31 January 2016, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Introit: Laetetur cor
Offertory: Let all mortal flesh, p. 286
Communion: Illumina faciem tuam
Recessional: Lift up your heads ye mighty gates, p. 211
Mass XI, PBC p. 58. Credo III, PBC p. 77.
The Introit antiphon is one that appears in a number of Mass formularies, perhaps most prominently in that of Thursday of week 4 of Lent (Laetare week). It has three phrases:
- Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum
- quaerite Dominum et confirmamini
- quaerite faciem ejus semper
Medieval commentators labeled mode 2 as the 'sad mode,' and the Office psalm tone, many mournful mode 2 antiphons, and the Lenten tracts certainly bear that out. OTOH, it also is the mode of some of the most joy-ous chants of the year. How/why is this? Christian joy is not the bouncy, smiley, carefree stuff of TV adverts or children's shows. It is a secure contentment that is the fruit of suffering, like the joy of the resurrection after the cross. Today we sing this very clearly because we know that seeking the Lord involves embracing the cross, the real source of our joy and strength. The classic intonation formula starting on low la sets the stage to climb to high la at the climax points of quaerentium and faciem ejus. But the manuscripts caution us not to hang on to those melodic high points; we have to seek the Lord in our real world, here and now. So the melody moves along briskly, as befits the sense of the text. We are ever on 'the way' toward the face of the Lord of glory.
The Communion antiphon is taken from the formulary of Septuagesima Sunday in the EF. It has three phrases:
- Illumina faciem tuam super servum,
- et salvum me fac in tua misericordia:
- Domine, non confundar, quoniam invocavi te.
The accented syllables drive the melody of the first phrase but with a clear emphasis on faciem. (The 'face of God' is a recurring image in Sacred Scripture; we find it in both antiphons today. In the second phrase the pleading for mercy changes to an expression of joyous confidence in that mercy. God's mercy differs radically from the pity we show one another. Our mercy is as a morning cloud, and as the dew that goes away in the morning. (Hos 6:5) But His own mercy is lasting, generous, and inexhaustible. The melody exults in this divine mercy. The third phrase is full of confidence in God's salvation, assured that He has heard our plea and will come to save us. Domine, non repeats the melody of misericordia. In the second half (beginning with in tua) we find many melodic elements of the first half being recycled, a common practice in chant composition.