.

Te Deo factam liquet esse scalam
qua temens summa petit Altus ima;
nos ad excelsi remeare caeli
      culmina dona.

Te beatorum chorus angelorum,
te prophetarum et apostolorum 
ordo praelatam sibi cernit unam
      post Deitatem.

Laus sit excelsae Triadi perennis,
quae tibi, Virgo, tribuit cornonam,
atque regnam statuitque nostram
      provida matrem. Amen.

---- Hymnus, Ad I Vesperas, Liturgia Horarum.

Gaudium mundi is, all things considered, one of my favorite hymns for the Dormition/Assumption. Every time I recite this hymn, I recall those days during the waning years of John Paul II's pontificate when there was a sense of discovery upon finally accessing the Latin editions of the modern Roman liturgy. The books were absurdly scarce at that time, perhaps because we were in between new typical editions of both the Missale Romanum and Liturgia Horarum.

Gaudium mundi was, for whatever reason, a text I latched onto. At this time the greater trend was to argue that the Roman Church needed a faithful translation of the vernacular to set things right and inculcate a sense of the supernatural. My position was in the extreme minority. I maintained that the path forward consists not in vernacular translation, but in rediscovery and total reapplication of Latin in the liturgy to the exclusion of the vernacular. This argument resisted on the principle that the Latin text contain a substantial amount of connotation and subtle illusion that even literal one-to-one translation fails to adequately convey the intention of the text.

Flash forward almost twenty years and the accounting of the English translation of the Latin liturgy has somewhat proven my position. From the first ICEL draft to the abhorrent offense against proper English syntax published in 2011, there has failed to be an adequate translation of the revised liturgical books.

Gaudium mundi is enough to remind me that, all things considered, the Liturgia Horarum does in fact have a leg up on its predecessor. The denigration of the Roman liturgy (particularly the hours) is a five centuries old problem. Urban VIII's dissolution of the traditional corpus of Latin hymns demonstrates that even in the pre-modern period the highest authorities of the Roman Church were quite willing to denigrate Tradition in the name of innovation - based upon one man's whim. If the reform of the Roman liturgy did on thing right, if the Liturgia Horarum can say is has one rather big notch in its favor, it is the restoration (more or less) of the corpus of ancient Latin hymns and the abolition of the baroque, neo-classical monstrosities imposed by Urban VIII. Not withstanding the structural criticisms one can levy against it, the Liturgia Horarum reestablished some liturgical normalcy to the celebration of the hours.

Spend some time with Gaudium mundi. Whatever your ecclesiastical affiliation, this hymn is well worth your time.

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