Changing hymn texts

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The original first verse (top) of the matins hymn of Epiphany (from the appendix of the Hymnariolum Adventus & Nativitatis) compared against the Urban-ised version (bottom) of the verse (from the Nocturnale Romanum)

Change to our liturgical texts did not end with the infamous Urbanite hymnographical classicalisation (the quantitative altīssimī donūm Deī flirts with classical metre but spars with a chant rhythm that faithfully favours its original Christian poetic dónum Déi altíssimi) eventually reversed after the Second Vatican Council, nor with the subsequent postconciliar mut(il)ations and antimediaevalist historical revisionism (peccatricem qui solvisti sounds like a musical apology for the centuries-old qui Mariam absolvisti) that evened out whatever good the aforementioned reversal boded. Well-meaning choristers and cantors continue to change the text of our hymns.


Our first example is the fifth stanza of Veni, Emmanuel, which appears correctly as below:

Veni, O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de specu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.

Mantegna - Discesa al Limbo
Discesa al Limbo | Andrea Mantegna | 1492
Sint Jans - De Boom van Jesse
De boom van Jesse | Geertgen tot Sint Jans | c. 1500

Church musicians sometimes rewrite the boldfaced word above as spectu, presumably the ablative of an unknown and undocumented fourth declension Late Latin spectus. This change makes no sense since the stanza is already correct by all standards of Latin grammar. The whole stanza is an imperative, the two commands being veni (come, intransitive) and educ (lead out, transitive). The direct object of educ is, of course, tuos (yours), which appears twice, the only instances of the accusative case in the stanza. Singing this verse implores the Iesse virgula (Rod of Jesse, vocative) to lead out (educ) everyone who belongs to Him—his children, his faithful, his sheep, his disciples—(tuos) out of three places: out of the ungula hostis (claw of the enemy); from the specus tartari (abyss of hell); and from the antrum barathri (the cave of the netherworld). Notice likewise how the sequence progressively moves from the most intimate bosoms of the realm of darkness (the claw of the enemy) outwards to its exteriorities (the abyss, and finally the cave). The metred translation of this stanza unfortunately emasculates its exigent petition—O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem, | from ev’ry foe deliver them | that trust Thy mighty power to save, | and give them vict’ry o’er the grave—dynamically deleting ungula and equivalently enfeebling specus and antrum by reducing them into grave. This notwithstanding, let us keep in mind its true meaning, and, in Advent, filled with hope, let us correctly sing: Come, O Rod of Jesse, lead Thine faithful out of the claw of the enemy, from the abyss of hell, and from the cave of the netherworld.


The third stanza of O esca viatorum, which appears correctly as below, is our next example:

O Iesu, tuum vultum,
quem colimus occultum
sub panis specie,
fac, ut remoto velo,
post libera in coelo,
cernamus acie.

Raffaello - La disputa del Sacramento
La disputa del Sacramento | Raffaello Sanzio | 1509–1510
Bouts - Moses and the burning bush, with Moses removing his shoes
Mozes en het brandende braambos | Dirk Bouts (attr.) | c. 1465–1470

In this scenario, we sometimes find ourselves singing facie instead of acie. The stanza is again an imperative, the command being fac (make, intransitive). The accusative tuum vultum (Thine countenance), which the second and third lines modify, is the direct object of the subjunctive cernamus (may we see). When and where we hope to see the Lord’s face, the fourth and fifth lines declare. With what should we gaze at the Lord’s face, the ablative acie (pupil of the eye), described as libera (unrestricted), answers. Turning acie into facie (face, visage) sours the whole point of the stanza, and comes across as irreverent. Immediately associating acie with the sense invoked in that phrase applied to Our Lady—terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata (terrible as an army arrayed in battle)—is perhaps the pitfall that leads to this misfortune. But acies is not merely an army; it also means vision, sight, and, by extension, eye or the pupil of the eye. Now that we know better, let us abandon this misconstruction. Let us, from now on, correctly sing: O Jesus, afterwards in heaven, when the (sacramental) veil has been lifted, allow us to see with unrestricted eyes Thine countenance, which we worship hidden under the appearance of bread. Insist with facie and we might just be struck down for maintaining arrogance, where Moyses had once chosen to hide his face (cf. Ex. 3, 2, 6).


