15 December 2019, 3rd Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Offertory: Rorate caeli, PBC p. 131
Communion: Dicite: Pusillanimes
Recessional: O come O come Emmanuel, V2H p. 226, vv. 1-4.
Ordinary from Mass XVII, PBC, p. 71. Credo I, PBC, p. 75.
The Introit antiphon has four phrases:
Gaudete in Domino semper; iterum dico, gaudete:
modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus:
Dominus prope est. Nihil soliliciti sitis:
sed in omni oratione petitiones vestrae innotescant apud Deum
This antiphon is quite different from its Lenten counterpart. Rather than the ecstatic joy of Laetare, we hear a more sombre, reflective joy. It's a message of calm and confident anticipation of our impending redemption. After a long and—at times, discouraging—wait, the answer to our prayers is near at hand. Fittingly, Dominus prope est occupies the central position, dominating the whole by its florid neums. Oddly, the melody never employs the note ti, which generally characterizes the Doric mode; but the repeated ti-b tends to make the melody tender and mild. The first and fourth phrases have almost the same close, but a different range. A pause on the dominant of the mode is made by the first three phrases. The first phrase may be taken as a model of phrase structure in chant: an ascent from the tonic to the dominant, a halting on the dominant, then a descent to the tonic. Each of its members moves within a different tetrachord: c—f, f—b, d—g. There are grades of joy: Rejoice; then more: Rejoice in the Lord; then still more: Rejoice at all times. A crescendo is obviously appropriate.
The Offertory chant Rorate Coeli with its verses, at least in the form we have it here, dates from a late 19c arrangement by Dom Gueranger, the founding abbot of Solesmes. You can listen to the W. Cathedral choir sing it here, in the first part of this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HIKtoMckPDo
The Communion antiphon has two phrases.
Dicite: Pusillanimes confortamini, et nolite timere:
ecce Deus noster veniet, et salvabit nos
Here we have something exceptional. If we first carefully recite the text alone and then sing the melody with it, we see that text and melody form one whole. The chant begins quietly, but soon takes a jubilant upward flight to that new world in which the angels sing a new canticle of peace and redemption. In a way, this antiphon introduces the feast of Christmas, just as the Invitatory antiphon after 16 December sings: Prope est jam Dominus. But it follows a definite plan: confortamini, resting on the dominant of the mode, divides the first phrase into two halves. Timere repeats the motif of nolite, and then closes a third lower, paralleling the final neums of (confortami)-ni.
What a magnificent ring the song must have had in the ancient basilicas, when the faithful, accompanied by this stirring melody, went up to the altar to receive the Holy Eucharist! Into those who approached, it instilled courage, for it said: nolite timere. And to those returning from the altar it whispered: ecce Deus noster: For many, also, was Holy Communion the source of supernatural strength (confortamini), the Viaticum for martyrdom!