May: Daily, daily, sing to Mary

We are nearing the end of May, the month Holy Mother Church dedicates to the Blessed Virgin. By a strange calendrical juxtaposition, in whose arrangement Pope Pius XII was central, May begins with a feast of Saint Joseph and ends with a feast of the Blessed Virgin. Of course, the impact of this arrangement (read: ancient feasts unhinged from their ancient feast days) continues to elicit profound lamentation from many Traditional quarters, which we shall not touch here.

The Virgin with Angels (fragment)
Regina Angelorum (fragment) | William-Adolphe Bouguereau | 1900

May in the Philippines is fiesta season. It is the time of the santacruzan and the flores de mayo. The former is a popular activity rooted originally in the devotion to the Holy Cross, a mystery play depicting the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena. The latter is a month-long activity practiced throughout the archipelago, wherein Catholics gather in church in the afternoon to offer flowers to the Blessed Virgin and to sing hymns in her honour. Over time, the pageantry associated with the mystery play (santacruzan) and the Marian devotion (flores de mayo) became conflated, that many Filipinos nowadays find it difficult to separate one from the other.

But allow us to digress now.

Flores de mayo
Flores de mayo | Arturo Montero y Calvo | 1884

The Marian dedication of May is reason enough to devote parts of our choral repertoire to the Blessed Virgin. The Philippines celebrates many Marian feasts in May, and for each title, there exist already two or three hymns especially associated with it. It is a relief, therefore, that there are also Marian hymns that speak of no particular title or patronage, which we can elect to sing any Sunday or weekday at Mass. We now present a Marian hymn that once was widespread in its many vernacular translations in the archipelago.

Daily, daily, sing to Mary

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Square Note app

In order to sing Gregorian chant, unless we have already memorised the Church’s entire treasury of sacred music, we need to look at something that contains both text and notation. Happily, for us, chant books (not in the same scale as the large cantorals of old) are available. Supply-versus-demand, however, does not quite allow everyone to access these books physically. And so these have been digitised. We now take this opportunity first to draw attention to the Gregorian chant resources we have consolidated in our Resources page.

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Technology, however, opens more frontiers where we think there is nothing more beyond. And so a thoughtfully devised app, the handiwork of Fr. Matthew Spencer, O. S. J. and Bro. Stephen Spencer, O. S. J., has now entered the market for techy church musicians: it is called Square Note. It intends to “[put] a huge library of Gregorian Chant scores—over 600 unique chants and counting—right at your fingertips”, and “[bring] the ancient music of the Church to your mobile devices, ready for you to [utilise] in your schola, your choir, or your home”. Let us stop here now and direct ourselves to reviews and impressions on the app here (CCW) and here (NLM, check the combox).

Square Note

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this tool? Purchasing the app is cheaper by two orders of magnitude than buying an old copy of the Graduale Romanum or a reprinted edition of the Liber usualis. Cantors who feel comfortable around electronic gadgets and are savvy about matters digital can now avoid lugging around the enormous volume of a typical Liber usualis (the 1962 edition is easily the thickest of all its incarnations). The playback will certainly be useful to beginners who are still in the process of digesting the principles of chanting; but this should be used sparingly to avoid cultivating dependency to it in terms of chant rhythm (which is why seasoned cantors will probably avoid this feature for very obvious reasons.)

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Breakthroughs in chant scholarship has brought forth a Graduale Triplex and spawned a Graduale Novum in the semiological direction. Perhaps, this one will sire a Graduale Digitale in the ictualist or episematic school of interpretation.

Pray the terço

On 13 May 1917, during the first of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, as the vision was vanishing, the Blessed Virgin gave the three shepherd children the following message before disappearing:

Rezem o terço todos os dias, para alcançarem a paz para o mundo e o fim da guerra!

Though the vision told the children in the third apparition on 13 July 1917 that she desired them to say the terço every day “em honra de Nossa Senhora do Rosário”, the vision also said she will introduce herself in October.

Fátima
Nossa Senhora de Fátima

And so, on 13 October 1917, the vision introduced herself:

Sou a Senhora do Rosário.

And, then, she added:

Que continuem sempre a rezar o terço todos os dias.

We highlighted two words above: rosário and terço. In English, these two words are translated as rosary, seldom with qualifications as to the specific meanings they encode. For these words, while indeed refer to the rosary, are distinguished by degree, something which even Spanish, a Romance language close to Portuguese, does not capture. For Lusophones, the rosário is the entire Rosary, all fifteen mysteries of it; whereas the terço, as the name implies, is just one third of the rosário.

