REPOST: Novæ Mutationes: St Pius X’s New Office of All Souls

In previous posts, we have examined the origins of the Office of the Dead and All Souls, and the reforms All Souls underwent in the Neo-Gallican liturgies. These latter reforms influenced the new Office of All Souls that emerged from the liturgical reforms carried out under the reign of the Lord Pope St Pius X.

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Saint Gregory delivers the Soul of a Monk, Giovanni Battista Crespi, S. Vittore, Parese

Fr Pasquale Brugnani, one of the members of Pius X’s Commission to revise the liturgy, attests that it was the Lord Pope’s wish that All Souls become a full liturgical day1, as in the Neo-Gallican offices, and this was formally announced by the Apostolic Constitution Divino afflatu of 1 November 1911.

In the original Rubricæ project discussed by the Commission on 18 September 1911, Vespers of the Dead would continue to follow Second Vespers of All Saints. On 2 November, the Office of the second day within the Octave of All Saints would be omitted, and Mattins and Lauds of the Dead would be said in the morning.

In later discussions it was agreed that the lessons of Mattins of the Dead would be altered to make them more similar to the usual model for Mattins of feasts. Only the first Nocturn would retain the readings from Job; the same pericopes were picked as in the Neo-Gallican Parisian breviary. The second Nocturn would feature extracts from St Augustine’s De cura pro mortuis gerenda, like in the Dominican and Carmelite uses. The lessons of the third Nocturn, finally, were extracts from chapter 15 of St Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, identical to the selections of the Neo-Gallican Cluniac and Parisian breviaries. To bring Lauds into line with the new psalter, psalms 66, 148, and 149 were duly excised therefrom.

The Little Hours were originally to be supplied by saying the ferial psalms (from the reformed psalter) without antiphon, then the Lord’s Prayer, preces, and collect. As Brugnani explained, the intention was to imitate the Little Hours of the Holy Triduum to “underline the link between the death and resurrection of Christ and the fate of the deceased”. Comparisons between the Mass and Office of the Dead and those of the Triduum go back, in any case, at least as far as Amalarius2.

The commissioners soon realized, however, that if the ferial psalms were sung at the Little Hours, some psalms from Mattins might end up being repeated. Brugnani suggested following the Neo-Gallican rites and using the Sunday psalms, but another commissioner, Mgr Pierre La Fontaine, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, proposed that the Friday psalms be used. He noted that none of them were present in the other Hours of the Dead and, moreover, he explained that they expressed sentiments particularly appropriate for All Souls:

  • Psalm 21, “David’s anguished soul”,
  • Psalm 79, “a sad note”,
  • Psalm 81, “God’s justice”,
  • Psalm 83, “the soul’s impassioned cry to heaven”,
  • Psalm 86, “a good tie with the previous”,
  • Psalm 88, “a reminder of mercy”3

La Fontaine recalls that his counter-proposal kindled Brugnani’s wrath: “Yesterday evening when I returned to San Giovanni I mentioned the question of the Office of the Dead to Pasquale [Brugnani], who suddenly, furor sicut serpentis, protested that he had always been under the impression that the psalms ought to be of Sunday, and called everyone else dishonest beasts”4.

The Commission’s ominously-named document Novæ mutationes of 25 September 1913, however, adopted neither La Fontaine’s nor Brugnani’s plan. Instead, it assigned psalms 27 and 37 split in half to Prime; 31, 55, and 69 to Tierce; 84, 85, and 87 to Sext; and 101 split into three to None. Yet the dispute over the psalms must have continued to rage, for the motu proprio Abhinc duos annos of 28 October 1913 ultimately assigned psalms 87, 27, and 31 to Prime; 37 split in two and 55 to Tierce; 69, 84, and 85 to Sext; and 101 split into three to None. Unfortunately, Honoré Vinck writes in his history of these reforms that he was not able to find any further documentation about the surely tempestuous discussions behind the ever-changing selection of psalms.

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The bizarre decision was also made to have Compline of All Souls on 1 November instead of Compline of All Saints. This had no precedent in the Neo-Gallican or mediæval rites. The idea was first suggested to the Commission by Fr Brugnani, who adduced three reasons:

  1. That since All Souls had become a full liturgical day, it ought to have its own Compline;
  2. That it would be inappropriate to sing the alleluia after Vespers of the Dead, as would happen in Compline of All Saints;
  3. It was a divine law that a liturgical day should have a full Office. A vespera ad vesperam celebrabitis solemnitates vestras, Brugnani wrote (cf. Leviticus 23:32).

His foremost argument, however, was that the poor souls would benefit from further prayers. “Above all else, O holy souls” he prayed, “inspire the Holy Father with what will be to your greatest benefit, and to the greater glory of God, the Church, and the Holy Father. Fiat, fiat5. His fervor ended up persuading the rest of the commissioners. Mgr Pietro Piacenza, who was initially opposed to the idea, claimed he was won over by the thought that, with this Compline, 120,000 priests would say an additional prayer for the souls in purgatory. He also agreed that singing the alleluia would be inappropriate after Vespers of All Souls, writing that, “In the Church’s solemnities, sad and doleful prayers are never mingled together with festal songs of exultation”6. The “sadness” of All Souls was also given as an explanation as to why this day, although of double rank, would end at None, unlike any other double feast but like fasting days.

The commissioners then forwarded the proposal to the Lord Pope, who wrote tersely on the margin, Vi sia la compieta. In imitation of Compline during the Triduum, this office would begin immediately with the Confiteor, followed by three psalms said without antiphon, originally from the feria, but then in the end 122, 141, and 142, and then the Nunc dimittis. As with the other hours, Compline would conclude with the Lord’s prayer, preces, and collect.

Thus the novel Office of All Souls was created, with little precedent in the Roman liturgical tradition. Piancenza reflected complacently on his commission’s handiwork, saying, “It is certain that parish priests and preachers will find in the Office of 2 November, thus well modified and enriched, new argument to confirm the people in the belief in purgatory”7. The conviction that the liturgy should be modified at will for didactic and pædagogical purposes would continue to heavily influence liturgical reform for the rest of the century, and was enshrined by the Lord Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei.

