20 March 2016, Passion (Palm) Sunday (Year C)
As the celebrant approaches the palms, all sing:
Antiphon: Hosanna, PBC, p. 145
After the Gospel of the Palms, just before the procession, all sing:
Antiphon: Pueri Hebraeorum (portantes), PBC, p. 145
During the procession we will sing :
Procession: Gloria laus, PBC, p. 145,
All sing refrain, schola sing the verses.
Then, upon the Celebrant's entering the church, schola will sing:
Collect follows immediately.
After the second reading, schola will sing:
Gradual: Christus factus est,
Offertory: O sacred head, p. 245,
Communion: Pater, si not potest,
Recessional: Vexilla Regis, PBC, p. 152,
Ordinary from Mass XVII, PBC, p. 71. Credo I, PBC, p. 75
We begin with an ancient antiphon that has its roots in a 2nd century Greek chant. Its two phrases sum up the first part—the palms—of the Solemn Mass of Passion (Palm) Sunday.
- Hosanna filio David: benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
- Rex Israel: Hosanna in excelsis.
In the Divine Office, we will have just heard the triumphant hymn from Terce, Celsae salutis gaudia, whose themes are echoed here along with the antiphons, the processional hymn, and the responsory; thus the stage is set for the joyous portion of today's liturgy. But all too soon the readings will bring an abrupt change of mood and we will enter the second part of this Mass. Our focus will return sharply to the reality that the work of our salvation is at hand. We are on the road to the cross, and the waiving of palms will soon give way to the cries of the crowd for His crucifixion.
In lieu of the Introit, we sing the Entrance Responsory as we enter the church and process to the altar. It has five phrases:
- Ingrediente Domino in sanctam civitatem,
- Hebraeorum pueri, resurrectionem vitae pronuntiantes,
- *Cum ramis palmarum Hosanna clamabant in excelsis.
- V. Cumque audisset populus, quod Jesus veniret Jerosolymam,
- exierunt obviam ei. *
The construction here is a typical formula of Office responsories. (We also have this in the responsory Emendemus on Ash Wednesday.) The third phrase corresponds to the first: civitatem = clamabant in excelsis, with a slight simplification in the middle. In the second and third phrases the joy of the multitude waving palms strives to go beyond the limits of the form. Here the third phrase modulates to the full tone below the tonic; the closing cadence reverts to form with the usual five syllables: obviam ei, an almost universal trait of such responsories.
This Gradual is perhaps the most well known one in the repertory. The Philippians text is at the heart of the liturgy during the Sacred Triduum, and this Gradual is sung on Holy Thursday in the EF. In the OF, it is moved here to accompany the solemn proclamation of the Passion. There are two phrases in the corpus and two in the verse:
- Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem,
- mortem autem crucis.
- V. Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum,
- et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
The corpus of the Gradual moves predominantly in a lower pitch around the fundamental note f and descends below it to d and c, thus giving a also a certain importance, which points to the plagal form of Mode VI. The verse has an entirely different character. It strives upward to the dominant of Mode V, sounds it, and even goes a fifth above it. This fits the text perfectly. The corpus speaks of the lowliness of Christ, the verse of His glorification.
Is this is an original composition? The Gradual for the feast of St. Sylvester, Ecce sacerdos magnus, has the same melody with the exception of a single passage in the verse, as does the Gradual Exiit sermo on the feast of St. John the Evangelist. Certain features of their placement in the St Gall manuscripts make it seems more likely that one of these two Graduals is the original. Et dedit illi nomen is also heard in the Gradual for the second Sunday in Lent and for the Assumption. The close of the verse occurs in no fewer than thirty Graduals.
In spite of all this, however, today's text and melody make one whole. The corpus expresses grateful love for all that Christ in His abasement did for us. Nobis helps to produce this effect. The annotated manuscripts give practically every note here the broad form. The descending fourth of crucis may serve to visualize for us how our Lord bowed His head at the moment of death.
As the corpus narrated what Christ did for us, the verse narrates what the Father did for Christ: exaltavit illum. The melody here sounds like the ringing of Easter bells. The recitation on c over exaltavit and afterwards on d over dedit illi gives a more plastic form to the subsequent neums. Here the melody modulates to c like the middle cadence in psalmody. The psalmodic structure, moreover, betrays itself by the intonation at the beginning of the verse and by a sort of flexa on a, the last note of illum. The low inception quod est indicates our bowing to acknowledge the exalted status of the Name above all others.
The Communion antiphon is a single phrase, in two parts:
(a) Pater, si non potest hic calix transire, nisi bibam illum:
(b) fiat voluntas tua.
An appropriate antiphon for Communion, when the chalice of Jesus becomes for us the chalice of salvation. The blood which we drink flows from the wounds of the Crucified. The notes in the melody paint a vivid picture of the scene in the garden. We hear the childlike word, 'Father,' which sets in with a tender bistropha on the dominant. The passage dc bdc b over bibam illum corresponds to ag fag g over (po)-test hic calix. In the minor thirds and the half tone, we still perceive something of the painful. But b here partakes of the nature of a leading note, and so with melodic logic leads to the c over the heroic fiat. Like many passion chants, the melody becomes more tender as the Saviour Himself speaks on our behalf.