Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Compline of Saturday & the Litany of the B.V.M.

A few years ago, while sitting down to pray Compline on a Saturday night after the children went to bed, I was arranging the ribbons and came across something that I had never noticed before in the Dominican Breviary.  The Psalter ends at Compline on Saturday, and the three psalms and their antiphon are contained on pages 214 - 215.  Since there is no reason, then, to flip that page, I never did.  But that night I flipped over the page, to see if there was anything there, and I came across this rubric:

On every Saturday throughout the year, after the recitation of the Hail O Queen, with its . Permit, and the prayer Grant we besech you, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin and the invocation Mary, maid with its . and prayer, p. 28* are said in choir.

Lo and behold!  Purely by accident, I stumbled across a wonderful devotion that has been a part of the Dominican Breviary for 400 years!  So on Saturdays throughout the year, after the Salve Regina and the versicle and prayer that follow, the commemoration of St. Dominic is not made.  In its place, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin is prayed.  This makes complete sense when you consider that, since time immemorial, the Church has always considered Saturdays to be especially devoted to the Our Lady.  And what better way to end the week, then to sing the praises of the Mother of God, who spreads forth her mantle of protection over the entire Order.

As Fr. Bonniwell tells the story, in his “A History of the Dominican Liturgy”, of how the custom of singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin was made obligatory for the Order in 1615, but as the Acts of the Chapter note, it was already in widespread use throughout the Order anyway.  And, of course, as you might expect, there was a little "funny business" that accompanied the adoption of this custom:
This custom the Order borrowed from its Rosary Confraternities, which were wont to sing a litany of the Blessed Virgin.  A book published at Rome in 1593 contains music composed by the celebrated Palestrina for the litany of the Virgin “which is sung everywhere in chapels of the Rosary Society.”  The litany is divided into five parts to correspond to the five decades of the Rosary.  The litany which appears in the [Dominican] Breviary of 1614 contains two interesting additions.  After the invocation Regina Virginum, the Dominicans had inserted:  Regina Praedcatorum!  The chapter of 1656 ordered it expunged; it was making a universal prayer the prayer of one Order.  After Regina Sanctorum omnium came Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii.  As the Dominicans had inserted this clause before the decree of 1631 forbidding any additions to the litany, the Congregation of Rites in 1675 permitted the Confraternities of the Rosary to use it.  Leo XIII extended it to the whole Church (1883).
Turning to the Appendix of the Dominican Breviary, you will see the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary in its familiar form, with the following additional rubrics and prayers:

Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be said on Saturdays after her litany.
After Lamb of God has been said for the third time there follows:

Mary, Maid inviolate, chaste and undefiled,
Mother well-beloved of Christ, your own true child.
You were made the shining gate of heaven above,
Accept from us these words of praise we offer you with love.
We now implore devoutly, from the heat within,
That or souls be stainless, our bodies free from sin.
May you bring us ever, is our earnest prayer,
The pardon that is granted through your moving pleading rare.
O gracious one who alone has remained immaculate.  P.T. Alleluia.

In Paschal time, in place of the prayer Mary Maid inviolate, one may recite the following antiphon:

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia; for he whom you were worth to bear, alleluia, has risen as he said, alleluia.  Pray to God for us, alleluia.

After the prayer Mary Maid inviolate or after the ant. Queen of heaven, the following is said:

.  Pray for us, holy mother of God.  P.T. Alleluia.  .  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  P.T. Alleluia.

Let us pray                                                                   Prayer

Pour forth, we beseech you, Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrection.  Through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.