24 November 2019, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year C)
Introit: Dignus est agnus
Offertory: Crown him with many crowns, p. 214
Communion (Years B & C): Sedebit Dominus Rex
Post Communion: Christus Vincit, from The Parish Book of Chant, page 93
Recessional: To Jesus Christ our sovereign King, p. 220,
Mass XI, PBC p. 58. Credo III, PBC p. 77
When this feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, the melodies for the propers were adapted from other chants in the Graduale Romanum. Since Epiphany was considered the original feast of Christ the King, most of the melodies were adapted from that formulary. However, the Introit takes most of its melody from the Introit Dum sanctificatus fuero, which is sung in the fourth week of Lent and in the 1974 Graduale is also an option for the Vigil of Pentecost, and the ending from the Introit Timete Dominum (Mass for SS. Cyriacus, Largus & Smaragdus on 8 Aug). It has two phrases:
Dignus est Agnus, qui occisus est, accipere virtutem, et divinitatem et sapientiam, et fortitudinem, et honorem.
Ipsi gloria et imperium in saecula saeculorum.
When heaven celebrates the feasts of its God, nothing is lacking, everything is perfect. There the homage of hearts entirely submissive becomes the homage of adoration and praise of an infinite Being and the glorification of a deed which God alone was able to perform. Apocalypse 5:12 and 1:6 speak of this homage, this adoration, this praise. Ten thousand times ten thousand angels pay their respects, crying with a loud voice: 'The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor.' Christ the Lamb has earned this honor because He was slain. No one has ever been so humiliated, no one has ever borne sorrow so great and deep, as the Lamb of God in His voluntary sacrificial death. For all this torture, pain, derision, and contempt, the hosts of heaven now sing a pean of glory to the Lamb, a song that will resound unto endless ages. It is directed to Him whom the Father has appointed absolute ruler, to the Son of the King, to the Son of God, to whom He has entrusted all judgment. Today, in the Introit of the Mass, the entire earth may also join in this song.
The melody chosen has a festal ring; but it is dominated by a guarded reverence, at least in its first phrase, which prefers seconds and thirds. Only in the second phrase, in which greater power is also discerned in the text, are the intervals extended to a thrice-repeated fourth. Here the melody for the first time becomes impressive. Much of this melody is based on the Introit Dum sanctificatus fuero, sung on the Wednesday after the fourth Sunday in Lent (EF; OF, alternate for Pentecost Vigil), which announces to those to be baptized their cleansing through the pouring of clean water and the gift of a new Spirit. Small variations result from the different length, accent, and meaning of the text; thus the stressing of Dignus and imperium. The significant occisus est is fittingly brought to the fore; if divinitatem bears a similar melody, this may serve to remind us that the Lamb of God receives these honors precisely because He has gone to a sacrificial death. With Ipsi gloria the rendition ought to be more lively and festal. The original reaches its summit at mundabimini—"you shall be cleansed." On account of today's short text, the melody of the final phrase of the original—over et dabo vobis spiritum novum—is wanting; in place of it we find over saeculorum the closing cadence of the Introit of the feast of SS. Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus (EF, 8 August).
(a) Sedebit Dominus Rex in aeternum;
(b) Dominus benedicat populo suo in pace.
The melody has echoes of Advent. Its very first word repeats the melody of the Communion Exultavit ut gigas (EF, Ember Saturday in Advent; OF, Tuesday before Christmas Eve). The rest employs the melody of the Communion Ecce Dominus veniet (EF, Ember Friday in Advent; OF, Monday before Christmas Eve) from sancti ejus on with slight variations. Here an inner relationship exists between the two texts, as befits the close connection between this new feast and the original purpose of Advent as a preparation for the Parousia, when the Lord will return in glory, bringing all His saints with Him. Today's Communion contemplates the Lord sitting upon His throne, which will never be shaken, which will stand forever. The word aeternum receives melodic prominence. The Lord blesses His people. As the Preface says, He presents them with "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace." In the holy Sacrifice He has blessed His people with all heavenly blessings and graces; He has given Himself to His people in the Sacrificial Banquet. And every Communion acts as a preparation for eternal union with God, and gives an anticipatory taste of that eternal peace with which Christ the King will favor those who, as the Postcommunion says, have battled with Him and conquered with Him.
The plain, rhythmic torculi, which lift the middle note an interval of a second, strengthen this simply and modest proclamation of the song of the King of peace. The chants of this new feast betray throughout adaptations of older melodies. Each of them is like a new stanza added to a beloved old song, awakening memories of the most beautiful seasons of the liturgical year.
The Christus vincit chant is an acclamation, and hence is typically sung with a very subtle punch on the accents of the nouns and verbs that refer directly to Christ ruling as King. The net effect of that gives the chant something not unlike a military march, as we the Church militant join the Church triumphant and the Church suffering in acclaiming Christ as our King. At the end, beginning with Ipsi soli imperium, it gains momentum as speed and volume increase slightly. At the very end, Deo gratias. Amen. is sung very majestically, with a clear separation between the words gratias and Amen.