Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lenten Hymns

Many of you are familiar with the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours. What some of you might not be aware of is that the hymns for the Divine Office were not translated into English, at least very few of them were. Instead we are stuck with much of the modern hymnody that gets old fast. The hymns that have been part of the Divine Office for centuries are rich in imagery and quite beautiful, especially when set to the origional chants. The Mundelein Psalter has translated some of these hymns and included them in the Psalter (which I recommend, by the way). Here is the hymn for Lauds (Morning Prayer) for Lent:

Now Christ, Thou Son of righteousness,
Let dawn our darkend spirits bless:
The light of grace to us restore
While day to earth returns once more.

Thou who dost give th'accepted time,
Give, too, a heart that mourns for crime,
Let those by mercy now be cured
Whom loving kindness long endured.

Spare not, we pray, to send us here
Some penance kindly but severe,
So let Thy gift of pard'ning grace
Our grievous sinfulness efface.

Soon will that day, Thy day, appear
And all things with its brightness cheer:
We will rejoice in it, as we
Return thereby to grace, and Thee.

Let all the world from shore to shore
Thee, gracious Trinity, adore;
Right soon Thy loving pardon grant,
That we our new-made song may chant. Amen.

I am particularly struck by two lines from this hymn. First, I am struck by the line in the second stanza that says "Give, too, a heart that mourns for crime." In our modern world we have forgotten how to mourn for our sins, our crimes against God. It is good to ask for the gift of understanding the effects of our sins, so that we may mourn for them.

Second, I like the third stanza because we ask the Lord to send us penance that is kindly, yet severe. Again, as modern men and women we tend to shy away from penance and mortification, yet it is penance and mortification that chisel away our hardness of heart and make us truly free to love as we ought to love. I think asking God to send us penance is a good prayer to pray, and the Church agrees, for this hymn is chanted daily in the Divine Office, or at least it is if you are using the Mundelein Psalter or the Latin Liturgy of Hours. To bad it's not in the English edition.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I have compiled a list of links to the songs if possible OR to at least the meter (melody) of the hymns that are in the catholic christian prayer liturgy of the hours book.