19 November 2017, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Introit: Dicit Dominus
Offertory: Christ the Word to earth descended, p. 295
Communion (Year A): Domine quinque talenta
Recessional: God, my King, Thy might confessing, p. 325
Mass XI, PBC p. 58. Credo III, PBC p. 77
In the formulary today we return to the former cycle for the second last Sunday of the liturgical year (23rd post Pentecost). The Introit has three phrases:
Although the melody of this antiphon is not difficult, the rhythm is challenging. The phrases are long and there are no breaks for breathing in them so you'll want to steal some breaths—more than one. This is particularly important in the very long first phrase, where you will note a curved line over the half bar, reminding singers not to break the important unity between pacis et non afflictionis.
The text is an excerpt from the letter which the Prophet Jeremias wrote at God's diretion to the captive Jews at Babylon. It was a soothing balm for those tired and wounded hearts. God had experienced untold infidelities and offenses at the hands of His chosen people, and yet He thinks thoughts of peace and not of affliction. He still promises to hear their prayers, still promises to bring them back from their captivity into the Promised Land. We are not yet in the Promised Land. The deathlike picture of all nature in this bleak November vividly brings the fact home to us. We know it also from the affliction of heart which frequently weighs more heavily upon us than captivity: we are exiles, living in that state of flux called time. Suddenly a word strikes our ear, enters our heart; a word not spoken by man, for men are powerless: it is the Lord, and He speaks of peace. He pronounced this word when He sent His beloved Son upon earth; He published it by the mouth of an angel on Christmas night. And how often Christ the Saviour uttered His Pax vobis! He is still uttering it today, and suiting the action to the word.
Majesty marks the opening of the melody; the theme is blessed peace. Over cogitatio-(nes) the motif of the beginning is repeated, followed by the bright major chord; then its tones sink again, sweetly, blissfully, like rays of sunshine into our heart. God thinks thoughts of peace. Would that we, too, might always think them! But how often we fail to recognize what serves unto our peace, and thus force the Lord to discipline us (afflictionis), until, made homesick once more by our desolation of soul or by some external affliction, we transfer our affection and longing to Him who alone can be our peace, our happiness. The cadence over afflictionis is the same as that which is repeated twice in the Introit Requiem. It places before him who is conversant with plainsong the thought of those still awaiting the full peace of the Lord in purgatory. All the melodic pauses and incisions in this first phrase fall on the note f. The melody loses somewhat in variety thereby, but it preserves the quiet feeling which is proper to this phrase. This phrase, moreover, towers far above the other two: its text is longer, its range is more extended, its neums are more ornate. The usual thing in chant, however, is to have the phrases more nearly in climactic order.
The second phrase is restricted to a fifth. A contrast is formed by the b in the first phrase and b♭ in the second. There is a certain unrest in invocabitis which soon is eased by the dominant-like fivefold b♭ which seems to say: Be comforted, the Lord will grant your prayer; you have, it is true, often forgotten Him, have despised and deserted Him, but He thinks only of your peace.
In the third phrase, with its range of an octave, the tonic f plays a prominent part. Perhaps this is to indicate the oppression of captivity, just as is done with the same word in the Offertory for the third Sunday of Advent by lingering on the dominant. In the second half of the phrase, however, de cunctis rises with such firm assurance that neither men nor circumstances can weaken it. Even to those who have gone farthest astray, the road to their fatherland, to reconciliation, to peace, will not be closed. Indeed, the Lord Himself proffers His guiding and protecting hand (reducam) to lead them home.
The church into which we are now processing is already heaven for the community; the processional entrance itself becomes in a certain sense an anticipation of the procession of the just, when, after the Last Day, they will follow Christ into full glory. The house of God, into which we enter now for the celebration of the sacred Mysteries, is heaven upon earth. We are coming closer to the Parousia: though it is still sacramentally veiled, it is already pre-realized in the Eucharist. And in the regions of bliss—for it is November, the month of All Saints—thousands of the blessed make joyous melody, because He has led them to eternal peace, to freedom, and to the glory of the children of God.
(Year A) The long Communion antiphon has four-phrases:
(b) supra multa te constituam
This antiphon is found in the EF Graduale Romanum only the feasts of two saints, Peter Chrysologus and Appollinaris. It is sung today in Year A because we hear the gospel reading from which the text is taken. It is a long antiphon, sung in the triumphant Mode VII to reflect the good results of the servant and the reward he is to enjoy. The melody reflects this as the cadence over lucratus sum at the end of the second phrase sets the stage for the final cadence over Domini tui. The melodic connection of these cadences makes clear the point of the text: if Christ is truly my Lord, then I will make good use of my talents in His service. And the melody that has spent so much time on the unstable fa finds it point of resolution over intra in gaudium. We too will find our resolution from life’s uncertainties when we come to enter into the joy of our Lord. It’s an appropriate link to next Sunday’s feast of the Christ the King as well. We are called to use our talents to build that kingdom here and now.