29 January 2017, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

29 January 2017, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Introit: Laetetur cor

Offertory: Let all mortal flesh, p. 286

Communion: Beati mundo corde,

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:

1. Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum

2. quaerite Dominum et confirmamini

3. 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 beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and the four phrases follow the text of St Matthew's Gospel:

  1. Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt:
  2. beati pacifici, quoniam filii Dei vocabuntur
  3. beati qui persecutionem patiuntur propter justitiam,
  4. quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum

The first and last phrases have an identical musical rhythm, while the other two, written a third higher, have practically the same rhythm. This melodic correspondence may serve to remind us that basically all the beatitudes are but the fulfillment of this word of God: 'I am. . .your exceedingly great reward' (Gen. 15: 1). Special attention should be given the threefold beati. The first, as if sung by angels' voices, sets in on the dominant of the mode, transcending the misery of sin. The descending movement which follows brings, as it were, the purity of heaven down to earth. The beatitude embraces here the range of a fourth. Peace and simplicity characterize the second phrase, which ranges within a minor third. To be a harbinger of peace is the quiet yet blessed work of the 'children of God.'

            The third beati has an entirely different ring. It proclaims that even when you must undergo persecution, when you must bring sacrifice to be just and to uphold what is right, when you must suffer to protect and defend the Church, then also are you blessed, for the kingdom of heaven awaits you. This third beati the Church wishes to be deeply engraven on the soul. No persecution, however vehement, can drown its triumphant ring. It seems to encourage us with the words of Tertullian: 'One Christian is greater than the whole world.' Even though c a, c g, a g, a g over persecutionem patiuntur may sound like the strokes of a scourge, like the striking of stone against stone, still the heart of the martyr is hopeful and happy as he sings: beati. In Holy Communion we were allowed to contemplate God, we were privileged to receive the King of peace into our hearts, and with Him the kingdom of heaven: He it is who gives us strength for sacrifice and for persecution. And He will remain with us until He can endow us with His entire blessedness for all eternity, until, united with all the saints, we can render Him our thanks without ceasing.

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