The other morning I was presented with a copy of the new Hymanarium published by the Saint Joseph Province of the Order of Preachers. I was fortunate to get to know some of the Dominicans in Oxford during my time there, and I have to say that same infectious zeal, good sense, good humour, and love for the sacred liturgy is present in their brethren at the exceptional Dominican house of studies here in Washington. For the feast of All Saints, for example, a chapel packed with young adults sat through an hour of readings, chant and motets, a fine sermon, and then processed around the cloister singing the litany of the saints. The DC house is full, and they have only just completed another extension. Do the math, as they say.
The new Hymnarium is a well-produced and useful tome to accompany this revival and renewal. It has been lovingly put together, drawing on the Dominican breviary of 1952 and the Irish Dominican breviary of 1967. It uses both Roman and Dominican chants, and sets the texts of the office hymns of the liturgical year in the Ordinary Form, in both Latin and English, complete with the order’s own particular kalendar. It takes to heart the call of the Second Vatican Council to give pride of place to plainchant in the celebration of the sacred liturgy (SC 116), and also recognizes provides for those who wish to supplement this with the use of metrical hymnody, by providing the metre of each hymn alongside the chant itself.
What is particularly pleasing about this new publication is that it is a genuine fruit of the Dominican order’s own apostolate. The cost of the publication was met entirely by donors, and very quickly too. This not only demonstrates the esteem in which these fine men are held, but it shows that this way of life – an integral part of which is the dignified and reverent celebration of the sacred liturgy, in a way that flows from the tradition of the Church – is not something of the past. Far from it!
Further to this publication, the order is publishing organ accompaniments for the Hymnarium which will be available (as they are completed, on a rolling basis) on the website here. In the meantime, I would warmly encourage you to purchase a copy of this fine liturgical book, not only for your own edification, but to support this excellent work and to encourage further projects, which seek to bring the treasures of the sacred liturgy to a new generation of Catholics. If you wish to get a better sense of the quality of what is going on here, you might also purchase In Medio Ecclesiae (doesn’t that title say it all?), the new recording from the schola cantorum here in Washington. It’d make a wonderful gift at Christmas (p.s. I already have it!).