Friday, August 10, 2012

St. Lawrence's sarcasm and traditional breviary Hymns

Some saints get more items unique to themselves in their office than others. St.. Lawrence is certainly one of these.   He has his first and second readings in the OOR, and a complete office of his own for lauds and vespers. No mere common of martyrs for Lawrence. Using Ibreviary this morning,I see that he even has his own unique hymn, which I include here. Note the reference to Lawrence's sense of humor, recalling his legendary remark, "Turn me over, this side is done", made while he was burned alive on a gridiron.

When Lawrence was led out to die,
Love made him prodigal of life,
No armor would he use but faith
Against the persecutor’s strife.

The first of seven chosen men
Selected at the Pope’s behest,
A deacon’s office to fulfil,
In virtue he surpassed the rest.

He was a leader in the fight,
Although no sword hung by his side,
And with a smile in face of death,
He could the torturer deride.

We praise your triumph here on earth,
So, holy Lawrence, lend your aid,
May each of us your favor feel,
Receiving grace for which we prayed.

For all the care with which you served
And loved the city’s poor in Rome,
What luster must enhance your crown
For ever in the Father’s home!

To Father, Son, and Spirit too,
Be honor, homage and renown,
Who will reward your prayers for us
By granting an eternal crown. Amen

To those of us who like to sing the hymn now and then, there is nothing less helpful than the remarks beneath a hymn that let us know that the correct melody to use is that old standard, Erhalt' uns HerrL.M.  or Grosser Gott or Saint Anne C.M.  There must be someone in this wide world who reads these things and says to himself, "Oh, yes, Ernhalt' uns Herr! I know that one," and launches into the hymn with complete confidence.

But I sure don't know it. And don't know anyone else who does.
Fortunately, I did figure out recently what the L.M. stands for. It means long meter. If you read the words to the hymn above and count the beats, you'll notice that every line has eight beats. Many  traditional hymns  follow this pattern, so if you want to sing a long meter hymn, use the tune of a long meter hymn that you already know. For example:

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (known in these cryptic hymn subtitles as Old One Hundredth)
Jesus the very Thought of Thee/Jesu Dulcis Memoria/O Radiant Light O Sun Divine
Creator of the Stars of Night/Creator Alme Siderum (a popular advent hymn)
Tantum Ergo/Down in Adoration Falling
O Salutaris/O Saving Victim
Behold a Virgin Bearing Him
From All That Dwell Below the Skies

There are probably others, but these are the ones that come to mind.
If you use the Mundelein Psalter, you'll see that the traditional hymns of the Roman breviary also follow this long meter pattern. So if you have despaired of figuring out the gregorian notation given in Mundelein's hymnal, you may resort to the tunes listed above.