Of Latin, chapel, and choir

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Latinitas, founded on 30 June 1976 by Pope Paul VI through the chirograph Romani sermonis [1]. The Latinitas endeavours to support the study of the Latin language and letters, first and foremost the classical, then the Christian writings, as well as the Latin of the Middle Ages, and modern Latin; and to further the use of Latin in letter- and book-writing, especially in matters of worship in the Church and in Catholic studies.


The primacy of Latin in our liturgical life extends to how we reckon ourselves. (Where else should we begin?) Our choir is, therefore, named Cappella Gregoriana S. Cæciliæ olim Xicatunensis. In Latin. But, where is the choir here? In ecclesiastical Latin, the preferred term for choir as a group of singers dedicated to the Liturgy is cappella. In classical Latin, chorus is a dance, a ring dance, borrowed from Greek. When we see the term chorus in the rubrics (as is the case during Good Friday at the Reproaches), we have to understand that it is so written to distinguish it from the cantores. The cantores are the singers, usually one or two, appointed to lead the singing, while the chorus is the crowd of singers tasked to respond to the cantores. Chorus and cantores form the cappella. So, when we tune in to EWTN to watch the midnight Mass of Christmas in the Vatican, the choir that sings for that Mass is called in Latin as the Cappella Musica Pontificia Sixtina.


The term cappella originally referred to one of the many Frankish sanctuaries set up to house a relic of the cloak that Saint Martin of Tours gave to the beggar. Cappella is the diminutive of cappa, the Latin for cloak. In this sense, cappella descended into the Romance languages as the word of chapel: cappella in Italian, capilla in Spanish, capela in Portuguese, chapelle in French, capelă in Romanian, among others. In Latin, cappella both means choir (to a greater extent) and chapel (to a lesser extent). Chapel in Latin is also known as ædicula or sacellum, both diminutives, the former from ædis (shrine, temple, or building), the latter from sacer (holy). An ædicula is usually understood as a space within a bigger space. For this reason, the small building enclosing the tomb of the Lord inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is called Ædicula in Latin, or The Aedicule or The Edicule in English. Sacellum, on the other hand, is usually understood as a smaller version of a building otherwise built by norm as large. The Sistine Chapel, for example, is called in Latin as the Sacellum Sixtinum.

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Indebted to a sore throat

Suppose you are a deacon coming down with unusual hoarseness in the evening of Good Friday. You are scheduled to chant the Exsultet in the Easter Vigil the following Holy Saturday. What will you do? Probably an ‘overdose’ of Strepsils or Dequadin, right? Or, if your throat craves a more ‘esoteric’ approach, pei pa koa or salabat, right? But this would only be the first part of Homo proponit, Deus disponit. For the second part, whose special intercession would you ask to obtain a swift restitution of your vocal faculties? Saint Blaise, the martyred bishop of Sebaste, is the first one that comes to mind, naturally. After all, there is a special blessing of throats on his feast day.

Oratory Easter Vigil 2017-3

In the 8th century, however, a Lombard historian (at the same time a deacon in Rome and a monk in Monte Cassino), by the name of Paul Warnefried, invoked Saint John the Baptist, most likely inspired by how the birth of the Precursor loosened the tongue of his father [1]. On Holy Saturday, before the Vigil, Paul wrote a poem, in perhaps the best classical metre there is (the Sapphic Adonic metre), which he dedicated to Saint John, asking in the very first stanza for the healing of his throat [2]:

Ūt quĕānt lāxīs rĕsŏnāre fībrīs
Mīră gēstōrūm fămŭlī tŭōrūm
Sōlvĕ pōllūtī lăbĭī rĕātūm,
Sānctĕ Iŏānnes.

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Filipinos and the Corpus Christi sequence

Last Thursday was the feast of Corpus Christi.

Blessed Sacrament

Musically, from Office to Mass, the feast is decorated with theologically rich pieces penned by the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas. All four, in fact, used as hymns in various Hours of the Office, and as Sequence of the Mass, are of his authorship: Pange, lingua, gloriosi for Vespers; Sacris sollemniis for Matins; Verbum supernum prodiens for Lauds; and Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem for Mass. A fifth hymn, Adoro te devote, he composed for private devotion, and is often used today as a fitting Communion hymn.

Did we ever wonder how these were sung in the Philippines before? Yes, we did! We know that prior to the so-called Gregorian Restoration of the 19th century (which spawned universal approved editions of the official chant books, new chant methodologies, and several editions of the Liber usualis), churches in the Philippines, whenever the occasion for a misa cantada arose, used the resources available to them.

