7 February 2016, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

7 February 2016, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

[8th Anniversary of the Latin Novus Ordo at SMV]

Introit: Venite adoremus Deum, begin on A (as do)

Gradual (Years B&C): Tollite hostias, begin on D (as fa)

Alleluia: Mode 2 melismatic, PBC, p. 85, with Lectionary verse.

Offertory: Perfice, begin on D (as do)

            Hail true victim, life and light, p. 323.

Communion (Years A & C): Introibo, begin on E (as sol)

Recessional: Holy God we praise Thy name, p. 217, vv. 1, 2, & 4

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

The Introit antiphon is taken from the formulary of September Ember Saturday in the older Graduale Romanum (1908/1961). It has three phrases, the first allowing a very quick break in the middle:

  1. a. Venite adoremus Deum,
    b. et procidamus ante Dominum
  2. ploremus ante eum qui fecit nos
  3. quia ipse est Dominus Deus noster

We sing here vv. 6 & 7 of Psalm 94 (95). From a time of great antiquity—long in place by the time of St Benedict—this psalm has been the start of each day's Divine Office (The Invitatory). So you will correctly surmise that it has been the subject of much commentary from many perspectives by many people over many centuries. Note that when we sing or recite v. 6 in the Invitatory, we do it on our knees, because (a) the words, at least in Hebrew and some Latin versions, refer to kneeling and (b) it is the turning point of the psalm when it moves from a song of praise for God's goodness (cf. v. 1, the psalm-verse of this Introit) to imploring his mercy for our failure to listen to His voice calling us to be His obedient people and enter into His rest. The melody of the intonation (Venite), and again at procidamus, reflects this physical act of bending the knees (in Latin, genu flectare). To emphasize this submission, the manuscripts even indicate a moderate hold when we reach the low point (fa) on (Veni-)te. The high points of the melody are all directed to God (Deum, Dominum, Deus), and the low points to us (fecit nos)and the acts of submission to which we are called (adoremus, procidamus, ploremus). To submit our will to the divine will is an effort we need to renew daily. As we saw last week, Mode 2 can be sad yet not without its own joy and hope.

(Years B&C) The Gradual is taken from Thursday of Lenten week 5 in the EF. It is an especially interesting chant that constitutes a puzzle for historians tracing the development of the chant repertory. It was composed after 720 AD, the year in which Gregory II added the Thursdays in Lent to the list of days on which Mass was celebrated, but was not borrowed from another text already in the repertory. Why we have a unique new chant for this otherwise unremarkable Lenten feria remains a mystery. There two phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:

  1. Tollite hostias, et introite in atria ejus
  2. adorate Dominum in aula sancta ejus


  1. Revelabit Dominus condensa
  2. et in templo ejus omnes dicent gloriam.

We have seen this text before, as the Communion antiphon for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We saw there that the text was originally part of a formulary for the Dedication of a Church, and here again that connection is clear. The reading from the Prophet, Isaiah, about his vocation evokes a scene of the heavenly host in adoration around the altar in the holy court of the Lord, led by the Seraphim. This scene echoed the model of the structure of the Temple; and, as Dennis McNamara has reminded us, it is also the ‘ideal’underlying correct Church architecture. The melody is a Mode 5 gradual centonization, though with several unique features and an especially rich ornamentation of the dominant (c). The high points of the melody come over (e-)jus and (con-)den(-sa). Although the precise meaning of the Hebrew in these verses is tough to translate, they most likely refers to a declaration of God’s supreme power and dominion. He reigns in His heavenly palace in a glory that is reflected in all of His creation and symbolized in His Temple in Jerusalem. He strips bare whatever might hide His glory, if we are not too blind to see. Now, we are privileged to know the ultimate expression of that glory, His Son, and approach the altar with loving adoration.

The Offertory comes from the formulary for Sexagesima Sunday in the EF. It has three phrases[, plus two in the verse]:

  1. Perfice gressus meos in semitis tuis, ut non moveantur vestigia mea:
  2. inclina aurem tuam, et exaudi verba mea:
  3. mirifica misericordias tuas, qui salvos facis sperantes in te, Domine.

V. [Translation: Heed my righteousness, Lord; be attentive to my pleading; let your ears receive my prayer.]

  1. (a) Exaudi, Domine, justitiam meam
    (b) intende deprecationem meam
  2. auribus percipe orationem meam

We do not know if it was after the sad experience of his sin that David penned the psalm from which these words are taken. But we can readily believe that he shared the straightforward fervor of this plea. The chant melody likewise seems to have originated in a heart which made the repentant acknowledgement that ‘it is good for me that You have humbled me, that I might learn Your commands.’Here is humility at prayer, deep contrition of heart, and the fear that one might belong to those whose hearts are stony ground, who gladly admit the word of God for a time, but give it no firm rooting, with the result that, as today's Gospel says, ‘in time of temptation they fall away.’This melody also has a touch of mildness, of spiritual maturity, over it all. There is something appealing in it, much like a song in the quiet of the evening, after a day of storm and stress. Now all is transfigured by the love and the pity of God. This chant is a song of offering; in the early Church it was also a processional song, sung while the faithful advanced to the altar and presented their gifts. These gifts voiced their sacrificial spirit, the spirit without which we cannot follow along the path marked out for us by the Man of Sorrows.

The divisions of the melody are obvious. Each of the three imperatives, perfice, inclina, mirifica, begins a new phrase. The lingering of the melody at gressus—Einsiedeln 121 marks an ‘x’ (=expectare, to wait) after each bistropha, and a ‘hold’ over the clivis—and the bistropha and tristropha over moveantur all seem to breathe confidence. They speak of quiet perseverance in doing the will of God. Thankful joy is discernible in semitis, a joy found only after bitter experience. The formula over mea closes the third phrase. Inclina swings up with impressive fervor. Aurem tuam finds its fuller development in et exaudi verba. Mirifica reminds one of the third phrase in the Introit for Easter Day. In both instances the melody effectively ends the foregoing phrase on f, the better to call attention to what follows. The progressive expansion of the melody in this phrase (f g a) should be brought out with a crescendo. In fact, the whole phrase must steadily grow in fervor until it reaches the confident upward look over in te and the tender Domine.

In earlier times this Offertory had four verses. After each verse the words mirifica misericordias were repeated, thus assuring the reception of this consoling truth in the trusting hearts of the faithful. Today Mary will sing one of those verses for us and we will repeat the consoling words of qui salvos facis sperantes in te, Domine.

(Years A & C)

The Communion antiphon also comes from the formulary for Sexagesima Sunday in the EF. It has two phrases:

  1. Introibo ad altare Dei:
  2. ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.

In the EF, this verse from Psalm 42 is prayed at the beginning of every Mass, in the prayers at the foot of the altar. In this chant we all make these words our own as we now approach the altar to receive Him who brings joy to our hearts and youthful vigor and energy. Reinvigorated, we may then say with the Apostle: ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.’Life may bring trials and hardships and disappointments without number; the soul may have experiences much like those of St. Paul; but there ever remains the sweet consolation of saying, ‘I may go to the altar of God.’

The altar is the inexhaustible spring of joy and of strength. A festal glow seems to hover over the melody, a joy brought out by the rising fourths, the clarion call of the dominant, the graceful intervals ca cbg, cd da adc, the broad arcs held together by the word accents as by a keystone: Introibo, ad altare, Dei; and all with a pleasant variety. The first and fourth divisions move within the tetrachord g-c, the second moves in the fifth g-d, and the third small division in the fifth f-c. This happy melody occurs again on the feast of St. Aloysius and in the votive Mass of the Apostles.

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