Sunday, November 29, 2020

"Go ye out to meet him and say"

Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, 390
(late 10th cent.), fol. 15
"Aspiciens a longe ecce video dei potentiam venientem et nebulam totam terram tegentem ite obviam ei et dicite nuntia nobis si tu es ipse qui regnaturus es in populo Israel."

     Responsory to the first reading (Isaiah 1:1-3) at Matins for the First Sunday of Advent, Divine office =Responsory to the second reading (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. 15.1-3), Office of Readings, First Sunday of Advent, Liturgy of the hours.  According to the database CANTUS, this is present in manuscripts of the 9th-century (D-TRs 1245/597, F-Al 44) at least.  (But see now Hansjakob Becker, below, who attributes it to Pope Gregory I (540-604), or more generally the archetypical Old Roman and Gregorian periods (70), and for whom the 9th century is but the century in which the "Carolingians" Agobard of Lyon and Amalar of Metz tried to reform it out of existence.) 

"I look from afar, and behold I see the Power of God, coming like as a cloud to cover the land with the hosts of his People:  Go ye out to meet him and say:  Tell us if thou art he, That shalt reign over God's people Israel."

     Trans. Divinum OfficiumA version of this by Palestrina, as sung at Salisbury.

     According to Hans-Jakob Becker ("Aspeciens - Aspiciebam.  Tradition and transformation des Antiphonale officii im Mittelalter," in Crossroad of cultures:  studies in liturgy and patristics in honor of Gabriele Winkler, ed. Hans-J├╝rgen Feulner, Elena Velkovska, and Robert F. Taft, S.J., Orientalia christiana analecta 260 (Rome:  Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 2000), 70-71 (69-88)), this Response—which is, "In the antiphonaries and breviaries of all [of the ancient] churches and monasteries" (excepting only (?) those of the [ancient] Milanese tradition, which attaches it, i.e. its "Qui regnis" only, to the Third), "the first in the series attached to the [(des)] First Sunday of Advent—is a cento, i.e. "a patchwork poem made up of verses by different writers" (J. A. Cuddon, A dictionary of literary terms (1977)).  "It is an example of the poetic Response, i.e. of that art of new creation in accordance with which the poet neither takes his text literally from Scripture, nor composes [it] with complete freedom, but, living [himself] wholly within the thought and imagery of the Bible, expresses what he wants to say with the words [(with fragments)] of Scripture, thus allowing [(wobei)] a given keyword to effect an [(die)] association, and bind the various passages together" (Becker, again, citing, at 71n14, a number of previous studies of this sort of liturgical "centonizzazione").  Here, according to Becker (71)—who is an incalculable improvement on the post-Vatican II Liturgia horarum, which suggests for this first stanza only Ps 49 (50):3, let alone Battifol (who suggested Aeschylus' The Persians!)—are the sources of these opening lines.  (To which I might add Mt 11:3.)



Vulgata [English from Douay-Rheims]

Aspiciens a longe

Heb 11:13; cf. Dan 7:13, Aspiciebam ergo in visione noctis, et ecce cum nubibus caeli quasi filius hominis veniebat, I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven

defuncti sunt … isti … a longe eas aspicientes
[All these died … beholding them afar off]

ecce video

Acts 7:55

Ecce video caelos apertos
[Behold, I see the heavens opened]

Dei potentiam venientem

Ps 79 (80):3

Excita potentiam tuam et veni

[Stir up thy might, and come]

et nebulam totam terram tegentem

Sir 24:6

sicut nebula texi omnem terram

[as a cloud I covered all the earth]

Ite obviam ei

Mt 25:6

sponsus venit, exite obviam ei

[the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him]

et dicite

Lk 7:20

Joannes … misit nos ad te dicens

[John … hath sent us to thee, saying]

Nuntia nobis

Lk 7:22

Euntes renuntiate Joanni

[Go and relate to John]

sit tu es ipse

Lk 7:20

Tu es qui venturus es

[Art thou he that art to come]

qui regnaturus es in populo Israel

Mt 2:6; cf. Mic 5:2, ex te mihi egredietur qui sit dominator in Israel, out of thee shall he come forth unto me [he] that is to be the ruler in Israel

exiet dux, qui regnat populum meum Israel

[shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel]

Needless to say, all of this was considered unacceptably "extravant" by reformers of the Carolingian period such as Amolar and Agobard, as Becker goes on, in the rest of his article, to show, a judgment which leads to various traditions of the exclusion of the Aspiciens a longe, along with the substitution for it, "in all sources in which the Aspiciens is lacking" (83), of the supposedly more strictly biblical Aspiciebam of Dan 7:13.
     That said, Amalar and Agobard "were decisive for the [subsequent] tradition in only the small [(kleinen)] sphere of Type 12" and the neo-Gallican (and profoundly Abogardian) Breviarum Parisiense of 1736.  As for the post-Vatican II Liturgia horarum, it reverences, supposedly, both Agobard and the "archetypical" tradition of the Aspiciens a longe (above) simultaneously (87-88):
The order of hourly prayer that appeared after the Second Vatican Council reacted against [both] the [archetypical] tradition and [the reform-inspired] transformations of the [Carolingian] Middle Ages.  Since the Officium Lectionis allows for only two readings, the first biblical, the second patristic, only two Responses are needed for each day.  A glance at the First Week of Advent shows that the first Response, the Lavamini, was basically composed afresh, and indeed in direct textual reference to the preceding lectio continua [(Bahnlesung)] from Isaiah.  The second Response allows for the possibility of bringing texts of the tradition into play.  And so[, in sum,] the First Sunday of Advent is opened with a new Response answering to Is 1, whereas the Response Aspiciens, which was rejected in Types 12 and 43 as well as in the neo-Gallican tradition as unbiblical, is found as the second Response (!) at the conclusion of the reading from the Fathers:  a reverence for Agobard and, simultaneously, a reverence for the tradition [both].