After the second reading, schola will sing:
Gradual: Christus factus est
Passion according to St John sung by cantors.
N.B. Passion ends with Verbum Domini.
Procession of the cross: Ecce lignum, PBC, p. 149
Adoration of the cross: Crucem tuam, PBC, p. 149
Reproaches: Popule meus
Post-Communion: Crux fidelis, PBC, p. 150
As we saw on Palm Sunday, this Gradual serves in the Novus Ordo to introduce the solemn singing of the Passion. It is arguably the most well know one in the repertory. There are two phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:
- Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem,
- mortem autem crucis.
- V. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum,
- et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
The corpus of the Gradual moves predominantly in a lower pitch around the fundamental note f and descends below it to d and c, thus giving a also a certain importance, which points to the plagal form of Mode VI. The verse has an entirely different character. It strives upward to the dominant of Mode V, sounds it, and even goes a fifth above it. This fits the text perfectly. The corpus speaks of the lowliness of Christ, the verse of His glorification.
Is this is an original composition? The Gradual for the feast of St. Sylvester, Ecce sacerdos magnus, has the same melody with the exception of a single passage in the verse, as does the Gradual Exiit sermo on the feast of St. John the Evangelist. Certain features of their placement in the St Gall manuscripts make it seems more likely that one of these two Graduals is the original. Et dedit illi nomen is also heard in the Gradual for the second Sunday in Lent and for the Assumption. The close of the verse occurs in no fewer than thirty Graduals.
In spite of all this, however, today's text and melody make one whole. The corpus expresses grateful love for all that Christ in His abasement did for us. Nobis helps to produce this effect. The annotated manuscripts give practically every note here the broad form. The descending fourth of crucis may serve to visualize for us how our Lord bowed His head at the moment of death.
As the corpus narrated what Christ did for us, the verse narrates what the Father did for Christ: exaltavit illum. The melody here sounds like the ringing of Easter bells. The recitation on c over exaltavit and afterwards on d over dedit illi gives a more plastic form to the subsequent neums. Here the melody modulates to c like the middle cadence in psalmody. The psalmodic structure, moreover, betrays itself by the intonation at the beginning of the verse and by a sort of flexa on a, the last note of illum. The low inception quod est indicates our bowing to acknowledge the exalted status of the Name above all others.
The chants for the unveiling of the Cross and its lifting up by the Celebrant change the tone immediately. In the responsory Crucem tuam we even anticipate our joy in the coming resurrection. Then follows the plaintive tone of the Reproaches (Improperia), which again peak in the ancient cry of Hagios Athanatos, Sanctus Immortalis. The Holy Immortal One triumphs, despite our multiple rejections of God's many acts of loving kindness toward us.
During and after communion, we will sing the great passion hymn that St Venantius Fortunatus composed for the reception of the relic of the true cross given by Emperor Justin to St. Radegunde for her monastery. This was the first Pange lingua on which St Thomas later modeled his great Corpus Christi hymn in honour of the Eucharist. The melody with its majestic lines and large intervals is a striking contrast to the tender and gentle complaints of the Improperia. The first verse is the arsis, the second thesis, and the third merely a melodic repetition of the second. Thus we find it has the less artistic form abb, rare in chant. The second and third verses with their ending dfedd correspond to the close of the first verse with g cba a. Inter omnes is also related with a c cb ag and (fron)-de, flore with da ag ed. A peculiarity of this hymn is its responsorial form. What was originally the fourth last stanza appears as a refrain and is repeated in whole or only with its third verse after each stanza; evidently this arrangement is Syriac in form. This hymn ends the Solemn Liturgy on a high note; the silence of our departure is one of quiet anticipation rather than sad despair.