The new Office did not find immediate welcome in the Benedictine use, which only definitely adopted it in 1963. Even then, it was decided to say the ferial psalms in the Little Hours and Compline, rather than those picked by the commission. The other religious orders eventually adopted the Piodecimal Office as well.

When First Vespers of all but first class feasts were unaccountably abolished by the Lord John XXIII, the venerable custom of having Second Vespers of All Saints followed by Vespers of the Dead on 1 November, which even the Neo-Gallican liturgies had generally preserved, was discarded, and it was decreed All Souls would begin with Mattins and end with Compline on 2 November. It was, however, permitted to continue saying Vespers of the Dead on 1 November as a pious devotion in those places where its removal might unduly vex the faithful8.

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Notes

1. Annuente Sanctissimo Domino Nostro Pio Papa X […] in posteros annos sit Officium eorundem Defunctorum pro quotidiano etiam Divini Officii penso recitare (cited in Honoré Vinck, Pie X et les réformes liturgiques de 1911-1914, p. 256).

2. Cf. Liber officialis III, 44.

3. Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260

4. Ieri sera nel ritonare a S. Giovanni accenai l’affare dell’Officio dei morti a Pasquale, cui subito furor sicut serpentis protestando che gli fu sempre d’avviso che i Salmi delle ore dev’essere della Domenica, e dando della bestia e del disonesto a tutti gli altri (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260).

5. E più di ogni altra cosa, Anime sante, ispirate al Santo Padre quello che sia al maggior vostro vantaggio e alla gloria maggiore di Dio e della Chiesa e del S. Padre. Fiat, fiat (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 259).

6. Nelle sollenità della Chiesa, non si confondono mai insieme preci flebili e meste con canti festosi di esultanza (ibid.)

7. E certo che i parroci ed i predicatori, troveranno nell’Officio del 2 Novembre, cosè ben modificato e arricchito, nuovi argomenti per confermare il popolo nella credenza del purgatorio. (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260)

8. Celebratio tamen Vesperarum defunctorum post II Vesperas diei 1 novembris, quae pro pietate fidelium peragi consuevit, continuari potest, una cum aliis piis exercitiis forsitan consuetudine traditis, tamquam peculiare pietatis obsequium (Variationes in Breviario et Missali Romano, 1960).

The Jansenist Use: Liturgical Life in Port-Royal

In his monumental Institutions liturgiques, Dom Prosper Guéranger famously castigated the Neo-Gallican liturgies that proliferated in 17th and 18th century France for, inter alia, being products of Jansenist inspiration. Setting aside the question of whether these liturgies betray a heretical notion of predestination, it is true that many figures associated with the Jansenist movement did have a keen interest in the liturgy. Contrary to what one might expect given Dom Guéranger’s accusations, these “Jansenists” prized respect for ancient custom and repudiated needless novelty. 

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The Abbey of Port-Royal-des-Champs (© RMN-GP (musée de Port-Royal des Champs) / © Gérard Blot).

The intellectual centre of Jansenism was the Abbey of Port-Royal, a community of Cistercian nuns who, after a reform in the early 17th century led by the formidable Abbess Angélique Arnauld, became noted for their exemplary religious observance and cultivation of liturgical piety. Their piety attracted a number of intellectuals who chose to settle as solitaires on the abbey grounds, leading a retired life of study and simple manual labour, including Angélique’s brother Antoine, one of the most prominent Jansenist theologians. Both the nuns and solitaries set up schools to teach neighbouring children. 

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The nuns of Port-Royal holding a conference in the solitude on the abbey grounds (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

One of those children was Jean-Baptiste Le Brun des Marettes, whom our readers will remember as the author of the Voyages liturgiques. His father had been sent to the galleys for publishing Jansenist works, and Jean-Baptiste himself once did a stint at the Bastille for his involvement in the controversy. His main interest, however, was not moral theology but liturgy. His Voyages evince his veneration for liturgical antiquity and opposition to modern developments in matters of ritual, furnishing, and vestments. Yet he found a way to reconcile such views with his enthusiasm for the Neo-Gallican reforms of the Mass and Office, ultimately sharing the hubristic certainty of most men of his age that their own putative enlightenment was able to improve upon “Gothic barbarism”. Our Aelredus has described and critiqued the seemingly contradictory tastes that Jean-Baptiste Le Brun shared with other Jansenist figures

With these remarks in mind, let us see how the liturgy was celebrated in the Jansenist stronghold of Port-Royal, in a chapter of the Voyages that Le Brun des Marettes wrote before the abbey’s suppression in 1709 and the destruction of most of its buildings. (Although the Voyages was published in 1718, Le Brun des Marettes employs the present tense in this chapter.) 

We are obliged to the Amish Catholic for his help in this translation, which he has cross-posted on his ‘blog. He has penned the following preface:

The Voyages liturgiques offers several fascinating glimpses into the communal piety of Port-Royal des Champs. Marettes pays attention to the physical space of Port-Royal. He reports that the paintings in the church are by Philippe de Champaigne. The great French classicist had a daughter at the convent, Soeur Catherine de Saint-Suzanne, and seems to have provided the monastery with several portraits of both nuns and solitaires as well as several edifying works of art. The large altarpiece depicting the Last Supper is today in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, with a copy in the Louvre. Marretes devotes particular attention to the epitaphs in and around the church. The epitaphs for the solitaires Emmanuel le Cerf, an Oratorian, and Jean Hamon, a medical doctor and mystic, are especially moving.

Yet it is the liturgical and communal details he provides here that are most exciting for the historian of Jansenism and which, in fact, force us to take the nuns more seriously as daughters of St. Benedict and St. Bernard. Following the egalitarian reform of Mère Angélique, the Abbey did not require dowries of its postulants. Singing the office according to the use of Paris, they prayed the whole Psalter every week. The first chapter of the Constitutions of Port-Royal is dedicated to veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, a significant organizational choice. There were in fact both communal and individual devotions to the Blessed Sacrament at Port-Royal; for, “in addition to engaging in perpetual adoration … they also have the custom of prostrating themselves before the Sacrament before going up to receive holy communion.” Following an ancient usage, they only exposed the Blessed Sacrament during the Octave of Corpus Christi, and even then, only after the daily High Mass. Usually, the Sacrament was reserved in a hanging pyx, “attached to the end of a veiled wooden fixture shaped like a crosier.” The French Jansenists seem to have had a fixation with hanging pyxes; both M. Saint-Cyran and M. Singlin wrote about “suspension” of the Blessed Sacrament in this form.

