Wednesday, December 23, 2015

“O Virgo Virginum” Among the White Canons

The Norbertines of England (aka Premonstratensians) use a different set of O Antiphons, starting on December 16. Tonight's antiphon honors the Blessed Virgin Mary:

The Roman Rite begins the Great Antiphons on the 17th, but we sing the first, “O Sapientia,” on 16th, because we sing an extra Antiphon, “O Virgo Virginum” in honour of Our Blessed Lady on the 23rd. This was a common [English] medieval practice that our Order maintains (it was also sung in the Sarum Use, for example, although the other medieval variant on the Roman Rite, “O Gabriel,” is not included in our Breviary).

The antiphon in Latin:

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

And English:

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

The Norbertines of St Philip’s Priory, Chelmsford provide this history on their vocations blog:

The Canons Regular of Prémontré were founded by St. Norbert at Prémontré, France on Christmas Day, 1120.

By God's grace, we live the canonical life based upon the ancient Rule of St Augustine (written around 400). At the heart of our way of life is a devotion to prayer and contemplation, which nourishes our various apostolic works in the world. There are five pillars to our Norbertine way of life that our holy father Norbert bequeathed to us:

- The praise of Almighty God in the sacred liturgy
- A zeal for souls
- A life of penance
- Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
- Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially her Immaculate Conception

The Order arrived in England in 1138, until the suppression of the monasteries in the Reformation. By then, there were 38 houses (both male and female) in the British Isles. Expelled from these islands for over three centuries, we returned in 1872 and founded several missions.

The Norbertine houses in England were in Alnwick, Barlings, Bayham, Beauchief, Beeleigh, Blackwose, Blanchland, Broadholme, Cammeringham, Cockersand, Combswell, Coverham, Croxton, Dale, Durford, Easby, Eggleston, Guizance, Hagnaby, Halesowen, Hornby, Irford, Kayland, Langdon, Langley, Lavendon, Leyston, Newbo, Newhouse, St. Radegund, Shap, Snellshall, Stixwold, Sulby, Tichfield, Torre, Tupholme, Warburton, Welbeck, Wendling, West Dereham, and West Ravendale. The priests of the Order worked primarily in parishes, serving in 150 parishes near these houses--those services all lost during the Dissolution of Monasteries and all religious orders.

It's interesting that the former Anglicans who are part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham do not follow this English pattern of O Antiphons in their recently approve Missal and Customary, as least according to this Ordo.

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