3 August 2014, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Introit (Year A): Sitientes, begin on F (as sol)
Offertory: And now O Father, p. 281, begin on F
Communion: Panem de caelo, begin on E♭ (as fa)
Recessional: All hail the power of Jesus' name, p. 225, begin on C
Mass XI, PBC p. 58. Credo III, PBC p. 77
(Year A) The Introit has two phrases:
- Sitientes venite ad aquas dicit Dominus
- et qui non habetis pretium venite bibite cum laetitia.
We have this short text from the Prophet Isaiah in Year A because it is found in today’s first reading. It is a popular and much loved scripture text that many composers have set to music. In the EF, it is used on the Saturday after the 4th Sunday of Lent, the day before Passiontide begins, whence we have such a somber Mode 2 Gregorian melody for such a joyous text. The high point of the melody is over non (habetis), putting emphasis on our inability to earn or buy access to the living water, Jesus himself. Unlike the high value our society places on earning rewards through our own efforts, the waters of salvation and the rewards of eternal redemption are a gift freely given us by the Lord himself who invites us to drink. We should accept His gift and drink with joy!
The Communion antiphon has two phrases, but not divided as we might expect:
- Panem de caelo dedisti nobis, Domine, habentem omne delectamentum
- et omnem saporem suavitatis
From its use at Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, we expect the first verse to be split in two. But here the composer follows the text from the Book of Wisdom closely. The melody reminds us that the Lord is who has given us the Holy Eucharist. It progresses almost stepwise, emphasizing f-f, g-g, a-a, c-c, until the word Domine surmounts it all. Pronounce the words of this phrase distinctly and see how well the chant follows the natural development of the text. Only You could give us the Bread of heaven, Lord. Only Your wisdom could conceive such a gift. Only Your love could bestow it on us. 'Your sustenance shows forth Your sweetness to Your children,' as the subsequent verse of the Book of Wisdom puts it.
And this Bread is full of sweetness. The text alone rings with the joy of it, but the melody strives to make it still more prominent. Omne in the second half of the first phrase is sung on the dominant. (According to a stylistic requirement which is generally observed in florid songs such as Graduals, a new melodic phrase is here formed for the same thought.) Its first half is characterized by the predominating d; the second is introduced by a surprising fifth and closes with the cadence customary with the fifth and sixth modes. The usual source of sweetness in ancient times was honey, and in the lilting descent of melody over saporem suavitatis the composer reflects the image of honey hitting the tongue, imparting its initial blast of sweet, then rolling down the palate as its sweetness is savoured.