The community would meet for chapter daily. The nuns engaged in an exacting and penitential adherence to the Rule, including silence, vegetarianism, abstinence from strong drink, and only a single meal per day in Lent. In their persons as in their ecclesiastical furniture, they followed the Cistercian spirit of holy simplicity; Marettes reports that “The nuns’ habits are coarse, and there is neither gold nor silver in their church vestments.” Yet they were not without the consolation of quiet reading in the garden during summertime.

Marettes reminds us that Port-Royal was not just a community of nuns, but also included male hermits and domestics. He writes, “After the Credo, the priest descends to the bottom of the altar steps and blesses the bread offered by one of the abbey’s domestics.” These servants and workers seem to have had a special participation in the liturgy through this rite, so reminiscent of the blessing of bread found even today in the Eastern Churches. The Necrology of Port-Royal includes these men as well in its roll-call of the Abbey’s luminaries, confirming the sometimes-overlooked egalitarianism of Port-Royaliste spirituality.

One of the more striking moments in the text comes when Marettes writes that “On Sundays and feasts of abstention from servile work there is a general communion; at every Mass said in this church at least one of the nuns receives communion.” The practice of lay communion at every Mass contradicts the usual picture of the Jansenists receiving infrequently or as discouraging lay communion. The nuns themselves, at least, seem to have received the Sacrament daily.

And I cannot help but see in one custom a potent metaphor for the troubled history of the monastery. Marettes writes, “On Holy Saturday, they extinguish the lights throughout the entire house, and during the Office they bring back the newly blessed fire.” The extraordinary and unjust persecution that the nuns endured under the authorities of the French Church and State – to the point of being deprived of communion during Easter, of being denied the last rites, of condemnation to a slow decline even after reconciliation with the Archbishop, and, at the very end, of having their bodies desecrated and even fed to the dogs – must have seemed like a very long Holy Saturday. Yet the blessed fire of the Holy Ghost does not abandon those who faithfully serve God in humble prayer and penitence. Where we find the Cross, Resurrection follows.

It is not for us to resurrect the nuns and solitaires of Port-Royal; historians can only do so much. But by taking the dead on their own terms, we can at least pay them the homage we owe any historical figure, and perhaps especially the defeated, the maligned, the powerless, and the forgotten. Only by doing so can we reckon with our implication in the longstanding myths that efface those voices. It is my hope that the publication of this important translation will help us in that process of revision.

Richard T. Yoder
The Amish Catholic


Port-Royal-des-Champs is an abbey of nuns of the Order of Cîteaux lying between Versailles and the former monastery of Chevreuse.

The church is quite large, and its simplicity and cleanliness inspires respect and devotion. 

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The interior of the church, with the main altar at the right (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

The main altar is not attached to the wall, since the ample and well-kept sacristy is located behind it. Above the altar hangs the holy pyx, attached to the end of a veiled wooden fixture shaped like a crosier. It is set under a large crucifix above a well-regarded painting of the Last Supper by Philippe de Champaigne.

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The main altar, bare aside from the Crucifix. Above it hangs the Blessed Sacrament inside a veiled pyx (engraving from Dom Antoine Rivet de La Grange’s Nécrologie de Port-Royal-des-Champs, 1723).

There is nothing on the altar but a crucifix. The four wooden candlesticks are set on the ground at its sides.

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There were two relic altars outside the entrance to the nuns’ choir (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

The woodwork of the sanctuary and parquet floor is very well maintained, as is that of the nuns’ choir. Indeed, the stalls are kept in such good condition that one would think they were carved not twenty years ago, when in fact they are over 150 years old.1

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The nuns’ choir.

The church contains some paintings by Champaigne, and a very well-kept holy water basin to the right of its entry.

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The cloister, where several abbesses and nuns were interred (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

Inside the cloister, there are several tombs of abbesses and other nuns. From these tombs one can garner

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Engraving of one of the tombs in the cloister, shewing a nun with a maniple (from the Voyages liturgiques).

1. that the first abbesses of the Order of Cîteaux, following the spirit of St Bernard, did not have croziers. Even today, the Abbess of Port-Royal does not use one.

2. that in this monastery the nuns used to be consecrated by the bishop. Two of them are represented on the same tomb wearing a sort of maniple.2 The inscription around the tomb reads:

Here lie two blood-sisters, consecrated nuns of this abbey, Adeline and Nicole aux Pieds d’Estampes. May their souls rest in everlasting peace. Amen. Adeline died in the year of our Lord 1288.3

There is an ancient necrology or obituary in this abbey that includes the ritual for the consecration or blessing of a nun. It describes how on these occasions the bishop celebrated Mass and gave communion to the nun he blessed. To this effect he consecrated a large host which he broke into eight particles, giving one as communion to the nun. He then placed the seven other particles of his host in her right hand, covered by a dominical or small white cloth. During the eight days after her consecration or blessing, she gave herself these particles as communion. Priests also used to give themselves communion during the forty days after their ordination or consecration.4

Under the lamp by the baluster lies a tomb dated 1327, if I remember correctly, which is worthy of description, especially given that its most interesting aspect is misreported in the Gallia Christiana of the brothers de Sainte-Marthe.

It used to be the custom for devout noble ladies to take up the nun’s habit during their last illness, or at least to be clothed in it after their death. See, for example, the tomb of Queen Blanche, mother of King St Louis, at Maubuisson Abbey near Pontoise. Here in Port-Royal we find the tomb of one Dame Marguerite de Levi—wife of Matthew V de Marly of the illustrious House of Montmorency, Grand-Chamberlain of France—buried in a nun’s habit, with this inscription:

Here rested, whose name thou shalt have there hereafter. Marguerite was the wife of Matthew de Marly, and daughter of the noble Guy de Levi. She bore six boys. After her husband died, she went to the nuns. Amongst the claustral sisters she chose to make her home. In her long rest, may she be buried in nun’s clothing. May eternal light shine upon her in peace everlasting. Year 1327.5

By the door of the church, in the vestibule, is the tomb of a priest vested in his vestments. His chasuble is rounded in all corners, not cut or clipped, gathered up over his arms, and hanging down below and behind him in points. His maniple is not wider below than it is on top, and he does not wear his stole crossed over his breast, but straight down like bishops, Carthusians, and the ancient monks of Cluny, who have rejected innovation on this point. His alb has apparels on the bottom matching the vestments: this is what the manuscripts call the alba parata. They are still used in cathedral churches and ancient abbeys.

