Magnet of love

De las Roelas - La Circuncisión o Adoración del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús
La Circuncisión o Adoración del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús | Juan de las Roelas (attr.) | c. 1604

We are now a week away from the feast of the Holy Child of Cebu, which this year will take over the third Sunday after Epiphany. The propers of the Holy Child are those of the Holy Name of Jesus. The fixing of the feast on the third Sunday of January is a holdover of the earlier arrangement of the universal calendar. The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus was traditionally celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany. Previously, in many places within the Spanish realm, the feast was kept on 14 or 15 January.

For some years now, we have sung the gozos with its traditional estrofas, the original text that was printed with the novena licensed by the then bishop of Cebu, Fray Martín García y Alcocer, O. F. M., in accordance with the decree of Pope Urban VIII and in conformity with received practice, on 9 November 1888—novena decorated with indulgences by former bishops of Cebu: forty days by Fray Romualdo Jimeno Ballesteros, O. P.; and another forty days by Fray Benito Romero de Madridejos, O. F. M.—in the place of the new set that is now sung.


Regarding the text, the original longer text incorporates the invention narrative of the image. Afterwards, the estrofas describe the devotion of the Cebuano people. What prompted the reform of the text, in our opinion, is the mention of the practice of ‘throwing’ the image of the Holy Child into the sea during times of drought. The First Plenary Council of the Philippines reprobated this custom.


Gozos del Sr. Sto. Niño de CebúMusically speaking (click on the thumbnail to access the sheet music), perhaps the trickiest part of this gozos is the estribillo.  The modulation approaching it sometimes becomes very misleading that one needs to be attuned to the melody in order to work out how to sing the part. One ‘cheat’ to obviate the difficulty is to drop a whole step at the end of the first half of the copla, in order to sing the first note of the estribillo.

Estrbillo modulation

Gozos del Sr. Sto. Niño de CebúA seasoned choir singing the gozos generally will breeze through the transition to estribillo, but less fortunate but no less devout crowds, perhaps victim of the removal of decent music education in the Philippine public school system, often stumble. And so, we also provide a modified version of ours (click on the thumbnail to access the sheet music), an alternative sheet music with the aforementioned ‘cheat’, wherein we also included an English translation of the gozos. Of course, there are other techniques out there to commence the estribillo without attracting noticeable dead air. Suum cuique, whatever works for this case.

Benedictus Deus nomenque sanctum eius.

Note: The tone used in Cebu is by no means the only one that exists. Here is another tone, used for nine days in a barangay novena in honour of the Holy Child, sung with the original text of the gozos.


Ending Christmas

After Easter, Christmas is the next greatest feast in Christendom. For various liturgical, cultural, social, even psychological, reasons, just as secular establishments compete in commencing the festivities, Catholics also compete in delaying the end of the observations. While the former is pathologically symptomatic more of the world’s rejection of the penitential character of Advent than of its expectation of the birth of the Redeemer, the latter is somewhat indicative of modern Catholics’ reluctance to finally retire the exultation and mirth of the Lord’s Nativity in order to begin the rigours of Lent. Indeed, since Lent requires stricter discipline in terms of penance and diet, and Easter has never associated itself with gift-giving, only a few recognise that extraordinary—dare we say, superior—joy we ought to feel at the Resurrection of the Lord.

Fuga in Egitto | Gentile da Fabriano | 1423

Liturgically speaking, below are the temporal durations of the different reckonings associated with birth of our Saviour:

