Friday, August 14, 2015

August 15: Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I Class


Recently, while reading "Christ the Savior" by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. on the Assumption of the B.V.M., I came across the following passage:
Therefore the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mother of the Savior and the new Eve, is also most closely associated with Christ's perfect victory over death, so that "she could not be held down or detained by the bonds of death, " as the liturgy says[19]; otherwise she would have been vanquished by death and would not have been the vanquisher, and her parallelism with Christ's resurrection and ascension, before the general resurrection of the dead, would be destroyed.  Moreover, the exceptional benediction, "blessed art thou among women," excludes the malediction "into dust thou shalt return." (emphasis mine)

This footnote 19 reads as follows:
19.  See the ancient oration “Veneranda,” which was formerly recited in Rome before the procession on the feast of the Assumption, and which still remains in the Dominican rite and also in the Ambrosian rite.
So I took out my 1959 St. Dominic Missal and my 1962 Roman Breviary and compared the Collect prayers.  Sure enough, they are different.  The Roman rite uses the familiar:
Omnipotens sempitérne Deus, qui Immaculátam Vírginem Maríam, Fílii tui Genitrícem, córpore et ánima ad cæléstem glóriam assumpsísti: concéde, quaesumus; ut ad supérna semper inténti, ipsíus glóriæ mereámur esse consórtes. (Almighty everlasting God, who hast taken body and soul into heaven the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son: grant, we beseech thee, that by steadfastly keeping heaven as our goal we may be counted worthy to join her in glory.  Translation from Divinum Officium website)
But the Dominican rite uses:
Veneránda nobis, Dómine, huius diéi festívitas opem cónferat salutárem, in qua sancta Dei Génetrix mortem súbiit temporálem, nec tamen mortis néxibus déprimi pótuit, quae Fílium tuum Dóminum nostrum de se génuit incarnátum:  Qui tecum vivit et regnat...
The English translations of the prayer vary quite a bit.  A sampling of these is given below:
May the sacred festival of this day, on which the holy Mother of God endured temporal death, help us towards salvation.  For the bonds of death could not detain her who bore our Lord, your Son incarnate:  Who lives and reigns...(1967 English translation of the Dominican Breviary).
May this glorious feast bring us saving grace, O Lord, for on this day the holy Mother of God underwent death but could not be detained in the bonds of death because she brought forth the Son of God Incarnate.  Who lives and reigns...(Liturgical Meditations for the Entire Year, 1960, p. 261)
 May this hallowed feast shower us with saving grace, O Lord; since today the mother of God underwent the death of the body yet could not be held in deathbonds, as having brought forth Your incarnate Son, Our Lord; Who lives and reigns...(1959 St. Dominic Missal).
What is particularly beautiful about this Collect, as opposed to the one used in the Roman Rite, is the passage about the bonds of death (nec tamen mortis néxibus) not being able to detain her in this life.  I had only the day before read an English translation of St. Germanus' homily "In Praise of the Holy and Venerable Falling Asleep of our Most Glorious Lady Mother of God Mary ever Virgin", which is said to be a faithful telling of the Tradition of our Lady's "falling asleep" or "translation".  In it, the holy Patriarch of Constantinople quotes Our Lord, who is telling Our Lady of her impending passing and assumption:
"Death shall not triumph over thee; for thou has borne Life itself within they womb.  Thou wert My chosen vessel; and this shall not be broken by death's fall, nor shall darkness devour it."
I like the way the Dominican Collect contains the references to her Assumption as sort of a triumph over death, similar to Our Lord's triumph.  His triumph was made possible by her fiat, and because of this the darkness of death would have no hold on her, particularly her body.

This is yet one more example of how the Dominican rite served Holy Mother Church as an invaluable depository of venerable liturgical traditions.  I believe, in addition to the Dominican and Ambrosian rites, the Sarum rite contained this prayer as well.

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