Friday, 6 December 2013, St. Nicholas

Friday, 6 December 2013, St. Nicholas

EF Missa Cantata, 8am

Introit: Statuit ei, begin on C (as re)

Gradual: Inveni David, begin on D (as re)

Alleluia: Justus ut palma, begin on D (as do)

Offertory: Veritas mea, begin A (as re)

Communion: Semel juravi, begin on G (as sol)

Recessional: Alma redemptoris Mater, PBC, p. 119, begin on C (as do)
Ordinary will be from Mass XII, PBC, pp. 49ff. No Credo. 

The Introit has two phrases:

  1. Statuit ei Dominus testamentum pacis
  2. (a) et principem fecit eum
    (b) ut sit illi sacerdotii dignatas in aeternum

Translation: The Lord made to him a covenant of peace, and made him a prince: that the dignity of priesthood should be to him for ever. (Ps. 131: 1) O Lord, remember David: and all his meekness.

Originally adapted from the text of Ecclesiasticus (aka Sirach) 45:30 for the feast of Pope St Marcellus, this chant was already part of the core repertory in Rome by the mid-eighth century. This so-called ‘Old Roman’ version has been recorded by various groups and can be heard on the net. Our current melody was re-shaped sometime in the ninth century as the fusion of Roman and Franco-German chant into Gregorian developed after the Carolingian reforms. It is literally a textbook example of a Mode 1 chant. When compared to the Introit Da pacem, the first half is almost identical while the second half is very different. A standard Mode 1 intonation is followed by a recitation on a leading to an intermediate cadence on g (Dominus). Testamentum pacis ends with a redundant cadence on d, indicating the rest and tranquility of peace. Then we re-intone over in principem to take us to the high point over illi and sacerdotii, stressing the importance of Peter’s priesthood, and finally come to a true cadence at in aeternum to reflect the eternal nature of Peter’s role.

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

  1. Inveni David servum meum, oleo sancto unxi eum
  2. manus enim mea auxiliabitur ei
  3. et brachium meum confortabit eum

Verse:

  1. Nihil proficiet inimicus in eo
  2. et filius iniquitatis
  3. non nocebit ei

Typical formula for Mode I graduals. High points over auxiliabitur and inimicus and filius iniqitatis are trumped by the highest melodic peak over eo. God’s support of His faithful servant, the annointed Davidic king, is ultimately triumphant over all their enemies. As in today's communion text, our Saint reflects in his own life that royal virtue seen perfectly in Christ.

The Alleluia verse has two short phrases:

  1. Justus ut palma florebit
  2. et sicut cedrus multiplicabitur

This Alleluia of the Common of Abbots has a long and venerable history and has been adapted for a number of other formularies. It is difficult to determine which texts first inspired the melody. We might conceive the florid melisma over the word cedrus as tone-painting, imitative of the giant growth and the wide spread of the branches of this tree. The melody of Alleluia tends to reach a climax. This climax, which is repeated by the melody, is indicated by the climacus at the beginning of the jubilus. The varied progression of the second climacus, first f g and then c d, is charming indeed. The pressusis characteristic of the second and third members of the jubilus. The figure d f e d c in the second member becomes g a f e d in the third member, which latter, besides being strengthened, is provided with an upbeat in the fourth member. The verse sets in with grand solemnity on the dominant a. Justus—an essential characteristic of a wise abbot, and of St Nicholas the bishop—is expressive of something great and happy. The melodic turn over ut palma reflects the last member of the jubilus. The extended melisma over cedrus is of pellucid construction. A suggested grouping might combine the second clivis with an unextended climacus where a division point is then observed, thus : c e g a b g a e f e d | f e g e f e c | e d f d . Several of the older manuscripts declare in favor of this method of phrasing. The joining of climacus and clivis rounds off the melody in a pleasing manner. Careful examination, however, shows that all annotated manuscripts support the phrasing given in the Vatican Gradual. The first note of every second clivisis lengthened. Thus, before resting on the tonic d of this descending curve, the voice imparts a special relief to the clives a-e, g-e and f-d, thereby adding particular charm to the melody. Ced-(rus) is sung with a crescendo which diminishes as we approach the final f-d. The repetition is sung in the same manner.

The Offertory has two phrases:

  1. Veritas mea et misericordia mea cum ipso
  2. et in nomine meo exaltabitur cornu ejus.

This piece marks the only place in the Graduale Romanum where the Fa clef is on the fourth line. This would indicate that the melody has a strong tendency to descend. The first half of the first phrase with a range of only five notes moves in intervals of seconds and thirds (repercussion); the second half has one interval of a third, with the other intervals seconds. Over the word ipso the melody modulates to a full step below the tonic, a common turn in the second mode. The second phrase has a range of an octave and comparatively large intervals; there are, however, fewer neums on individual syllables than in the first phrase. The melody over -cordia recurs over mea, and in an abbreviated form over ejus.

The melody is solemn and well sustained, which is all the more fitting when the word of God is quoted. God redeemed His promises in the mystery of the Incarnation and thereby exemplified His fidelity and mercy. St. Nicholas became famous for his exemplary life, in which fidelity and mercy were pre-eminent. The text, however, may also bear a particular application to the saint. The image of the horn of mercy and plenty, so beloved in Sacred Scripture, was surely manifest in his life. He brought to life that providence of God, portrayed by the triumphant ring of the melody with its major chord over nomine meo. The older manuscripts assign this number to the feast of Pope St. Marcellus.

The Communion verse has two short phrases and a third long one:

  1. Semel juravi in sancto meo
  2. semen ejus in aeternum manebit
  3. (a) et sedes ejus sicut sol in conspectu meo
    (b) et sicut luna perfecta in aeternum
    (c) et testis in caelo fidelis

 The style is of an Office antiphon, with minimal neumes. It rises to a high point over sicut sol, emphasing the rising of the sun, a symbol of Christ, who is the ultimate fulfilment of this Davidic prophecy. In this instance, it also represents the shining virtue of St. Nicholas, who was a reflection of that Davidic servant king perfectly lived in Christ Himself.

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