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The Abbey viewed from the east. Note the domestics’ cemetery next to the entrance to the church (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

Next to the church door and the clock tower lies the small cemetery of domestics, where two epitaphs are worthy of note.

To God the Best and Greatest.

Here lies Emmanuel le Cerf, who, after dedicating most of his life to the education of the people, deemed the evangelical life superior to evangelical preaching and, in order that he who had lived only for others should die to himself, embraced a penitential life in his old age as eagerly as he did seriously. He embraced the weight of old age, more conducive to suffering than aught else, and various diseases of the body as remedy for his soul and advantageous provision for the journey to eternity. Humbly he awaited death in this port of rest, living no longer as a priest but as a layman, and attained it nearly ninety years old. He died on 8 December 1674, and wished to be buried in this cemetery near the Cross. May he rest in peace.6

And the other:

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Jean Hamon

Here rests Jean Hamon, doctor, who, having spent his youth in the study of letters, was eminently learned in the Greek and Latin tongues. Seeing that he flourished in the University of Paris by the renown of his eloquence, and that his fame grew daily for his skill of medicine, he feared the lure of flattery and fame and the haughtiness of life. Suddenly stirred by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, he quickly poured out the value of his inheritance into the bosom of the poor and, in the thirty-third year of his age, he dragged himself into this solitude, as he had long pondered doing. First he applied himself to the labour of the fields, then to serving the ministers of Christ, and soon returned to his original profession, healing the wounded members of the Redeemer in the person of the poor, among whom he honoured the handmaidens of Christ as the spouses of the Lord. He wore the coarsest garments, fasting nearly every day, slept on a board, spent day and night in nearly perpetual vigils, prayer, and meditation, nocturnal works everywhere breathing the love of God. For thirty-seven years he accumulated the toils of medicine, walking some twelve leagues every day, very often while fasting, to visit the sick in the villages, providing them what they might need, helping them by counsel, by hand, with medicines, with food whereof he deprived himself, living for twenty-two years on eating bran bread and water, which he ate secretly and alone, while standing up. As wisely as he had lived, considering every day his last, thus he departed this life in the Lord, amidst the prayers and tears of his brethren, in deep silence and sweet meditation of the Lord’s mercies, with his eyes, mind, and heart fixed on Jesus Christ, mediator between God and man, rejoicing that he obtained the tranquil death for which he had prayed, that he might gain eternal life, at the age of 69, on 22 February 1687.7

Heeding the spirit of St Bernard, the nuns are subject to the Lord Archbishop of Paris, who is their superior. They also sing the office according to the use of Paris, except that they sing the ferial psalms every day in order to fulfill the Rule of St Benedict which they follow, and which binds them to saying the entire psalter every week. This they do with the approbation of the late M. de Harlay, Archbishop of Paris.

At the blessing and aspersion of holy water on Sundays, the abbess and her nuns come forward to receive it at the grill from the priest’s hand.

After the Credo, the priest descends to the bottom of the altar steps and blesses the bread offered by one of the abbey’s domestics. He then announces any feasts or fasting days during the coming week, and gives a short exhortation or explanation of the day’s Gospel.

At every High Mass of the year, the sacristan or thurifer goes to the nuns’ grill at the end of the Credo to receive, through a hatch in the screen, a box from the sister sacristan containing the exact number of hosts needed for the sisters who are to receive communion. He brings them to the altar and gives them the celebrant.

At High Masses for the Dead, the sacristan goes to the grill to receive the bread, a large host, and the wine in a cruet, and brings them to the altar. He gives the host to the priest on the paten, kissing it on the inside edge, and the cruet of wine to the deacon, who pours the wine into the chalice.

At the Agnus Dei, the nuns embrace and give each other the kiss of peace.

On Sundays and feasts of abstention from servile work there is a general communion; at every Mass said in this church at least one of the nuns receives communion.

Devotion for the Most Blessed Sacrament is so great in this monastery that in addition to engaging in perpetual adoration as part of the Institute of the Blessed Sacrament (it is for this reason that they have exchanged their black scapular for a white one charged with a scarlet cross over the breast, about two fingers in width and a half-foot tall), they also have the custom of prostrating themselves before the Sacrament before going up to receive Holy Communion.8

Nevertheless, the Blessed Sacrament is only exposed during the Octave of Corpus Christi, and this every day after High Mass. For here Mass is never said at an altar where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. We will come back to this point.

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The nuns of Port-Royal processing through the cloister on Corpus Christi. Note the sleeves of the clerics’ surplices are split, long, and trailing, as in Paris and the rest of the ecclesiastical province of Sens (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

The nuns of this monastery observe an exact and rigorous silence. Except in cases of illness, they never eat meat, and fish only rarely, about twelve or fifteen times a year. They solely drink water, and observe the great fast of Lent in its full rigour, as in the age of St Bernard, eating only at five in the evening after Vespers, which they usually say at 4 p.m., even though they wake up at night to sing Matins and perform manual labour during the day.

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The refectory of Port-Royal (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

A spiritual conference is held after lunch, during which they continue to work, and during which it is not permitted to speak aloud.

During the summer, the nuns are sometimes allowed to go into the garden after dinner, but many refrain from doing so, and those that go do so separately, taking a book to read or some work to do.

Matins are said here at 2 a.m. together with Lauds, but in winter Lauds are said separately at 6 a.m, and then a Low Mass is celebrated between Lauds and Prime. During the rest of the year, Prime is said at 6 a.m., followed by a Conventual Low Mass. Chapter follows with a reading from the Martyrology, the Necrology, and the Rule, some chapter of which the Abbess explicates once or twice a week. Then they hold the proclamation of faults, and appropriate penances are imposed.

