28 December 2016, Holy Innocents
Missa Cantata (EF), 7:00 pm
Introit: Ex ore infantium,
Gradual: Anima nostra,
Alleluia: Laudate pueri,
Offertory: Anima nostra,
Communion: Vox in Rama,
Recessional: Puer natus in Bethlehem, PBC, p. 137f, vv. 1, 2, & 13,
Ordinary will be from Mass IV, PBC, pp. 49ff. Credo III, PBC, pp. 77ff.
The Introit has two phrases:
1. Ex ore infantium, Deus, et lactentium perfecisti laudem
2. propter inimicos tuos
The melody conveys a sense of awe with the three descending and the three ascending fourths in these two short phrases. The first phrase with its preponderant g has a cadence common in the second mode; we hear it also in the well-known Introit of the Midnight Mass of Christmas. The second phrase, in which f predominates, has some affinity to et lactentium of the first phrase.
The Holy Innocents offered God perfect praise. As the Collect of the feast says, they glorified Him not by words, but by their death. It is impossible for a creature to show greater glory than this to the Creator. Furthermore, their praise was absolutely pure. Such pure and perfect praise of God should resound in the universal Church, not only in words, but more importantly in a holy life.
The Gradual has one phrase in the corpus and three in the verse. The Offertory has the same text.
Anima nostra, sicut passer, erepta est de laqueo venantium
1. Laqueus contritus est
2. et nos liberati sumus
3. adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini, qui fecit caelum et terram.
Gradual and Offertory have the same text. In the Gradual it is divided into corpus and verse; in the Offertory the first three phrases have been drawn into one whole, the last phrase of the Gradual being omitted. Both melodies pulse with rich and radiantly joyful life. The Gradual, it is true, is a composition of various typical melodies, but here they are joined. The melody for the Offertory, on the contrary, shows that it originated from this very text. In the Gradual we find melismatic punctuation on the final syllables of nostra, venantium, contritus est, sumus, while the Offertory broadens only the last syllable of sumus. The Gradual begins solemnly and has a quiet cadence over nostra. In the Offertory an ebullient, almost rollicking joy characterizes the first neums. A lightly moving rendition is imperative. Like the lark this song swings aloft exultant and jubilant; we have escaped from the snare of the hunter.
Erepta est is strongly emphasized in both chants. In the Offertory it is a continuation of the motif over Anima. Over nostra in the Offertory, first is sung a light bistropha after the clivis gf, followed by a climacus. With de Iaqueo the Gradual acquires the typical form; the Offertory, however, continues in an exulting strain with the motif of est, and yet a third time mounts up to high bb. To a certain extent the last five notes over Iaqueo, venantium, nos, sumus form an antithesis to this overflowing joy, or rather, bring it to a quiet conclusion. On the third syllable of Iaqueus the Gradual has a florid melisma, such as we find over et laborem on the second Sunday of Lent, Audi filia on the feast of the Assumption (q.v.), and over visi sunt on January 19. According to this it seems always to occur over the third syllable of the first part of the phrase. A form occurs in the Offertory with which we are acquainted from Epiphany (Tharsis); it is repeated over Iaqueus and liberati. The reduplication of the virga between the two tristrophas is well substantiated by the manuscripts. Perhaps it wishes to visualize how cleverly the net had been spread, how well everything had been prepared. Contritus est has a triumphant ring; it produces the effect of irony, when the same neums are repeated over (libera)-ti. It seems as if the little birds in their sunny heights, in the ethereal blue, looked down with a smile upon that which human ingenuity had excogitated.
The melody continues to exult in a spirit of thanksgiving: We are free! Free for all eternity. Here is inserted a melisma which is not found in the Gradual for the Assumption; it occurs, however, in the Gradual Ecce sacerdos magnus. Later we again meet with melodic turns from the Gradual for the Assumption. By a happy coincidence, the verse attains its summit at this spot, a brilliant enhancement compared with the preceding contritus est. The final phrase of the Gradual runs along in a recitative manner, employing podatus to emphasize the word-accents. Domini is the only word over which we find a more florid melody; to some extent also the closing syllable of terram, which corresponds to the final syllable of the corpus. It is to the Creator of heaven and earth that the Holy Innocents are indebted for all their happiness. In the history of souls, the situation described by the verse is frequently repeated. There is more than one Herod. And there are many innocent children who have happily escaped all the snares of the fowlers and the deceptive devices of the world. And many, very many, have again been freed from them and now enjoy the liberty God has granted them.
The Alleluia verse has two phrases:
1. Laudate pueri Dominum
2. laudate nomen Domini.
The jubilus has the form a a. Text and melody have been borrowed from the second Alleluia-verse of the Saturday in Easter Week. We hear the melody over Alleluia also on the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Similarly, Laudate pueri recurs in the typical melody of the fourth mode, for example, in the Alleluia-verse of the third Sunday of Advent.
The Communion antiphon has three phrases:
1. Vox in Rama audita est, ploratus et ululatus
2. Rachel plorans filios suos
3. noluit consolari, quia non sunt.
Rachel, an ancestress of the Israelites, wanders about the heights above Bethlehem, bewailing her captured children as if they were dead. That occurred centuries before Herod's ruthless destruction of the innocents; it was a type and a foreboding of the sorrow the mothers of Bethlehem were to experience. But there is one mother's heart which now, even after many centuries, still feels their grief: the Church. Hence, in spite of the Christmas season and the feeling of the Sunday, she sings this pathetic song. The inception on the fifth of the mode, the emphasis on the dominant and the pressus over ploratus are expressions of gripping sorrow, almost a shrill outcry.
In the following phrase the minor seconds and the minor thirds produce a gentler ring. The third phrase in its first half supports itself on c. The mother's heart is inconsolable, because her children are no more. However true and deep this sorrow may be, it never becomes unruly or distraught. With dbg the melody comes to a close; est ends on d, (ulula)-tus on b, suos on g. Through this harmony the grief is tempered.