7 October 2018, (Local) Solemnity of Our Lady of the Rosary: Patronal feast of SMV (OF)

7 October 2018, (Local) Solemnity of Our Lady of the Rosary: Patronal feast of SMV (OF)

The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories and Feast of the Holy Rosary, is celebrated on 7 October as the anniversary of the decisive victory of the combined fleet of the Holy League of 1571 over the Ottoman (Muslim) navy at the Battle of Lepanto,which stopped the Muslim invasion of Western Europe. (More info at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_the_Rosary.)

Along with the evolution of the feast, the Mass formulary in the previous Graduale Romanum became almost completely neo-Gregorian, leaving only the excellent Gradual from the Gregorian repertory. The GR 1974 restored more of the earlier chants. The Gradual remains the high point of texts and music. 

IntroitVultum tuum [N.B. Translations of the Gregorian propers are in the notes below.]

Gradual: Propter veritatem

AlleluiaFelix es 

Offertory: Ave Maria [Solo cantor for the Verse.]

Praefatio Communis solemnior 

CommunionFlorete flores [Verses from Ps 44]

RecessionalSalve ReginaPBC, p. 116. Schola will ‘echo’ with Solemn version (Monastic), PBC, p. 118. 

Ordinary from Mass IX (Cum jubiloPBC, p. 55. Credo III. 

In various 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 Vigil/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:

  1. Vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis:
  2. adducentur regi virgines post eam;
  3. proximae ejus adducentur tibi in laetitia et exsultatione.

*Some manuscripts connect the 2nd and 3rd phrases into one.

All the rich among the people make entreaty before thy face: virgins are brought before the king in her train: her attendants are brought to thee in gladness and rejoicing. 

            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 Gradual, formerly sung for the Assumption, has two phrases in the corpus and three in the verse: 

  1. Propter veritatem et mansuetudinem et justitiam
  2. Et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua.

Verse:

  1. Audi, filia, et vide, 
  2. et inclina aurem tuam
  3. quia concupivit rex speciem tuam 

Because of truth, and mildness, and justice: and thy right hand shall conduct thee marvellously. V. Hear, daughter, and see, and incline thine ear, for the king hath coveted thy beauty.

The Gradual employs numerous typical formulas. The melisma over justitiam was recently heard on the feast of St. Lawrence over cor meum. The melody of the verse up to the first tuam is the same as that of the second phrase, while the first half of the third phrase repeats that of the Gradual verse for the second Sunday of Lent. The melody for these first two phrases of the verse as also the close over speciem tuam is common to other Graduals. All the borrowing of melodic elements, however, does not detract from the end result of the whole: a masterpiece of musical composition and a jewel in the setting of today's feast. It prepares and carries out its various musical gradations carefully and methodically, and reaches an artistic climax in the first phrase of the verse. Much commentary has been written about it. 

The first four words have a range of the major third f-a, and should be sung piano, almost pianissimo. Over et justitiam there is at first the range of a fourth, later that of a fifth; the melody as such, however, maintains itself on the newly found b♭. This melody should be given a crescendo which gradually diminishes toward the close until the five last notes become next to aspirates. After the f of the third syllable most singers need to pause.

The second phrase has in the main a range of f-c, although after the astonishing descent at dex-(tera) the melody ascends to high d, a range of a seventh. It is easier to be fluent if a singer gives the second note before the syllable -ra a light secondary accent. The motif over -(bi)-liter is repeated and strengthened over -ra. If necessary, pause slightly after the second bistropha over dex-; here the corpus attains its greatest range, that of an octave d-d.

The verse begins with a resolved major triad and immediately ascends to high d which is accented emphatically. The thrice descending d a f has as complement the twice ascending fa c d. Relying on authoritative manuscripts, some of the Graduals have the eleventh note (c) over fi- prolonged and so create a fine proportion. On the tristropha the melody seems to seek strength necessary for the bold ascent to high e. Progressively the melody expands in a brilliant manner until it reaches high f over inclina. These various high points of the melody, however, should not be overemphasized; rather an entire group or a complete torculus should be treated as an integral part of the whole melody. Aurem begins piano. This is followed by a large crescendo over tuam, where the modulation to a fifth above the tonic, which was only indicated over filia, is evident. The motive over inclina is repeated over concupivit; it has ascending fourths in place of the descending fourths over filia. After the preparatory notes over (tu)-am have been sung, the group beginning with g should be emphasized, then the group beginning with a, and finally the double c.

Among Mary’s many virtues, the Gradual calls especial attention to the following three: her truth— she is the realization of the divine dispensation of God; her meekness— she is the clement, pious, and sweet Virgin; her justice —she is the mirror of divine justice. 

