28 February 2014, Friday after Sexagesima Sunday
(EF Missa Cantata, 8am)
Introit: Exurge, begin on D (as re)
Gradual: Sciant gentes, begin on C (as re)
Tract: Commovisti, begin on C (as mi)
Offertory: Perfice, begin on D (as fa)
Communion: Introibo, begin on F (as sol)
Recessional: Ave regina caelorum, begin on F
Mass XV. No Gloria, no Credo.
This famous Introit has three phrases:
- (a) Exsurge, quare obdormis, Domine?
(b) exsurge et ne repellas in finem
- (a) quare faciem tuam avertis,
(b) oblivisceris tribulationem nostram?
(c) Adhaesit in terra venter noster
- esxurge, Domine, adjuva nos, et libera nos.
The Migration of Nations with its dismal consequences may have been the occasion for these laments. But they are also the prayer of unredeemed mankind, of mankind degenerated, a prey to the lower appetites. St. Paul, whose church is the station for today, may also have felt these sentiments when his disgust with life well-nigh vanquished him, or when the sting of the flesh caused him such great torture. These words are the cry of the Apostles, almost word for word, when their little boat was so wildly tossed by the waves one stormy night, and the Lord was asleep. So have we also, from sheer necessity perhaps, often prayed for relief from pain or from the shackles of evil desires which threatened to drag us downward.
Our Introit is therefore a suppliant prayer from the valley ot this death, a plea for resurrection, a preparatory song for Easter, for the day of the Rising (exsurge) of the Lord. Our present melody is set within the compass of liturgical song, avoids dissonances and startling contrasts, and deprecates unrestrained subjectivism. And yet it shows how deeply and sincerely a chant melody can probe, how intimate the relation is between text and music, and how warm and true its expression. In the first phrase the first half is ascent (arsis), the second half descent (thesis) „ Beginning each half is an exsurge, the first one animated, the second impetuous, and both followed by a more quiet recitation on f. In the ascent the melody reaches the dominant, and in the descent it goes down to the tonic. The cadence occurring here is much favored by the first and second modes. We may recall it from the Alleluia of the third Christmas Mass (adorate Dominum). The next phrase shows by its very first word (quare) that it will extend the range of the preceding. A number of fourths occur here, and also the climax of the piece: oblivisceris. Though the group of notes for this word is nothing more than a synopsis of the melody over the psalm-verse (Deus auribus), they are most effective here because of their position in the Introit.
The composer had in his heart a feeling somewhat akin to that which forced from the Saviour's lips the terrible cry: "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The almost monotonous tribulationem nostram reminds us of our daily work, of that deadly sameness which may either numb the soul or be its constant torture. At adhaesit the melody tries four times to surge upward, and four times sinks back as if drawn down by a leaden weight. The highest notes of the individual groups form a descending line from dominant to tonic: a g f e d. Now the singer summons all his strength, storming heaven with short yet powerful sentences. How telling is the simple syllabic chant here. The third phrase is melodically like the first; its adjuva is a simpler form of the second exsurge. The second half cf the phrase then closes with the anticipated calmness inspired by the subsequent psalm-verse and psalm, which tells of the providence of God in the days of the Egyptian bondage, of the liberation of Israel's children, and of us, the new Israel.
The Gradual has two phrases in the corpus and three in the verse:
- Sciant gentes quoniam nomen tibi Deus:
- tu solus Altissimus super omnem terram.
- Deus meus, pone illos ut rotam,
- et sicut stipulam
- ante fadem venti.
Rumors of wars and threatened invasions of heathen enemies seem to be referred to in this Gradual. The verse with its request, which strikes us so oddly, begs God to put the enemy to flight with the same despatch that is shown by the autumn wind in heaping together the weeds of the fields and whisking them across the prairie. By God's grace our enemies are to be robbed of their strength, and we are to be made strong, that we may learn to overcome all things. That is St. Paul's instruction in the Epistle. We are to preserve this strength throughout our life, and thus show the ‘gentiles’ the enemies of Christ and those who deny Him—that He is truly God. This Easter Christ is to achieve victory in us.
The corpus of the Gradual is well planned. There is a well-ordered widening of the range in the phrases c-a and d-b, as well as in the two following which range from c-c. The nomen tibi is echoed in Deus. Here we find also the words Deus and Altissimus given a treatment similar to that found in the Offertory of Septuagesima (EF). The cadence in Altissimus is already hinted at in gentes. Both the beginning and the end of the first phrase of the verse are on the dominant, thereby keeping the melody unusually high in pitch. Closer scrutiny here reveals many similarities to the ascent to high f, so much preferred by Graduals of the fifth mode, e.g., the Gradual Illuminate for Epiphany. Upon this upward surge follows the middle sentence which again relaxes the tension. The concluding melisma here employed is found also in many other Graduals of the first mode; e.g., on the tenth and seventeenth Sundays after Pentecost (EF).