  • The Christmas cycle (cyclus natalicius) begins at first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent (movable) and ends at none of the Saturday before Septuagesima (movable). This covers the tempus Nativitatis, the tempus Epiphaniæ, and the tempus post Epiphaniam. For 2018, the Saturday before Septuagesima is 27 January.
  • The Christmas season (tempus natalicium) begins at first vespers of Christmas (25 December) and ends on 13 January (Baptism of the Lord if not Sunday; Holy Family if Sunday). This covers both the tempus Nativitatis and the tempus Epiphaniæ.
  • In the vetus ordo (with respect to the 1962 rubrics), Christmastide (tempus Nativitatis) begins at first vespers of Christmas (25 December) and ends at none of 5 January inclusive (previously, the vigil of the Epiphany). Whereas in the novus ordo (with respect to the 1969 rubrics), Christmastide (tempus Nativitatis) begins at first vespers of Christmas (25 December) and ends on the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January (Baptism of the Lord). This latter reckoning conflates under one name two traditionally distinct, albeit connected, times, rendering moot the tempus Epiphaniæ. (Moreover, it requires acclimatisation due to the transferability of Epiphany in the novus ordo: for 2018, if Epiphany is observed on its proper day, the Baptism of the Lord should be on Sunday, 7 January; but for those places where Epiphany is moved to Sunday, the Baptism of the Lord is immediately moved to Monday, which is 8 January.)
  • The Christmas octave (octava Nativitatis) begins at first vespers of Christmas (25 December) and ends at second vespers of 1 January (traditionally, the Circumcision of the Lord).

Popular understanding of Christmas, and its ending, typically gravitates towards lengthening the observance, as much as possible:

  • According to popular tradition, Christmas ends on 6 January, Epiphany of the Lord, to complete the so-called 12 days of Christmas.
  • According to popular piety, Christmas ends on 2 February, Purification of the Blessed Virgin, to complete the so-called 40 days of Christmas (parallel to the 40 days of Lent).
  • According to extended popular piety, Christmas ends on 9 February, simply because it is the octave day of the Purification.

We do not intend to weaponise this exposition of the different reckoning of the temporal terminus of Christmas to exacerbate the pointless argument about which is correct. Rather, we wish to highlight with this the comforting fact—which in recent times has been invoked for the purpose of furthering causes surreptitiously pernicious to and glaringly incompatible with the faith—that Holy Mother Church has always accommodated the different pious customs of Her children.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

‘More solemn tone’ of the Te Deum

We have heard the Te Deum sung on many occasions. The Liber usualis contains a solemn tone (begins on p. 1832 in № 801) and a simple tone (begins on p. 1834 in № 801), and these lift our soul to give thanks to God. There is, however, a Roman tone for the Te Deum, which we fondly call its ‘more solemn tone’. (It is actually listed as iuxta morem Romanum, and its placement in the 1908 Vatican edition of the Graduale Romanum, right after the tonus sollemnis, suggests that it is to be understood as the tonus sollemnis iuxta morem Romanum.) For many of us who had heard this tone first, prior to hearing the solemn tone or the simple tone, the latter tones understandably sounded like a reduction of the Roman tone, quoting bits and pieces of its surprisingly more tuneful melody.

Benlliure y Gil - El coro
El coro | José Benlliure Gil | 1886

Today is another occasion to hear or sing the Te Deum. If a blessing of Epiphany water is happening somewhere near you, that is. The notation for the Roman tone of the Te Deum is buried in the latter part of the Graduale Romanum. Check it (begins on p. 147* in № 696; p. 118* in the 1908 Vatican edition), and, if you are a chorister or cantor, sing it today. (For us Filipinos, this is rather opportune, considering that an alternating chant and fauxbourdon version of the Te Deum appearing in a collection of sacred music from colonial Intramuros uses the Roman tone for the chant.) Here (the original website carrying this recording is inaccessible as of this posting) is how it was sung by the Benedictine monks of São Paulo. For comparison, listen to the solemn tone and to the simple tone.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Epiphany announcement 2018

We are in the middle of the first week of 2018. For that, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! Epiphany will be on the first Saturday! If divine favour is upon us, we might get some Epiphany water blessed on the first Friday.

