Advent Notes from the Liber Usualis

I was poking around the Liber thinking Advent thoughts when I came across two things I thought I’d share. The first was a rubric I’d never noticed before, the second a marginal note I’d written in a while back.

  • On tune changes: We talked a little while back about whether Office Hymns could be put to any ol’ Long Meter (LM:8 8 8 8 [that is, 8 syllables in each line of the stanza]) tune. Checking over the material under Advent I which is where any broadly seasonal stuff falls I say on p. 317 that the same tune is to be used for all the hymns of the Little Offices through Christmas. The tune indicated is a mode one tune that I know as Verbum Supernum Prodiens. This indicates two things to me:
    • In the Liber tradition at least, there is more of a disconnect between tune and text than I thought and
    • seasonal tune changes for these unchanging hymn texts are another way that the Seasons of the Church get filtered into the Office pattern which overall has far less seasonal changes than the Mass.
  • Name changes: Glancing at the Advent Vesper hymn, the Liber has “Creator alme siderum”; a marginal note I wrote in my Liber a while back indicates “Conditor alme siderum”. The difference is not in meaning—they both mean essentially the same thing, but points to some deeper issues. Notably, the Clementine Butchery when Jesuits from St. Louis Rome corrected the Office Hymns from their original texts to match Renaissance norms on order of the pope. These changes occurred only in the secular use (i.e., the Liber) but not in the monastic uses who wisely (I think) retained the original words. Again, this means two things:
    • Medivalists beware!: The Latin texts found in the Liber are not the medieval texts. To find medieval texts, always go back to medieval sources (like the A-S Hymnarium).
    • Cross-Referencers beware!: Typical practice in dealing with Latin liturgical sources is to use the incipit—the first few words of the hymn/antiphon/psalm/whatever—to locate the correct text. Because of these Renaissance changes, however, some of the most common hymns no longer share incipits. This has an impact both on medievalists looking for full texts of medieval hymn incipits but it also has an impact on people working from histoprical protestant or hymnal sources. Some of our favorite hymn translating/arranging antiquarians like Blessed John Mason Neale and Blessed Percy refer to the original incipts rather than the more recent ones. Needless to say, changed incipts make computer searches much harder as well; let the researcher take care…

1 thought on “Advent Notes from the Liber Usualis

  1. Fr Chris

    I hadn’t realized the Liber (and the Antiphonale, unsurprisingly) had proper tunes for the hymns at the little hours in Advent and other seasons. The Paschal tune for Te lucis is in the Psalter section along with four other tunes, so I assumed that was it…

    Thanks for the heads-up. :-)

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