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The nuns of Port-Royal in chapter (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

Terce is said at 8:30 a.m., followed by High Mass. Sext is at 11 a.m., and on ecclesiastical fast days at 11:45, after which they go to lunch, except in Lent when they do not dine, for in the Rule of St Benedict to lunch means not to fast. None is at 2 p.m. in winter and at 2:30 in summer.

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The nuns of Port-Royal singing the Office (© RMN-GP / © Gérard Blot).

The first bell for Vespers rings at 4 p.m., and the office begins some fifteen minutes later. It finishes at 5 or 5:15, for they sing very unhurriedly and distinctly. After Vespers in Lent, they sound the refectory bell, and the nuns go there to lunch and dine together. One sees nuns following this regime until they are 72 or 75 or even older. Not too long ago there was a priest who, in Lent, only ate in the evening, even though he was 87 years old, and lived till he was 92.

On Holy Saturday, they extinguish the lights throughout the entire house, and during the Office they bring back the newly blessed fire.

The nuns’ habits are coarse, and there is neither gold nor silver in their church vestments.

The Abbey receives girls without a dowry, and makes neither pacts or conventions for the reception of nuns, following the primitive spirit of their monastery, as is clear from the following acts:

Be it known to all men that I, Eudes de Thiverval, esquire, and Thècle my wife gave in pure and perpetual alms, for the salvation of our souls and those of our ancestors, two bushels of corn, that is, one of winter-crop and the other of oats from our tithe-district of Jouy, to the Church of Our Lady of Port-Royal and the nuns serving God therein, to be collected every day on the feast of St Remigius. Be it known that the Abbess and Convent of the said place freely received one of our daughters into their society of nuns. Not wishing to incur the vice of ingratitude, we have given the said two bushels of corn in alms to the said House of our will without any pact. Which, that it may remain ratified and fixed, we have made to be confirmed by the support of our seal. Done in the year of grace 1216.9

Another:

Renaud, by the grace of God bishop of Chartres, to all who would earlier or later inspect the present page, in the Lord greeting. We make it known to all future and present that by these presents that the Abbess and Convent of Nuns of Porrois [i.e. Port-Royal] freely received in charity Asceline, daughter of Hugues de Marchais, esquire, as a sister and nun of God. Thereafter the said esquire, lest he should give away his said daughter to be betrothed to Christ without a dowry from part of his patrimony, standing in our presence did give and grant to the Church of Porrois and the nuns serving God therein in perpetual alms for the portion of his said daughter the return of one annual bushel of corn in his grange of Marchais or Lonville to be collected every year in the Paris measure of Dourdan, and three firkins of wine in his vineyard of Marchais to be collected yearly, and ten shillings in his census-district of Marchais. That his gift may remain ratified and fixed, at the petition of the same Hugues we have made the present letters to be confirmed by our seal in testimony. Done at Chartres in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord 1217, in the month of April.10

Another:

Be it known to all them that I, Odeline de Sèvre, gave in pure and perpetual alms to the house of Port-Royal for the soul of my late husband Enguerrand of happy memory, and for the salvation of my soul, and of all my children and ancestors, and especially for the salvation and love of my daughter Marguerite who received the religious habit in the same house, four arpents of vine in my clos of Sèvre to be possessed in perpetuity. My sons Gervais the eldest, Roger, and Simon praised, willed, and granted this donation, to whom it belonged by hereditary right. And further we offered the same donation with the book upon the altar of Port-Royal. In testimony and perpetual confirmation whereof, since by said sons Gervais, Roger, and Simon were not yet esquires and did not yet have seals, I the said Odeline confirmed the present charter by the support of my seal with their will and convent. Done on the year of our Lord 1228.11

Notes.

1. Author’s note: [After the Abbey’s suppression] the altar and choir stalls were purchased by the Cistercian nuns of Paris and placed in their church, where one can see them.

2. Translators’ note: As did Carthusian nuns.

3. Hic jacent duae sorores germanae, hujus praesentis Abbatiae Moniales Deo sacratae, Adelina et Nicholaa dictae ad Pedem, de Stampis quondam progenitae: quarum animae in pace perpetua requiescant. Amen. Obiit dicta Adelina anno Domini M. C. C. octog. octavo. 

4. Author’s note: See Fulbert. Epist. 2 ad Finard. Rituale Rotomag. ann. 1651.

5. Hic requievit, ibi post cujus nomen habebis.
Margareta fuit Matthæi Malliancensis
Uxor; & hanc genuit generosus Guido Levensis.
Sex parit ista mares. Vir obit. Petit hæc Moniales.
Intra claustrales elegit esse lares.
In requie multa sit Nonnæ veste sepulta;
Luceat æterna sibi lux in pace suprema.
Anno M. C. bis, LX. bis, V. semel, I. bis.

6. D. O. M. Hic jacet Emmanuel le Cerf, qui cum majorem vitæ partem erudiendis populis consumpsisset, vitam evangelicam evanglicæ prædicationi anteponendam ratus, ut sibi moreretur, qui aliis tantum vixerat, ad pœnitentiam accurrit senex eo festinantius, quo serius; pondusque ipsum senectutis, quo nihil ad patiendum aptius, et varios corporis morbos in remedium animæ conversos, tanquam opportunum æternitatis viaticum amplexus; mortem humilis, nec se jam sacerdotem, sed laicum gerens, in hoc quietis portu expectavit, quæ obtigit fere nonagenario. Obiit 8 Decembris 1674 et in Cœmeterio prope Crucem sepeliri voluit. Requiescat in pace.

