For Advent 2011

What is known as Sarum Liturgy or the Use of Sarum is an organic development of Catholic Worship that existed in these islands since before the time of the arrival of St Augustine of Canterbury. It was a Use that achieved its shape after the Norman Conquest, in fact during the twenty-year period of the Norman St Osmond as bishop of Salisbury, ably assisted by one Lanfranc. This Use was acceptable to both races of British Catholics. The Use is also very similar to that of Rouen as found in a Pontifical originating there around 1067.

Now before any one develops the impression that I am making suggestions of re-using anything Sarum, let me make it clear that I hold that since the Sarum Use ceased to be practised at some point after the English Reformation, it would be vain to revive its practices as this would simply be liturgical archaeology.  Real liturgy needs to be organic; the Sarum Use has been static for a very long time. The Catholic Liturgies authorised for use nowadays suffice to produce saints and impart Grace. These are my personal thoughts.

So why do I write about Sarum Use?

In this liturgical book, there are various Sequences. In the style of poetry, a Sequence delivers further reflections on the day on which it is recited. Its location is immediately before the Gospel as it was meant to serve like a hymn to cover the actions of the procession of the Gospel. Spanning from the seventh to the eleventh centuries several of these devotional compositions found their way in the Sarum Use. Sequences were found to catechise the laity about the mystery or mysteries celebrated on that day. They also fuelled the prayer life of the contemplative and the labours of the preacher. There are over a hundred Sequences in the Sarum Use which are manifold when compared to the three or four in the Roman rite.

The Use of Sarum has a Sequence for every Sunday in Advent. I would like to make them available to the followers of this blog as an aid for further reflection during this holy season of Advent. These are words that shaped and moulded Catholics in this land before the English Reformation. I use the 1884 translation by A Harford Pearson who tells us that the sequences were translated by his father C.B. Pearson.

Sequence for First Sunday of Advent.

Eternal Health of man,

Life of the world, which faileth never,

Life everlasting,

Verily our sure Redemption,

Thou, grieving that this world should perish

By the tempter’s power,

Thou still in heaven, in lowliest guise cam’st down,

Of thine own clemency.

Then taking on Thee flesh

Of thine own grace and will,

Thou savedst all on earth

Which else had been undone,

Joy bringing to the world.

Our souls and bodies, Christ,

Deign thou to purify,

And take us for Thine own,

Thy undefiled abode.

By Thy first coming deign to justify,

And by Thy second deign to set us free;

So when in brightness terrible

Thou shalt judge all the world,

May we in garments incorruptible,

Where’er we trace the prints of Thy blest Feet,

Then follow in Thy train.

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