18 November 2018, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Introit: Dicit Dominus
Offertory: Christ the Word to earth descended, p. 295
Communion (Years B & C): Amen dico vobis quidquid
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:
This antiphon is long, and although the melody is not difficult, the rhythm is challenging. The phrases are long and there are no breaks for breathing in them so you'll need 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.
(Years B & C) The Communion antiphon has two half-phrases:
1. (a) Amen dico vobis: quidquid orantes petitis
(b) credite quia accipietis, et fiet vobis.
In the two half-phrases, the first part in both instances extends above the range of the second part. Each inception, if we disregard the introductory formula, is on the dominant: quidquid, credite, et; this gives the piece a feeling of assurance. The endings show a descending line: vobis = a, petitis = g, accipietis=f, vobis=ed. It is to be noted that the accented syllables are always higher than the succeeding syllables, and generally carry several notes. Amen is a striking exception. The form d a b♭, over its second syllable, is in all other cases on the accented syllable, for example, Suscepimus, Gaudeamus, Praeceptor. The same might easily have been done here. Perhaps the Greek pronunciation of Amen, which accents the second syllable, influenced the present arrangement. But more important than this detail is the bold continuation the melody makes with its leap of a fourth. August majesty marks the beginning of this chant. Here He speaks who rules over all things, who has in His hand life and death, time and eternity, who needs but will and things are made, who can grant all that is asked of Him. Here is the answer He makes to our petitions in the Alleluia-verse and in the Offertory. Here He renews the promise given in the Introit: 'You shall call upon me, and I will hear you.' But we must pray, pray with confidence, with full certainty of being heard.
Now at the end of the liturgical year, we feel a great need to pray for perseverance, for life eternal, and that our names may be inscribed in the Book of Life. He has again heard the petition of the Lord's Prayer: 'Give us this day our daily bread.' We have received Him (accipietis), the Bread of Life. He has come into our hearts in Holy Communion. That is our pledge (pignus futurae gloriae) that we may also enter eternal life.