12 January 2014, the Baptism of the Lord
Introit: Dilexisti justitiam, begin on F (as sol)
Offertory: I come the great Redeemer, V2H p. 238, begin on C
Communion: Omnes qui in Christo, begin on F (as re)
Recessional: Blest author of this earthly frame, V2H p. 239, begin on G
Mass VIII, PBC, p. 52ff; Credo III, PBC p. 77ff.
The text of this Introit, taken from Psalm 44, is sung often in the Roman rite. It is the text of the Introit and the Gradual for today, of the Introit for the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday and for the Common of Virgins, and of the Gradual and the Communion for the Common of Virgins. Probably composed to celebrate the wedding of the king with a foreign princess, Christians saw in the text a reference to the anointing of Jesus with the Holy Spirit, and later, to the consecration of virgins. The antiphon has three phrases:
- Dilexisti justitiam and odisti iniquitatem
- propterea unxit te Deus Deus tuus
- oleo laetitiae prae consortibus tuis.
We have the repetition in the phrase, Deus, Deus tuus, as elsewhere, because the original text used the tetragrammaton, YHWH. Later, when this was considered too sacred to utter, the text was changed to a form of Elohim, creating the redundancy. The melody is a very straightforward Mode 8 composition. The manuscripts indicate a slight hold over the ascending high point over justitiam, and conversely have us sing the expanded neume over (ini)-qui-(tatem) quickly. As in true also in our lives; we need to keep our attention on righteousness, and not prolong our attention to wickedness. The melody ascends again over propterea, unxit, and laetitiae, linking the joy that comes from anointing to the joy that comes from loving righteousness and hating wickedness. Annointing with oil in the ancient world was part of—and sometimes a substitute for—the ritual of bathing. So it’s appropriate for the feast of the Baptism, when Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at the start of His public ministry. Many Medieval and Renaissance artists included a scene of Mary bathing the infant Jesus in their representations of the Nativity and other infancy scenes, making a connection to the Baptism in the Jordan as well as our own need to be cleansed.
The Communion antiphon has two phrases:
- Omnes qui in Christo baptizati estis
- Christum induistis, alleluia.
We are again in Mode 2, as we were at the start of the Christmas cycle with Dixit Dominus. And like that Introit, this antiphon uses intermediate cadences on c to punctuate phrase endings. We have a very programmatic, almost playful melody. In the first phrase, deep drops over Om-(nes) and (e)-stis reflect the plunges into the waters of baptism. In the second phrase, we have a melodic rising and falling that bring to mind the movements of lifting and pulling to put on the baptismal garment. So the melody reminds us that the outward sign of baptism is the very physical action of washing and then clothing, while the text from chapter 3 of St Paul’s letter to the Galatians reminds us that the wonderfully clean sensation and good feelings we have being cleansed are always ultimately linked to our participation in the mystery of the cross. (Gal 3,1)