7. Hic quiescit Joannes Hamon Medicus, qui adolescentia in studiis litterarum transacta, latine græceque egregie doctus, cum in Academia Parisiensi eloquentiæ laude floreret, et medendi peritia in dies inclaresceret, famae blandientis insidias et superbiam vitæ metuens, Spiritus impetu subito percitus, patrimonii pretio in sinum pauperum festinanter effuso, anno ætatis xxxiij in solitudinem hanc, quam diu jam meditabatur, se proripuit. Ubi primum opere rustico exercitus, tum Christi ministris famulatus, mox professioni pristinæ redditus, membra Redemptoris infirma curans in pauperibus, inter quos ancillas Christi quasi sponsas Domini sui suspexit; veste vilissima, jejuniis prope quotidianis, cubatione in asseribus, pervigiliis, precatione, et meditatione diu noctuque fere perpetua, lucubrationibus amorem Dei undique spirantibus, cumulavit ærumnas medendi quas toleravit per annos xxxvj quotidiano pedestri xij plus minus milliarum itinere, quod sæpissime jejunus conficiebat, villarum obiens ægros, eorumque commodis serviens consilio, manu, medicamentis, alimentis, quibus se defraudabat, pane furfureo et aqua, idque clam et solus, et stando per annos xxij. sustentans vitam, quam ut sapienter duxerat, quasi quotidie moriturus, ita inter fratrum preces et lacrymas in alto silentio, misericordias Domini suavissime recolens; atque in Mediatorem Dei et hominum Jesum Christum, oculis, mente, et corde defixus, exitu ad votum suum tranquillo lætus, ut æternum victurus clausit in Domino, annos natus 69 dies 20 viij Kalend. Mart. anni 1687.

8. Translators’ note: The nuns of Port-Royal began to practice perpetual adoration in 1623 to beg for protection from the Abbot General of the Cistercian order, who opposed Mother Angélique Arnaud’s reform of the abbey. Shortly thereafter, she endeavoured to found an Institute “whose principal end should be honouring the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and to ensure therefor that there be always someone adoring It day and night” (Mémoires d’Angélique, p. 57). In August 1627, the Most Holy Lord Pope Urban VIII signified his approbation of her designs by promulgating a brief putting Port-Royal under episcopal jurisdiction and setting up the Institute of the Blessed Sacrament.

9. Noverint universi quod ego Odo de Tiverval miles et Thecla uxor mea dedimus in puram et perpetuam eleemosynam, pro remedio animarum nostrarum et antecessorum nostrorum, Ecclesiae beatae Mariae de Portu-Regio et Monialibus ibidem Deo servientibus duos modios bladi, unum scilicet hibernagii, et alterum avenae in decima nostra de Joüy, singulis annis in festo S. Remigii percipiendos. Sciendum vero est quod Abbatissa et ejusdem loci Conventus unam de filiabus nostris in societatem Monialium benigne receperunt. Nos vero ingratudinis vitium incurrere nolentes, praedictos duos modios dictae jam domui de voluntate nostra sine aliquo pacto eleemosynavimus. Quod ut ratum et immobile perseveret, sigilli nostri munimine fecimus roborari. Actum anno gratiae M. CC. xvj.

10. Reginaldus Dei gratia Cartonensis Episcopus, universis primis et posteris praesentem paginam inspecturis salutem in Domino. Notum facimus omnibus tam futuris quam praesentibus quod, quoniam Abbatissa et Conventus Sanctimonialium de Porregio Acelinam filiam Hugonis de Marchesio militis in sororem et sanctimonialiem Dei et caritatis intuitu gratis receperant, postmodum dictus miles in nostra constitutus praesentia, ne dictam filiam suam nuptam Christi parte sui patrominii relinqueret indotatam, Ecclesiae de Porregio et Monialibus ibi Deo servientibus dedit et concessit in perpetuam eleemosynam, pro portione dictae filiae suae unum modium bladi annui redditus in granchia sua de Marchesio vel de Lonvilla singulis annis percipiendum ad mensuram Parisiensem de Dordano, et tres modios vini in vinea sua de Marchesio annuatim percipiendos, et decem solidos in censu suo de Marchesio. Ut autem donum ejus ratum et stabile permaneret, ad petitionem ipsius Hugonis praesentes Litteras in testimonium sigillo nostro fecimus roborari. Actum Carnoti anno Dominicae Incarnationis M. CC. septimo decimo, mense Aprili.

11. Noverint universi quod ego Odelina de Sèvre donavi in puram et perpetuam eleemosynam domui Portus-Regis pro anima bonae memoriae Ingeranni quondam mariti mei, et pro salute animae meae, et omnium liberorum et progenitorum meorum; et maxime pro salute et amore Margaretae filiae meae quae in eadem domo religionis habitum assumpserat, quatuor arpentos vineae in clauso meo de Sèvre jure perpetuo possidendos. Hanc autem donationem laudaverunt, voluerunt et concesserunt filii mei Gervasius primogenitus, Rogerus et Simon, ad quos eadem donatio jure hereditario pertinebat. Immo et ipsi eandem donationem obtulimus cum libro super altare Portus Regis. In cujus rei testimonium et conformationem perpetuam ego praedicta Odelina, quia praedicti filii mei G. R. et Simon necdum milites erant, et necdum sigilla habebant, de voluntate eorum et assensu praesentem Chartam sigilli mei munimine roboravi. Actum anno Domini M. CC. vigesimo octavo.

Ray Repp, Founder of Catholic Folk: A “Modest Proposal”

Crux has reported the death, this Sunday, of former seminarian and American musical revolutionary Ray Repp, and his obituary has appeared in the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.

RAY REPP - David Haas

Ray Repp was the most influential Catholic in Saint Louis’s history and the most influential alumnus of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary: he reshaped the worship of millions of people of the past generation and opened the gates to the folk Mass as the new normal. No one should minimize his importance.

This week, David Haas has paid tribute to Ray Repp as a true pioneer for his style of music. He deserves credit, especially with his Mass for Young Americans, for opening the way for David Haas and Marty Haugen and the St Louis Jesuits and Michael Joncas and the rest.

On the occasion of the passing of Ray Repp, that pioneer of the Catholic “Folk Mass”, we would like to present to our readers a revealing “modest proposal” (sic!) he penned in 1988. In it Repp explicitly states that good Church music is not about glorifying God, but rather about raising people’s consciousness, castigating even black spirituals for being too supernatural and otherworldly, and therefore legitimating social injustice and oppression.

For Repp, supernatural revealed religion is ultimately a sign of alienation and a tool of the powerful, whereas religion and worship ought to be engines of social liberation.

Here we are….all together as we legitimate oppression?

Ray Repp on TIDAL


SPIRITUALITY TODAY

Autumn 1988, Vol.40 No. 3, pp. 262-266.

