Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Alleluia for the Feast of the Epiphany: Vidimus stellam ("We have seen the star")

Vidimus stellam - "We have seen his star" - is the Alleluia for January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany; this version is sung by the Schola Cantorum Coloniensis:

Here's the chant score, with the English translation below.

We have seen his star in the East, and we have come with our gifts, to worship the Lord.

The text comes from Matthew 2:
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The modern form of today's propers is exactly like the historical (1962 Missal/Tridentine) form; all of the chants have been retained.  These are the chant propers for this feast; the sound files were recorded at St. Benedict's Monastery in São Paulo (Brazil):
In Epiphania Domini
Introitus: Cf. Mal. 3, 1; I Chron. 29, 12; Ps. 71, 1.10.11 Ecce advenit (4m21.1s - 1786 kb) score
Graduale: Is. 6, 60. V. 1 Omnes de Saba venient (2m31.0s - 1033 kb) score
Alleluia: Cf. Mt. 2, 2 Vidimus stellam (2m17.2s - 939 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 71, 10.11 Reges Tharsis (1m59.0s - 814 kb) score
Communio: Cf. Mt. 2, 2 Vidimus stellam (39.6s - 272 kb) score

Other posts on Chantblog for the propers on this feast day are:

Here's Mikołaj Zieleński's polyphonic setting of Vidimus Stellam, sung by Camerata Silesia with Concerto Polacco. Zieleński is a somewhat obscure Polish composer (birth and death dates unknown!) who lived during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Here's a terrific painting of the Adoration of the Magi that I haven't seen before; wow! According to, it's painted by Pieter Aertsen, and is the "Middle panel of a triptych, The Adoration of the Magi; c. 1560; Oil (?) on panel, 167.5 x 179 cm; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam." Gorgeous and interesting, too.

Ibiblio says this about the painting:

The baby Jesus is sitting on the lap of his mother, the Virgin Mary. He is holding his hand up in a blessing. Before him kneels a king offering a gift of gold. This is Melchior, the oldest of the three kings who came to pay homage to the infant Christ. Behind Mary, in a red gown is her husband Joseph. According to tradition, Jesus was born in a stable. The donkey, the ox and the shabby straw roof remind us of this. The scene takes place against the background of a ruined palace with marble columns and steps. This refers to King David, a distant ancestor of Jesus. The ruin is symbolic and represents the old world: Jesus represents the new, Christian world.

Pieter Aertsen painted this large, colourful panel in around 1560. It is a varied scene with many attractive details such as the rather homely basket of clothes beside Mary and the king's entourage with camels on the left of the background.

Only one of the three kings is pictured on this panel. In fact, the painting is no longer complete. It was originally the centre panel of an altarpiece. The other two kings were pictured on the side panels. The right-hand panel has been lost. The left-hand panel, depicting the Moorish King Caspar and his entourage, has been preserved. This king is offering a vase of myrrh, a fragrant resin which was employed in the ancient world in perfume. It was used in preparing myrrh balsam, for embalming corpses. According to tradition, this was what Caspar, the African king, gave to Christ. It is viewed as a reference to Christ's subsequent death.

Here's a beautiful (and copyrighted) "Adoration of the Magi" page from the St. Alban's Psalter. Wish I could post it here, but they've cut it up into about 50 pieces to protect the copyright! Go see, though - gorgeous.

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