Little hymn for the little hours of the little office


immaculate-heart-of-maryRight now our family just does two hours, Prime and Compline. I’ve mentioned the hymn for Compline earlier. We did try singing Prime from the regular Divine Office, but found it a bit difficult. Instead we settled on the Little Office version. It’s the same each day, with minor seasonal variations for Advent and Christmas.

The Divine Office has different hymns for each hour: Jam Lucis for Prime, Nunc Sancte Nobis for Terce, Rector Potens for Sext, Rerum Deus for None and Te Lucis for Compline. Matins, Lauds and Vespers have different hymns for each day of the week and different feast days and seasons. The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary has much fewer hymns and most of them to the one tune.

This is the hymn for Prime, Terce, Sext, None and Compline:

Memento, rerum Conditor,
Nostri quod olim corporis,
Sacrata ab alvo Virginis
Nascendo formam sumpseris.

Maria, Mater gratiæ,
Dulcis parens clementiæ,
Tu nos ab hoste protege
Et mortis hora suscipe.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.

Remember, O Creator Lord,
that in the Virgin’s sacred womb
Thou wast conceived, and of her flesh
didst our mortality assume.

Mother of grace, O Mary blest,
to thee, sweet fount of love, we fly;
shield us through life, and take us hence
to thy dear bosom when we die.

O Jesu! born of Mary bright!
Immortal glory be to Thee;
praise to the Father infinite,
and Holy Ghost eternally. Amen.

Matins and Lauds have slightly longer hymns, but same tune.

Some collections of chant have a shorter version, just taking the last two verses of Memento, as sung in this clip from youtube:

So, for singing along, here is the sheet music: MementoRerum
You might remember last weeks diversion into the differences in chant hymns introduced by Pope Urban VIII. Here is the earlier, medieval wording: MementoSalutis. Which is also the same wording that William Byrd used in a beautiful polyphonic arrangement.

Those pages are from a book I was working on which is up at github/veromary/littleOffice. A booklet with Prime and Compline from the little office, plus the text of the Gospel Canticles, Benedictus and Magnificat.

Here are recordings of our family singing compline.



Hymn – Here’s Memento Rerum Conditor

Little chapter or reading

Canticle (Nunc Dimittis)

Collect (or prayer)

Marian Antiphon (Salve Regina)

Download all the tracks as one zip file: littleOfficeCompline


Veni Creator

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Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini_-_Dove_of_the_Holy_SpiritGood old hymn to the Holy Ghost. Great for just about every special occasion – confirmations, ordinations, baptisms, weddings, any time you pray for a blessing!

Here is my one page special sheet music: venicreator

And here are the words:

1. Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.

2. Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas
et spiritalis unctio.

3. Tu septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae
tu rite promissum Patris
sermone ditans guttura.

4. Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,
infirma nostri corporis,
virtute firmans perpeti.

5. Hostem repellas longius
pacemque dones protinus;
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

6. Per te sciamus da Patrem
noscamus atque Filium,
te utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

7. Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio qui a mortuis
Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.

There are two popular translations that I know of. Come Holy Ghost, Creator Come – in a nice steady 86.86 rhythm and Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest in 88.88 like the original Latin. They are both really beautiful. Both worth planting in your memory.

The Choral Public Domain Library has more information, including a link to the Catholic Encyclopedia article which gives the first part of John Dryden’s translation.

Lastly, there is another version of the Latin sung by Giovanni Vianini’s choirs. This is the one found in the Monastic Antiphonale, used by Benedictine monasteries. The story of why there are two versions of so many hymns can be read: URBAN VIII AND THE REVISION OF THE LATIN HYMNAL by Vincent A. Lenti. Basically, we had all these hymns for a thousand years or so, then in the 1500s, the humanist Pope Urban VIII thought “that the old hymns were rather tasteless and inelegant and could be improved with a reworking of the Latin texts”. The Benedictines and other groups (including the Vatican) got permission to stick with the old hymns, so that’s why they’re in the Monastic books. The rest of the Roman Rite got the humanist “improved” versions. One of the wonderful changes with the whole recent overhaul of the liturgy was undoing Pope Urban VIII’s changes and going back to the original hymns. Unfortunately, the Extraordinary Form uses 1962 books, which still have the “improved” humanist versions. So that’s what I’ve given here.

“Ambrose and Prudentius took something classical and made it Christian; the revisers and their imitators took something Christian and tried to make it classical. The result may be pedantry, and sometimes perhaps poetry; but it is not piety.” — Rev. Joseph Connelly in Hymns of the Roman Liturgy, The Newmann Press, West minster, Maryland, 1957.

God has it all fixed up in heaven.

Te lucis ante terminum

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Each night our family sings Compline, the night time prayers of the Church. We learnt the way from the Maternal Heart Church. Since then they have shifted to singing the Divine Office from the Benedictine books, so they have slightly different words and tunes. Here is the Roman one that most 1962 books use. In 1974 there was yet another change.

The hymn for Compline is very beautiful. The prayers to ward off bad dreams are helpful when getting children off to bed. Each new season brings a new tune, the words staying the same. They’re all pretty simple, as you don’t need complicated stuff to learn just before bed!

John Mason Neale’s translation runs thus:

To Thee, before the close of day
Creator of the world, we pray
that with Thy wonted favor, Thou
wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
from nightly fears and fantasies:
tread under foot our ghostly foe,
that no pollution we may know.

O Father, that we ask be done
through Jesus Christ Thine only Son,
who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
shall live and reign eternally.

For lyrics in Latin and English go to Te lucis at Thesaurus Precum Latinarum.