Ray Repp

Current Trends:
A Modest Proposal to Composers of Liturgical Music

Since 1965, when he introduced guitar into worship with his Mass for Young Americans, Ray Repp has composed and recorded 11 albums of songs, now translated into 28 languages. Recently he helped found K & R Music, Inc., in Trumansburg, NY, where he makes his home.

There is an old story about a married couple who, while on vacation in the countryside of New England, were looking for a local church so that they could attend Sunday services. When they finally arrived at a small country church they found the door being locked by an elderly caretaker. The couple ran to the gentleman and said, “Are we too late? Is the service over?” The man smiled kindly at them and answered, “Yes, the celebration is over. But the service is only beginning.”

Unfortunately, this is just a story. How many people (ordained or not) do you think really have the wisdom of this elderly man in the story? How many people understand the implications of John’s Gospel account of the Last Supper?

What I’ve noticed in recent years is that a growing number of theologians, moral and biblical scholars, as well as religious educators have taken giant and courageous steps in closing the gap of dualism in religion. These people are teaching us that our responsible actions in everyday life are our faith responses. Of course, this is really nothing new, because it is the Gospel of the Lord. Michael Himes in a talk he gave to Renew leaders recently in Baton Rouge spoke clearly that “Social justice and loving one’s neighbor are not just part of the Gospel message — it is the Gospel message.” Loving God and loving one’s neighbor are not two laws — they are one.

But I have also noticed that usually only “professional” Christians have the leisure, or the income, or even the professed interest to attend conferences where these insightful leaders are speaking. The same is also true when it comes to reading books and articles written by these people.

What about the other 99% of the people who make up our family which we call the Church? Where do they get their “update” on current religious thought? Where do they get their insight, encouragement, or religious enthusiasm? Without even addressing the fact that encounter with God can take place as readily in the “marketplace” as in church, let’s assume that for most people the Sunday liturgy is the opportunity for this “update.” If this is true then I believe that the two sources which are most likely to either encourage a change of thought, or to reinforce an existing bias, are the pulpit, and the music.

WORD AND MUSIC

The strengths and weaknesses of the pulpit speak for themselves. The person proclaiming the Word — and the extended “Word” of the homily/sermon — may or may not be one of those “professional Christians” who has the time for, or interest in being updated on matters which affect faith development. But music is far too often underrated as a source of influence, and it is this issue which I would like to address.

In the foreword to the New Episcopal Hymnal, the bishops gave as one of the clear purposes for liturgical music that it be a source for educating the community about current theological and biblical teachings of the church. Whether or not other denominations agree with this purpose, and whether or not the Episcopalian Church herself follows her own recommendations, the fact remains: people take home with them the theology contained in the music they sing in church.

Let’s assume that music can really educate, and that not only the composers but the people choosing the music can affect the faith development of the church. So what kind of theology do we want people to take home? We might begin by asking the questions “Why should people come to church in the first place?”, and Why do people come to church?”.

Most people would probably agree that the answer to the second question is to worship God. People might also add that we go to church to meet God in the Word and the sacraments, to pray for our needs and the needs of the world, and to recognize God as our creator and savior. Many people are quick to point out that they go to church to get away from the cares and problems of the world for a while and spend time in peaceful prayer and thought on more eternal subjects.

All of these reasons sound noble in themselves — but is this in keeping with the Gospel? Is going to church to worship God and get away form it all even remotely contained in the Gospel message? William Sloan Coffin, in his book The Courage to Love, says that greed for personal salvation may be the most obnoxious greed there is. We are called as Christians — as humans — to work for the salvation (liberation) of everyone. This does not mean just our close family and friends, but the poor, the outcast, the “others,” the Samaritans.

MUSIC AND SOCIAL CONTROL

There is an interesting theme which kept recurring in the music of the nineteenth-century American Negro spirituals: the reward for all the abomination endured in this life would come in the next life. Psychologically it was important for black slaves of that time to have hope in something. Their music gave it to them. But it is also true that the white plantation owners encouraged their black slaves to believe in the black religion and sing their spirituals. After all, as long as these people had hope in a time to come they could endure the hardships now. It was just good business to encourage this kind of faith.

But what would have happened if the nineteenth-century Negro spirituals had been filled with concepts like self-esteem, giftedness from God, dignity, equality and justice (to mention just a few of the key principles of the Gospel)? I suspect that if these themes had been part of their music, the Civil War would not have been fought between North and South, but between black and white. And the civil rights movement in this country would have begun long before 1957 when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

So, why should we go to church in the first place? It is my belief, and the belief of many, that we should go to church together — to hear once again the Word of God, a Word which calls us to bring liberty to those who lack it; to bring love (God’s presence) where there is darkness; to be able to think of others more than of ourselves; and to be willing to risk everything because it is the right thing to do so. We should also go to church to be nourished and encouraged by the sacrament of the Eucharist — and by the greatest sacrament of God’s presence in the world, each other -so that we can go out and do something to make the Gospel vision a reality.

There are many liturgists and liturgical musicians who define “liturgical music” as music with accompanies the action of the liturgy. This makes sense to me, but it also presumes that all the actions of the liturgy make sense. Are we not caught up today more in “acclamation-jargon” than in Gospel vision? To hear some liturgical musicians speak one would think the high point of the liturgy is the responsorial psalm. Yes, it is true that today we speak of the “gathering rite” — a major step forward in my opinion. But what is the official action of this rite? There is almost none. So for those who hold that liturgical music accompanies the action of the liturgy, the music for the “gathering rite” is still what it used to be — an entrance song. But whose entrance?

I suggest that music which accompanies poor or unclear action only adds to the confusion. “Makers of rites” would do well to fashion an action for the “gathering rite” in the spirit of Marty Haugen’s song Gather Us In. People are naturally sacramental perceivers. They know when they are welcome — they know when they are taken seriously and appreciated. They also know when they are being treated as second-class/lay members of the parish family. If we want to keep people feeling subservient we can do so with our liturgical action — but we can also do it with the language of our music (as did the white plantation owners of the nineteenth-century).