Our final example does not come from what we may call a Latin hymn of ‘good standing’. Nevertheless, choirs for some time have sung it in the Traditional Latin Mass despite its purportedly New Age provenance. The third stanza of this hymn, Veni, Domine, appears correctly as:

Deus meus, in te confido :
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
sine te nihil est in homine :
Iesu Christe, Redemptor omnium,
te laudamus ; veni, Domine.

Van Eyck - Het Lam Gods
Het Lam Gods | Jan van Eyck & Hubert van Eyck (attr.)| 1432
Bouts - Het verzamelen van het manna
Het verzamelen van het manna | Dirk Bouts | c. 1464–1468

For some reasons, it took us a long time to realise that we were approaching heresy by substituting homine with Domine, not to mention the difficult grammatical situation to which we were condemning ourselves. Firstly, to address the Lord, and then say that, without the Lord (sine te), nothing is in the Lord (nihil est in Domine), is an exercise in absurdity that borders on the preposterous. The more questionable thought, however, this sponsors is the claim that nothing is in the Lord! Some comment that error can be averted by construing nihil est in Domine as nobody is in the Lord, but this is ultimately futile since, ignoring the impaired declension of Domine, nobody is normally nemo or, to some extent, nullus in Latin. Secondly, as noted, Domine is declined incorrectly. The preposition in requires the accusative or ablative of the noun or pronoun (which homine, the ablative of homo, satisfies), never its vocative (which is what Domine is with respect to Dominus). Finally, the confusion most probably stemmed from the difficulty of resolving the phonetic sound produced by its singer, the Czech actress Barbora Basiková. However, listening more closely should suffice to convince us that the phoneme being produced is a voiced glottal fricative, such as [ɦ] (as in a Bohemicised reading of homine), and not a voiced alveolar stop, such as [d̪] (as in a Bohemicised reading of Domine). Considering these three points—rational, grammatical, and phonetic—we should, starting today, sing this correctly, if ever we still elect to sing it at Mass: O My God, in Thee I trust; O Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, without Thee nothing is in man; O Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all, Thee we praise, come, O Lord.


Pronaos of the Pantheon
Bare and bronze-less ceiling of the Pantheon’s pronaos

Pope Urban VIII, born Maffeo Barberini, who had the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon’s pronaos removed and allegedly melted for use on the baldacchino of Saint Peter’s basilica, earned a brilliant lampoon on Pasquino: Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini (What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did). He also had the Latin hymnal reformed (read: classicalised). So, unless we stop tampering with the text of our Latin hymns, unless we put an end to this hymnological metalogosis, then a similar pasquinade can be levelled against us: Quod non fecerunt Barberini, cantores fecerunt moderni (What the Barberini did not do, modern cantors did). Quieta non movere, as Romans used to say. Hymns are part of our Catholic patrimony. They may not occupy the same position as sequences and antiphons in the Liturgy, but they are our patrimony nonetheless. Just as man has a body and a soul, a hymn has a melody and a text. Let us keep both whole.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Lent, Benedict XIV, and sacred music

Today is the 269th anniversary of the promulgation of Annus, qui hunc, which set forth guidelines on ecclesiastical discipline and sacred music. Benedict XIV, concerned about the spiritual welfare of Catholics who would go on pilgrimage in Rome in the Jubilee Year of 1750, as well as the opinion of other visitors during said time, issued the encyclical a year ahead of the celebrations.

