Monday, April 14, 2008

TO Thee, before the close of day,

Creator of the world we pray...

This hymn was discovered, clearly painstakingly copied from an older text, wrapped in decaying silk and stored in a wax-sealed jar, in a hidden vault recently discovered in a Franciscan church that is undergoing some late 'updating' according to the 'norms' of Vatican II. I am told that while the workmen were levering up the marble of the sanctuary in preparation for the altar to be moved to the centre of the church, they discovered an oak and iron trap door that, when opened, led down a set of stone steps to a little room. I have no further information as to the contents of the room but suffice to recall that Franciscans in some places have some very odd methods of storing their dead superiors.

The hymn's exact provenance is unknown, but the subject matter oddly indicates events that happened centuries after it was written. It is thought to have been part of a longer liturgical piece, possibly a portion of the Divine Office.

I have been told by a Roman scholar of my acquaintance that its discoverers believe that it may be linked to a small sect of "spirituals", one of the early reforms of the Franciscans and possibly refers to events related by a visionary about the future. Exactly how the text came into my possession is something I shall keep to myself for the moment. Given the current climate, it is safe only to say that my source believes it relates a story of Pope Paul VI after the implementation of the "reforms" of the liturgy c. 1965.

I offer my interlocutor's note:
You may have heard that when His Holiness went in the morning to celebrate Mass in his private chapel, he was surprised to find that green vestments had been put out, instead of the red which the real Roman Liturgy prescribes on Pentecost Monday, the second day in the Octave of said Feast. With much consternation he asked his sacristan why the "wrong" vestments had been laid out, to which he responded, with not a little confusion: "But your Holiness abolished the Octave of Pentecost, and we are now in 'ordinary time'." At which the Pontiff wept.

It can be sung to the simple tone of Te Lucis

Funesta huc piacula,

Anni reduxit orbita,

Quae Paulus, horum artifex,

Deflevit Urbis Pontifex.

Qui mala nobis prodidit,

Curare gregem noluit,

Sed tantum acri sustulit

Amare flere lacryma.

Linguis loquuntur barbaris

Qui polluunt solemnia,

Ut quemque cogant flaminem

Nescire prorsus omnia.

Patrata sunt ab impio

Cum fraude ista crimina;

Novusque Poenus Hannibal

Romana sacra perdidit.

Audire voces supplicum

Deum precemur citharis:

"Novi repellas taedium,

O Christe, hujus Ordinis!

Imbutum felle deputa,

Quod sacra tibi serica,

Paraclito rubentia,

Tulit virens subucula."

Laus inclyto Paraclito,

Qui punit haec peccamina

Cum impiis in Tartaro

In saeculorum saecula.


The annual cycle has brought back to this place the dire rites of expiation, over which Paul, the Bishop of Rome, wept, though he himself was the architect.

He who gave us all manner of wicked things, and did not wish to care for his flock, but only suffered to weep most bitterly.

They who pollute the solemn rites, speak in barbarian tongues, in order to force every single priest, to be utterly ignorant of everything.

Such crimes were perpetrated with guile by an impious man, and like a second Hannibal of Carthage, destroyed the holy Roman rites.

Let us beseech God with our guitars to hear the prayers of His suppliants:
"Drive away, O Christ, the boredom of this 'Novus Ordo'

Regard it as filled with gall, that the silks sacred to you, and coloured red in honour of the Holy Ghost, were replaced by a green poncho."

Praise be to the glorious Holy Spirit, who punishes with the impious these sinful crimes in the pit of hell, for ever and ever. Amen.


Steve said...

Wow. Wow. (Did I mention "wow"?)

This one is chill-up-the-spine material.

df said...

I like the hymn - clever, even if somewhat on the bitter side.
I suspect that the story of its provenance is not too be taken too seriously...

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Franciscans in question root for the Red Sox...

Anonymous said...

Hang on, moving the altar to the centre of the church? What on earth?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Mr. Smith:

Sooooo, you just joined up hey?

Anonymous said...

Joined up to...? Give me a noun to work with here, Hilary, won't you?