29 March 2020, 5th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

29 March 2020, 5th Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Station at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican


Introit: Judica me

Offertory: Stabat Mater, PBC p. 143, begin on F. Vv 1-3, then odd numbers until v. 20 in lieu of 19.

Communion (Year A): Videns Dominus

Recessional: When I survey the wondrous cross, p. 341.

Ordinary from Mass XVII, PBC, p. 71. Credo I, PBC, p. 75


The Introit antiphon has three phrases:

  1. Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta:

  2. ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me:

  3. quia tu es Deus meus, et fortitudo mea.

Psalm 42 has been sung on the present Sunday for many centuries, long before it became part of the prayers at the foot of the altar, where it was placed because of its verse: 'I will go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth.' [In the EF, we are still reminded of this when today, and on the following days until Holy Saturday exclusive, this psalm is not said at the foot of the altar.] One phrase of this Introit immediately draws attention: eripe me—deliver me! In the time when the antiphon with its cry of affliction was heard after each verse of the whole entrance psalm the effect would have been even more pronounced. The entire melodic development works up to a climax at this point.


So when we sing these words of the psalmist, who prays to be snatched from destruction? We are on the eve of the solemn celebration of the Passion of the Lord, so obviously it is first Christ Himself. Our Lord began His Passion on Mount Olivet with just such a plea. Then He is betrayed by Judas, 'the unjust and deceitful man.' He sees Himself before a tribunal, as before a 'nation that is not holy.' His inner Self cried to the Father: Judica me, eripe me! Despite the suffering, God was utimately His God and His strength. But also, as St Augustine reminds so often in his commentaries, when the Head prays, so too does His entire body, the Church, and all of us who are His members. Here we are upon His holy mountain, in His tabernacle, with His light and His truth to guide us.


In the melody, the first and third phrases have the same ending, while the second has a similar close a fifth higher over (eri)-pe me, the climax. There is some resemblance between the first half of the first two phrases and the second half of the third phrase. Over causam meam sorrow comes to the surface in the second phrase with gathering force. With a, b, b, c, the melody works up to d. This results quite naturally in a forceful crescendo. The annotated manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries marked t (=tenere, to hold) over first few notes of the third phrase, stressing that the ultimate resolution of the conflict rests in God our strength.


(Year A) The Communion antiphon has three phrases:

  1. Videns Dominus flentes sorores Lazari ad monumentum

  2. Lacrimatus est coram Judaeis et clamabat: Lazarre veni foras:

  3. (a) Et prodiit ligatis manibus et pedibus
    (b) qui fuerat quatriduanus mortuus.

A long-ish text for a Communion but a very quick, sharp, and very descriptive melody vividly depicts the high emotion of Jesus’s encounter with Martha and Mary at the tomb of Lazarus. The melodic high point at Jesus’s command that brings Lazarus back to life points to His power over death, soon to be shown in His own resurrection. The last phrase paints a ‘melodic picture’ of Lazarus slowly rising up to come forth still bound at his hands and feet.


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