Friday, 19 October 2012, St Peter of Alcantara

Friday, 19 October 2012, St Peter of Alcantara


Missa Cantata in the EF, 8.00 am. Holy Hour to follow



Introit: Justus ut palma, begin on D (as re)



Gradual: Os justi, begin on D (as re)



Alleluia: Beatus vir, begin on D (as fa)


Offertory: In virtute tua, begin on C (as sol)


Communion: Amen dico vobis quod vos, begin on E (as re)


Ordinary from Mass XII (Pater cuncta) PBC, p. 61. There is no Credo.


The Introit antiphon has two phrases:


  1. Justus ut palma florebit: sicut cedrus Libani multiplicabitur

  2. plantatus in domo Domini, in atriis domus Dei nostri.


A righteous person is like the palm tree, modest, deriving next to nothing from the earth, rising from comparatively barren soil, but growing heavenwards and absorbing the light of the sun. Like the cedar which spreads its branches far and wide in protection, his life is characterized by faithfulness and firmness of character. The second phrase indicates the source from which such a life draws its great beauty and power; it is none other than the temple of God, the union with God and His holy will, the life in heaven. Where this union is forged, we find the house of God on earth (domus Dei nostri).


Both phrases contain parallelisms so characteristic of Hebrew poetry. The word palma corresponds to cedrus, florebit to multiplicabitur, domo to atriis. Both phrases have practically also the same divisions. The first part of the first phrase rests on f, the second part on a. In the second phrase f is again predominant, g occurring occasionally. 99


The peace and serenity which the righteous enjoy pervade the entire antiphon. Justus fashions a motif of its own and forms the grammatical as well as the spiritual subject of the Introit. The melody of this Introit must not be rendered in a heavy manner but rather airily and at the same time "with great delicacy. The strophici over florebit should be sung decrescendo. The motive over ut palma is amplified over cedrus Libani; c d f f becomes c d f g a a. The tarrying on the dominant a might suggest the idea of multiplicity, extension, and expansion of branches. The first syllable of multiplicabitur forms a rhythmic upbeat followed by several groups of two notes: aa, ac, aa, ga, gg, fg, fg.


The second phrase emphasizes serenity and firmness. The melody over domo (Domini) is echoed over domus (Dei), while that of the reverential Dei is repeated over nostri. In the old manuscripts this melody occurs on the feast of St. Stephen, Pope.


The Gradual has two phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:


  1. Os justi meditabitur sapientiam

  2. et lingua ejus loquetur judicium.

  3. V. Lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius

  4. et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus.


Peter of Alcantara was a Franciscan, and known for his ascetic life and popular preaching. So it's appropriate to use the Gradual from the Common of Doctors for him, because his mouth did indeed prepare to speak wisdom, and the law of his God was in his heart. The melody of this Mode 1 Gradual is closley held over os justi, as the mouth of the wise man is closely guarded. Then, reflecting the text, the melody expands as he prepares to speak wisdom and loosens his tongue to pronounce good judgement. His contemplation of the law in his heart rightly takes us to the high point of the melody over corde, for there is no higher joy in human life than the contemplation in the heart of the wisdom of God's loving plan of salvation.


In the modern Graduale, groups of more than three notes are separated into neumes of two or three, and receive a twofold accent, the second being a little weaker than the first. More than three notes are never united into a group without renewing the musical accent. So, on the word justi, the first, fourth, sixth, ninth, twelfth notes receive an accent; on the word meditabitur, the second, fourth, sixth, eighth, and eleventh; in sapientiam, the first, second, sixth, eighth, tenth, fifteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, etc.


Obviously, this musical accent must never destroy the word accent, even when the former is on an unaccented syllable. Rather, the notes should be sung more lightly and gracefully. As in syllable compositions, emphasis does not mean a longer hold of the notes but rather separation into parts so as to introduce the conclusion of a rhythmical division to enhance the understanding of the text. Wherever a group is separated from the one following, the last syllable is prolonged proportionately to the importance of the division. (The earlier Solesmes edition marked the mora with smaller and greater spaces, or by bars between the neumes.)


The Mode 5 Alleluia is, for the most part, formulaic, but forges close links between key words in the text: beautus, timet and mandatis ejus.



The Offertory has three phrases:


  1. In virtute, Domine, laetabitur justus

  2. et super salutare tuum exultabit vehementer

  3. desiderium animae ejus tribuisti ei.


Set in the restful and secure Mode 6, the melody speak eloquently of the inner peace that comes to the soul whose innermost desire is to find joy in the strength that comes from God, after rejecting the false security of the world. With the high points over salutare, animae, and ei, the melody reminds us that this peace is a gift that God bestows on such a soul as this, and challenges us to follow that example.



The Communion antiphon is actually one long statement, broken up into three phrases:


  1. Amen, Amen dico vobis

  2. quod vos qui reliquistis omnia et secuti estis me

  3. centuplum accipietis and vitam aeternam possidebitis


The melody is tightly scored around the dominant a, and never rises above it. In fact, the most interesting melodic development is downward, as though reflecting the self-abasement of the seeker of God's will. Thus it neatly expresses the self-control and discipline of a disciple who has completely given himself over to the Lord. Today's Franciscan saint was a model of such abandonment, founding and/or reforming convents of friars who wanted to align themselves more closely to the ideals of Il Poverello.



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