I spent Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon of last week at a Lutheran monastery in Oxford, Michigan. I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a Lutheran monastery. It’s the only one in the United States that I know of. There are a few more in Europe. This monastery follows the Rule of St. Benedict, coming together for prayer seven times a day in addition to a daily service of Holy Communion. I was invited there to give a paper for their annual Fellowship Day, held on the weekend nearest to August 28, the date of Augustine’s death. I didn’t join them for the earliest prayer service at 5:10 a.m., but I did make most of the others. A significant portion of the Daily Office consists of the chanting of psalms. At this monastery they use Gregorian chant, including the traditional notation (see the notes in the picture below). I chanted a lot of psalms in the course of 42 hours, and gained an even greater appreciation than I had before for what the psalms have meant to Christian monastics since at least the sixth century. I hope this summer’s look at the psalms at Darkwood Brew has given you a similar appreciation for this “songbook of the church.”
When my wife and I were married, my parents gave us a page out of a medieval choir book. With my limited knowledge of Latin, gleaned from singing Latin texts in choirs since my college days, I knew that the first two lines on the page, “Psalite Domino qui habitat in Sion” meant “Sing to the Lord who lives in Zion,” and I knew that “pauper” near the bottom has something to do with the poor, but I never bothered to try finding out just what this text was, where it came from or what liturgy this page was actually from. Until, that is, I was asked to write for this blog by my good friend Chris. Then it occurred to me that that page was probably a psalm. I spent most of the morning on my day off back in July figuring it out. I quickly guessed that the first line was from Psalm 9, the first half of verse 11: “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion.” But the next bit is not the rest of verse 11. I plugged the words into Google translate. Didn’t make sense. After looking at the Latin text of Psalm 9 for a while and reading about medieval manuscripts on the internet, I finally figured it out. The rest was from the second half of verse 12 “…he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.” What I didn’t know, but finally figured out, is that – as in Greek and Russian manuscripts that I’m more familiar with – scribes sometimes used abbreviations to make the text fit the page. The reason Google translate wasn’t working was because I wasn’t typing in compete words. I missed the “-m” and “-us” endings that are indicated by little squiggles above a final consonant, or a tiny loop at the end of a word, which I had simply ignored. Once I figured this out, I was also able to figure out what it was used for. This is part of the offertory for the Third Sunday after Pentecost in the Roman Catholic calendar. I found the Latin text of the propers here. Some of you are bored to tears if you’ve even made it this far in my blog entry. <virtual kleenex> A few of you, though, who might be a little nerdy like me, might share my feeling of how very cool it is that I was able to figure all this out with just an internet connection and a little persistence. What a fun way to spend a morning off. Thanks, Darkwood Brew!
Now, can anyone help me figure out what the heck that last line is?
Chris – I’d go with Domine Meus (My Lord) … assuming the big red line signals the chorus. Nice Blog, Chris says thanks! 🙂 Peace – Scott
Ok, now I really think I have it. (I also figured out that I should be replying to your comment, rather than creating new comments.) I found propers online for the Tuesday in the fifth week of Lent (which used to be called Passion Week) in which this offertory is followed by the communion verse (that’s what “com” in red means!) “Redime me…” Here’s the link” http://virgomaterdie.com/1962_propers/2011/apr/apr12.html
Ha! Figured it out. Very satisfying. Thanks again for the push.
I don’t think that’s it, Scott. I don’t know what the red signifies, though. At the end of the second to last line is “com” (that little squiggle above the o is an m). The big letter starting the next line is also the start of the next section, I’m guessing, since the offertory ends with “pauperum” Big red letter looks like an N to me. But the next letter looks like a capital E. Maybe it’s not, though. The following letters are pretty clearly “dimeme” but could be more than one word. I’m not sure they would split a word at a page turn, though.
Ok, I think I’ve figured it out. The big red letter, I believe, is an R. In that case it says “Redime me” (Redeem me) which comes from Psalm 25:11 in the Vulgate. But that’s not what follows in the propers I found on line, so maybe medieval propers don’t correspond to more modern ones. Thanks for the push, Scott. Sometimes what you need to solve puzzles like this is to let them alone for a while.