21 December 2019, St Thomas, Apostle
EF Missa Cantata, 9:00 am
Introit: Mihi autem
Gradual: Nimis honorati sunt
Alleluia: Gaudete justi in Domino
Offertory: In omnem terram
Communion: Mitte manum tuam
Recessional: Alma Redemptoris Mater, PBC p. 119 (simple tone), begin on C (as do)
Mass IV, Credo II.
The Introit antiphon (Ps. 138:17) is divided into two phrases:
Mihi autem nimis honorati sunt amici tui, Deus:
nimis confortatus est principatus eorum.
At the Last Supper our divine Lord said to His Apostles: ‘I will not now call you servants: for the servant does not know what his Lord does. But I have called you friends: because all things I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you’ (John 15:15). He gave them knowledge and power unlike any seen before or since. Never was there a truer friend and never has friend given so generously as Jesus gave to His Apostles. Christ's Bride, the Church, shares the sentiments and emotions of her divine Founder. And hence she exclaims on the feasts of the holy Apostles: ‘To me Your friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable.’ With splendor she honors the Apostles in her divine services, although the feasts of the Apostles are no longer days of obligation. Numberless churches have been dedicated to their memory. Together with the Queen of the Apostles, their name is daily invoked during the sacrifice of the Mass. Solemn and ever-increasing awe pervades the melody until it reaches its proper climax on the accented syllable of honorati. It is a truly festal melody wanting a worthy, joyful rendition.
The feeling of awe is even more vividly expressed in the preceding nimis with its descending interval of a fourth, which recurs again at the words (tu)-i, De-(us), and introduces the modulation to c. The second phrase is characterized by a strong accentuation of the tenor f, which is here the true dominant. The power which God has given his Apostles and through them to the Church will endure to the end of days, and no other power either on earth or in hell will prevail against it. With an interval of a fourth the second nimis begins immediately on the dominant, while confortatus repeats the motive of hono-(rati). Twice the melody ascends to a, where it is particularly effective over ebrum. The triple repetition of c d f g over the words Mihi autem ni-(mis), (a)-mici tui, and (prin)-cipatus is so skillfully interwoven with the whole that it is scarcely noticeable.
This Introit is sung also on the feasts of the Apostles SS. Thomas, Matthias, Barnabas, within the Octave of SS. Peter and Paul, James the Elder, Bartholomew, Luke, Simon, and Jude. The melody was made use of extensively in the Introits for the feasts of St. Ignatius the Martyr, of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, and of the Holy Innocents. Compare also the Gradual for the feast of St. Matthias.
The Offertory (Ps. 18:5) has two phrases:
1. In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum
2. et in fines orbis terrae verba eorum.
The text in the original does not refer to vocal sounds but rather to the light waves which, emanating from the heavenly bodies, sweep the whole world. The Gospel, which the Apostles carried to the ends of the earth, is like this brightening, warming, healing, and life-giving light. According to legend St. James brought its doctrines to far-away Spain, at that time considered the edge of the world. During the Middle Ages crowds of pilgrims journeyed to his tomb and considered this visit as sacred and solemn as a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to the places sanctified by the sufferings and death of our Lord. The melody is also used on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany and can be compared with that of the Offertory of Holy Thursday. In the oldest manuscripts the melody is already set to this text, In omnem terram. It is difficult to ascertain which is the original composition. A few minor melodic variants appear as a result of the different accentuation in the different texts.
In the Communion antiphon we have two phrases:
Mitte manum tuam, et cognosce loca clavorum:
et noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis.
The melody prefers simple seconds and avoids larger intervals, reflecting the simple, straightforward manner in which Our Lord speaks to St. Thomas, in contrast to Thomas with his impetuous demands. So the piece is best sung devoutly and tenderly. OTOH, despite its simplicity, it does have its contrasts.