The tune I’ve got here today is the regular Sunday and other minor feasts tune you can use most of the time. Here’s a pdf, gregorio51d606b280f881.81872940 mostly taken from GregoBase.

Here is how we sing it: Te Lucis

And here is the serious rendition with the music scrolling past.

I will go round…

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TB2-300x199This week I’ve been drilling the propers for this Sunday. We’re hoping to have a sung Mass at Mulgoa to see off our priest. This is the priest who sings the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, solo.

Now, the propers, “What are they?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked that, because they are one of the hidden treasures of the Catholic Church which should be known more widely. You might have seen them in your Sunday or Weekday Missal. They’re the little snippets labelled “Entrance Antiphon” or “Communion Antiphon” that sometimes someone at a weekday Mass will read out from in the pews, finishing just as you go to pick up your book to join in.

They are centuries old, mostly derived from the Psalms, and they all have music. There are four for each Mass: Introit (or Entrance), Gradual/Tract/Alleluia (sorry, I’ll lump them all together for now, but I know they are separate), Offertory and Communion. The Communion is often the shortest and simplest. The Introit is usually pretty straightforward to learn too. The Gradual is the amazing soaring high point. The Alleluia is very cool too. The Offertory is a little less ornate.

So, here is the communion antiphon for this Sunday:

Circuibo et immolábo in tabernáculo ejus hóstiam jubilatiónis: cantábo et psalmum dicam Dómino.

I will go round, and offer up in His tabernacle a sacrifice of jubilation; I will sing, and recite a psalm to the Lord.

Here’s the sheet music: circuibo
(which is mostly from Gregobase, with added translation from Maternal Heart)

And here’s my rendition: circuibo.mp3

And here’s the way the professionals do it: at CC Watershed

Ut queant laxis

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Plaque of Guido Monaco, ArezzoNext Monday is the feast of the nativity of St John the Baptist. Great time to bring up the origins of “Do Re Mi”. A great intro is this exclusive interview with Guido d’Arezzo.

Here is the sheet music for the Vespers hymn of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.


I’ve added in the translation from CPDL – though they have an extra verse that isn’t in the vespers hymn in the Liber Usualis, but it is in the Laudes hymn.. But good as a bare bones literal translation.

Below is the text as in the Liber, plus a versified translation:

1. Ut queant laxis resonáre fibris
Mira gestórum fámuli tuórum,
Solve pollúti lábii reátum,
Sancte Joánnes.

2. Núntius celso véniens Olýmpo
Te patri magnum fore nascitúrum,
Nomen, et vitae sériem geréndae
Ordinae promit.

3. Ille promíssi dúbius supérni,
Pérdidit promptae módulos loquélae:
Sed reformásti genitus perémptae
Organa vocis.

4. Ventris obstrúso récubans cubíli
Sénseras Regem thálamo manéntem:
Hinc parens nati méritis utérque
Abdita pandit.

5. Sit decus Patri, genitaéque Proli
Et tibi, compar utriúsque virtus,
Spíritus semper, Deus unus, omni
Témporis aevo. Amen.

1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
Duly revealing.

3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.

4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits,
Mysteries uttered.

5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resounding. Amen.

Thanks to Catholic Culture. Looks like they typed up the words from The Hymns of the Missal and Breviary by Michael Britt, partially transcribed here. The English is a cento from The Hymner, based on a translation by W.J. Blew.

A suggestion for a tune for the English is Iste Confessor

Now have a listen to the chant from a monastery somewhere…

Now go get The Ut Queant Laxis Mug

Or see a fancy reverberating version here.

Ubi caritas

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Here’s the page from my hymnbook: ubicaritas. I haven’t forgotten about making it available. The latest development has been putting it up GitHub.

I’m having trouble finding the ideal recording. Yes, I should have got my family to sing it, but they’re all in bed, approximately, and I want to get this done tonight, and lots of kids with sore throats right now anyway, so here’s the closest. The monks are singing the possibly more correct words “Ubi caritas est vera” (where charity is true) but the screen still gives the more widespread “Ubi caritas et amor” (where charity and love are). The New Book of Old Hymns uses the vera version, but the excerpt above uses the amor version.

For lyrics and translation see Thesaurus Precum Latinarum. (Thesaurus means Treasury – isn’t that cool?)

And when you have enjoyed the straight chant version, check out the Durufle version and the one from the Royal Wedding. Lots of beautiful arrangments out there. I remember hearing one on the radio, a rather modern one, but it generally moved from dissonance towards a melody rather like the regular chant version. I haven’t been able to track it down, so please jump in and comment if you have any clues.

How to sing Salve Regina

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MaryThe most celebrated of the four Breviary anthems of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said from the First Vespers of Trinity Sunday until None of the Saturday before Advent. The authorship is now generally ascribed to Hermann Contractus. (from the Catholic Encyclopedia)

The one thing people keep asking is to learn the Salve Regina. Ideally you’d want some monks to sing it for you a few times a day. Maybe for morning prayers, after the Rosary (it is the Hail Holy Queen in Latin) and at night time prayers before bed.

Failing that, there’s youtube:

Here is the link in case the former link doesn’t work. And another if the sidescrolling music makes you dizzy here is another version.

Play with the vocabulary on Quizlet.

I made a quick course on Memrise – this also goes through the vocabulary with Memrise’s spaced repetition algorithm to help the words stick in your memory.

Print salve from A New Book Of Old Hymns and sing along.

For downloadable mp3s see Selected Chants from St Benedict’s, Sao Paolo, Brazil, Latin Mass Society Chant Downloads (scroll down to Other Chant) and Adoremus Hymnal at Ignatius Press (scroll down to number 545).

There is a solemn version of Salve Regina at Wikimedia Commons in ogg format.