Hymn for the Feast of Saint Benedict
By Sr. Fidelis
This week we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia. Here in our Benedictine Community this is an especially significant day. We begin the service of Vespers with a beautiful hymn written by Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072 AD), Benedictine reformer, and Doctor of the Church. Found in the Breviarum Monasticum, the hymn is written in Mode I and has a lovely lyrical tune setting off this stunning poetry. The writer uses phrases such as “precious jewel of the heavenly king”, “your heart fixed on the stars,” and “you work through the narrow beginnings of a strict life” as he recounts the life of Benedict.
Each verse begins with a stepwise melody in the lower range, blossoms in the middle in leaps of 4ths and 5ths, and then settles back to a repeat of the opening phrase. It sticks to the typical features of Mode I – beginning and ending on Re and at points hovering around La. The clarity and simplicity help paint the perfect backdrop for the hymn text.
In preparation for this day we have been reading through this text together – first to get our tongues wrapped around the words and then to digest them in our minds and hearts. It brings to mind his wisdom passed down to us over the centuries: Listen my Son with the ear of your heart….