Borrás Abellá - En el coro
En el coro | Vicente Borrás Abellá | 1890

The epoch may be remote, but the problems Benedict XIV identifies and attempts to remedy are as fresh as a pulsating newly-caught catfish. With this, we invite everyone to re-read the encyclical towards the end of this post, either in the original Latin or in the full English translation we provided. We opened a series quoting in three parts the words of the encyclical on organ music (here, here, and here). If the length daunts us, then let us offer it as penance this Lent.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Lent and psalm tone

Penitential seasons, one observes, are when Holy Mother Church returns to Her liturgical roots. We notice the unmistakable traces of austere Roman-ness in our Lenten liturgies, a character that intensifies as we approach closer to Holy Week. It is during the entire season of Lent when every feria is honoured with a complete set of readings distinct from that of the Sunday and of the other ferias. We can therefore generally look forward to singing an entirely different piece of Gregorian chant on each of the forty days of Lent.

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Sacromusically speaking, we can expect chant to be sublime and grave. We see a lot of even-numbered modes. Cantors, in fact, who cultivated the Gregorian repertoire for Holy Week tracts, built their comfort zone around the plagal of the Dorian mode. But what is perhaps the most chorally striking about Lent itself is that on its first and last Sundays the longest tracts in the Graduale Romanum are sung. The sheer length of these tracts—Qui habitat for the First Sunday of Lent, and Deus, Deus meus for Palm Sunday—understandably terrifies us cantors and choristers to such a point that for fear of attracting attention either to our indiscreet polyphonies, or to our vocal insecurities, or to our wandering key, we usually whimper into a corner of the choir loft and sing out the tracts in psalm tone.

And so Lent also unmasks our ongoing incapacity to own Gregorian chant, to treat it as a treasure worth displaying in its full glory. For, in reality, the temptation to retreat into the undemanding exercise of psalmodic chanting plagues us the whole year round. Peace is to a succession of puncta and virgæ, as chaos is to a scandicus subbipunctis and a torculus resupinus initio debilis. It is fashionably modernist to think that complexity is a disease, and that its medicine is simplicity. How easily we are egged on to equate time-honoured complexity with hierarchical arrogance and no-nonsense simplicity to self-effacing humility. We do not pride ourselves as modernists, but the idea of simplicity still interests us, usually qualified as noble. And, sadly, we have been deceived that the lingering tradition of psalmodising Gregorian chant has had an ennobling effect on this brand of simplicity.

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History teaches us otherwise. Psalmodising Gregorian chant, in due time, created a humiliating effect on simplicity. The practice altered churchly thought processes, pointing at a direction of a more radical way forward. We have already humbled sacred music by resolving the extraneous salicus, the whimsical porrectus, the contentious quilismata into harmless puncta, to the barest and merest chant grapheme, why cut back in our adventure now? And we wonder why the people enacting the reforms after Vatican II entertained neither trepidation nor indignity in subordinating Gregorian chant, sanctified for centuries in the lips of our saints, to alios cantos aptos, endorsed by eccentrics more for their latent sloganeering than for their liturgical suitability, no. 116 of Sacrosanctum Concilium notwithstanding.

In the usus recentior, an element of enforced uniformity ensures that alii canti apti preferentially remain in the forefront of music in the consecrated edifice. We are thankful, at least, that the modern concept of uniformity attracts weaker clout in the usus antiquior. That is, no one can force us to use psalm tone or use authentic Gregorian melodies, although instructions and decrees govern the exercise of sacred music. We know that approved books for both options are available, and we know that the former practice is tolerated by decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Publication and toleration, however, are not a culmination that leads to naught.

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We like to think that the monks of Solesmes did not compile the Chants abrégés to replace the Graduale Romanum or the Liber usualis. They have worked so dearly to reestablish Gregorian chant in its pristine form and practice, why would they want to throw everything out of the window in 1930? In the same vein, it would be criminal to think that Father Rossini published his psalmodic propers around the same time with the intention of replacing Gregorian propers themselves. After all, his mandate from the bishop of Pittsburgh was to carry out the reforms outlined by Pius X in Tra le sollecitudini, not invent something else. There is, therefore, a common denominator in these two efforts so seemingly separated by distance, and that is the perennial concern and maternal affection of Holy Mother Church for Her children. She understands that not every Catholic can readily cast out the old corrupted praxis and with tantamount haste embosom chant as restored by ongoing scholarship. Chants abrégés indeed advises:

These abbreviated chants are meant exclusively for churches where it is not possible to execute in a convenient manner all the melodies of the Graduale Romanum, and for those which tolerate a simple psalmody of the sacred texts (S. C. R., decree 3697, at 5). Anywhere there exist sufficiently skilled choirs, they should make use of the official chant from the Graduale Romanum.