MUSICAL SPIRITUALITY

There is great potential for liberation and evangelization (in the best sense of the word) in our musical texts. To deny this potential is not only naive but irresponsible. We can help call each other forth — as God has been doing since the beginning to be the loving, responsible, and just people we are capable of being. If the actions of the liturgy are at times vague, or the sermons sometimes meandering, people can still leave church with melodies and words of encouragement and challenge echoing in their hearts. It is not enough to leave people with pious platitudes and self-serving scripture quotes taken out of context. What does “Praise of the name of the Lord” have to do with the challenge of the Gospel? Does the Lord really like to be praised and entertained and sung to? Doesn’t it make more sense that we sing together with the Lord (always present) about our willingness to live out our baptismal promise?

The definition of “liturgy” that I appreciate most is one given by Thomas Merton many years ago. “Liturgy is an action in which people express who they are, and who they wish to become.” If we are to take Merton’s definition of liturgy seriously, then all liturgical music would have to speak about the people we “wish to become” — the commitments and promises we intend to live out.

My modest proposal for composers of liturgical music is that we first of all recognize how influential our music can be for the faith-development of people. Recognize that we are called to help call others to a life which sees God’s presence everywhere incarnate. God is no longer “up there” (worshup), and our music can bring this message home clearly. In recognizing our influence I propose that we consciously use our gift to write music which is really liturgical – that is, to quote Merton, music “to express who we are and who we wish to become.”

Cuasimodistas: The Catholic Cowboys of Low Sunday in Chile

Low Sunday traditionally marked the close of the fortnight wherein the faithful must fulfill their obligation to receive Holy Communion at least once a year.According to the ancient discipline, believers were obliged to receive this Easter Communion in their parish of residence, and from the hands of their parish priest (or another priest expressly delegated by him), that the sheep might know their shepherd. 

In the 18th century, the Central Valley of Chile was sparsely populated and, apart from the small colonial capital of Santiago, entirely rural. Indian raids, moreover, were not uncommon, rendering the roads dangerous for travelers and pilgrims. As a result, the custom arose that on Low Sunday, the parish priest himself would take the Blessed Sacrament to the sick unable to brave themselves to church that day, accompanied by an escort of huasos, as Chilean cowboys are known. 

cuasimodo07
The priest of the parish of St Louis Bertrand in Pudahuel carries the Blessed Sacrament to his parishioners, flanked by cuasimodistas, 1954.

Soon, such a multitude of the faithful took up the practice of accompanying the priest in his round of the parish each year that these trips became true Eucharistic processions, celebrated with all due pomp. Today, it is one of the biggest religious festivals of the year in central Chile, with about 100,000 taking an active part. It has come to be known as the fiesta de Cuasimodo, from the Introit of the day’s Mass, Quasi modo geniti infantes, from the first epistle of St Peter, “As newborn babes desire the rational milk without guile.”

To bring the rational milk that is the blessed Sacrament to all those who desire it, the cuasimodistas gather early in the morning at their parish church. Out of respect for the Sacrament, they exchange their usual cowboys’ hats for a kerchief, and their ponchos for a shoulder cape, probably designed in imitation of the humeral veil worn by the priest. This kerchief and cape form the special uniform for the day, and they are especially made by the womenfolk. After Mass, they set out to visit the bed-ridden of the parish, whose names have been duly taken down beforehand. 

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Cuasimodistas in Renca.

The priest rides in a ceremonial carriage sumptuously decorated with flowers, and the homes of the sick are also bedecked with ornaments to honour the divine guest who is to visit them. The clangor of bells, songs, and cries of ¡Viva Cristo Rey! herald His approach, and all kneel in adoration as the priest enters the house. The sick then receive Holy Communion; many of the moribund expend their last efforts to see this holy day, that they might receive their Lord one last time before drawing their final breath. 

cuasimodo_carriage
A carriage prepared to carry the priest bearing the Blessed Sacrament on Quasi modo Sunday.

Despite the dramatic fall in church attendance in Chile in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, and the extension of the time to fulfill the Easter Communion to encompass all of Eastertide, the feast of Quasi modo continues to draw large crowds to this day of people who otherwise rarely attend Mass. Local authorities lend their support as well, and the Sacrament receives the adoration of local police and firefighters who line the way of procession. A large luncheon interrupts the procession after midday; thereafter it often continues late into the evening, as the priest ensures he visits the homes of all who need him. 

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Procession in Colina.

Unhappily, on account of the pestilence, the Archdiocese of Santiago has cancelled the procession this year for the first time since its inception. 

A short documentary in Spanish on the feast of Quasi modo is available on YouTube, with automatically-generated English subtitles:

Notes

1 Cf. the bull Fide digna, promulgated by the Most Holy Lord Eugene PP. IV on 18 July 1440. Through the new Code of Canon Law, the Lord John Paul PP. II extended to the universal Church the permission to fulfill the Easter obligation as late as Whitsunday.

Holy Week Recitation Tones from Monte Cassino

The art of cantillation—the chanting of liturgical texts—, which is the root of all liturgical chant, has been largely lost in the West. Even a cursory comparison of modern Latin practice with the chanting traditions still cultivated by Eastern Christians, Jews, and Muslims would suffice to make manifest how impoverished the Latin Church is in this respect.

But this contrast is a recent phenomenon, and a closer study of the Western musical heritage reveals that cantillation was once cultivated among Latin Christians with great devotion and skill. Unfortunately, the compilers of the Solesmes books chose to preserve only a modicum of the ancient recitation melodies once heard in our churches, a fact that continues to obscure the riches of the Western musical tradition.

Here we would like to present some of the recitation tones once sung during the Holy Triduum in the monasteries of the Cassinese Congregation, as collected in a booklet entitled Cantus monastici formula, published in 1889.

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The Lamentations of Jeremiah, which form the readings of the first nocturn of Matins during the Triduum, have always been sung to a special tone of lamentation distinct from the usual prophecy tone. The Cassinese version is similar to the tune provided by the Solesmes edition:

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The Solesmes book assign the usual prophecy tone for the lesson from St Augustine read in the second nocturn, but the Cassinese tradition has preserved a proper melody:

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The Passion tones provided in the Cantus monastici formula are generally simpler than those in Vatican Edition, but the most poignant passages are graced with special melismatic melodies:

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