Monday, August 04, 2008

August 6: The Feast of the Transfiguration

Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service books lists three Transfiguration hymns:
At 1st Evensong Celestis formara glorie, using melodies 26, 41 or 42;
At Mattins: О Sator rerum, using melodies 44 or 56; and
At Lauds: O nata Lux de Lumine, using melodies 41 or 63. Here are images of these last two; this morning, #41 was used:




For the words to these hymns, see my full entry for the Sarum hymns for today at On the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6).   You can also find words in the Hymner.

Or, you can take the words from these images of the hymns for Lauds (which is, again, O nata Lux de Lumine) and Vespers (a version of Celestis formara glorie) from my Episcopal Office Book source:








Here's the entire Lauds service, including the Antiphon on the Benedictus:





There are some lovely, melismatic mass chants for today, as you can well imagine. The Benedictines of Brazil offer mp3s and chant scores of all but the Introit.

Transfiguration is actually celebrated twice during the Liturgical Year: once (not as a Feast) during Epiphany and once today, which is why there seem to be a great variety of hymns associated with this event; this morning we sang hymns exclusively from the Epiphany section of the hymnbook - mainly because there isn't a Transfiguration section.

Another of the hymns for the day - a hymn that does not appear in the Sarum listings above - is Quicumque Christum quaeritis. Which, it says here in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, is "the opening line of the twelfth (in honor of the Epiphany) and last poem in the 'Cathemerinon' of Prudentius." Further:
This twelfth poem or hymn contains 52 iambic dimeter strophes, and an irregular selection from its 208 lines has furnished four hymns to the Roman Breviary, all of which conclude with the usual Marian doxology ("Jesu tibi sit gloria" etc., not composed by Prudentius), slightly varied to make the doxology appropriate for the several feasts employing the hymns. The four centos are:

Quicumque Christum quaeritis (Matins and first and second Vespers of the feast of the Transfiguration), comprising sixteen lines (I-4, 37-44, 85-88) and the doxology (which changes its second line): Jesu, tibi sit gloria, Qui to revelers parvulis, etc.

Although written for the Epiphany, the lines forming the cento apply well to the Transfiguration, as Daniel notes (Thes. Hymnol., I, p. 136). Of the 18 translations in English verse, twelve are by Catholics.


You can hear this beautiful hymn as the first piece of background music on this "Video Tour" of the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, MA. (It's quite a beautiful church, as well, and worth going to have a look at the video, I think.)

Here are the Latin words to Quicumque Christum quaeritis; if I find an English set, I'll add it.
Quicumque Christum quæritis,
oculos in altum tollite:
illic licebit visere
signum perennis gloriæ.

Hæc stella, quæ solis rotam
vincit decore ac lumine,
venisse terris nuntiat
cum carne terrestri Deum.

En, Persici ex orbis sinu,
sol unde sumit ianuam,
cernunt periti interpretes
regale vexillum magi.

Quis iste tantus – inquiunt –
regnator astris imperans,
quem sic tremunt cælestia,
cui lux et æthra inserviunt?

Illustre quiddam cernimus
quod nesciat finem pati,
sublime, celsum, interminum,
antiquius cælo et chao.

Hic ille rex est gentium
populique rex Iudaici,
promissus Abrahæ patri
eiusque in ævum semini.

Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui te revelas gentibus,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna sæcula.


[EDIT: an anonymous poster has kindly left, in the comments, the words in English to this hymn:
Here are a set of English words for the Quicumque Christum quaeritis, which I found at http://lzkiss.net/cgi-bin/horas/brevi.pl

Hymn {from the Proprium of Saints}
All ye who would the Christ descry,
Lift up your eyes to Him on high:
There mortal gaze bath strength to see
The token of His majesty.

A wondrous sign we there behold,
That knows not death nor groweth old,
Sublime, most high, that cannot fade,
That was crc earth and heaven were made.

Here is the King the Gentiles fear,
The Jews’ most mighty King is here
Promised to Abraham of yore,
And to his seed forevermore.

'Tis He the Prophets’ words foretold,
And by their signs shown forth of old;
The Father’s witness bath or. dained
That we should hear with faith unfeigned.

Jesu, to Thee our praise we pay,
To little ones revealed to.day,
With Father and Blest Spirit One
Until the ages’ course is done.
Amen.


Thanks, anon.]

Here's an interesting somewhat-Transfiguration-related passage from a Google Book, The Latin Hymn-writers and Their Hymns:
The invention of printing from movable types, about 1452, by Johann Gutenberg of Mainz marks an era in Latin hymnology, because of the prompt use of the new method to multiply the Church books in use in the various dioceses. In every part of Western Europe, from Aberdeen, Lund, and Trondhjem, on the north, to the shores of the Mediterranean, the missals, breviaries, and hymnaries were given to the early printers, with the result of bringing to light many fine hymns and sequences whose use had been merely local. The Sarum Breviary and Missal and those of
Rome and Paris were printed more frequently than any other. To the Sarum Breviary we owe the fine Transfiguration hymns — Coclestis formam gloriae and O nata lux de lumine and O sator rerum reparator aevs, which Anglican translators have made into English hymns ; to the Missal the fine sequence on the crown of thorns, Si vis vere gloriari, of which Dr. Whewell published a translation in Frazer s Magazine for May, 1849. To the York Processional (1530) we owe the four " proses" which begin Salve festa dies, tola venerabilis aevo, which suggest to Daniel that "in England also there was no lack of those who celebrated the divine majesty in very sweet hymns."


