31 May 2020, Pentecost Sunday
Introit, Spiritus Domini
Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus
Alleluia: Veni Sancte Spiritus
Offertory, Veni Creator Spiritus, PBC, p. 114
Communion, Factus est repente
N.B. At the dismissal we sing the Easter Octave formula:
V. Ite Missa est, alleluia, alleluia. R. Deo gratias, alleluia, alleluia.
Mass I (Lux et origo) PBC, p. 46ff. Credo III, PBC, p. 77ff.
The Introit antiphon has two phrases:
Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia
et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
The first word tells us we celebrate today the Holy Spirit and His marvelous workings, just as the first word at Christmas (Puer) speaks of the divine Child, and the first word of Easter (Resurrexi) speaks of the Risen One. There is a feeling of mystery in its low-pitched beginning. Then the melody expands with tempestuous speed until it fills the entire earth. But it is no devastating hurricane; rather it resembles a storm of spring, imparting new strength to an aging world, from which new creations rise: the marvel of the Church Catholic, the phenomenon of holiness on the sinful earth, the prodigy which bears God in its heart. So despite its impetuosity and power, this song pleases our musical sense. After the broken D-minor tritone over Spiritus comes the brilliant F-major tritone over replevit, over the penultimate alleluia, and in a descending line over -rum, alle-(luia).
Compare also the first phrase with the 1st antiphon of today's 2nd Vespers (= 2nd antiphon in EF). With replevit a broadly expanding crescendo should set in, as we exult with the Church universal. It is brilliant word-painting but also much more. In this chant we have a glimpse into eternity, and an enraptured wonderment at the greatness, the wisdom, and the power of Him who fills the whole earth. Et hoc in the second phrase is a slavish translation of the Greek, in which language Pneuma (Spirit) is a neuter noun. (We would expect et hic here, to agree with the masculine Spiritus.) After et hoc we have a very short pause for breathing. Then quod continet omnia is to be sung straight on; and even after the last word the pause should be very slight. In this manner the gradation g a c (omnia), bc d (scienti-), a d (-am habet) is brought out more clearly. The cadence after vocis requires a resolution and receives it in the following alleluia. This is why the three alleluia cannot be an independent third phrase, despite their length; they are the necessary conclusion and coda-like extension of the second phrase. There is some resemblance between the two phrases. Considering the principal notes of the melodic structure, one might sketch them like this:
First phrase: dfaf fac dec gc af fag
Second phrase: fgc dec a af fag
With the exception of one note, the final alleluia is the same as the one at the end of the first phrase. With its limited range and fourfold stressing of a it harmonizes with the alleluia after vocis and is the expression of quiet joy, while the penultimate alleluia with its bright ring and the accentuation of the tenor c harks back to the jubilant festal spirit of the entire antiphon.
Psalm 67, only the intonation of which we have here, portrays the history of Israel from the time of its liberation from Egypt to the establishment of God's kingdom on Sion as a triumphal procession that God Himself leads through the desert to the consternation of His enemies and for the glory of His people. For us now, the psalm is a confiding look into the future. The Church knows that she has many enemies who hate her and who do all in their power to destroy her. This was already the case on the very first Pentecost, and so it will remain throughout the ages. But the Church knows that God fights for her. When He arises and shows His flaming countenance, all the enemies are instantly dispersed. The Church will ultimately triumph, and so she sings: Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
The Sequence is composed of five double strophes, each of which is made up of three spondaic verses. Modern scholars have identified Stephen Langton, chancellor of the University of Paris (+1228), as its author. In its first verse the first strophe uses the melodic material of the second alleluia, c d ef e d c d; it is, therefore, its melodic continuation, just as in content it is a further development of the Alleluia's fervent supplication. I.e., we have here a Sequentia (a continuation) in the full sense of that word. From the depth of our indigence the motif rises, is heard a fourth higher in the second verse, and with a change of interval in the third verse, thus presenting the form a a a. The interval of a sixth between the second and third verses is quite rare in chant. Surprising, too, is the rise of the final syllable of the word at the end of the verse. The same thing occurs in some of the following pairs of strophes. The first pair of strophes sings of the Holy Spirit as the source of light and of the soul's riches:
la. Come, O Holy Spirit, come; lb. Come, thou father of the poor,
And from thy celestial home Come, thou source of all our store,
Shed a ray of light divine. Come, within our bosoms shine.
The second pair of strophes sets in on the dominant and with joyful confidence rises an octave above the tonic. They praise the Holy Ghost as the source of consolation in trials and sufferings. Here the rendition ought to be somewhat more forceful:
2a. Thou of all consolers best, 2b. In our labor rest most sweet,
Thou, the soul's most welcome guest, Grateful coolness in the heat,
Sweet refreshment here below. Solace in the midst of woe.
