Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Play of Virtues

On Sunday night, I was privileged to attend a rare performace of 'Ordo Virtutum' (The Ritual of the Virtues), believed to be the oldest existing musical drama and morality play in the West. The music and libretto were by the mystic and abbess Blessed Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). In the beautiful setting of Scargill House, surrounded by the serene Yorkshire Dales and bathed in a gentle summer evening sunlight, this play unfolded in austere and contemplative splendour. It was performed by 'Vox Animae' and accompanied only by a hand-held harp. On only two occasions the music broke in harmony but was otherwise monophonic and chant-like.

The theme of the morality play is the struggle of the soul between the pleasures and lures of the flesh (embodied by the Devil) and the Virtues (personified and beautifully sung). The Soul is captivated by the Devil who offers her the world. Meanwhile, the Virtues are each expounded in song and led by the Queen of Virtues, Humility. Eventually, the Soul, ravished by the world returns and, with the help of the Virtues, conquer the Devil and they lead her to God where together, they praise Jesus Christ.

It is a wonderful libretto and the theme ever relevant for it speaks of the human condition.

"I am the sinner who fled from life: covered in sores I'll come to you - you can
offer me redemption's shield. All of you, warriors of Queen Humility, her white
lilies and her crimson roses, stoop to me, who exiled myself from you like a
stranger, and help me, that in the blood of the Son of God I may arise."

This is my prayer today, as I await Fr Provincial's decision. Please pray with me that they may find in me a worthy son of St Dominic.


Anonymous Bryan Jerabek said...

Hi Paul,

I, too, saw this medieval morality play back in February. It was very well done in Baltimore USA also. The one criticism I had was that of a costume change near the end. The main character, so to speak - the sinner who returns to grace - had on ragged clothing to symbolize her sinfulness. At the end, when she converts, the virtues clothed her in a beautiful habit similar to theirs. However, they simply put the habit over her old rags. Thus, to my mind, it was rather like a dung heap being covered with snow, à la Martin Luther. I'd be interested to hear from you how they symbolized the sinner's conversion at the end, via costumery, if at all.

Prayers for your acceptance into the Order of Preachers! God bless.

1:39 pm  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

Yes, the same thing was done: a white alb was put over her scanty dress...

You could say this has Scriptural-liturgical basis: we are called to put on Christ; we are robed in white after baptism and there is the idea of keeping our baptismal garment free from all stain of sin; and of course, the beati in heaven are clothed in white robes...

3:46 pm  

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