The Lent Prose
This Stational church, built on the slope of the Aventine, was originally dedicated to St Saviour and erected on the site of the house of a Roman lady called Balbina. It was a parish church of Rome from the 4th century and consecrated by Pope St Gregory the Great. Later, the remains of a 2nd-century virgin martyr also called Balbina and her father St Quirinus were laid under the high altar. In the Middle Ages, the Greek monastry attached to the church was fortified against barbarian attacks, giving it a strong castle-like tower.
Just as the season of Advent has a Prose, so too does Lent. The 10th-century Mozarabic litany, Attende Domine is a beautiful plea for God's mercy coupled with a lovely and memorable tune in Mode V. The first line is sung as a response between the verses and the English translation below follows the same meter in order that it may be sung to the traditional chant. In our conventual practice, it is sung in Latin every Sunday as a responsory during Vespers.
Ad te Rex summe, omnium redemptor,
Oculos nostros sublevamus flentes:
Exaudi, Christe, supplicantum preces.
Dextera Patris, lapis angularis,
Via salutis, ianua caelestis,
Ablue nostri maculas delicti.
Rogamus, Deus, tuam maiestatem:
Auribus sacris gemitus exaudi:
Crimina nostra placidus indulge.
Tibi fatemur crimina admissa:
Contrito corde pandimus occulta:
Tua Redemptor, pietas ignoscat.
Innocens captus, nec repugnans ductus,
Testibus falsis pro impiis damnatus:
Quos redemisti, tu conserva, Christe."
'Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon us, who have sinned against thee.
King, high exalted, all the world's Redeemer,
To thee thy children lift their eyes with weeping:
Christ, we implore thee, hear our supplications
Right hand of Godhead, headstone of the corner, Path of salvation, gate of heaven's kingdom, Cleanse thou thy people, stained with their transgressions.
We, thy eternal majesty entreating,
Make lamentation in thy holy hearing; Graciously grant thou, to our sins, indulgence.
Humbly confess we, who have sinned against thee,
All our mis-doings, hidden now no longer;
May thy redeeming mercy find us pardon.
Led away captive, guiltless, unresisting,
Brought by false witness unto death for sinners,
Christ do thou keep us whom thy blood hath ransomed.'
The engraving above is of the Last Judgment by the Dominican Tertiary, Eric Gill.