Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alleluja, Veni Sancte Spiritus ("Alleluia, Come, Holy Spirit")

This is the Pentecost Alleluia II, and very beautiful:



The text in English is:
Alleluja. Come, Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful people, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Alleluja.

Here's the score:

The Sequence Hymn is, of course, also called "Veni, Sancte Spiritus," and is simply wonderful, both for its music and its text:



Here's the chant score and the Latin words:


And a beautiful English translation:
Holy Spirit, Lord of light,
From the clear celestial height
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come with treasures which endure;
Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet,
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die,
Give us life with thee on high,
Give us joys that never end.

Amen.

Just as lovely, the Pentecost Vespers hymn Veni Creator Spiritus:




This hymn is #504 in the 1982 hymnal, and I do very much love to sing it; it's just about perfect as music goes, I think.   These are the English words from that source (tr. John Cosin, 1594-1672):
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy seven-fold gifts impart.

Thy blessèd unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The dulness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soilèd face
With the abundance of Thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home:
Where Thou art guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And Thee of both to be but one,
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song;

Praise to Thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From Full Homely Divinity, about Pentecost:
The usual liturgical color for Pentecost in the West is red, the color of the fire which descended on the apostles on that day. In modern times, laypeople have also adopted the custom of wearing something red to church on Pentecost. Although the alternative name for the feast is Whitsun, the custom of the newly baptized wearing white on Pentecost seems to have disappeared, except in the case of those who are actually baptized on the day of Pentecost and may then be wearing a white christening outfit. But there is another color that rightly belongs to Whitsun, and that is green. In the Orthodox Churches, green, the color of life, is the color of the vestments on Pentecost and churches are decorated with both cut and live greenery.

Green also has a place in the spectrum of Pentecost in the West. It is, in some ways, a tenuous connection. Nonetheless, it is one that should not be overlooked. The Hebrew feast of Pentecost, Shavuoth, fifty days after Passover, was a harvest festival, the occasion for the offerings of the first fruits of the wheat harvest. In northern Europe and Britain, the Christian feast of Pentecost attracted to itself elements of various celebrations which celebrated the greening of the land in late spring and early summer. In some northern areas, Pentecost takes the place of the Mayfest. For example, in Silesia the Maypole was not erected until Pentecost and greens were gathered from the woods and fields to decorate churches and homes in a celebration of new life that reflects the church's celebration of new life given by the Spirit. Often, the gathering of greens was accompanied by a search for a figure who embodied in a personal way the idea of new life, a man known by different names in different places, but eventually dubbed the "Green Man." Covered with greens and a mask of bark, he would be escorted into town to preside over the Whitsun games and feasting.

Carvings of the Green Man appear in British churches beginning in the 12th century. His prototype, of course, is much older. His origins are to be found in the ancient god of the woodlands who was known as Sylvanus by the Romans and Cernunnos by the Celts and was related to Dionysos, Misericord (choir seat) - 17th century Belgian, now in the Cathedral of All Saints, Albany, NYthe Greek god of the vine and its fruit. He first appears as a human face in the midst of foliage, but in time the foliage seems to grow from his face and, finally, to grow out of his mouth. Early Christian representations of the Green Man treat him as a demon, a pagan spirit to be resisted. In time a transformation takes place: the Green Man becomes a generally more friendly character, as in the boss from Canterbury, above, a symbol of the goodness of creation and the fruitfulness of the land which spring and summer festivals celebrated. But there always remains a grimmer side to him, as in the misericord at the left, which reminds us that nature also has the potential to harm if it is not properly used and respected.

The remarkable assimilation of the Green Man into Christian symbolism is particularly well-illustrated by an Easter Sepulchre at the Minster in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Christ reposes behind the stone tracery of the sepulchre, mourned by his friends, while each corbel on the canopy above is decorated with a Green Man. The gods of the soil who die and rise again annually have come to mourn the true God who died but once and rose again. The marriage of the two similar, yet very different, worlds encapsulates the full meaning of the Incarnation, for when God puts on human flesh in the Incarnation, he unites himself with the whole created order in order to redeem that which is fallen and to restore that which has been corrupted by the Fall of humankind. Although the ancient gods are discredited as gods in the new creation, the cycles of life which they represent continue on with renewed vigor and the ancient symbols are infused with new meaning.

Pentecost is the day on which the Church is empowered by the Spirit and, as we read in Acts, it does indeed spread and bear much fruit, proclaiming the Gospel of the One who died and rose again. As we recognize and welcome the Green Man into our celebrations of the feast, we should not confuse him either with Jesus or with the Holy Spirit, or even with the human race. The Green Man is neither divine nor human. Rather, he is the world in which the drama of salvation takes place, and as such he deserves and even requires our attention and respect. He is cause for celebration as he symbolizes the good creation in which God has placed us. He is cause for celebration as he represents all of the fruits with which creation nourishes us. And he is cause for celebration as his ancient character calls forth in us a spirit of joy and wonder. But he is also cause for concern. He is a reminder of our responsibility as stewards of creation and he is a reminder that we have not always been good stewards. The grimmer Green Men who peer at us from stone and wood in medieval churches look out at a world that has too often exploited the created order and as a result stands in danger of damaging it beyond repair.

How we choose to live out our vocation as Whitsun stewards of the Green will vary, but a full homely divinity compels us to move beyond both church and home to the world beyond to celebrate the good gifts that ultimately come from above and to ensure that the creation which provides them is properly cared for.

Full Homely Divinity's full Pentecost entry is most definitely worth a read.

Here are links to all the propers on the day, from the Benedictines of Brazil:

Dominica Pentecostes ad Missam in die
Introitus:  Spiritus Domini (cum Gloria Patri)(5m07.0s - 4798 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Emitte Spiritum tuum (1m55.4s - 1806 kb)  view score
Alleluia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m02.9s - 1922 kb)  view score
Sequentia: Veni, Sancte Spiritus (2m29.7s - 2341 kb)  view score
Offertorium: Confirma hoc, Deus (1m35.3s - 1491 kb)  view score
Communio: Factus est repente (1m16.3s - 1195 kb)  view score
Ad dimittendum populum: Ite missa est (28.7s - 451 kb)  view score

And here are Chantblog posts on the Pentecost propers:


Here's Duccio di Buoninsegna's tempera on wood Pentecost, from around 1308:

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