24 March 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C)

24 March 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C)

Station at St Lawrence outside the walls 

IntroitOculi mei

Kyrie XVIII with tropes, PBC, p. 72. (English translation of tropes below.) 

Offertory: Attende Domine, PBC, p. 141

Communion (Year B&C)Passer invenit

RecessionalLord who throughout these forty days, p. 240 

Kyrie XVIII, PBC, p. 72, with tropes sung by schola. Sanctus & Agnus Dei from Mass XVII, PBC, p. 71. Credo I, PBC, p. 75

Dom Johner's comments on today's formulary are extensive; so what follows is an edited version of those with a few minor clarifications from subsequent studies and commentary.

The stational church today is the Church of St. Lawrence (Outside the Walls), patron of the catechumens. This was—and now is again—the Sunday of the scrutinies, when those to be baptized were/are examined about the doctrine they had studied, and an inquiry was/is made into their way of life from the faithful who were there with them. Prayers were said over them and the first exorcism performed to destroy the power of the devil in their souls. With this in mind, the composer of this Introit wanted the antiphon to be dominated by one word: evellet—He liberates me, plucks my foot from the snare, frees me. My eyes are always fixed on Christ, who will conquer Satan and his minions and free me from their power. The Introit has two phrases, each of which is divided into two parts:

  1. (a) Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, 
    (b) quia ipse evellet de laqueo pedes meos:
  2. (a) respice in me, et miserere mei, 
    (b) quia unicus et pauper sum ego.

Text and melody exhibit a pleasing, symmetric construction. In the first phrase we look up to God; in the second we ask Him to take us into His tender mercy. Each phrase, in its second part, gives a reason for the first part. 'My eyes are towards the Lord,' quia. 'for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare;' in the second phrase: 'look Thou upon me,' quoniam. 'for I am alone and poor.' In the first phrase, the melody moves upward, following the text: Oculi mei...and especially evellet. In the second phrase the four descending fourths over the petition,  'Look upon me' reflect the images of a loving Father looking down on his child. The Introit for the third Mass of Christmas has links with our Introit today. The opening fifth here of Oculi links there to Puer. The melody over me also occurs there over the word nobis. And the close here, sum ego, sounds like that of the Christmas Angelus. And like imperium in the Christmas melody, evellet ascends to high f, though our Introit here is more ornate, and the accents with the frequent pressus forms are more energetic. The singer's gaze upward to God is fixed and steady. This is shown not only by the protracted dominant, but especially by the annotations in the manuscripts. Reaching back at least as far as the tenth century, these demand a broad rendition of all the notes over semper. The cadence of Dominum is repeated over unicus, and in a somewhat extended form over (miserere) mei.

            The second phrase, respice—"look upon me"—is melodically more tender, more fervent, more suppliant, but its range is a bit less extended. Although respice still has a range of a sixth (g-e); the subsequent members of the phrase, however, confine themselves to a fifth (f-c). The harsh tritone over pauper agrees well with the subdued feeling of the word.

(Years B&C) The beautiful Communion antiphon has three phrases.

  1. Passer invenit sibi domum, et turtur nidum, ubi reponat pullos suos:
  2. altaria tua Domine virtutum, Rex meus, et Deus meus:
  3. beati qui habitant in domo tua, in saeculum saeculi laudabant te.

This antiphon is a good study in Gregorian modes. The Vatican edition classes it as Mode I, but that's not the end of the story. First it closes on a, showing that it is transposed. But how is it transposed? Actually, it's moved upward a fifth. Since there is a full step and a minor third over the closing note, a fourth lower would result in e f# g e e; but f# was not possible in chant notation. A fifth lower, however, it becomes d e f d d—the closing formula of the first mode. But for the melody of pullos, a fifth lower would leaves us with f e g f f g d d. Again, ancient chant notation found it impossible to write ebut could quite easily transpose a fifth higher to b. So that's what we have.

            Second, the third and first modes are intertwined. The intonation of passer and the melody over virtutum point to the third mode. The closing cadence of the third mode, ccc a c b a, corresponds to c b a over (vir)-tutum. From Deus meus on the piece moves in the first mode. Rex meus contracts its interval over (De)-us meus. Here follows a modulation to the full tone below the tonic, much affected by the first mode. We actually find a several modulations in the antiphonal chants for the third Sunday of Lent. The Introit in the seventh mode modulated to the full tone below the finale after the f over miserere mei, and in the Tract of the eighth mode after the f over nostrum. The Communion of the first mode also modulates to the full tone below the finale over Deus meus, and the Offertory, really in the sixth mode, modulates to the fourth below the finale over favum. Each time the modulation agrees with a break in the text, therefore in the thought. Proclamation of the text drives the melodic variances.

            The three phrases of this piece present vivid images of nature, Temple worship, and our eternal joy. The first describes the birds and the nests in which they harbour their young. The composer may have intended the numerous podatus forms to depict the fluttering of birds or the cooing of doves, as we saw last summer. In the second, we see Temple worship as a foretaste of the eternal dwelling with the Lord of hosts to which we aspire. In the third, we sing of that house of God where we will sing His praises for all eternity. There the chants of today are fulfilled. God has snatched us from evil (evellet of the Introit); our soul has escaped like a bird from the snares of the fowler and is safe forever in its true nest. Our praying and singing in the house of God is a preparation for that song of eternity.

Tropes for Kyrie XVIII

  1. Deus Genitor alme. Kyrie eleison. 
    God, loving Father. 
  2. Supplicamus te omnes. Kyrie eleison.
    We all beseech You. 
  3. Nostra delicta parce. Kyrie eleison.
    Forgive our sins.
  4. Jesu Christe Redemptor. Christe eleison. 
    Jesus Christ, Redeemer. 
  5. Benignus nobis adesto. Christe eleison. 
    Kindly be beside us. 
  6. Ut semper laudemus te digne. Christe eleison. 
    That we might fittingly praise you.
  7. Reple nos Spiritu Sancto. Kyrie eleison.
    Fill us with the Holy Spirit.
  8. Deus bone, semper. Kyrie eleison.
    Always, good God.
  9. Quo tibi laeti canamus, eleison. Kyrie eleison.
    So that we might be happy as we sing to you, have mercy. 



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