This afternoon, I drove down to Parkminster. Heavy traffic meant that I arrived only just in time for a humorous but informative presentation on St Nicholas with different St Nicholases entering, from Hungary, Scotland, India, and Holland. Then there were songs from many of the community. We had English, American, Scots, Australian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hebrew (by an Indonesian) and German. The latter language was to render several beautiful carols composed by Fr Aloysius who has been a Carthusian for about 50 years, I think.
The novice-master warned me beforehand that this was an occasion for the community to relax and that there might be some unorthodox moments. He was not wrong. Introducing one of the songs, a newcomer to the community from Poland announced that the melody contained an interval that had been forbidden by the Church for some centuries: an augmented fourth. But he felt that it would be OK on this occasion.
After the singing, there was tea, accompanied by various luxuries not normally encountered such as sweets and mince pies. The centrepiece was one of the most substantial cakes I have ever seen: a (heavy) fruit cake about a yard square. It was well-spiced, and very palatable. As a guest, I was carved off a piece not much smaller than a house brick. I managed to pass half of it off to a brother who was from Catalonia.
It was a valuable opportunity to chat to my students whom I normally only talk to in class, and to the other members of the community whom I only see in Choir. Most monasteries have a special meal on Christmas Day, perhaps with an extended recreation. At Parkminster, Christmas Day itself is a day of extra recollection; the recreation takes place on the feast of St Stephen. The Prior was very keen to let as many nationalities as possible sing something so we actually extended past the set time for Vespers - but at his word, the community scurried off to the chapel where I was able to join them.
The hymn was wonderful - but as so often, the tone had one or two very slight different from the one used in the Roman Gradual. Looking it up again, now I am home, I find that I cannot remember whether it began Jesu Redemptor omnium or Christe Redemptor omnium. "Christe Redemptor" is the more ancient. "Jesu Redemptor" was the revised version issued by Urban VIII. So it was probably "Christe Redemptor". Checking in Lentini's revision after Vatican II, I find that he changed it back "Christe Redemptor" but he mentions in a footnote the variant "Christe Redemptor Gentium". Connelly, in his Hymns of the Roman Breviary, says that "The text seems always to have caused trouble and the number of variants is large."
Yes, this is one of those things that I will not be able to resist checking on my next visit...