Rosary B

So, let us pray the terço! It is but one simple chaplet of five mysteries, but Our Lady indeed promised to obtain the end of terrible wars if we recite it each day! Perhaps, we can sing the Rosary as our grandparents did in olden times! The Holy Rosary will secure peace for the world more surely than all beauty pageants combined could ever do.

Avé de Fátima

Around the time Dear Lady of Fatima made its way to the charts in the United States, the most enduring hymn in honour of Our Lady of Fatima was taking shape in Portugal.

Fatima

In 1955, António Thomaz Botto, a Portuguese poète maudit then residing in exile in Brazil penned a poem which he dedicated to the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, hoping to endear himself to the Cardinal and obtain favour for his desire to return to Portugal. Botto had chosen to leave Portugal with his common-law wife in 1947 after backlash resulting from his homosexuality becoming public (when he was expelled from civil service for many reasons, including what people would call propositioning nowadays) had become unbearable. The Cardinal Patriarch allegedly ignored the overture, even though the book Fátima: poema no mundo, wherein the poem Hino de Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima was published, carried the approval of the Cardinal Patriarch, and Botto, who some sources claim to have been a fervent Catholic, and who by then had dropped the second t in his surname, eventually died in penury in a car crash in Rio de Janeiro four years later. The poem he wrote, however, bore the words that now adorn the hymn in honour of Our Lady of Fatima: the Avé de Fátima, more commonly known as A treze de maio.

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Schedule: Our Lady of Fatima 2017

On 13 May 2017, the first apparition of Our Lady in Cova da Iria (a field that belonged to the family of Sor Lúcia dos Santos) will be commemorated for the hundredth time, opening the centenary of the six apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima.

Fatima CGSCOX

At the Most Holy Redeemer Parish in the Diocese of Cubao, there will be a vigil from the evening of Friday, 12 May, until dawn of Saturday, 13 May. At midnight (before dawn of 13 May), Mass will be celebrated in the Extraordinary Form.

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‘Pious’ pop song

Back in the 50’s, people probably had little ‘difficulty’ with Catholicism in public. Over the course of the decades, perception of the Catholic Church plummeted from indifferent tolerance to passive-aggressive persecution. People used to think of the Church as a megalithic structure with high potentials for reticence; now they are convinced beyond doubt that the Church is a terrorist organisation opposed to scientific thought (which is one way of calling modern licentiousness).

Outdoor Papal Mass
Outdoor Papal Mass in Saint Peter’s Square

Modern culture, what many of us understand as characterised by a preference for the premature abbreviation of life, provides less and less opportunity for the Catholic to live his faith, practice his religion, and exercise his conscience without running the risk of shedding his own blood. For us who are dedicated to cultivating the sacred music of the Church, life is no different. Pop culture and its accompanying music offer fewer and fewer options for the Catholic soul, encouraging hostility to and abandonment of Christian virtues in its enthralling tones and addicting beats.

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Troped Kyrie: Lux et origo

Tropes, in most liturgical chants wherein they had been employed, are introductions, insertions, or additions made on the chanted liturgical text. Before they fell out of use, they have been found to embellish or amplify the chanted liturgical text of the propers and ordinaries of the Mass or the Office. As we are in Eastertide, we bring here the trope of the Kyrie used from the Vigil of Easter until the Fifth Sunday after Easter: Lux et origo.

Trope - Lux et origo

Here is how the trope sounds:

Below we add the translation of the tropes:

Thou Light and the very source of light, God, have mercy.
At Whose will everything hath its being, O merciful One, have mercy.
Who alone canst have mercy on us, have mercy.

O Redeemer of the world, salvation of mankind, merciful King, Christ, have mercy.
On us, redeemed through the cross from everlasting death, O our hope, Christ, have mercy.
Who art the Word of the Father, the Word made flesh, O True Light, Christ, have mercy.

O Adonai, Lord God, just Judge, have mercy.
Who governest the engine of things, O nurturing Father, have mercy.
Whom alone becometh praise and honour, now and always, have mercy.

Where once they were tolerated and at best encouraged, the rubrics of the Traditional Latin Mass as we know today no longer offers a place for the tropes. Incidentally, however, the rubrics of the Ordinary Form do allow tropes to the Kyrie! But we have not seen a widespread return of this practice. For one, Latin has ceased being a language spoken by most ecclesiasts, and has become a province of elite academicians. Also, Gregorian chant, despite the clear instructions of the Second Vatican Council, has become the least of all “genres” of music, in a caste system dominated by the intolerant alius cantus aptus, favoured by the average Catholic parish. Why not take advantage of the permission and rescue the age-old tropes from undeserved oblivion? Let us open this door towards Tradition, inviting it to enrich the Ordinary Form.

O Light and source of supreme light!