The Tract has three verses:
- Commovisti, Domine, terram, et conturbasti eam.
- Sana contriones ejus, quia mota est.
- Ut fugiant a facie arcus, ut liberentur electi tui.
Among the foes of whom the Tract makes mention, one naturally thinks first of exterior enemies, and of the havoc they have caused. In as far as we have deserved this punishment, it must be acknowledged as coming from God, and therefore we say, ‘You, O Lord, have troubled the earth.’ But our souls also have been violently moved. How many in the course of the past year have begun to tread the downward path despite the high promise which a careful education and a living faith seemed to hold out. How often have the burning darts of the evil one wounded and poisoned the soul. Be our Saviour (sana), Lord, during this pre-Lenten season and during the coming Lent. Let Your arrows fly, Lord, for they will pierce the heart of the enemy. We are Your elect, and we, therefore, confidently await Your special protection and help.
The Offertory has three phrases:
- Perfice gressus meos in semitis tuis, ut non moveantur vestigia mea:
- inclina aurem tuam, et exaudi verba mea:
- mirifica misericordias tuas, qui salvos facis sperantes in te, Domine.
We do not know if it was after the sad experience of his downfall that David penned the psalm from which these words are taken. But we can readily believe that he composed it at that time, if we note the straightforward fervor of this plea. The chant melody likewise seems to have originated in a heart which made the repentant acknowledgement that ‘it is good for me that You have humbled me, that I might learn Your commands. Here is humility at prayer, and deep contrition of heart, and the fear that one might belong to those whose hearts are stony ground, who gladly admit the word of God for a time, but give it no firm rooting, with the result that, ‘in time of temptation they fall away.’
Therein we see the earnestness of this melody. But it has a touch of mildness, of spiritual maturity, over it all. There is something appealing in it, much like a song in the quiet of the evening, after a day of storm and stress. Now all is transfigured by the love and the pity of God. This chant is a song of offering; in the early Church it was likewise a processional song. While it was being sung the faithful advanced to the altar and presented their gifts. These gifts voiced their sacrificial spirit, the spirit without which we cannot follow along the path marked out for us by the Man of Sorrows. We should effect a thoughtful and reflective rendition of this chant.
The divisions could hardly be more obvious. Each of the three imperatives, perfice, inclina, mirifica, begins a new phrase. The lingering of the melody at gressus—Einsiedeln 121 of has an x ( = expectare, to wait) after each bistropha, and a hold mark over the clivis—and the bistropha and tristropha over moveantur all seem to breathe confidence. They speak of quiet perseverance in doing the will of God. Thankful joy is discernible in semitis, a joy which perhaps was found only after bitter experience. The formula over mea closes the third phrase. Inclina swings up with impressive fervor. Aurem tuam finds its fuller development in et exaudi verba. Mirifica reminds one of the third phrase in the Introit for Easter Day. In both instances the melody effectively ends the foregoing phrase on f, the better to call attention to what follows. The progressive expansion of the melody in this phrase (f g a) should be brought out with a crescendo. In fact, the whole phrase must steadily grow in fervor until it reaches the confident upward look over in te and the tender Domine.
In earlier times this Offertory had four verses. After each verse the words mirifica misericordias were repeated, thus assuring the reception of this consoling truth in the trusting hearts of the faithful. The Offertory for the feast of St. John Cantius (Oct. 20) has borrowed extensively from this composition.
The Communion has two phrases:
- Introibo ad altare Dei
- ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.
In the EF, this is the prayer of the priest at the beginning of Mass, the first of those prayers which are said at the foot of the altar. In this song the faithful make use of the same words, for they also may now approach the altar, there to receive Him who brings joy to their hearts and youthful vigor and energy. Reinvigorated, the soul may then say with the Apostle: ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.’ Life may bring many trials, and hardships, and disappointments without number; the soul may have experiences much like those of St. Paul; but there ever remains the sweet consolation of saying, ‘I may go to the altar of God.’ The altar is the inexhaustible spring of joy and of strength for all.
A festal glow seems to hover over this melody, a joyousness brought out by the rising fourths, the clarion call of the dominant, the graceful intervals ca cbg, cd da adc, the broad arcs held together by the word accents as by a keystone: Introibo, ad altare, Dei; and all with a pleasing variety. The first and fourth divisions move within the tetrachord g-c, the second moves in the fifth g-d, and the third small division in the fifth f-c. In the EF, this happy melody occurs again on the feast of St. Aloysius and in the votive Mass of the Apostles.