Burne-Jones - The Star of Bethlehem
The star of Bethlehem | Edward Burne-Jones | 1887–1891

Festa mobilia 2018This means that it is time for our priests to brush up on the Epiphany announcement, a parallelising misnomer (we had Christmas proclamation last Christmas) for the rather cumbersome announcement of movable feasts. Unlike the Christmas proclamation, this one does not have any stymieing elogium (say, for the phase of the moon), apart from the synodal elogium, which we have omitted, since our local ordinary had not issued an indiction for a diocesan synod anytime this 2018. And, unlike the Christmas proclamation, the tone for this announcement (click on the thumbnail to open the file) is familiar, being the same tone used for the Easter proclamation (yes, the Exsultet). Here is how it was sung in 2014.

Oh, and a final note, 14 February is Ash Wednesday. It is one of the two days when Filipinos cannot substitute anything for the obligatory fast and abstinence.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Traditional Ordo 2018

_DSC0001Elsewhere, we have uploaded the traditional Ordo for the Philippines for 2018. Apart from what has already been said here, we will only add that this ordo, like its 2017 counterpart, has been enriched with old customs and received practices peculiar to the Philippines, abstracted from older ordines and referenced against published manualia. For example, one will find before the entry for 1 April the rubrics for the celebration of the salubong, according to the rite prescribed in the Manual de Manila. We hope that this would help guide our brethren in the celebration of the Mass and the Office in the vetus ordo.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Filipinos and the Christmas Midnight Mass introit

Last June, we shared the Corpus Christi sequence we found in the Introitale Baclaianum. Now, we are displaying side by side the introit of the Christmas Midnight Mass, Dominus dixit, as it appears in the Graduale Romanum and as per our transcription from the Introitale Baclaianum.

Dominus dixit

Ultimately, the altered chant in the Introitale Baclaianum was abandoned when approved liturgical books reached these Philippine shores.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Christmas proclamation 2017

Gallegos - Niños del coro
Niños del coroJosé Gallegos y Arnosa | c. 1885–1890

Today is Christmas Eve. Traditionally, before the misa de gallo, the Mass sung at midnight, the first Mass of Christmas, at prime, the proclamation of Christ, what many of us call kalendas, is sung as prologue to the martyrology. Amongst us Filipinos, members of some choirs that sang in the Mass before the liturgical changes of the 1960s would probably still remember singing or hearing the kalendas, which used to be sung as a choral rite of passage from tiple to cantor.

We know, of course, that, in a deplorable, but not unexpected, happenstance, the chronological exactitude of the old text of the prologue of the Christmas martyrology was thrown off the cliff and replaced with a generic formula that situates the birth of our Redeemer at a time, rather off-puttingly, “when ages beyond number had run their course”. It is no longer a mystery to us, but we still wonder why the usus recentior strives to countenance this inelegance and ambiguity.

Gérôme - Le Siècle d'Auguste et la naissance de Jésus-Christ
Le siècle d’Auguste et la naissance de Jésus-ChristJean-Léon Gérôme | 1855

For the usus antiquior, it is more common to use the older text. The elogium of the date is the same: the eighth calends of January. This means that 25 December is eight days away from 1 January, which is the calends of the month. The elogium of the moon changes per year, according to the epact of the year and its corresponding martyrology letter. This year, it is the seventh moon. Practically, especially if referencing the dates against the martyrology tables becomes too daunting a task to accomplish, we can simplify the reckoning by counting the number of days from the preceding new moon, which occurred on 18 December this year, until 25 December.

Kalendas 2017There is a modus ordinarius found in the Martyrologium Romanum, but here we have the modus sollemnior (click on the thumbnail to open the file), which is probably monastic in provenance. If it has fallen upon our happy lot to chant the kalendas this year, then we can exercise the option to sing it in the more solemn tone in honour of the holy birth of our Redeemer.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Expired indult: ‘killing’ the misa de aguinaldo

_DSC0106When it comes to Holy Week, there is a chronological milestone separating two ritual variations locked in perpetual disagreement. That milestone is 1955. When it comes to the misa de aguinaldo, a similar milestone exists. That milestone is 1956. The effects of these milestones are still felt today, albeit the former is more pronounced in communities attached to the usus antiquior, while the latter, rather curiously, produced an incident that would later be a minor concern to the modern Filipino liturgical clique. Let us understand why such happened to a tradition that “we Filipinos have owned as a distinguishing mark of our faith”.


