An Italian sequence for the Easter Vigil

Vigil Masses, in the Roman Rite, are typically threshold points. We are quite there, but not quite there yet. A vigil Mass is an oxymoron. Something bittersweet. And, for the Easter Vigil, the flow typically expresses this sort of split personality. The sorrow of Lent, broken once on Maundy Thursday, finally dissipates on Holy Saturday, partially when the Gloria is sung once again, and fully when the Alleluia returns for good. But, even so, after the Alleluia is sung, that sweet song of praise of God, we then sing a gradual in the tone of the Lenten canticles and tracts, that bitter and prolonged cry to God in penitential seasons.

Anonym - Le Christ aux Limbes
Le Christ aux Limbes | Anonyme | xxe siècle

Between the 10th and 12th centuries, the Church’s longing for the joy of the alleluia enabled Her cantors to prolong the chanting in a melismatic iubilus, which eventually admitted a variety of texts, which consequently evolved into prosae or sequentiae in their own right. Aquitaine in France produced four for the Easter Vigil (Iubilate Deo, omnis arva; Iam turma coelica laeta; Hoc pium recita plebs; Omnes, iubilate cordeque laetate), and one for the Pentecost Vigil (Pangamus carmina). Benevento in Italy produced another in two versions, one being longer than the other, for the Easter Vigil, Lux de luce. The region of Ravenna, on the other hand, also in Italy, produced its own musical incarnation of the apparently longer Beneventan version.

The Aquitanian exemplar, whose source manuscript is Paris lat. 903 (Gradual of St. Yrieix), folio 76v, features a long melisma that is more prolix than what we are privileged to sing nowadays. The longer Beneventan version, on the other hand, draws source from the manuscript Benevento MS VI.34, folio 112r. Finally, the Ravennate version, we are informed, is found in Padua MS A.47, folio 129. This manuscript is dated 11–12th century, but the chant itself has been dated to as early as the 8th century, in parentheses at the moment while conclusive evidence remains forthcoming.

Lux de luceIn 1971, Dr. Kenneth Levy transcribed the manuscripts and published a critical study of the sequence. From his transcriptions, we produced a copy in Gregorian notation (click on the image to access the file), taking the liberty to add an Amen and an Alleluia at the end (it is a sequence, after all). While resurrecting this sequence in its proper place, both in the vetus and novus ordo, will no doubt be termed patent antiquarianism, chanting it after the offertory or during Holy Communion will doubtless allow us to savour its powerful message of joy and hope.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

[1] Kenneth Levy, Lux de luce: the origin of an Italian sequence: MQ 57 (1971) pp. 40–61.
[2] Kenneth Levy, Ravenna chant: GMO (

Happy Easter!

Today is the Octave of Easter, also known as Low Sunday, also known as Quasimodo Sunday, also known as Dominica in albis deponendis, in Western Christendom. Most of Eastern Christendom, on the other hand, celebrate Easter today.

Caravggio - Incredulità di san Tommaso
Incredulità di san Tommaso | Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio | 1601–1602

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and to those in the tombs,
granting life.

Christus resurrexit a mortuis,
morte mortem calcavit,
et euntibus in sepulchris
vitam donavit.

المسيح قام من بين الأموات
ووطئ الموت بالموت
ووهب الحياة للذين في القبور

Χριστός ανέστη εκ νεκρών,
θανάτω θάνατον πατήσας,
και τοις εν τοις μνήμασι
ζωήν χαρισάμενος.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Low Sunday

Stom - De ongelovige Thomas
De ongelovige Thomas | Matthias Stom | 1641–1649


Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. The He saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands, and bring hither thy hand, and put into My side; and be not faithless, but believing.

Venit Iesus, ianuis clausis, et stetit in medio, et dixit : Pax vobis. Deinde dicit Thomæ : Infer digitum tuum huc et vide manus meas, et affer manum tuam et mitte in latus meum : et noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Low Saturday

Burnand - Les disciples Pierre et Jean courant au Sépulcre le matin de la Résurrection
Les disciples Pierre et Jean courant au Sépulcre le matin de la RésurrectionEugène Burnand | 1898


Peter therefore went out, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre. And they both ran together, and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

Exiit ergo Petrus et ille alius discipulus, et venerunt ad monumentum. Currebant autem duo simul, et ille alius discipulus præcucurrit citius Petro, et venit primus ad monumentum.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Hail, O Queen of heavenly beings!

The title literally translates Salve, Regina coelitum. The metred translation, obviously the singable one, registers it as Hail, Holy Queen enthroned above. We all know the sprightly Sister Act version of this Marian hymn. YouTube teems with an endless slew of rehashed attempts to parrot this version. And yet, we most probably also know how to sing it more reverently in harmony with the sanctity of the consecrated edifice.

Tiziano - Il Cristo risorto appare alla Madre
Il Cristo risorto appare alla Madre | Tiziano Vecellio | c. 1554

Salve, Regina coelitumWhat is probably less known about this hymn is the fact that it has an Easter version, which practically still begins with the same words. Actually, we only discovered the verses and assumed that it used the same melody as the one we already knew (click on the image to open the file). Except for the first verse, the Internet yields virtually no information about this set of lyrics, which we found in an old Spanish devocionario—the title we forget—now kept in the Special Collections of the UP Main Library. Whereas in the usual extra tempus paschale version of this hymn, both lines of the verses end with O Maria; in the tempore paschali durante version, the second O Maria is replaced with Alleluia.

