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 (

The curious case of the different pronouns in the Easter sequence

Last Holy Monday, we pointed out a link between the vespers antiphon of Palm Sunday and the sequence of Easter Sunday. On Palm Sunday, Christ Himself tells His disciple that after His resurrection, He will go before them into Galilee. Today, we hear Mary repeat these words to the apostles when she tells them about the resurrection.

Elsewhere, as well, we have mulled about the discrepancy between the Missal and the Gradual for Palm Sunday. Apparently, the first antiphon sung in the dry Mass for the blessing of the palms, Hosanna Filio David, has been printed with the interjection O in the vocative O Rex Israël, but the corresponding chant for this has, at least since the 1924 edition of the Liber usualis in modern notation, omitted the interjection. A result of the Gregorian restoration in the mid-19th century, driven by paleography, spearheaded by erudite ecclesiasts, this is an example of a rare, but not unobserved, case where the text of the Missal is at odds with the text of the Gradual.

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

It turns out that Easter Sunday features this same discrepancy as well. The Tridentine reforms saw a great reduction in the number of sequences in the Missal. Easter Sunday is one of the few that retained its sequence. And it retained its sequence with some changes. First, the direct object suos in praecedet suos in Galilaeam gave way to vos as in praecedet vos in Galilaeam. Second, the penultimate verse was removed. Third, Amen and Alleluia were added at the end. The first change is where we find the discrepancy. In 1896, Missal and Gradual were still in agreement, as can be seen in the chant below from the Graduale de Tempore et de Sanctis, printed by Pustet.

VP - 1876 GTS

We discover that after the Gregorian restoration, vos reverted to suos, as can be seen in the 1908 Vatican edition of the Graduale Romanum

VP - 1961 GR

and in the 1961 Solesmes edition of the same.

VP - 1908 GR

The restoration of suos happened only in our official and approved chant books. The Missal retained vos until its very last edition prior to the Council.

VP - 1962 MR

However, only the Roman chant books for the universal Church ‘accepted’ the reversion. Orders continued to use the Tridentine modification, as we find in the 1950 Graduale iuxta usum Sacri Ordinis Praedicatorum.

VP - 1950 GOP

But while the Missal eventually acquiesced to the omission of the interjection O, it has not yet come to the point where it would condescend to change vos back to suos. The nuance in the original suos favouring a general reckoning of who belongs to Christ might have the reason why it was modified to a more limited and specific pronoun. Anyone can claim to be of Christ, to be one of the suos, even rank heretics who adhere to false doctrines fabricated from their own private interpretations of the Bible. In contrast, vos can be easily construed, when sung in church during the Mass, by limited extension, as only referring to those who are present in church attending Catholic Mass, to the full exclusion of those who are not present because they are not in communion with Holy Mother Church.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Rediscovering the missing verse in the Paschal sequence

Easter Sunday is one of the few feast days that retained their traditional sequence after the purge following Trent. The 1570 Missale Romanum, however, tweaked the sequence Victimae paschali laudes a little, changing praecedet suos in Galilaeam into praecedet vos in Galilaeam. It also removed an entire verse, and added Amen and Alleluia at the end. The original verses of this sequence is laid out melodically in this manner A-B-B-C1-C2-C1-C2-D-D. It is the first D, which appears below (click on the image to open the file), that was removed.

Credendum est

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.