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.

My Photo
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

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Cross Dissolves the Darkness...

Station at Saint Clement's

Today's Stational church is the titulus or parish church of St Clement, was built on the site of the house of the consul-martyr Titus Flavius Clemens, whose body lies beneath the altar. It was then named in honour of Pope St Clement I who was the third successor of St Peter as Bishop of Rome. Legend has it that St Clement was at one time a Christian slave in this household. The 12th-century church of San Clemente, which is shown on the right, is truly unique because in excavations beneath the church one finds the remains of the 4th-century church, the Roman house church and finally a temple of Mithras. It remains one of the archaeological and architectural wonders of Rome and is famed for its beautiful apse mosaic which features a flowering Cross (below)that encompasses all of creation. In 1667 the church was granted to the Dominicans in perpetuity and it is currently in the care of the Irish Dominicans.

For most of this week, we shall look at various hymns and poetry that enrich the Lenten season, beginning with Cultor Dei, memento which is part of a longer hymn by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (384 - c.413). Although it is assigned to Passiontide in the Sarum Breviary, it is also listed in some medieval manuscripts as a hymn for the First Sunday of Lent and in the Mozarabic Rite as a Compline hymn. It is in that liturgical context that we use it in Blackfriars Cambridge during the season of Lent.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, once described the hymn is this way: "Its opening verse is essentially a simple metaphor to do with Christian initiation... It proceeds to describe the Christian at the close of day making the sign of the cross before sleep: the shadows flee before the cross and the soul or mind is held steadfast by this bodily sign. The endless twists and turnings of the devil's fantasies are quieted, so that the body rests in peace and the mind contemplates Christ 'even while asleep'. Thus the simple, everyday act of making the sign of the cross is linked with the basic truth of Christian identity (we have been baptised and anointed) and reinforced as the daily means of leading us away from the devil's complications into the simplicity of faith in Christ. A small action has large meanings; the cross can defeat all the armies of Satan."

It's beautiful words are certainly well worth contemplating this Lent and I hope it comes to mind as we trace the sign of the Cross during the day and night:

"Cultor Dei memento
te fontis et lavacri
rorem subisse sanctum,
te chrismate innotatum.

Fac, cum vocante somno
castum petis cubile,
frontem locumque cordis
crucis figura signet.

Crux pellit omne crimen,
fugiunt crucem tenebrae:
tali dicata signo
mens fluctuare nescit.

Procul, o procul vagantum
portenta somniorum,
procul esto pervicaci
praestigiator astu!

O tortuose serpens,
qui mille per Maeandros
fraudesque flexuosas
agitas quieta corda,

Discede, Christus hic est,
hic Christus est, liquesce:
signum quod ipse nosti
damnat tuam catervam.

Corpus licet fatiscens
iaceat recline paullum,
Christum tamen sub ipso
meditabimur sopore.

Gloria aeterno Patri:
et Christo vero Regi:
Paraclitoque sancto,
et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen."

'Christian! the font remember,
The sacramental vow,
The holy water sprinkled,
The oil that marked thy brow!

When at sleep's call thou seekest
To rest in slumber chaste,
Let first the sacred emblem
On breast and brow be traced.

The Cross dispels all darkness,
All sin before it flies,
And by that sign protected
The mind all fear defies.

Avaunt! ye fleeting phantoms
That mock our midnight hours;
Avaunt! thou great Deceiver
With all thy guileful powers.

Thou Serpent, old and crafty,
Who by a thousand arts
And manifold temptations
Dost vex our sleeping hearts,

Vanish! for Christ is with us;
Away! 'tis Christ the Lord:
The sign thou must acknowledge
Condemns thy hellish horde.

And, though the weary body
Relaxed in sleep may be,
Our hearts, Lord, e'en in slumber,
Shall meditate on Thee.

To God, eternal Father:
To Christ, our king, be glory,
And to the Holy Spirit,

Now and in eternity. Amen.


Post a Comment

<< Home