Friday 15 November 2013, St Albert the Great

Friday 15 November 2013, St Albert the Great

EF Missa Cantata, 8.00 am

Introit: In medio Ecclesiae, begin on D (as re)

Gradual: Os justi, begin on D (as re)

Alleluia: Amavit eum Dominus, begin on C (as do)

Offertory: Justus ut palma, begin on E (as mi)

Communion: Fidelis servus, begin on E (as sol)

Postlude: Salve Regina (simple tone), begin on C

Mass XII, no Credo, common preface.

The Introit has three phrases:

  1. In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os ejus
  2. et implevit eum Dominus spiritu sapientiae, et intellectus
  3. stolam gloriae induit eum.

The text is from the Book of Wisdom. Christ our Saviour, Wisdom itself, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, fills the doctors of the Church with the spirit of wisdom and understanding. Like the Offertory Justus ut palma, this chant now found in the Common of Doctors was originally composed for the feast of St. John the Evangelist. This melody is an example of classic repose, and must be sung very sustainedly. The first phrase has two members, each of which begins with a neume resembling a podatus; in each instance this is followed by a tristropha and an accented g. Everything seems to undulate lightly about f, and yet an upward tendency runs through the entire phrase, a tendency which finds a brilliant fulfilment in the second phrase. The cdfg here becomes fgaband acc with the pressus, the only one in the entire piece.

After this culmination the melody again supports itself, as in the first and third phrases, on f. The synonyms sapientiae and intellectus have similar intonations. Low c over the latter word serves as an antithesis to high c over eum and at the same time as a transition to the third phrase. This phrase also descends to low c, but more gracefully and gently, since each of the last two neumes sets in with the pitch of the preceding. The second half corresponds to ejus at the close of the first phrase. On account of its range and the emphasis on the tonic f, this chant gives us a standard example of the (plagal) sixth mode.


The Gradual has two phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:

  1. Os justi meditabitur sapientiam,
  2. et lingua ejus loquetur judicium
  3. V. Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius
  4. et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus.

Doctors of the Church speak and write eloquently and with great wisdom because the law of God is truly in their hearts. They have a close personal relationship with the One who is Wisdom. It is He who guides their good judgements and keeps their steps from faltering.

The Alleluia verse has two phrases:

  1. Amavit eum Dominus et ornavit eum
  2. stolam gloriae induit eum

Again we have the refrain from the book of Wisdom: the Lord has clothed the wise man with a stole of glory! And as with the Gradual, this glory rooted in a bond of love in the heart of the wise man between him and his most loving Lord. How very appropriate for today’s saint, the gentle and kind St Albert the Great, teacher of St Thomas Aquinas.

The Offertory has two phrases:

  1. Justus ut palma florebit
  2. sicut cedrus, quae in Libano est, multiplicabitur.

Like the Introit, this Offertory was originally composed for the feast of St. John. The figure of the palm tree here signifies that the entire life of a doctor of the Church was turned toward Christ, the Sun of Justice. His life was lived in heaven, into the deepest mysteries of which he was allowed to see. In his ardent striving for God the sweet fruits of which his writings give evidence he gives us an example of Christian maturity. The melody itself suggests the palm with its towering shaft. The second half of Justus is repeated over florebit and in part over (Liba)-no.

In the second phrase, however, the cedar is made to reach higher than the palm. Sicut reminds us of ut pal-(ma); ce-(drus) with its abcdca is a development of the efgagf at the beginning of this Offertory; (Li)- bano harks back to (pal)-ma: two or three motifs are thus manipulated here in a smooth and expert manner. Multiplicabitur repeats the fourth which was heard three times at the beginning. The melisma following supports itself on the pressus dag, ggf, and ffe. It pictures the spreading branches of the cedar; the development of the melody here is lateral rather than perpendicular.

The Communion antiphon has two phrases:

  1. Fidelis servus et prudens, querm constituit Dominus super familiam suam
  2. ut del illis in tempore tritici mensuram.

Some older manuscripts assign this melody to the feast of St. Gregory the Great. Prior to this, however, it was already sung on the feast of Popes Urban and Sixtus. The melody grows systematically, ga bg dc c becoming cb cd d and finally dc de dec; following this, c becomes the actual dominant. The rhyme at the end of the first and second phrases is also very effective, cd cb gg becoming cd cb gag g. Both phrases have three divisions. The second phrase has a richer development than we ordinarily find in a Communion. Over tritici the Vatican Gradual calls for a slight retarding after c and a, thus resulting in three groups, of which the first and third form the arsis.

Doctors of the Church are faithful stewards of the mysteries of faith entrusted to the Lord’s household, His Church. Christ has also united Himself with us under the form of bread (tritici). Through their intercession, may we have a real hunger in the present life for the wisdom of God, so that we remain faithful members of that household.