For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Friday, 11 September 2015

Prayers from the Sarum Diurnal

At Matins bound, at Prime reviled, condemned to death at Tierce;
Nailed to the Cross at Sexts; at Nones his blessed side they pierce;
They take him down at Vesper-tide, in grave at Compline lay;
Who henceforth bids his Church observe these seven hours always.

The verse above, and the following prayers for devotional use before the Hours, are taken from J.M. Neale's - or rather the St Margaret's Sisterhood's - Sarum Diurnal, where they appear alongside the traditional Aperi Domine prayer, and a prayer of the Venerable Bede.
I am not sure of the provenace of much of the material in this volume: who wrote what? The Preface is a delight, especially its waspish tone. It has not a few haughty observations about practices in the Roman Breviary, which take up rather a lot of space: "Rome" has an "unseemly haste" in frequently replacing longer Psalms by Psalm 117 (the pejorative and personalised noun "Rome" is a giveaway and conjures up a whole habit of mind and thought), its lack of "mystical interpretations" for which one searches in vain, and - all in all - it is "far surpassed by Sarum". The author also commends Sarum for its superiority on account of its "sedulous and hearty use of continual intercession for living and dead" in reference to the fact that one nocturn of the Office of the Dead was said in Sarum every day except for festivals: but there is a footnote... such may not be "practicable for many" these days, we are told, (does this mean - we won't be doing it?)... but on the other hand, "it is as well, in these days of hurry, to have such full and leisurely Offices before our eyes". This last remark comforts me greatly, as I survey all the books on my shelves I wish I had the time to read, all the manuals of various disciplines (astronomy, herb-lore, ancient Hebrew etc.) I would master if I had but a generous allowance from a conveniently deceased great-aunt's bequest to devote myself worthily to them.
The prayers that follow are an expansion of the verse above. I am not posting these as museum pieces merely, but I am unsure how widely this kind of prayer can become natural devotional prayer for many people, in either its language or its sentiment. An autobiographical note: my childhood in the 1980s and 1990s was highly unusual, perhaps as odd to some people as the Amish. We used the King James exclusively for worship (some Presbyterians still do in Northern Ireland), and its language saturated even extempore prayer, even for bedtime, such that I still find it artificial to hear or utter the pronoun "you" to address the Creator. I therefore find it impossible to judge how affected such prayers sound to other ears: but the parenthesis in At Vespers cannot but make even me smile. Also I am not sure that one should wish or pray (as so many even since the sixteenth century, and across confessional boundaries, have prayed) to have the sorrows of the Passion "ever as it were fresh" in one's ardent affection. It puts one in mind of a widely reported phenomenon, the despairing attempt to feel one's prayers passionately enough. But other than that, they and their theology seem "usable".
At Matins.
LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who at this Matin Hour didst will to be born, to be betrayed, taken, beaten with stripes, buffeted, and spit upon for the salvation of mankind ; make us, we beseech Thee, joyfully and patiently to endure injuries and reproaches for the glory of Thy Name ; and so continually to keep in remembrance the memory of Thy most Sacred Passion, that we may be enabled happily to attain to the glory and fellowship of Thy Resurrection ; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

At Prime.
LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who in the First Hour of the day wast brought before Pilate : Who, the Judge of all judges, didst yet endure the severest doom; we most devoutly beseech Thee that Thou in Thy judgment wouldest be lenient to us miserable sinners ; that in the last eternal judgment we be not condemned to punishment, but may rather attain to the fellowship of Thy faithful ones in heavenly places ; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

At Tierce.
LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who at the Third Hour of the day wast led forth to the pain of the Cross, for the salvation of the world ; we humbly beseech Thee that by the virtue of Thy most Sacred Passion, Thou wouldest blot out all our sins, and mercifully bring us to the glory of Thy blessedness ; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

At Sexts.
LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who at the Sixth Hour of the day in Golgotha with great tumult didst ascend the Cross of suffering, whereon, thirsting for our salvation, Thou didst permit gall and vinegar to be given Thee to drink ; we Thy suppliants beseech Thee that, kindling and inflaming our hearts, Thou wouldest make us to thirst for the cup of Thy Passion, and continually to find delight in Thee only, our crucified Lord ; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

At Nones.
O LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who at the Ninth Hour of the day, with hands extended upon the Cross, and bowing the head, didst deliver up Thy spirit to God the Father, and with the key of death didst most meritoriously unlock the gate of Paradise ; grant to us Thy suppliants, that in the hour of death Thou wouldest mercifully cause our souls to attain unto Thee, Who art the true Paradise ; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

At Vespers.
LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who at the Vesper Hour of the day, being now made subject unto death, didst will to be taken down from the Cross, and (as is piously believed) to be received into the arms of Thy Mother; mercifully grant that we, casting away the burthens of our sins, may be enabled to attain even unto the presence of Thy divine Majesty ; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

At Compline.
LORD Jesu Christ, Son of the Living God, Who at the Compline Hour rested in the sepulchre, and wast bewailed and lamented by Thy most gentle Mother, and by the other women; make us, we beseech Thee, to abound in the sorrows of Thy Passion, and with entire devotion of heart to bewail that same Passion, and to keep it ever as it were fresh in the ardent affection of our hearts ; Who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.

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