The misa de aguinaldo came to the archipelago with the Spaniards. Its natural proclivity to exuberance and solemnity many times arrested the attention of ecclesiasts to such a point that the Franciscans labouring in the Philippine vineyard, friars who belonged to the strict Alcantarine family, arguably the most beloved of all the religious corporations during the colonial era (a fact that encouraged Rizal to rank P. Dámaso Verdolagas, one of the antagonists of the Noli, among the sons of Saint Francis, if only to taint the reputation of the Minorites), banned its celebration in their mission churches as early as 1655. In 1680, in the wake of the rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Rites deploring the musical abuses in the misa de aguinaldo, the archbishop of Manila forbad its celebration. Only for his priests to resume after his death (or probably during the years he was banished from his see).

So the misa de aguinaldo survived, more or less, in parishes and cathedrals able to support the demands of the celebrations: nine days with misas cantadas, very early in the morning when the sun has not yet risen, in the light of beeswax candles, accompanied by a músico or a banda. We qualify this survival with barely. When the Spaniards left, the custom was practically dead in many places. American priests tried to resuscitate it, but made little success. All those anecdotes about all of our Catholic ancestors waking up early to hear Mass at ungodly hours nine days before Christmas—for three centuries!—should now retire to the realm of myth.

Continue reading “Expired indult: ‘killing’ the misa de aguinaldo”

Rizal and a villancico

It is time for villancicos! A great number of Filipino villancicos (of course, in Spanish) eventually disappeared via the oft-trodden road of desuetude. What replaced them are feel-good Christmas carols, such as one that gleefully glorifies the coordinated twinkling of Christmas lights, or another that excitedly enumerates the meals prepared for the nochebuena, or another that forlornly reduces Christmas to an accident in an ongoing breakup process, or still another that poignantly ponders on missed family reunions juxtaposed against the glittering tinsel and clinking jingle of the season.


Perhaps, we can say that the collapse of the Spanish language in the Philippines was one of the catalysts that progressively favoured the deconstruction of Christmas into its purely aesthetic, amply gastronomic, potentially therapeutic, and overstatedly emotional elements. In other words, materialism articulated in poetic motifs and tuneful themes. The worrying thing about this trend is not the accident that modern Filipino Christmas carols do not mock the core and reason of Christmas, Who is Christ our Lord, but the fact that they do not mention Him at all. Whether a staunch refusal or a candid failure, this setting aside of Christ contributes to the decoupling of our values from our faith.

But enough about this tragedy in our culture. Let us get to the villancicos. Examples of Filipino villancicos are this and this, both from the Visayas. Sung with their Spanish counterparts during pastores presentations, together with the adaptation of various Latin hymns, and the misa pastorela for the misa aguinaldo, villancicos defined the Christmas soundscape of colonial Philippines.


Continue reading “Rizal and a villancico”

Awe and longing of creation

La O
Nuestra Señora de la O

Today is the third day of the misa de aguinaldo. That means we are six days away from Christmas. Before the 1960 rubrical changes raised the dignity and rank of the Advent ferias from 17 to 23 December, many countries in the Spanish realm kept the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin on 18 December, a holdover of the feast of the Annunciation transferred from 25 March by the Tenth Council of Toledo. Images of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin usually depict Mary gravid.

The feast eventually assumed the title of Nuestra Señora de la O, literally, Our Lady of the O. What inspired Spaniards to use O traces a rather interesting history, which is ultimately, and surprisingly, choral in provenance. In summary, for seven days beginning on the eve of the feast, that is, from 17 to 23 December, at Vespers in the cathedral of Toledo, at the inchoation of the Great Antiphons, the dignity charged with the intonation prolonged the interjection O, and the rest of the choir joined with its lengthening, signifying with “these profound suspirations of longing” the “desire and yearning of the world for the Redeemer” [1]. For more details, read this.

Catedral de Toledo
Dives Toletana

Continue reading “Awe and longing of creation”