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Monday, March 12, 2007

Attende, Domine, et miserere!

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us!
for we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee, Redeemer, on Thy throne of glory:
lift we our weeping eyes in holy pleadings:
listen, O Jesu, to our supplications.

O Thou chief Cornerstone, Right Hand of the Father:
Way of Salvation, Gate of Life Celestial:
cleanse Thou our sinful souls from all defilement.

God, we implore Thee, in Thy glory seated:
bow down and hearken to Thy weeping children:
pity and pardon all our grievous trespasses.

Sins oft committed now we lay before Thee:
with true contrition now no more we veil them:
grant us, Redeemer, loving absolution.

Innocent, captive, taken unresisting:
falsely accused and for us sinners sentenced,
save us, we pray Thee, Jesu, our Redeemer.

I love The Lent Prose. We sang it on Ash Wednesday every year at all but the last of my former Anglican parishes, and it really set the tone for Lent. Many of you will remember that I went through a very difficult time this time last year and was hardly getting out of the house. This meant that I seldom got to church, and missed all of the Paschal celebrations. Well, I did venture out once, and was a little naughty in going to the main Sunday Mass at the Catholic church of the Holy Name of Jesus, where the entrance antiphon was, yes, The Lent Prose, sung beautifully in Latin, with the verses being done by the choir and the congregation joining in full for the refrain. (As an aside, the congregation was made up mostly of elderly locals and students who live nearby. They were not people who came from afar because of their interest in that musical style. Which just goes to show that the idea that plainsong is difficult is simply a lie. Give the people the music and a strong lead, and they'll join in with full voice, as this congregation did for most of the plainsong of the Mass).

It may be something small, but I have figured out what does it for me. It's the feeling of genuine pleading on the mercy of God that comes with the line "have mercy upon us" in the refrain. Anybody who is familiar with this hymn will understand what I mean. There really is the sense that we are upon our knees, striking our breasts and imploring God to show us his favour despite our unworthiness.

I miss this.


Barnabas said...

Yes I love this as well, it's so rich in it's wording, it brings me to tears I've found as I meditate on the words.

Michael Astley said...

It's marvellous, isn't it? I like it very much.