Ces chants abrégés sont destinés exclusivement aux églises ou il n’est pas possible d’exécuter de façon convenable toutes les mélodies du Graduel Romain, et pour lesquelles on tolère la simple psalmodie des textes sacres (S. C. R. n° 3697). Partout où il existe des chœurs suffisamment exercés on doit s’en tenir au chant officiel du Graduel.

But we need to look beyond this horizon. Boldly we shall claim here what we would otherwise acquiesce to ignore: that psalmodic chant is not an end in itself, to which alone we should aspire to gain impeccable virtuosity. It is not even a paradigm where we can elect to situate ourselves in our attempt to avoid the disagreement between ictualists and semiologists. It is, rather surprisingly, a tool, a methodology, at our employ to attain that supreme goal of mastering Gregorian chant. We, therefore, join fellow workers in the Lord’s vineyard who had noised abroad the oft-overlooked preeminence of the Graduale Romanum [1].

Holy Mother Church believes that we can learn the chant that sanctified hundreds and thousands of Christians before us. It would be a monumental failure on our part if we detect in these psalm-toned propers nothing but an invitation to isolate ourselves in basic simplicity, rather than an encouragement to build steps around that facility and ascend to the summit of sacred music. For these simplified chants personify a foretaste of that heavenly harmony, that holy terror, that hope for the Beatific Vision, we often associate with well-executed Gregorian chant.

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The objective to restore Gregorian chant, driven by paleography, obtained its momentum in the 19th century from the realisation that there was something wrong with what we chanted and how we chanted it, a thorny question that continues to evolve and inspire debate across different disciplines. It was, ultimately, the same festering wound that Charlemagne decided to remedy in 774 A.D., rectifying Frankish chant through a return to the source that was Roman chant [2]. Unfortunately, when some wounds heal, they leave scars. Our inability to wean ourselves from the ease of psalmodic chant cements that blight, that scar, that continues to disfigure the face of sacred music we so zealously claim to defend and uphold.

And we decry this because sacred music and sacred liturgy are inseparable. Qui bene cantat, bis orat, Saint Augustine is thought to have said [3]. “The chant proper to the liturgy” ought to be “the liturgy itself in chant”, says Maestro Fulvio Rampi [4]. Often, it is the gradual, the alleluia, the tract, and the offertory that fall under the scythe of our beholden dedication to psalmodic chant. We thus redouble our disapproval because oftentimes these are the most beautiful parts of the propers of the Mass.

For this we reecho the plea of our predecessors in the choral office: In this holy season of Lent, let us sprint to that extra mile, let us deny our hankering for ease, let us stir our dormant spirits, and sing in full the chants that Holy Mother Church keeps in Her liturgical treasury.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


[1] Jeffrey Tucker, Fr. Rossini’s Proper Settings (23 October 2007): New Liturgical Movement (2007) http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2007/10/fr-rossinis-proper-settings.html
[2] John the Deacon, De vita Gregorii Magni bk. 2, ch. 9: PL 75 (1845) 91; cf. Monk of Angoulême, Vita Caroli Magni ch. 8.
[3] Saint Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 72: PL 36 (1845) 914.
[4] Fulvio Rampi, Il canto gregoriano: un estraneo in casa sua (16 January 2013): Chiesa (2013) http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350249.html.