Morten Lauridson used his own version of O Nata Lux de Lumine in his Requiem. These are the words in Latin, along with a different translation in English:
O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
Dignare clemens supplicum
Laudes preces que sumere.

Qui carne quondam contegi
Dignatus es pro perditis.
Nos membra confer effici,
Tui beati corporis.


O Light of light, by love inclined,
Jesu, Redeemer of mankind,
With loving kindness deign to hear
From suppliant voices praise and prayer.

Thou who to raise our souls from hell
Didst deign in fleshly form to dwell,
Vouchsafe us, when our race is run,
In thy fair Body to be one.


Here it is, at YouTube, sung by the "Fountain Valley High School Troubadours in Salzburg". They're good!



Here's another video, this time of Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna from the same piece.



Here are more chant recordings from the (Byzantine Catholic) Metropolitan Cantor Institute in Pittsburgh, for The Transfiguration of Our Lord (August 6). And very beautiful chants they are, too, in English:


Here's something about the feast from the Office for Liturgy & Music of the Episcopal Church:
Celebration of the Transfiguration began in the eastern church in the late fourth century. The feast is celebrated on Aug. 6. This was the date of the dedication of the first church built on Mount Tabor, which is traditionally considered to be the "high mountain" of the Transfiguration. Others locate the Transfiguration on Mount Hermon or the Mount of Olives. Celebration of the feast was not common in the western church until the ninth century. It was declared a universal feast of the western church by Pope Callistus III in 1457. The feast was first included in the English Prayer Book as a black letter day in the 1561 revision of the calendar of the church year. It was included as a red letter day with proper collect and readings in the American Prayer Book of 1892. Its inclusion reflects the efforts of William Reed Huntington, who wrote the BCP collect for the Transfiguration. This collect prays, "O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the king in his beauty. . . ." (BCP, p. 243). The Transfiguration is listed among the holy days of the church year as a Feast of our Lord. Other provinces of the Anglican Communion followed the lead of the Episcopal Church in celebrating the Transfiguration as a major feast. The Transfiguration gospel is used on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany in all three years of the BCP eucharistic lectionary. As an Epiphany story, the Transfiguration provides one of the most distinctive and dramatic showings of Jesus' divinity. The Hymnal 1982 provides several hymns for the Transfiguration, including "Christ upon the mountain peak" (Hymns 129-130) and "O wondrous type! O vision fair" (Hymns 136-137).


There are some Transfiguration images here, at Textweek. Interestingly, Transfiguration seems to be a theme that quite a few modern artists are attracted to - perhaps because it occurs (as I always have to say) on the day the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Perhaps the stark contrast between the two events is what draws the artists; I'd have to think so.

Here are two by Bellini, though - and there's lots of contrast here, too. I like the second, painted almost 30 years later, much better than the first.








I like this Lotto version, too, because everybody's labeled. We wouldn't want there to be any confusion, after all....



5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here are a set of English words for the Quicumque Christum quaeritis, which I found at http://lzkiss.net/cgi-bin/horas/brevi.pl

Hymn {from the Proprium of Saints}
All ye who would the Christ descry,
Lift up your eyes to Him on high:
There mortal gaze bath strength to see
The token of His majesty.

A wondrous sign we there behold,
That knows not death nor groweth old,
Sublime, most high, that cannot fade,
That was crc earth and heaven were made.

Here is the King the Gentiles fear,
The Jews’ most mighty King is here
Promised to Abraham of yore,
And to his seed forevermore.

'Tis He the Prophets’ words foretold,
And by their signs shown forth of old;
The Father’s witness bath or. dained
That we should hear with faith unfeigned.

Jesu, to Thee our praise we pay,
To little ones revealed to.day,
With Father and Blest Spirit One
Until the ages’ course is done.
Amen.

Anonymous said...

'crc' in the last line of the second stanza is evidently an OCR error: should be 'ere'.

Likewise, the end of the 3rd line of the 4th stanza should be 'both ordained'.

I wish I could have ago at correcting this site: proofreader's heaven!
CG

Anonymous said...

Caught myself out now: 'ago' should be 'a go'!

CG again

Anonymous said...

Apologies for yet another correction.
I've now tracked down the original source, via the credits on Lazlo's breviary site, here:
http://musicasacra.com/pdf/hymnsofbreviary.pdf
and that l. 3 of st. iv is 'hath ordained' - the usual b for h scanno.
CG

bls said...

Thanks, CG! I'll post this soon - I really appreciate it.

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