Septuagesima ushers in sombreness in the Liturgy, as we prepare for Lent. As the week begins, let us remind ourselves of what we should be missing: the alleluia, and, soon enough, the angelic hymn. It is therefore a fitting time to look from the vantage point of gravity and soberness upon that Kyrie long ago named in honour of the angels.
The Missa de Angelis is a rather interesting grouping of ordinary chants. Contrary to the usual practice of naming ordinaries after the tropes of the Kyrie, Catholic scribes elected to name it after the Mass to which it was traditionally sung, the Votive Mass of Angels. By paleography and musicology standards, the collection is rather young: the Kyrie, from the 15th or 16th century; the Gloria, from the 16th century; the Sanctus from the 12th century; and the Agnus, from the 15th century. There are studies, however, that date it a century earlier.
For very obvious reasons, many hail it as the most performed Mass in the world. Many Traditional communities celebrate their Masses with Missa de Angelis as the ordinary. It probably eventually derived its status as the bread-and-butter setting for the Mass from the historical accident involving the 13th centenary of Saint Gregory the Great in 1904. To celebrate this milestone, Saint Pius X himself chose the Kyrie and the Gloria from the Missa de Angelis to be sung in the solemn High Mass at Saint Peter’s. (Sate your craving for more interesting tidbits about this Mass by reading pp. 375–378 here.)
But its gaiety, its exuberance, sometimes fails to impress the anal-retentive amongst us. Whether the opposition saunters along the line of “familiarity breeds contempt”, or endures provocation by a general distaste for unbridled joy, an unhealthy attachment to a single ordinary setting in the Liber usualis indeed spells the end of an instructive auditory and spiritual experience of the rest of the swag, so to say, in the Latin sacromusical treasury.
Having said this, we now go to our subject: the tropes. The tropes of this Kyrie are rather extraordinary in that they repetitively and metrically modify the melody. Unlike the tropes of Lux et origo or Cunctipotens genitor, Deus, whose words are plugged in directly into the individual notes of the melody, the tropes of De Angelis flourish somehow independently. They appear in the manner below (click on the image to open the file):
Briefly we can hear the third trope here; and tropes 4 to 6, with a snippet of trope 7 here (the fourth item). The whole troped Kyrie is here (which requires access).
The practice of ‘burying’ the alleluia on the eve of Septuagesima is presently enjoying a revival. This ‘burial’ is carried out by writing the word alleluia on a parchment, and inhuming or immuring that parchment after the first vespers of Septuagesima Sunday. Such is the typical form of the custom of paraliturgically enriching the expression of the dismissal or suspension of the alleluia in the Roman Rite, as we see today, called depositio alleluia in Latin sources. Associated with this custom is the mediaeval hymn Alleluia dulce carmen amongst the French, here in Gregorian chant (here sung in full), and here in the tune more commonly sung with it (here sung in English during an actual alleluia burial).
In the Mozarabic Rite, however, the suspension of the alleluia is more intimately expressed in the liturgy itself. Owing to the largely successful Muslim conquest of Iberia, which isolated the Visigothic Rite from the rest of Christendom, the Mozarabic Rite did not develop Forelent. Hence, in the Mozarabic Rite, the suspension of the alleluia does not happen until after the First Sunday of Lent. In fact, the Mozarabic deposition of the alleluia, with its numerous alleluias interspersed throughout the liturgy, transforms the Office and the Mass of the first Sunday of Lent, called Dominica in carnes tollendas (the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday is called Dominica ante carnes tollendas) in the oldest Mozarabic liturgical book, into a jubilant celebration, such that the penitential character of Lent only surfaces robust the following Monday.
The suppression of the alleluia during Lent in the Iberian peninsula was stipulated by canon 11 of the Fourth Council of Toledo, celebrated in 633, forty-four years after the Third Council, which formalised Reccared’s abjuration of the Arian heresy, made in 587 (obtained through the intercession of his elder brother, Saint Hermenegild, martyred in 585). Lent, declares the Fourth Council, is a time not of joy but of sorrow, that it is then fitting to persist in weeping and fasting, to cloak the body in hairshirt and ash, to cast the mind unto sorrows, to turn joy into sadness, until the time of the Resurrection of Christ, when it would behove Christendom to sing alleluia in gladness and replace grief with joy.
Where the alleluia is mentioned in the course of the Divine Office on the first Sunday of Lent (click the thumbnail to open the full Office in Latin copied from the Mozarabic Breviary, whose 1775 edition was published as the Breviarium Gothicum by then archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Antonio Lorenzana y Bultrón), it is addressed as though it were a person. First vespers is often inscribed simply as ad vesperos, whereas second vespers is marked only as exeunte vespera. (Read this for more details on the Mozarabic Rite.) At first vespers, in the second laud, the alleluia is addressed as a wayfarer going out on a journey in joy and gladness, whose return the mountains and hills shall await with glory (which, applying an alternative reading of exspectantes te cum gloria, can also be read as Gloria, taking into account that the Gloria is sung on the same day the alleluia returns).
The ensuing hymn establishes the perpetuity of the alleluia in heaven, underscoring the hope of its gladsome return, and the security that the Church never ceases to sing alleluia throughout the year (for the cives ætherei, the heavenly citizens, the Church triumphant, continue to sing it). Reinforcing this, the chaplet then contrasts the eternal singing of the alleluia in heaven against its time-bound singing on earth, finally beseeching the Lord to look upon the attention the faithful exercise in emulating the ministry of the angels, who sang alleluia on the birth of the Redeemer not only in heaven but also on earth, in their work of praising, that they may merit to live the blessed life with them as companions in heaven.