In the Verse the angels call out to her: Audi, filia—‘Listen, daughter.’ During her earthly life there were hard and bitter words which cut deep into the innocent soul of the Blessed Mother; every word that grieved her divine Son wounded her heart likewise. Many were the heart-rending sights she had to experience, culminating in her Son dying on the cross and finally dead in her arms. But the bleak winter of this life has passed—and all suffering is ended; a perpetual balmy spring has come. Now she hearkens to heavenly hymns, contemplates the heavenly bliss, and receives the heavenly crown to adorn her head. The King greatly desires her beauty. All the beauty and sublimity of her soul is now displayed in heaven, and the Almighty has bestowed upon her body the brilliance of His own transfiguration. The Fifth Glorious Mystery is celebrated in this text describing Mary, who is truly Our Lady of Victories.

The Alleluia verse, also sung for the Visitation, has three phrases: 

  1. Felix es, sacra Virgo Maria, 
  2. et omni laude dignissima; 
  3. quia ex te ortus est sol justitiae, Christus Deus noster.

You are happy, holy Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise. For from you has arisen the sun of justice, Christ our God. 

The melody can be traced to the eleventh century. It wraps the text with holy jubilation and triumph in God the Saviour, who has poured out streams of light and grace upon the soul of Mary. From her arose ‘the Sun of justice.’ The celebration and impact of today's feast conjures up in our minds a picture of the glorious morning sun rising to the accompaniment of myriad choirs of birds and transmuting by the touch of its magic ray the prosaic, ragged mountaintops into peaks of gold.

When Elizabeth had heard the salutation of Mary, the infant rejoiced in her womb, and, filled with the Holy Spirit, she extolled the Mother of God. Our chant should strive to be likewise inspired, so that it might be given in a manner worthy of her high dignity. The gradual intensification of the melody, especially through the pressus a c d, should be brought out in the singing. Over (alle)- lu-(ia) two-note groups (ac ac) should be sung before the pressus. The c which is merely sounded here, receives a compensation in the first member of the jubilus, where it is especially accented and extended. The appended climacus should be given prominence; the following neumes will then form a thesis. The pressus d with its energetic fifth then comes to the fore; this is followed, in turn, by a relaxing thesis. The third member is also introduced by means of a pressus. The ensuing joyful passage should not be forced. After the two groups of two over (sa)-cra, e d c should be rendered in a full and satisfying manner. The second phrase has practically the same melody as alleluia with its jubilus. The third phrase, over against the ascending movement of the two previous phrases, takes a pleasant turn downward. After all, how mysterious is the birth of the eternal Sun from the holy Virgin Mary. The first four notes over ortus should be taken as a preparation for the two following groups: gacag and efgfe. The intonation of a fifth over sol gives the word merited prominence. 

[Notes repeated from Annunciation Mass] 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:

  1. Ave Maria,
  2. gratia plena,
  3. Dominus tecum:
  4. benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of they womb.

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 pressusthe 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:

  1. Florete flores quasi lilium, et date odorem, et frondete in gratiam
  2. collaudate canticum, et benedicite Dominum in operibus suis.

 Send forth flowers, as the lily, and yield a fragrance, and bring forth leaves in grace; praise with a canticle, and bless the Lord in his works.

The melody is taken from the Communion Confundantur superbi of the Mass formulary for a Virgin Martyr; its phrasing, however, is not as good as it could be. In the original, the first phrase treats of the godless ones who should be confounded and closes with the melody that we here have over odorem. Injuste (here lilium) expresses just anger over the wrong that has been perpetrated on the saint by her persecutors. Out of this dark and somber background rises the beautiful figure of a Virgin and Martyr with the words Ego autem (here et frondete). In the ancient manuscripts the melody is assigned to the feast of St. Cecilia. The saint rises above all that is earthly, takes as it were her flight to heaven, and pledges immutable fidelity to the Lord's commandments. This magnificent line is interrupted on the feast of the Holy Rosary by a large pause after gratiam. The motif in the original stands over in mandatis but here begins a second phrase over collaudate. This, as various scholars have noted, is obviously a mistake. Abstracting from this, the Offertory with its new text can be made extremely effective. The clivis and torculus over the closing syllables of lilium, gratiam, and Dominum are as pleasing as flower-buds, while collaudate is expressive of true joy.

           The text from Eccl 39 is used here with ‘flowers' (flores) as a metaphor for the mysteries of the Lord and His blessed Mother. (The word ‘ros-ary' implies a like metaphor.) In quiet meditation they will blossom forth, vivifying and invigorating our hearts. They will encourage us to praise the Lord, to glorify His works, and all that "the only begotten Son by His life, death, and resurrection has purchased for us" (cf. the Collect). They should glorify the deeds which the Lord has wrought upon His Mother, the victories of Lepanto and Temesvar, the victory of grace over sin in the individual soul, and not least, the great victory of redemption which He has renewed today in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in which we share in the Eucharistic banquet—for we are singing a Communion song.

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