Monday, May 4, 2015

Hymns and hymn tunes for Christian Prayer

Lay people who pray the Liturgy of the Hours at home often find the hymns that open each hour to be troublesome and confusing.

I'll deal with confusing first.

 You notice that the hymn for, say, today's Morning Prayer is  one thing at DivineOffice.org, but two different selections at Ibreviary.com; that in volume II of the four-volume set it is still something else; and that in the Christian Prayer breviary you are free to choose one of any 11 Easter hymns in the guide.
Which kind of makes you wonder how "official" these hymn choices are when they differ so widely among the various breviaries, both print and digital.

The answer: not very official at all. If you wanted to, you could choose a different Easter season hymn whether it appears in your breivary or not. My Easter hymn of choice is the sequence from the Mass of Easter Sunday, "Christians Praise the Pascal Victim" , so I sing it nearly every morning from Easter until Ascension.

Now for troublesome. What happens when you don't know the hymn? There are several options:
1. Just read the lyrics as if you were reading a poem. There's no strict requirement to sing it.
2. Substitute another hymn that you do know.
3. You really want to sing the hymn that appears in your breviar? Then look it up on one of the very helpful blogs:

Breviary Hymns, where the ever helpful Kevin Shaw  tells you about the history of each hymn in a separate post and then links you to a YouTube video performance of it.

OR:
Christian Prayer Hymns, where the equally helpful "Jim" give you a single page of links for every single hymn in the Christian Prayer breviary.

These two guys have done a tremendous work for the musically challenged among us.

18 comments:

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  2. You rock! Thank you....I always wondered how 'official' each listed hymn was, it seems you have choices for each season or holy day, and that's what I have been doing all along, choosing from the selections in Christian prayer or another appropriate seasonal choice. Thank you for clearing it up for me and others, and reaffirming what I and others are already doing!

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    1. Now, you ought to know that "official" hymns of the Roman breviary actually do exist,but these do not appear in our breviaries. The American breviary is,, as we speak in the process of revision, and last I'd heard, the new translation will include these hymns (in English translation from the original Latin). I've posted somewhat about this in the past, and maybe will again since the hymns issue has come up.

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    2. Thank you! I'm trying to learn basic chant by using the chant app and the Hymnal for the Hours.

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    3. Actually, the Lumen Christi Hymnal published by Illuminare Publications has English translations of the Office hymns for Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. I got the Hymnal for the Hours but I stopped using it because many hymns are missing entirely and many are paraphrased. This is explained by the preface, which describes their liberal agenda of gender neutrality, getting to the point where even God can't be male.

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  3. Where is it stated you can freely substitute it? I thought you can choose any hymn in one of the two breviaries approved by the church, and that iBreviary and Divine Office.org assumed liberties they don't really have.

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  4. My thoughts were similar to your until recently. Then I learned that the ibreviary website and app have Vatican approval.(there are also several other print breviaries besides the two that you are thinking about, and I believe the hymn choices vary in these as well) I also had many experiences of participating in the Liturgy of the Hours with religious communities, in parish churches, and other events, and saw that in these instances different (although still appropriately seasonal) hymns were selected from other hymnals. Then I noticed that in the Apostolic Constitution Promulgating the Divine Office (1970) Bl. Pope Paul VI said that "the recitation of the Office should be adapted, as far as possible, to the needs of living and personal prayer, so that, as the general instruction provides, rhythmns and melodies are used, and forms of celebration chosen, that are more suited to the spiritual needs of those who pray it." It seems, logically, that one of our needs is to have a hymn that we actually know how to sing AND derive spiritual benefit from. Hence, someon praying in private, (who knows how to choose a hymn that is suitable to the liturgical season) need not be bound by the list given in Christian Prayer. It seems that any hymn from any approved liturgical hymnal in one's country (again, assuming it's seasonally appropriate) would be permissible. It's possible I"m wrong about that, but given the variety I"ve seen as mentioned above, I don't think I am.

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    1. The key phrase in the quote from Laudis Canticum is "as the general instruction provides." The rubrics for the Hours provide a rich selection and guidance on how to adapt the celebration, including for the hymns. I would go so far as to say that the number of times the text says, in effect, "choose this hymn or this other one that has been provided" points away from a freedom to pick freely.

      As an aside, an unfortunate aspect of our historical and cultural situation is that just because we find a thing happening, even frequently and by people we trust, does not mean that that thing should be happening. Actually, that seems likely to be true in every age. But we should be particularly circumspect, sadly.

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  5. Also: http://www.romanrite.com/hymns.html

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  7. For the best:
    http://jesuitsources.bc.edu/Exsultemus-Rejoicing-Hymns-Roman-Breviary/dp/1880810476
    a fine translation of the hymns as the appear in the Roman Breviary, Latin on one side, English on the other.

    And for music, see
    http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/rev-samuel-f-weber-osb/hymnal-for-the-hours/paperback/product-21799513.html

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    1. Yes, Sid, I love Fr. Weber's hymnal and use if frequently. I'll have to do a new post on resources for the Roman hymns one of these days.

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  8. Daria,
    I'm sorry for posting this question here, but I couldn't figure out how to email you directly. I have the Divine Office app on my phone and my Android tablet. I was wondering if the daily Mass readings are included? Are they the Office of Readings and I just didn't realize?

    Sorry if this shows up twice...I hit preview and my post disappeared.

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    1. You may post questions on any post at all, so no need to apologize. The Divine Office.org app does not have the day's mass readings as far as I know. However, there is another free app for the Liturgy of the Hours, called ibreviary. Although is does not have any audio files like Divineoffice.org does, It does have not only the the day's LIturgy of the Hours, but also each days' readings for mass. The Office of Readings is not the mass readings: it's another of the liturgical hours (like morning prayer, evening prayer, etc.) that you can pray any time of day. Besides the usual three psalms, it includes two long readings: one from the Bible, and one from the early fathers or the saints of the Church.

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    2. Hi Daria, I enjoyed reading your very well-written book. I especially liked the chapter about the "eight quibbles." It was all very helpful to this beginner.

      I have one question: You mention chants that are sung in English. By chance do you know of any recordings available of this type of music?

      Thank you very much, Tom

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    3. I haven't made an exhaustive serach, but here is a link with audio files (mostly played on keyboard rather than sung) for the simple chants in the Mundelein Psalter, which is probalby a Morning and Evening Prayer breviary designed for those who want to chant: http://www.usml.edu/the-liturgical-institute/special-projects/the-mundelein-psalter/mundelein-psalter-resource-page

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    4. Thank you very much Daria!

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  9. Daria,

    I've been praying the LOTH for two years, but one question has always remained unanswered:

    Can the hymn be omitted while still praying in union with the universal prayer of the Church?

    I am not thrilled by the selection in the 4-volume, and the Latin hymns aren't my cup of tea with an otherwise all-vernacular office. I have Fr. Samuel Weber OSB's "Hymnal for the Hours", but it isn't always convenient to lug that large book around. I don't particularly enjoy addressing God in metrical poetry, generally. I do want to be in union with the Prayer of Christ, though!

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