29 June 2014, Ss. Peter and Paul

29 June 2014, Ss. Peter and Paul

Introit, Nunc scio, begin on E (as fa)

Alleluia: Melismatic Mode II, PBC, p. 84 begin on D (as do)

Offertory: O with thy benediction, p. 288, begin on E

Communion: Tu es Petrus, begin on G (as fa)

Recessional: For all thy saints in warfare, p. 262, sung to the tune Aurelia, begin on F

[N.B. Aurelia is the tune most often used for the hymn The Church’s one foundation.]

Mass XI, PBC p. 58. Credo III, PBC p. 77

This feast, as the Collect tells us, has always celebrated both Apostles together. Indeed, they both had, as St Leo the Great reminds us, the same calling, the same labors, and the same end. Their combined feast is a feast of the papacy and of the Church, commemorating the victory of the cross. We hear the words of St. Peter in the Introit, then in the corpusof the Gradual and in the Offertory we praise God for the dignity accorded the Apostles. The verse of the Gradual sings our joy for the gift of the Apostles and the unbroken line of popes which God has given us. In the Alleluia and Communion we hear Christ Himself speaking to Peter.

The Introit antiphon has three phrases:

  1. Nunc scio vere quia misit Dominus Angelum suum
  2. et eripuit me de manu Herodis
  3. et de omni expectatione plebis Judaeorum.

With the words of the Introit St. Peter shares his prayer after being miraculously liberated from prison. The text and thought serve as a prelude to the First Reading [EF: Epistle], taken from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter is in prison and the universal Church is praying fervently, for Peter's beheading was to have taken place on the following morning. Divine intervention often comes only when every human resource has been exhausted. Peter is not perturbed; he removes his sandals, takes off his mantle and lays himself down to sleep. An angel enters his cell, loosens his chains, and bids him put on sandals and cloak. Together they pass by the iron gate which opens of itself. At first, all this seems like a dream. It is only after the angel has accompanied him for some distance and then vanishes that he understands that he has in fact been saved.

            The melody over nunc is somewhat dreamlike. Very quickly, however, the Apostle grasps the reality of the situation. The melody begins piano, grows rapidly, and over quia misit breaks forth like a radiant sun which has triumphantly pierced a persistent fog.  Einsiedeln 121 places an emphatic "t" (=tenere, hold) over the virga of quia. In the main, however, the tempo should be lively, and the tendency to lag, especially in several passages, must be avoided. If we make the joy of the Apostle our own, we will sing his hymn with a thankful and rejoicing heart. All three phrases begin with f ; the close of the second and third have some similarity with that of the first. The repetition over de (omni) of the initial motif over Nunc is the more noticeable in manuscript 121 of Einsideln, since there we have in both cases a bistropha and a porrectus. The four intervals of a fourth which follow—alternately ascending and descending—have an effect like irony on the eagerness of the Jews, who feel certain of their prey, until their well-laid plans come apart. Again, all three phrases should be kept fresh and lively. The construction of the melody may possibly have been influenced by the use of the tetrachords d-g over Nunc and et de, g-c over scio vere and expectatione, e-a over de manu Herodis and Judaeorum.

            In the psalm-verse the Apostle expresses gratitude for the guidance of divine Providence. While he lay bound in prison he was not forgotten; his liberation was effected and with it went the grant of a new life. The text of the verse, taken from Psalm 138 and well adapted to the feasts of the Apostles, reminds us of the Easter Introit. In fact, the deliverance of St. Peter is effected by none other than the risen, transfigured Christ. Numerous popes might have reiterated these same words of St. Peter. Death and affliction threatened them also, but the Lord protected His representative even to the extent of miraculous intervention. St. Luke remarks that St. Peter, having been liberated from his prison in Jerusalem, went into another land (in alium locum). Divine Providence led him to Rome. Blessed Idelfonso Schuster remarks that the Lesson from the Acts which follows is like an attestation, a record of the birth of the Church in Rome, the mother and teacher of all Churches.

The Communion antiphon is a single phrase:

Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam

The text brings us once more the words of Christ: Tu es Petrus. Through the worthy reception of Holy Communion we also become an integral part of the Church, we pulsate with her innermost life, and are bound to her in a most intimate manner. Today we can only thank God for this grace which he has vouchsafed to us, as well as for all the graces which He bestowed on St. Peter, His vicar on earth, and on all the sovereign Pontiffs.

            The melody is very simple. The one major interval is that of a fourth over Petrus; beyond this there are only minor thirds and seconds. The motifs over (aedifica)-bo and Eccle-(siam) are antithetical. Would that the entire body of the faithful might be congregated as one unit to sing this hymn; each individual could then realize the more fully how he forms an element in that one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of which Christ said: This is My Church. In past centuries the Communions of the vigil and the feast were interchanged. The gripping melody of the Communion of the vigil would set off the Mass liturgy of today's feast very effectively.

            Note: the adaptation of this melody to the feast of the Holy Trinity is found already in St. Gall 339. In the Trinity Sunday version, however, the phrasing is different. Four phrases were formed from the three of today and various minor divisions introduced that are less than satisfactory.

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