21 January 2016, St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

21 January 2016, St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

EF Missa Cantata, 7pm

Introit: Me expectaverunt

Gradual: Diffusa est gratia

Alleluia: Quinque prudentes

Offertory: Afferentur regi

Communion: Quinque prudentes

Recessional: Alma redemptoris Mater, PBC, p. 119
Mass XII, PBC, pp. 49ff. No Credo.

The Introit has four phrases:

  1. Me expectaverunt peccatores ut perderent me
  2. Testimonia tua Domine intellexi
  3. Omnis consummationis vidi finem
  4. Latum mandatum tuum nimis

This verse 95 from the longest of the psalms, Ps 118 (119) has here a rather straightforward Mode II melody that has been often recorded and served as an inspiration to composers, particularly ones writing in the light of the devastation of modern warfare. For a good sense of the ethos (or mood) of the melody, listen to Blue Herons recording. https://blueheron.bandcamp.com/track/introit-me-expectaverunt-peccatores It is chosen for St Agnes because of her unwavering fidelity to the Lord in light of his promise of eternal life for those who follow his way.  

The Gradual has four phrases:

  1. Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis:
  2. propterea benedixit te Deus in aeternum.
  3. V. Propter veritatem et mansuetudinem, et justitiam:
  4. et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua.

The text ties us back to Christmas, when we sang it on the octave day and will again on the feast of the Presentation. It is also sung on the feast the Assumption (15 August), of St. Lucy (13 December), and St. Anne (26 July), as well as in the Common of one Virgin. The first phrase rises to suprising heights. Singing the words Iabiis tuis today is particularly appropriate. The tonal as well as the harmonic foundation of the second half of the second phrase is formed by f, and the high point of the melody, previously b, now becomes b. The melody reaches a climax over the final syllable of mansuetudinem, then returns to the tonic. The melodic formula of et justitiam is reminiscent of Epiphany; that which follows, of the feast of the Assumption; the conclusion, of the second Mass of Christmas.

The Alleluia verse has three phrases in a very straightforward Mode II melody:

  1. Quinque prudentes virgines acceperunt oleum in vasis suis cum lampadibus
  2. Media autem nocte clamor factus est
  3. Ecce sponsus venit: exite obviam Christo Domino.

As we so often see, many pieces also show a predilection for tone-painting. Sometimes, however, it is to the detriment of the leading thought. In this Alleluia verse there is some confusion of voices. The announcement of the coming of the bridegroom is realistically indicated, but the principal idea: ‘Go forth to meet Christ the Lord,’ suffers in comparison. In the Communion below, on the contrary, the simple melody brings the key notion into prominence in a most captivating manner.

The Offertory has three phrases:

  1. Afferentur regi virgines
  2. Proximae ejus afferentur tibi in laetitia et exultatione
  3. Adducentur in templum regi Domino

The melody marks a progression that echoes the movement of the procession into the court of the Temple, into the presence of the true King, the Lord Himself. It reaches a high point over (exsul)-ta-(tione) and then descends again as the procession comes directly into the presence and bows low before the Lord, ending on a note of awe. This melody has been the inspiration for further development by a number of composers from the Renaissance to our own times, with Anton Bruckners being perhaps the most famous.

The Communion antiphon has three phrases:

  1. Quinque prudentes virgines acceperunt oleum in vasis suis cum lampadibus :
  2. media autem nocte clamor factus est :
  3. Ecce sponsus venit : exite obviam Christo Domino

The melody only slightly expanded from an Office antiphon carries the key message clearly. We are all called to go forth to meet Christ the Lord.

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