This the post-Paterbenediction reiterates, affirming that the alleluia is God’s praise, which on that first Sunday of Lent initiates the faithful in that very praise, in the hope of reckoning them as fellow inhabitants in the everlasting mansions. In the third and final laud, the faithful finally bid the alleluia farewell, certain that it will return to them, that the angels will carry it in their very arms lest it dash its feet upon a stone.
We claim neither right nor privilege nor precedence to celebrate the Mozarabic Rite. But this should not hinder us from accessing and treasuring the lessons we can learn from its richness and antiquity. Let us harness these teaching moments to elaborate our preparation for Lent. We have half of Lent, our twenty days of Forelent (Sundays excluding), to prepare for Lent itself. Let us look at the glory of the Resurrection, and ready our mind and body, our soul and flesh, to intensify those rigours that shall certainly redouble our joy and mirth come Easter Sunday.
Good things can come from the unlikeliest sources and appear in the most unexpected of places. As we have said this once on the subject of the literary history of the Fatima hymn, so we apply it now on the conversion of Saint Paul. Before his conversion, Paul was Saul, an avowed persecutor Ecclesiæ, who watched over the garments of those who stoned Saint Stephen. Who would have thought he would become apostolus gentium? In fact, he went out of his way to go to Damascus to destroy its Christian community once and for all. But en route, his most unexpected conversion took place! Who would have thought that someone who seemed irrevocably beyond conversion, for all the world cared, would actually be capable of accepting the Lord?
This great moment is what Holy Mother Church celebrates today! Though partially dampened by the severing of the Petrine connection from a week earlier, and the unconscionable reduction of the feast to third class, we join in the remembrance. Today as well is the last day of the octave promoted by pious priests, practiced by devout layfolk, approved by Holy Mother Church, decorated with indulgences by Supreme Pontiffs for the unity of the Church, for the return of those astray into the one true fold of Christ, and for the conversion of those grasping in the darkness of old and new heathenry.
And so we wish to close this octave with this forgotten piece of music—nothing fancy (click the thumbnail to open the sheet music)—which once lifted prayers in the hallowed vaults of the churches of ancient Intramuros, salvaged from the War that almost succeeded in reducing the Walled City, if not to cinders, to rubble. Ut unum sint is a simple lemma as it stands. And yet, modernists and ecumenists—oh, do remind us if there is a difference between the two!—parse this differently, radically (non sequitur, that is) interpreting its ramifications, and turning it into a slogan for that school of thought obsessed with the equality of religions. There can never be oneness in faith if we continue humouring heretics to persist in their vintage errors for the sake of practicing our diplomacy, or encouraging pagans to uphold their way of life for the sake of studying their culture. Dialogue and anthropology are not tickets to heaven. Never were. Never will be. Let us, therefore, continue praying that everyone, those astray and the unbelievers, come to that true unity in the Catholic faith.
In the course of the long history of Christendom, Holy Mother Church approved six litanies for public recitation, and adorned these with indulgences. Of these six, four appear in the Liber usualis with their respective tones (Sacred Heart, Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, and the Saints), sometimes with more than one tone.
The approved tone of the Litany of the Precious Blood, if ever one existed, continues to elude discovery. What we have are various tones composed by devout Catholics who wanted to chant the litanies but found no tone printed. One tone saw light on account of the 2011 Christus Rex Pilgrimage. Another, out of necessity, in time for the feast of the Precious Blood. Our very own version of this Litany follows this tradition! The hunt for the approved chant goes on.
Fortunately, the approved tone of the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus appeared a few years ago. The tone appears in the 1955 Cantuale Romano-Seraphicum (here is the two-page extract). The 1922 edition of the Cantuale does not include this tone. The memo, somehow, got lost in the mail, and we learned of the tone quite late. That is, in between waiting for the proverbial manna to fall from heaven, and fighting the urge to succumb to learned helplessness, we managed to produce our own tone for the Litany (click on the thumbnail to open the file). Today, Saturday, being the eve of the feast of the Holy Child of Cebu, reminded us of this. Let us devoutly chant these litanies in honour of the Most Holy Name of the Child Jesus of Cebu.
A century and a decade ago, when the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter was still kept on 18 January, the first octave, starting on said feast and ending on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on 22 January, to promote and pray for the unity of Holy Mother Church, to bring all Her separated children back into union in Her bosom, was celebrated. In the English-speaking world, this new devotion, called at various times the Chair of Unity Octave and Church Unity Octave, authored by an Anglican who later became Catholic, Fr. Paul of Graymoor, quickly spread.
Weigh the anchor and the ship drifts to unknown waters. The octave slowly slipped into nondescript existence, gradually replaced by a slightly younger devotion established by the French priest, Fr. Paul Irénée Couturier, first as a triduum in 1933, then later as a week the following year, promoting unity amongst Christian confessions. It eventually gained the name Universelle Prière des Chrétiens pour l’Unité Chrétienne, in English Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The ecumenical atmosphere following Vatican II obviously offered a new ecosystem for this devotion, which the Church adopted beginning in 1966.
As usual, we need closure from the mention of this twist in the fabric of our time-honoured Catholic praxis. Approaching it is ultimately a choice between two lessons: on one hand, common wisdom advises that wine tastes better with age; on the other, medical observation informs that cancer metastasises over time.
Leaving, therefore, this bitter juncture, we now approach the mandate set forth in decree 557 of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines. The decree specifically mentions the dates from 18 to 25 January, so we know that the Fathers envisioned a full octave of prayer, not a mere week. In view of this, we can use the original prayers approved for the Chair of Unity Octave, as printed here and here. Alternately, we can use a second set of rogational supplications (click on the thumbnail to access the file), or supplement them to the first set. Let us pray that everyone, those astray and the unbelievers, come to that true unity in the Catholic faith.
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.
Musically 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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 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.