25th December 2019, Mass of Christmas Day

25th December 2019, Mass of Christmas Day

Prelude: Martyrology for Christmas Day (chanted in English by cantor)

Trope: Hodie cantandus est introduces the Introit

Introit: Puer natus est

Alleluia: Dies

Offertory: O come all ye faithful, V2H p. 231

Communion: Viderunt omnes

Post-Communion: Antiphon Hodie Christus natus est, PBC, p. 137 (or V2H, p. 234)

Recessional: Joy to the world, V2H p. 232

Ordinary will be from Mass VIII, PBC, pp. 52ff. Credo III, PBC, pp. 77ff.

Trope: Hodie cantandus est nobis puer quem gignebat ineffabiliter ante tempora pater et eundem sub tempore generavit inclyta mater. Quis est iste puer quem tam magnis praeconiis voceferatis? Dicite nobis ut collaudatores esse possimus. Hic enim est quem praesagus et electus hymnista Dei ad terras venturum praevidens longe ante praenotavit sicque praedixit.


Today we must sing of a child, whom the Father ineffably begat before all time and to whom an illustrious mother gave birth in time. Who is this child whom you have announced so loudly with such great proclamations? Tell us so that we can be among those who praise him. He is the the one whom the prophetic chosen hymnist of God, with foresight long beforehand, foreknew and predicted would come to earth. [Introit follows immediately]


The Introit antiphon has three phrases:

  1. Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis:

  2. cujus imperium super humerum ejus:

  3. et vocabitur nomen ejus, magni consilii Angelus.

This Introit of the third Mass of Christmas has much of the spirit of the popular carol, In dulci jubilo. After the dulcet fifth of Puer comes the torculus re mi re; the second half of the phrase begins in the same way. The parallelism of the text (Pueret filius) probably influenced the shape of the melody. (Many have noted the difference in the effect of this parallelism compared with that of the first Mass of Christmas with its minor thirds, reminding us of the semidarkness of that night.) The tristropha then brings a relaxation, allowing the following nobis to be sung with more color. There is an emphasis on this nobis in both parts of the phrase, once with its close on the dominant, the other on the tonic. Despite rhythmic similarities, the dynamics are different. In the first nobis the second clivis dominates the first, while in the second nobis the first two notes receive greater prominence. The same holds true of natus compared to the first nobis. Thus there results a beautiful melodic interplay, reminiscent perhaps of a song for rocking the cradle of the Christ Child.


While the first phrase sings of the Infant, the second stresses His dominion and divine dignity, in which the Christianized Roman would have seen realized the old dream of the imperium, of the universal kingdom. The melody attains its peak at imperium. Try to follow the direction of Saint-Gall (Einsiedeln 121), which gives the third note a slightly broader marking (=a slight emphasis) so that the melodic line ascends with solemnity befitting the word. Then the melody sinks, slowly and deliberately, as if a shadow settled upon it. For the royal dignity also reminds us of the burden which already at Christmas rests upon the shoulders of this Child: the burden of the cross, reflected in the minor third and the semitones over ejus. Then we hear a bright major third over et vocabitur, as though to put aside those ponderous thoughts. Then the tristropha and figure over the second ejus, like the one over the first ejus, give a still more intense form to the joyful conclusion: He is the Angel of great counsel, the One who comes to announce to us also to make effective in Himself our redemption and eternal salvation.


Some have said that the numerous tristrophas in this antiphon were intended to restrain the singer from getting carried away with exultation. Regardless, these tristrophas should not sound heavy or unwieldy. The piece as a whole ought to be bright and lively. We are using the seventh mode (cf. the Introit for the second Sunday of Advent and for the feast of the Ascension), which here ever strives upward, to reflect our joy. (The accented syllables in most instances have a higher pitch than the syllable immediately following, frequently also higher than the preceding syllable.)


The Communion antiphon is a single verse:

Viderunt omnes fines terrae salutare Dei nostri.


We hear this same melody in several adaptations. In all probability the opening word, Viderunt, led to the choice of the melody. That's not a negative comment, but rather a step to a deeper understanding of the appropriateness and of the beauty of this Communion chant. If we compare the text with the same words used in the first part of today's Gradual, we get an illuminating insight into the stylistic differences of the two chants. Terrae and salutare mark the high points of the melody. The connection is immediately evident: salvation has come to the world. When we consider that we are privileged to look upon Him, that we are even allowed in Holy Communion to taste and see "how sweet He is," then our salutare will have a particularly radiant ring. In the notes that come after the lengthened do, la sol mi fa fa corresponds rhythmically to sol fa la sol mi over (ter)-rae and fa re fa mi do over De-(i).


The short antiphon after Communion is the Magnificat Antiphon for 2nd Vespers of Christmas.


Hódie Christus natus est; hódie Salvátor appáruit; hódie in terra canunt ángeli, lætántur archángeli; hódie exsúltant iusti, dicéntes: Glória in excélsis Deo, allelúia.


Today Christ is born; today the Saviour has appeared; today the angels in heaven sing, the archangels rejoice; today the righteous exult, saying: Glory to God in the highest, alleluia.


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