Smashing the World’s Strength in Weakness: St. Lawrence’s Day

August 10 marks the commemoration of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, burned alive on the gridiron in the third century. He is the subject of a fascinating and frequently macabre and defiant poem of Prudentius in the Peristephanon. (A professor of mine in graduate school paraphrased part of it as “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”)

Here is the traditional Collect according to the text of Georg Major in Psalmi seu cantica ex sacris literis, in ecclesia cantari solita, cum Hymnis et Collectis seu orationibus Ecclesiasticis, in usum Pastorum, Diaconorum et iuventutis Scholasticae (Wittenberg, 1558).

In die Sancti Laurentii.

Vers. Gloria et honore coronasti eum Domine.

R. Et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.

Da nobis quaesumus Omnipotens Deus, vitiorum nostrorum flammas extinguere, qui Beato Laurentio tribuisti tormentorum suorum incendia superare. Per Dominum etc.

On the Feast Day of St. Lawrence

Versicle: You have crowned him, O Lord, with glory and honor.

Response: And you have set him over the works of your hands.

Grant us, we beseech you, O Almighty God, to extinguish the flames of our vices, as you granted the blessed Lawrence to overcome the flames of his torments; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In the same volume is included a lengthy hymn on St. Lawrence by Joachim Camerarius. I’ll close with its penultimate strophe:

Ille de elati solet hac triumphum

Viribus semper ratione clarum

Ducere, ac in debilitate robur

Frangere mundi.

He [i.e., Christ] is always accustomed

To celebrate, in the mode of one destroyed by

Violence, an illustrious triumph, and in weakness

To smash the strength of the world.


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