24 January 2016, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

24 January 2016, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

(Year C) Introit: Adorate Deum

Offertory: Adoro Te devote, PBC, p. 90,

(Year C) Communion: Comedite pinguia

Recessional: God, my King, Thy might confessing, p. 325, 

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

Like last Sunday's Communion antiphon, today's Introit comes from the Mass formulary of the Vigil of St Andrew the Apostle (29 November) in the older (1961) Graduale. It is Matthew's telling of the call of Andrew and Peter, sung because we hear Mark's version in today's Gospel. (Last week we heard John's version.) It is in the first mode, which can be declarative, somewhat like the eighth. The melody moves along at a steady narrative pace, though the ornamentation over duos fratres and vos . . . piscatores evoke images of fisherman raising and lowering their nets out of the water.

(Year C) The Introit antiphon has three phrases:

1. Adorate Deum omnes Angeli eju

    2. audivit, et laetata est Sion

3. et exsultaverunt filiae Judae.

Generally the individual phrases of a Gregorian chant either exhibit a regular gradation or they are so arranged that the central one marks the summit of the melody. But here the first phrase with its fourths and high pitch—perhaps induced by the thought of the angels in the celestial regions—predominates. It seems that the composer was concerned, above all, to call our attention to the adoring angels at the beginning of the holy Sacrifice. Here they are not so much a model for our own worship of God, as they are the source of our purest joy. For in them the Father has adorers according to His own mind, who with their intelligence immerse themselves in God's splendor and tremble before His immensity, and who acknowledge with their whole will their utter dependence upon God. One of their number wished to contest this, to destroy the harmony. But he was cast into hell. Now there is perfect accord, and all the angels offer their homage to God. The Church (Sion) hears it and shouts for joy. Here again we find expressed the two thoughts adorate and laetata est Sion.

Audivit shows some similarity to Judae: the former has its pressuson a, the latter on c. With laetata est Sion two-note groups are sung. In the third phrase et is to be treated as an anacrusis, and the following syllable receives a light secondary accent. After the solemn first phrase, the remaining two should be energetic. The text should still be sung in the bright light of Epiphany, in which Christ stands before us as Lord and King, with angels surrounding and adoring Him. A verse formerly sung with this Introit addressed Him with the words. ‘You are the Lord most high over all the earth: You are exalted exceedingly above all gods.’ The Church rejoices at His revelation, at the love with which He calls everyone into His kingdom, and at the gifts He dispenses.

[A meditation from Adam Bartlett on Adorate Deum (Chant Café, 2016)

Today is what the Extraordinary Form can rightly call ‘Adorate Deum Sunday, while those who regularly attend the Ordinary Form can only call it this once every three years, due to its placement in cycle C of the three year Lectionary cycle.

In many ways, I grieve that this proper is only heard once every three years. The Adorate Deum Introit is, in my opinion, one of the most sublimely beautiful and mesmerizing chants in the entire Gregorian corpus. It is a true masterpiece of liturgical composition. I love this chant so much that I was even compelled to use the Introit's incipit as my Twitter handle!

The text is from Psalm 96 (97) and it entirely encapsulates the meaning of life in three short lines:

Adorate Deum omnes Angeli eius:

audivit, et laetata est Sion:

et exsultaverunt filiae Iudae.

Worship God, all you his angels:

Sion has heard, and is glad,

and the daughters of Judah rejoice.

We see in these three lines the three realms of God's creation responding to him: First, the angels who were created to adore and sing praise to God eternally in heaven. Then follows the members of the heavenly banquet of the Lamb, the heavenly Sion, who hear the song of the angels and join in with gladness. And lastly we hear of those of us who remain on earth below, who are symbolized by the daughters of Judah: the ten virgins with lighted lamps who await the arrival of the bridegroom, who rejoice in anticipation of their Lord at the sound of the angels' song.

It is a hymn of praise which is set in the seventh,’exultant’ mode. The chant begins with the leap of a fourth up to an epismatic bivirga which then ascends with strength to the tonic accent of adorate on the dominant of the mode. The word Deum, also affixed to the dominant, is followed by a short and quick, but heightened melsima, denoting God's glory and majesty. The next phrase, omnes Angeli eius, ascends to the very top of the mode with no less than seven epismatic notes, as they are found in the ancient St. Gall manuscripts. Angeli begins in the heights of the mode, and then descends like a dove, floating gracefully down as though from heaven, to the very bottom note of the mode.

In the next phrase, on audivit it is as though the members of Sion hear the song of the angels echoing throughout heaven, and absorb its beauty. Then et laetata est moving back up to and above the dominant of the mode melodically recalls the joy of the angels in the previous phrase, and sounds as though the musical phrase itself is leaping for joy.

There is strength and confidence in exsultaverunt as it dances around the secondary dominant of the seventh mode. Then filiae unexpectedly leaps down a fifth from the accent. This leap of a fifth, whether up or down, always seems to denote joy in the Gregorian musical language. After this shocking descent there is a powerful thrust upward to a reassured, strong and forceful Iudae which gracefully falls back to its earthly resting place on the final of the mode.

This Introit, to me, is the sound of eternity, resounding down to us on earth who catch a glimpse of it in the sacred liturgy where we experience a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem that we await. This theme seems to be very characteristic of the Entrance Antiphons that form a part of the opening stretch of Ordinary Time. It is as though the angels who first sang the praises of the newborn King at Bethlehem, cannot keep from emphatically and ecstatically singing his praises in response to the Father's unimaginable gift of love to the world. I only wish that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time could always be Adorate Deum Sunday, and perhaps it will be so again some day. But for now I am glad that I was able to sing this glorious chant, united to the angel choirs in heaven, and look forward to doing the same in another three years when this Introit is sung by the Church once again.]

(Year C) The Communion antiphon has four phrases:

  1. Comedite pinguia et bibite mulsum
  2. et mittite partes eis qui non praeparaverunt sibi
  3. (a) sanctus enim dies Domini est;
    (b) nolite constristari
  4. gaudium etenim Domini est fortitudo nostra

This text, taken from today’s 1st Reading, is from the prophet Nehimiah, an apocalyptic text known as the 2nd book of Esdras in the Vulgate. The book(s) with this name have a very interesting evolution as some of them wound their way into the canonical Scriptures. But here, the marriage to the Lucan passage about Jesus’s declaration of his unique person and mission leaves no doubt about the Church’s understanding of who Jesus is and the impact of His public ministry on the world. His presence ushers in the end times, the prelude of the great Messianic banquet. In his great antiphon for 2nd Vespers of Corpus Christ, O sacrum convivium, St Thomas reminds us that we have a foretaste of that banquet in the Eucharist. Each time the tabernacle is closed after the distribution of Holy Communion, the Roman rite assigns that antiphon to be prayed silently, as a reminder that the great Day of the Lord is upon us already. The straightforward Mode 8 melody reaching its high point over bibite mulsum clearly points toward the Eucharist, a banquet richer than we could ever have prepared or even imagined, and that is the source of our joy and strength. For those who partake of it worthily, there is no place for worry or fear.