Throat and wax

Maratta - Martirio di san Biagio
Martirio di san Biagio | Carlo Maratta | c. 1680

Saint Blaise was a physician in fourth-century Sebaste in Armenia (modern Sivas, Turkey), who soon became a healer of souls, and was elected bishop of the same city, eventually earning the crown of martyrs. He is known as Blasius (use Sancte Blasi if the need to add him to the Litany arises) in Latin. He is Blas amongst Hispanophones, Biagio amongst Italophones, Blaise amongst Francophones, Brás amongst Lusophones, and Blasiu amongst Rumanophones. Tradition obtained his association with throats from his profession as a physician, and from the miracle wrought during his incarceration. His cult eventually spread throughout Europe, as evidenced by the many churches dedicated in his name in the West.


During Diocletian’s persecution, Blaise, elected bishop, retired to a cavern in Mount Argaeus (presently Mount Erciyes) in order to contemplate on the divine. The sick and the infirm, however, continued to come, whom he healed with the sign of the cross. Even wild beasts sought his care! When the soldiers of Agricolaus, governor of Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia, discovered him during a hunt, he exclaimed in his joy to his captors: “Let us go to shed blood for Christ Jesus, Who mercifully deigned Himself to shed His own Blood for our sake. For a long time now, my little sons, have I sighed for martyrdom, and tonight, the Lord made me more certain of Himself intending that I should offer myself to Him as sacrifice.”

Brought before the governor, and commanded to offer sacrifice to idols, he dared answer: “Gods, O Governor, callest thou demons, which accomplish nothing except slaughter?” Incensed at this insult, Agricolaus ordered Blaise be publicly tortured, and later cast to prison, where he healed many sick, one of which was a child, whose health had been abandoned as hopeless by physicians, who was choking on a fishbone. (How he performed the miracle is still debated. One pious tradition affirms that the incarcerated bishop picked up two candles and, crossing the two, pressed them to the child’s throat. This appears to be the basis or the explanation of the prevailing custom.)

Brought again before the governor, he once again refused to offer sacrifice to idols, for which Agricolaus ordered him be cudgeled, and then lacerated with iron combs, and finally decapitated. The proper lessons of the see of Salerno add that seven women gathered his spilt blood in vials, who, brought before the governor and commanded to offer sacrifice to idols, instead cast the idols into the lake, for which they were then beheaded as well, together with two of their children. Blaise was later thrown into this lake as well. The Lord himself came to this lake and, walking on its surface, called the martyred bishop, who hurriedly went out revived from the waters. The governor had him martyred a final time by the sword.


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Blessing of throats by Fr. John Saward in the Church of Saints Gregory and Augustine in Oxford on the feast of Saint Blaise, 3 February 2016 (image from the LMS Chairman)

Back to the blessing. (Candles are not the only means by which throats are blessed in honour of Saint Blaise. There is also a blessing of bread, wine, water, and fruit which are to be consumed to relieve throat ailments.) While not exactly related to voice, as opposed to the patronage of Saint John the Baptist, whose birth healed his father’s muteness, we cantors and choristers should receive this blessing in honour of Saint Blaise to preserve our throats from all afflictions that could otherwise affect our voices. Let us also ask Saint Blaise to keep us from those daily accidents that harm our throats and consequently impair our singing. For we may, amateurish as we are, having little background on breathing techniques while singing, choke on our own spit one Sunday, and end up rasping throughout Mass. Or a new thurifer may be breaking the thurible in, end up burning incense that would put to shame Zacharias’ own offering, and inadvertently cause our throats, irritated by draughts of smoke, to collapse in the middle of chanting that kilometric first-Sunday-of-Lent tract.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Annus, qui hunc: On the organ (1)

We are edging closer to that time in the liturgical calendar when only but our voices can decorate the Liturgy. The music proper to the Liturgy, said Saint Pius X, is purely vocal, when he discussed the subject of musical accompaniment in Tra le sollecitudine. Organs and similar pneumatic instruments—percussions have long been forbidden—in terms of chronology, are a novelty in Catholic worship. As late as the mid-18th century, the papal choir in the Sistine Chapel had not yet admitted the organ into its praxis. In a way, just as the sacrifices we offer and the discipline we undergo during Lent assist us in recovering our humanity, so the Church’s abstinence from the organ during Lent demonstrates as well, actuose potius quam symbolice, a return to the simplicity of her worship.

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The whole Christian world indeed still does not accept the use of the organ and of other musical instruments; for, besides the Russians of the Greek Rite, who have neither organ nor other instruments of music in their churches, Father [Pierre] Lebrun bearing witness in vol. 2 of the Explication de la Messe, p. 215, Our Pontifical Choir, as is known to all, admits polyphonic—yet grave, seemly and devout—music, but it never admits the organ, which is even noticed by Father [Jean] Mabillon in his Musaeum Italicum, vol. 1, p. 47, § 17: On Trinity Sunday, we were present in the Pontifical Chapel, as they call it, etc. No usage of organ music in the Holy Mysteries of this wise is admitted, but vocal music alone, and this one being grave with plainchant.

Universus quidem Orbis Christianus Organi aliorumque musicorum instrumentorum usum adhuc non recepit ; praeter enim Ruthenos Ritus Graeci, qui in suis Ecclesiis neque organum neque alia musicae instrumenta habent, teste Patre Le Brun tom. 2 Explication. Miss., pag. 215, Nostra Pontificia Cappella, ut omnibus notum est, cantum musicum, sed gravem, decorum piumque admittit, nunquam autem organum recepit, quod etiam notatur a Patre Mabillone in suo Musaeo Italico, tom. 1, pag. 47, § 17, Dominica Trinitatis, Cappellae, ut vocant, Pontificiae interfuimus, etc. Nullus organorum musicorum usus in huiusmodi sacris, sed sola vocum musica, eaque gravis cum plano cantu admittitur.

The organum pneumaticum will soon not be pulsated, but the organa vocis, the organs of our voice, will never cease to resound, as they had never been for once since the dawn of Christendom consigned to the province of silence.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.


Reference: Benedict Pp. XIV, Encyclical Letter Annus qui hunc, 3, near the beginning.

SP @ 10: Benedict XIV and sacred music

Facistol y órgano
Facistolium and organ in the church of San Agustín in Intramuros

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. To celebrate this milestone, having a soft spot for namesakes, we find the occasion opportune to release our full English translation of the landmark encyclical on ecclesiastical discipline and church music issued by Benedict XIV on 19 February 1749: Annus, qui hunc. (The repository of documents we have curated is here.) Unlike Saint Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini, whose English and even Latin translations are already available online, the only full translation of Annus, qui hunc we have seen so far is Italian.

The encyclical is rather long and, while its tenor is chronologically situated close to the Jubilee Year of 1750, it surprises us with how current the problems it raises are. For example, when Benedict XIV states that there is no other evidence of a bishop’s bad administration besides his own priests going about in ugly clothing celebrating Mass haphazardly, aren’t we reminded of those vacationing Filipino priests who say Mass in shorts and flipflops? Or, when he condemns music that merely sounds more like an accompaniment to dance and theatre rather than to prayer, aren’t we reminded of those Masses where the sacrilege of dance itself was incorporated in the very heart of the Liturgy?

Via Crucis in the Colosseum
The Stations of the Cross erected during the Jubilee Year of 1750 by Saint Leonard of Porto Maurizio, four years before being pulled down by the new Italian government in 1874.
Benedict XIV
Benoît XIV | Pierre Subleyras | 1740

Cardinal Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, the future Benedict XIV, was known to be a consummate intellectual, hailed as one of the greatest scholars of Christendom, and his encyclical, published nine years into his papal reign, just shows that. He synthesised his arguments from at least three Ecumenical Councils and seven local Synods, two collections of documents, four Doctors of the Church, five popes, six cardinals (including himself), two archbishops and four bishops, six monks, five canons, seven priests, one deacon, one musicologist, two musicians (who were choirmasters of the Papal Chapel), one scientist, one philologist, and one divine. Religion-wise, Benedict XIV quoted six Jesuits, five Benedictines, three Dominicans, two Cistercians, and two Oratorians. He only went as far as to quote an Anglican divine to drive home his point about the necessity to distinguish between the music that is churchworthy and that which is not, and this he did with a disclaimer that the source was heterodox, and on a section that referenced Saint Augustine.

We will not go as far as to provide a review of this encyclical, however delicious the prospect appears to us, if only to juxtapose it against the recent irreversibile speech, which, incidentally, is also noteworthy for the selectivity of its bibliography. But indulge us with this one whim. See below a rough structural outline of the encyclical:

SECTION LEVEL TOPIC
0 Introduction Upcoming Holy Year
1 Objective I State and upkeep of churches
2 Objective II Time and fulfilment of the obligation to recite the Divine Office
3 Objective III Sobriety of polyphonic and organ music
4 III-Auth-A Authorities who disapprove the use of polyphonic music
5 III-Auth-B Authorities who approve the use of polyphonic music
6 III-Auth-C Authorities who propose a distinction between theatrical and ecclesiastic music
7 III-Mus Theatrical vs. Ecclesiastic music
8 III-Mus-A Singing proper to churches
9 III-Mus-B Method and rationale of singing in church
10 III-Mus-C Musical instruments permitted in churches
11 III-Mus-C-1 Instruments tolerated in churches
12 III-Mus-C-2 Sound, as accompaniment to singing, tolerated in churches
13 III-Mus-C-3 Sound, by itself, tolerated in churches
14 Synthesis I Application of the law
15 Synthesis II Propriety of priestly attire

One more thing. We might have gotten too carried away with the references. The footnotes that we added are as kilometric as the encyclical itself.

Annus qui hunc LTAnnus qui hunc EN

Ut quae prava sunt, corrigantur ; quae infirma, curentur ; quae mala, amoveantur.

John XXII and liturgical chant

After the death of Clement V, with the cardinals divided into factions unable to reach a disagreement, a two-year interregnum followed, stoppered only when Philip, then Count of Poitiers, later King Philip V of France, managed to organise a conclave in Lyons (by locking the cardinals in the Dominican house there in March) in 1316, which elected Jacques Duèze, a compromise candidate, on 7 August, who took the regnal name John XXII. He became the second of seven Avignon Popes.

John XXII (2)
Jean XXII | Calixte Serrur | 1839–1840

John XXII is remembered for many notable things. Head on he confronted the controversy over the so-called Franciscan poverty, hinged on the question whether or not Christ and His apostles, in one way or another, owned property. This controversy provided fodder as well to the row he later had with the political powers of the day inimical to papal supremacy: the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor. In recent years, he received renewed interest, in light of this current papacy, due to his heretical views on the Beatific Vision, teachings he retracted on the eve of his death.

Our interest in him now, however, is not in his teachings as a private theologian.

John XXII is arguably the first pope (after Gregory the Great) to have legislated on sacred music. He reigned in an era when music sailed on the high waters of the ars nova, characterised by a hitherto uncharted level of musical expressiveness created by the confluence of advancements in rhythmic notation, the adoption of polyphony in secular music, and the emergence of new musical forms and techniques.

As commonly happens when the sacred communicates with the profane, they exchange paradigms. Ars nova principles little by little invaded sacred music to such a point when the degree of invasion so moved John XXII to pronounce a condemnation. In the ninth year of his reign, he issued the decretal Docta sanctorum on the life and decency of the clergy. As we do not know the exact date of the promulgation of this document, we unofficially begin this week the commemoration of the 693rd anniversary of the decretal. In the section Resources > Church Documents above, we have uploaded the Latin text of the document and our English translation of it.

Docta Sanctorum ENDocta Sanctorum LT

Continue reading “John XXII and liturgical chant”

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.

Continue reading “Indebted to a sore throat”