The third pair of strophes sets in on the octave, a proceeding unknown to the classic period of plainsong composition and hardly to be found before the eleventh century. How stirring is this plea for the saving light! The passage ddcbcdc at the beginning was taken over, it seems, from (in la)-bore requies. In the third verse, b♭ a g f corresponds to d c b a of the first:
3a. 0 most blessed light divine, 3b. Where thou art not, man hath nought
Shine within these hearts of thine, Nothing good in deed or thought,
And our inmost beings fill. Nothing free from taint of ill.
Thus far the Sequence was almost continually rising and expanding. In the subsequent pair of strophes the melody describes a curve and becomes appreciably more tender. Graceful harmonharmony marks the lines of the first and second verses: bab cbag=fef gfed.
The third verse is almost the same as the opening motif in the Sequence for Corpus Christi (Lauda Sion). This is the only pair of strophes which close on the tenor. Do not prolong the first note of each verse; otherwise a trivial three-eighths time will result:
4a. Heal our wounds; our strength renew; 4b. Bend the stubborn heart and will
On our dryness pour thy dew; Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Wash the stains of guilt away. Guide the steps that go astray.
After this decrease in range and volume, the former liveliness and impressiveness returns in the final pair of strophes: in fact, it is even increased. Fiery and turbulent as the flashing of the tongues of fire in the "mighty wind" is the ring of the first and last members; they can well bear to be sung forte. They have descending fifths at the beginning, and endings which correspond to one another (acba=dfed). The middle verse is more quiet. The final strophe again sets in on the octave. Just as the very first strophe insistently prays Veni four times, so the last pair four times has da: Give, O Holy Spirit!
5a. Thou on those who evermore 5b. Give them virtue's sure reward,
Thee confess and thee adore Give them thy salvation, Lord;
In thy sevenfold gifts descend. Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.
The composer of this song was a veritable harp of God, on which the Holy Spirit Himself played. Its tones will continue as long as mankind looks up in heartfelt prayer to the "Father of the poor." Whoever realizes the neediness of his own heart, whoever can sympathize with all that moves the heart of his fellow man, whoever reflects while he peruses the text and the melodic development, upon the work of the Holy Spirit in souls and in the Church, will of his own accord arrive at the rendition which is most suitable for this magnificent song.
The Alleluia verse before the Gospel has two phrases:
Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium:
et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
This melody is among the most impressive and most beautiful in the entire Graduale. In former days, the rubric was 'All kneel' for the singing of this verse, as is done for the first verse of the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. And when at solemn Mass the bishop with his assistants kneel down at the throne, when all those in choir bend the knee, then one wish is paramount: Would that we might sing this chant with the deep fervor with which it was first conceived and then sung throughout the centuries, with that depth and ardor with which the Blessed Virgin called upon the Holy Spirit during that first novena before Pentecost Day!
It seems almost presumptuous to analyze such a rich and powerful melody. There is a threefold accent in the alleluia with its jubilus: the second time with an interval of a fourth, the third time with an interval of a fifth. Twice the ending is formed with c d, once with e d. The alleluia furnishes the theme, the verse the variations. Veni resembles alleluia. That which follows, as far as fidelium, derives its melodic material from the second member. Et tui amoris utilizes the motifs of the third phrase. It is impossible to sing this passage too tenderly; and yet one ought to introduce a crescendo in the repetition. For the longing after the pure, deep, faithful, enrapturing love of the Holy Spirit is ever increasing. After the development has reached its climax, the quiet thetic forms efedcd should diminish in volume. Avoid being too loud with the pressus, which occur several times in the piece. The chant must be prayerful throughout: humble, reverent, confiding.
The Communion antiphon has two phrases:
Factus est repente de caelo sonus advenientis spiritus vehementis, ubi erant sedentes, alleluia
et repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto, loquentes magnalia Dei, alleluia, alleluia.
As we've seen, the chant composers often painted ‘musical pictures’ with their melodies to illustrate events and/or emotions in the text. The chants of today’s formulary, like those of the Ascension last week, are all rich with such images; but the Pentecost Communion is an exceptionally vivid one. The immediate rise and fall of the intonation phrase immediately calls to mind the scene in the Upper Room: the apostles were gathered together in prayer with other disciples and our Blessed Mother, when the sound of a rushing wind coming down from above drew their eyes upward, whence the quick rise in melody of Factus est, and then the tongues of fire suddenly fell, whence the just as sudden fall of the melody in repente. We can almost feel in our bodies the breathless, stupefied wonder that those in that room must have felt. But we don’t have any time to dwell on that because we’ll soon have work to do. The soaring lift of the melody on sonus confirms what the texts says, viz., that the sound—and its accompanying reality—came from heaven. Then the gentle lowering of the melody over ubi erant sedentes reflects the seated posture of the group. And then the melody lifts up again to depict the effect of their being filled with the Holy Spirit: they immediately got up and went to announce the mirabilia Dei, the wonderful works of salvation that God has done in this Jesus who was crucified and is now risen. Alleluia. We have the same work to do now.