Lauda, Sion, SalvatoremThis (click on the image to access the file) is an example of how Corpus Christi sounded in the Philippines in the 19th century. What we have here is the Sequence Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem from the Introitale Baclaianum, a collection of Mass parts set to plainchant and figured chant, dated 1827, from the parish of Baclayón in the island province Bohol. It is one of the four sets of cantorals, large format chant books that were propped on a specially-engineered rotating lectern called facistolium, used in the said parish during the Spanish era.

The first thing we must notice is the length of the Sequence. It is not complete. Only selected verses are included, grouped into twos. In the manuscript itself, the last verse itself alone uses the sixth melody. We only added the penultimate verse to keep the number even. Also, in the manuscript, there is no melody for the Amen. The music sidles directly to Alleluia. We picked the Amen melody from the Sequence of Saint Augustine (found in the same manuscript) which employs a similar melodic pattern.

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Incense and Eucharistic Processions

This is not a matter of Sacred Music, but something which some Traditional communities grapple with, or conveniently ignore: how to incense the Blessed Sacrament during a Eucharistic Procession.

La fanfare de Fleurieu-sur-Saône à la procession de la Fête-Dieu
La fanfare de Fleurieu-sur-Saône à la procession de la Fête-Dieu | Nicolas Sicard | 1885

There are three easy steps:

  1. Walk forward, ahead of the Blessed Sacrament.
  2. Look backward, towards the Blessed Sacrament.
  3. Swing the censer sideways.

These are not our own fabrication. Please, our Lord deserves more than the mere designs of mere mortals. These, rather, come from a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 15 September 1742. Read them at your leisure from the link indicated towards the end of this post.

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Happy 1984th anniversary!

A blessed Pentecost to everyone! Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the 1984th anniversary of Her beginning, having been founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who ordained thus that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Her.

Pentecôte | Jean II Restout | 1732


Vivat Sancta Mater Ecclesia !

Pentecost prophetiary

Prophetiarium XicatunenseWe updated our Resources section with the six prophecies of the Vigil of Pentecost set to our chant tones! Go to said section and scroll down or just click on the image to the left. The tones used in this compilation, which we call Book II (even if it was produced two years before Book I), are identical to the ones used in said Book I, with the only exception of the tonus ammelleo-cynepurgilæticus (which was added only in 2017). Again, the idea behind the arrangement is decidedly iuniores ante seniores, that is, the chant becomes more complicated as the prophecy progresses towards the sixth.

Use with caution. (Heh!)

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Factus est repente

Liturgical chant was once as varied as the places where they were cultivated. We might be tempted to say: cuius locus, eius cantus. Rome had Roman chant, Milan had Ambrosian chant, Gaul had Gallican chant, and Muslim-occupied Iberia had Mozarabic chant. These are some of the recognisable chant families in the Catholic Church. Of course Roman chant and Gallican chant together formed an amalgam that has been transmitted to us as Gregorian chant.

Allow us now to present a distinct chant family, this time hailing from the southern Catholic strongholds of Italy: Beneventan chant. This plainchant tradition owes its name mainly to Benevento, where it developed during the Lombard occupation of Italy. More closely akin to Ambrosian chant than to its Roman counterpart, Beneventan chant was known for a time as another exemplar of cantus ambrosianus.

As it happens, Pentecost offers us a very timely opportunity to share an example of Beneventan chant from the 11th century. In the Missale Romanum, the antiphona ad communionem for Pentecost is Factus est repente. From MS 40 (found in folio 70v) of the Beneventan Capitular Library, we present this same chant, this time marked as ingressa for Pentecost in the Beneventan liturgy:

Factus est repente

The Beneventan ingressa, much like its Ambrosian namesake, corresponds to the Roman introitus, what we now see in the 1962 books as antiphona ad introitum. Generally speaking, the introit, sometimes with the communion, is the simplest plainchant piece in the Gregorian repertoire. Where the Roman liturgy employs simple chant, the Beneventan liturgy explodes in its plainchant with a florid procession of neumes.

There are only few surviving pieces of Beneventan chant. Its greatest repository, the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. Part of the casualties were manuscripts that would have made the remaining years of ossified purveyors of musical paleography happier. The mere fact that a few survived is reason enough for thanksgiving.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Schedule: Pentecost 2017

This year, Pentecost falls on 4 June. The Vigil of Pentecost will be celebrated at the Most Holy Redeemer Parish on Saturday, 3 June, at 2:00 pm. Mass will follow after the Vigil.

Pentecost CGSCOX

On Whitsunday itself, Mass will be celebrated according to the Sunday schedule, at 2:00 pm. Incidentally, this is also the first Sunday of June, on which the aforesaid parish celebrates its patronal feast, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Pentecost, being a first class feast inscribed in the universal calendar, takes precedence over all first class liturgical celebrations in particular calendars, and admits no commemorations.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus !