Wednesday, 11 July 2018

‘The winged herald of the day
proclaims the approaching light’

Four new bells waiting to be blessed in Glenstal Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the feastday of Saint Benedict, the founder of the Benedict tradition, the founding figure in Western monasticism, and the patron saint of Europe.

Had I stayed in Glenstal Abbey for one extra day, I would have found myself present for this great celebration in the Benedictine calendar. The solemnity is being marked today [11 July 2018] with a special Mass at mid-day that begins outdoors with the blessing of four new bells at the car park on the library side of the abbey church.

Following the tradition associated with church bells, each of these bells has been named individually: Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Saint Columba and Saint Scholastica.

The name of Saint Benedict is an obvious choice; the abbey church is dedicated to Saint Columba and Saint Joseph; and Saint Scholastica was the twin sister of Saint Benedict.

Following the daily offices and the daily Mass in the abbey church on Monday and Tuesday made me realise how much I miss the routine of daily prayer in the life of the chapel in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, which include the daily offices twice a day and celebrations of the Eucharist on a weekly basis, with celebrations too on the main feast days in the Church Calendar.

Although I pray daily, I miss the routine and stability of community prayer that is marked out by the rhythms of the daily offices.

At Matins and Lauds (Morning Prayer) in the abbey church yesterday morning [10 July 2018], we began with the hymn Ales diei nuntius, ‘The Winged Herald of the Day,’ written by Prudentius (348-413) from Saragossa.

During a life of asceticism and devotion, Prudentius composed his poems that have made him one of the first great Christian poets of the Latin West. This hymn is taken from his Hymnus ad Galli cantum (‘Hymn at Cockcrow’), the first of the 12 hymns that make up his Cathemerinon, or Hymns for the Day.

Ales diei nuntius is a traditional morning hymn for Tuesday Lauds and is also found in the Roman Breviary:

Ales diei nuntius
lucem propinquam praecinit;
nos excitator mentium,
iam Christus ad vitam vocat.

Auferte, clamat, lectulos,
aegro sopore desides;
castique, recti ac sobrii
vigilate; iam sum proximus.

Iesum ciamus vocibus,
flentes, precantes, sobrii;
intenta supplicatio
dormire cor mundum vetat.

Tu, Christe, somnum discute,
tu rumpe noctis vincula,
tu solve peccatum vetus
novumque lumen ingere.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
eiusque soli Filio
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen.

The winged herald of the day
proclaims the approaching light,
and Christ, awakening our hearts,
calls us to life.

Take up your beds, he cries,
you who sleep in idle sloth:
be chaste, upright and sober;
be watchful, for I am at hand.

Weeping, praying and alert,
invoking Jesus with our voice;
fervent prayer
forbids the pure heart to sleep.

Dispel, O Christ, our sleep,
break the bonds of night;
set us free from ancient sin
and shed on us new light.

To God the Father be glory,
and to his only Son,
together with the Spirit Paraclete,
both now and evermore. Amen.

The Psalms at Matins and Lauds yesterday morning reminded us ‘how lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God of hosts, … they are happy, who dwell in your house.’ And they reminded me that ‘one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.’

This morning I am on my way to Dublin for a meeting involving some of my work in Rathkeale. But I am grateful for my 24 hours of prayer and reflection in Glenstal Abbey.

‘One day within your courts’ … the guesthouse in Glenstal Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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