Monday, 4 April 2016, In Annuntiatione Domini - EF Missa Cantata 7pm
Introit: Vultum tuum,
Alleluia: Ave Maria,
Alleluia: Virga Jesse,
Offertory: Ave Maria, with verses from Offertoriale Triplex.
Communion: Ecce Virgo
Recessional: Regina Caeli, PBC, p. 121
Ordinary from Mass I. Credo I.
This is one of the Church's oldest feasts and can be traced back to (at least) the 5th century. Its chants are contained in the oldest manuscripts, although the Mass as such is post-Gregorian. In the manuscripts this Introit is assigned to the 1st of January, with the superscription Statio ad Sanctam Mariam, as well as to today's feast, to the feast of the Assumption, and also to the feasts of St. Agnes (21 January) and St. Euphemia (16 September), perhaps as a reflection of the second and third phrases. It is also one of the Introits of the Common of one Virgin. It has three (or two*) phrases:
- Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis:
- adducentur regi virgines post eam;
- proximae ejus adducentur tibi in laetitia et exsultatione.
*Some manuscripts connect the 2nd and 3rd phrases into one.
The melody moves up and down gracefully but in a very tight way, sensing the presence of the majesty of Him whom Mary carries in her womb: super quem Reges continebunt os suum. The second phrase presents Mary as an ideal of perfect virginity. Following in her footsteps (post eam), countless virgins (virgines) have found their perfect joy in the King of Kings. The accented syllable here, as is often the case, has only one note while the syllable following has several. The same holds good with regard to the secondary accent on deprecabuntur and adducentur. The melody moves in simple fashion within the tetrachord d-g. The first half of the third phrase likewise confines itself to a tetrachord (c-f). The interval of a fourth over adducentur looks back to (di)-vites of the first phrase.
The first part of the great Alleluia has two phrases:
- Ave Maria gratia plena: Dominus tecum
- Benedicta tu in mulieribus:
- Virga Jesse floruit:
- Virgo Deum et hominem genuit:
- pacem Deus reddidit
- in se reconcilians ima summis.
The Offertory and Communion antiphons are also sung on the 4th Sunday of Advent, whose Mass formulary also celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin. This Offertory is always at or at least near the top of the list of 'most beautiful' or 'most beloved' pieces in the Gregorian Mass repertory. It has four phrases:
- Ave Maria,
- gratia plena,
- Dominus tecum:
- benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
The melody tries valiantly to capture the awe-some nature of the most momentous event in human history, one completely beyond human undertanding or appreciation. So it sinks into the deep with gratia, tecum, fructus; rises slowly with Ave, gratia, ventris; and again soars over Maria. Over Ave the passage f a f g f e is soon followed by the similar f a f g a g. After the upbeat over the first note of Maria, the grouping of the neums here given suggests a division into two-note groups: a cc cc | cagf | gaca | fgg. The two bistrophas, naturally, are to be sung with a very light swing. Plena is made prominent by its pressus, the first in this piece. We do not find the passage Dominus tecum in the early manuscripts; its melody is found in the Offertory-verses Posuisti and Angelus over the words gloria and stetit respectively. With some variations, this tyle of singing the verses was adapted to the text of the Offertory Beata es, which is sung on September 8 and on some other feasts. Here the melody occurs over the word virgo.
The second member is a repetition of the first. The brilliant phrase benedicta is characterized by its high pitch and by repeated and impressive accents: c d e e-c d d c-c d a a g-g c c b; then by the fourths d-a, g-c, a-d. These accents are still active in the last phrase: f g a a g, g a f f e , and g a a gg.
The Communion antiphon has two phrases.
- Ecce virgo concipiet, et pariet filium
- et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel
This Communion has many echos of that of the first Sunday of Advent: the same mode, the same range, the same divisions, an arsis-movement in the first phrase resting on the dominant, then a thesis-movement in the second phrase. Both over benignitatem and pariet we find the use of a five-step scale with no semitones (pentatony). But with this Communion Ecce virgo, we have a descending fourth over virgo, sol-re, and a fourth higher over pa-(riet), re-la; then an ascending fourth over et vo-(cabitur), sol-do-do. In pariet filium, the melody echoes the high pitched cry of a woman in the pangs of childbirth, then goes on to settle quietly as we contemplate the awe-some & wonderful reality of who this child is: emmanu-El. God with us.