The temperature is near 60 degrees! Still almost Autumn, however, since the high later on is to be 80, according to the mages. It is the feast of the confessor Saint Joseph Calasanctius (Introibo, CE, Wiki) and also of the widow Saint Monica, happy mother of so great a son, Saint Augustine; Saint Monica seems never to have had even a commemoration in the Office or at Mass, however. Hmm. The Catholic Encyclopedia article (whose author was Hugh Pope OP, perhaps) says that her Office was taken into the Roman Breviary in the 16th century (the Wikipedia article says the 19th).
Ante Primam. Am returned from my walk and the shopping-- the humidity is in the 90s but there is a good breeze and it's cool enough that it felt like paddling through sun-warmed water in the real Autumn. Today and tomorrow are appropriate days for Johann Adolph Hasse's 1750 oratorio La conversione di Sant'Agostino.
From a couple of years ago at OnePeterFive, Dr Massimo Scapin.
Directly from the Confessions comes La conversione di Sant’Agostino, the last oratorio written by the German Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783), the greatest of many foreign composers who, before Gluck and Mozart, shone in Italian Opera.
The oratorio was performed for the first time at four in the afternoon on Holy Saturday March 28 1750, in the chapel of Dresden’s Royal Palace. The libretto, written by the Bavarian princess Maria Antonia Walpurgis (1724-1780), is based on the five-act play Idea perfectæ conversionis sive Augustinus by the Jesuit Franz Neumayr (1687-1765). Judging by the numerous performances after the first one in today’s Germany, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Italy, the oratorio gained some popularity in the 18th century.
The score, divided into two parts for about an hour and three quarters of music, is conceived for five characters (St. Augustine, alto; Simpliciano, a priest, tenor; Monica, Augustine’s mother, soprano; Alipio, Augustine’s friend, alto; Navigio, Augustine’s brother, bass), a mixed chorus and an orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, strings and continuo).
It all begins with an orchestral Introduction (Allegro non troppo però, ma con molto spirito). “You won’t be afflicted so much anymore, sorrowful and pious mother. […] Let’s hope in God”, Simpliciano says to console Monica, who confides him: “Ah, how slight is my hope, Father,” that “the guilty son” can change his life. The voices of Alipio and then Navigio are added, who, together with Simpliciano and Monica, throughout the first part, talk with Augustine about his “serious fight,” his inner conflict between good and evil, and invite him to repent, to dissolve “these infamous chains,” and to deny himself “at least for a short time the guilty poison.” Augustine would like to embark on the path of conversion, but his heart, he says, “will never be able to change. The objects of its love are too sweet.” He is desperate: “Remorse oppresses the breast, / The heart loves its crime; / I am doubtful and afflicted / and I don’t know how to resolve myself. / I groan in the pain of my state; / I would like to turn to my God; / But how can I untie myself / from the snares of my heart.” The first part ends with a chorus which, alternating between Monica and Alipio, intercedes for Augustine: “Inspire, o merciful God, / To him more worthy affection; / Make him a winner / Of every earthly object. / Ah, let not be shed in vain / For him the Divine Blood, / May your favor strengthen / that soul that languishes.”
The second part opens with Monica “alone among so many anxieties. I know that the son fights, but I don’t know if he wins.” But first Simpliciano and then Alipio reassure her that “grace assists him” and that he “strongly resists the movements of his heart.” On seeing Augustine arrive, “all withdraw to one side” to listen to his soliloquy. During his spiritual battle a voice (soprano) invites him: “Take and read, Augustine.” He finds in his hands “the pages which the great Apostle to the Gentiles wrote;” we know from Neumayr’s drama (and from Confessions VIII,12,29) that this is the passage of the Epistle to the Romans where St. Paul exhorts to abandon the works of the flesh and to be clothed with Christ (13,13-14). After the reading, Augustine feels the darkness of doubt clearing and, full of joy, sings: “Now I repent, oh God, how late / I began to love you: / Now I condemn, and you know it, / The delusions of my heart. / Ah, merciful, allow me / One of your tender glances, / which comforts, which feeds, / which confirms the new love.”. Simpliciano reaches him and warns him: “Perhaps you’re deceiving yourself, trusting too much in yourself”; but by now he finds him certain of his conversion, which Monica and the others also rejoice about. At the end of the oratorio, first Simpliciano and then the final chorus respectively exhort all the “unhappy souls” and “every shy heart” to follow the example of this great convert.
Post Vesperas. Am glad to see that Father John Zuhlsdorf's meditations on the Sunday propers will appear at One Peter Five going forward-- and that he is commenting upon the Traditional Mass.
It is also the feast of Saint Monica (4th century), of Saint Gebardus (10th century), and of Saint Amadeus (12th century).
V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.
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