Friday, April 11, 2014

Author of the "Stabat Mater": Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III?

In the liturgical calendar for the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, today is the Friday of Passion Week, dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. In the calendar for the Ordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, this memorial is celebrated in conjunction with the Exaltation of the Cross in September, which I explained last year in this article for OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine. That memorial highlights the Seven Sorrows, while today we focus on the sorrows Mary felt at her Son's Passion and Death.

I don't think it's in any way inappropriate to reflect on the fear and sorrow she must have felt in the days leading up to the events of Holy Week. Even Palm Sunday, with its glory, laud, and honor, heightened the conflict between Jesus and the Sanhedrin. The image brought up thrice in the Propers for this Mass is the piercing of Mary's soul, foretold by Simeon in St. Luke's Gospel (in the Collect, in the Secret, and in the Post communion Prayer).

The Stabat Mater (the mother standing) sequence was once part of the celebration of this day, but the many sequences once part of the liturgy were reduced after the Second Vatican Council. Authorship of the words is contested: it is most commonly attributed either to Pope Innocent III or Jacopone da Todi.

Pope Innocent III was one of the most influential popes of the early Middle Ages. Just listing some of the historical events he was involved with demonstrates his influence: meeting St. Francis of Assisi and approving his new mendicant order; supporting the Fourth Crusade; opening the Fourth Lateran Council; forcing King John of England to accept Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury and then accepting England as a feudal fief from the same king, etc. It may seem odd that such an intellect and will would write a devotional and emotional work like the Stabat Mater, but as the Catholic Encyclopedia article notes, St. Thomas Aquinas's Corpus Christi hymns might seem out of character too.

The other candidate, Jacopone da Todi, was a 13th century Franciscan, author of many laudi, popular poetry written in an Umbrian dialect. He was one of the "Spiritual" Franciscans who desired to follow a stricter interpretation of St. Francis's rule, and did come into conflict with the pope at the time, Boniface VIII. Since the Stabat Mater is written in Latin, it might seem unusual in his oeuvre

Whomever wrote the poem, it is moving and solemn, and it has been set to music by many composers, as the Wikipedia article attests.

Stabat mater dolorosa
juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta,
mater Unigeniti!

Quae mœrebat et dolebat,
pia Mater, dum videbat
nati pœnas inclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suæ gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
moriendo desolatum,
dum emisit spiritum.

Eia, Mater, fons amoris
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.

Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
pœnas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum præclara,
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari,
fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus,
per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriæ.

Quando corpus morietur,
fac, ut animæ donetur
paradisi gloria. Amen.

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