We Filipinos traditionally celebrate the joy of the Blessed Virgin at the Resurrection of her Son in a mystery play we inherited from the Spanish encuentro. Enemies of Tradition, those ashamed of our sacred heritage, and those who have elected to separate themselves from the Church, often scorn this custom for being not mentioned in Holy Writ, explaining it away as superstition without any warrant of plausibility. Whilst this saddens us, we lift our eyes unto heaven and redouble our hope in the Lord. Let us, therefore, unite our jubilation with the Blessed Virgin’s, and, invoking her unfailing maternal aid, let us honour our Redeemer in His most glorious Resurrection, that we may be guided in our preparation for the celebration of the descent of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Lay down the mourning!

In the midst of the Easter Octave, let us recall that supreme joy that possessed us the very moment we chanted again the Gloria in the Mass of the Easter Vigil. So deep the sorrow that gripped us on Good Friday, only to make sweeter that lofty joy with which we greeted the Resurrection of the Lord.

Nesterov - The empty tomb
Жены-мироносицы | Михаил Васильевич Нестеров | 1889

Pone luctumThe hymn Pone luctum, sume vestem, which we first sang last Easter Sunday, aptly captures this bold shift from grief to joy (click on the image to open the file). First appearing in 1851 in Heinrich Bone’s Cantate !, as the German Halleluja lasst uns singen, the text first appears set in music, ultimately traced back to J. B. C. Schmidts, in 1891 in Joseph Hermann Mohr’s Gesangbuch Psälterlein. Unfortunately, while the German history of this hymn has been manifested to us, both the first time the hymn was sung in Latin, and the identity of the author of its Latin verses continue to elude us. Below is the popular German version.

It bears an uncanny resemblance, both in metre and intention, to that mediaeval poem written by Adam of Saint Victor, Pone luctum, Magdalena, which in itself is also an Easter hymn. Easter encourages all of us who have sorrowed over the passion and the death of the Lord upon the cross, in repentance and resolution, to rejoice in the light of His resurrection, having reconciled the world unto Himself when He died on the Cross, redoubling and recalling our joy and mirth on that gladsome Sunday when the women and the apostles discovered the tomb of the Lord empty.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Easter Friday

Czechowicz - Zmartwychwstanie
Zmartwychwstanie | Szymon Czechowicz | 1758


And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

Et accedens Iesus locutus est eis, dicens : Data est mihi omnis potestas in coelo et in terra. Euntes ergo, docete omnes gentes, baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti : docentes eos servare omnia, quæcumque mandavi vobis. Et ecce, ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem sæculi.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Easter Thursday

Ivanov - Appearance of Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene
Явление Христа Марии Магдалине после воскресения | Алексaндр Андрeевич Ивaнов | 1835


Jesus saith to her: Do not touch Me, for I am not yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brethren, and say to them: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and your God.

Dicit ei Iesus : Noli me tangere, nondum enim ascendi ad Patrem meum : vade autem ad fratres meos et dic eis : Ascendo ad Patrem meum et Patrem vestrum, Deum meum et Deum vestrum.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Easter Wednesday

Tissot - Apparition du Christ sur les bords du lac de Tibériade
Apparition du Christ sur les bords du lac de Tibériade | Jacques Joseph Tissot | 1886–1894


But when the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore: yet the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

Mane autem facto, stetit Iesus in litore : non tamen cognoverunt discipuli, quia Iesus est.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

A plan for singing O filii et filiae

A popular Easter hymn, O filii et filiae is.

Schedoni - Le Marie al sepolcro
Le Marie al sepolcro | Bartolomeo Schedoni | c. 1613–1614

Originally, only nine verses, written by the Franciscan friar Jean Tisserand, made up the hymn. Discipulis adstantibus, Postquam audivit Didymus, and Beati qui non viderunt were later added. A triple Alleluia is sung as the refrain between each verse.

Scheduling what verses to sing according to the Gospel read within the days of the Easter octave would be one way of aligning our meditations with a particular moment that occurred after the Resurrection of the Lord. Below then can be our guide:

From day onwards Verse
Easter Sunday O filii et filiae,
Rex caelestis, Rex gloriae
morte surrexit hodie.
Easter Sunday Ex mane prima Sabbati
ad ostium monumenti
accesserunt discipuli.
Easter Sunday Et Maria Magdalene,
et Iacobi, et Salome
venerunt corpus ungere.
Easter Sunday In albis sedens angelus
praedixit mulieribus :
In Galilaea est Dominus.
Easter Sunday
Easter Friday
Et Ioannes apostolus
cucurrit Petro citius,
monumento venit prius.
Easter Monday
Low Sunday
Discipulis astantibus,
in medio stetit Christus,
dicens : Pax vobis omnibus.
Low Sunday Ut intellexit Didymus
quia surrexerat Iesus,
remansit fere dubius.
Low Sunday Vide, Thoma, vide latus,
vide pedes, vide manus,
noli esse incredulus.
Low Sunday Quando Thomas vidit Christum,
pedes, manus, latus suum,
dixit : Tu es Deus meus.
Low Sunday Beati qui non viderunt
et firmiter crediderunt ;
vitam aeternam habebunt.
Easter Sunday In hoc festo sanctissimo
sit laus et iubilatio :
benedicamus Domino.
Easter Sunday Ex quibus nos humillimas
devotas atque debitas
Deo dicamus gratias.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.