Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Laetabundus: The Sequence Hymn for Christmas and Candlemas

Here sung very well by "I Cantori Gregoriani - dirige il Maestro Fulvio Rampi - Cremona Chiesa di Sant'Abbondio."

This Sequence is also used at Second Vespers in the Sarum Office for Candlemas (although not in Septuagesima, which is in fact where we are this year!). This page says that "The Sequence Laetabundus, for the mass of Christmas, is not found in the Tridentine Roman Missal. It was found in all the Gallican Missals, including those of France, and the English Sarum Usage; and is also in the Dominican and Carmelite Missals."

Here's the score, from Hymn Melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books:

seem to be the Latin words; the source quotes Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year:   "... a sequence, which is to be found in all the Roman-French missals.  For a long time, it was thought to have been written by St. Bernard: but, we have seen it in a Manuscript of the 11th century, and, consequently, it must have been written earlier than the date usually assigned to it."
exsultet fidelis chorus.

Regem regum
intactae profudit thorus:
res mirranda.

Angelus consilii
natus est de virgine:
sol de stella.

Sol occasum nesciens,

stella semper rutilans,
semper clara.

Sicut sidus radium,
profert Virgo Filium,
pari forma.

Neque sidus radio,
neque mater filio,
fit corrupta.

Cedrus alta Libani
conformatur hyssopo,
valle nostra;

Verbum ens Altissimi
corporari passum est,
carne sumpta.

Isaias cecinit,
Synagoga meminit,
numquam tamen desinit
esse caeca.

Si non suis vatibus,
credat vel gentilibus;
Sibyllinis versibus
haec praedicta.

Infelix, propera,
crede vel vetera:
cur damnaberis,
gens misera?

Quem docet littera,
natum considera:
ipsum genuit puerpera.

This Sequence contains some language that's a bit discomforting:  "Though Esais had forshown, though the synagogue had known; yet the truth she will not own; blind remaining.  If her prophets speak in vain, let her heed a Gentile strain; and from mystic Sybil gain; light in darkness."  This doesn't seem angry or accusing, merely hopeful that things will change - in the way Paul writes about the same topic in Romans.  In fact, the text seems to refer directly to Romans 9-11, and to Paul's references to Isaiah - and his stated desire to "make my fellow Jews jealous," per this section of Romans 11:
11 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham,[h] a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
9 And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and bend their backs forever.”
11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion[i] mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Still, it's a bit disconcerting, given what's happened in history, to see this in the middle of a beautiful Sequence hymn!  Perhaps it's good to have it there, though - as a stark reminder of how damaging misinterpretations of the Bible - and bad religion - can be and have been.  "Penitence" applies to the church, too.

You can listen to the mass chants for Candlemas - including what looks like four antiphons used in the opening procession - at the Brazilian Benedictines' site.  I will certainly work on some posts about these in the future.

Candlemas/Presentation is a celebration of the events recounted in Luke 2:22-40; as you can see in the citation below, the Nunc Dimittis, the famous Evensong/Compline canticle (the first line of which in English is "Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace"), comes from this story.
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant[d] depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Simeon and Anna are often said to represent "the Law and the Prophets" (as, later at Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah would) - and Jesus as the fulfillment of them.

Rembrandt did at least three paintings of Simeon - and sometimes Anna - in the Temple.   This one is from 1627 or 1628:

This one - called "Simeon's song of praise" -  was painted in 1631:

And this - my favorite - was done in 1669:

Meanwhile, here's a bit about the Cremona Church of Sant'Abbondio, from Visual Italy, the place where the video above was recorded:
The Church of Sant’Abbondio in Cremona was built with the purpose of reconstructing a previous chapel by the religious order of the Humiliated, which came after the Benedictines in 1288. In the 15th and 16th centuries the ceiling wooden framework was replaced by a masonry vault and the single nave was restricted, so as to leave space to a series of side chapels embellished by beautiful stucco statues. Worth mentioning is the remarkable cycle of frescoes by Giulio Campi, Orazio Sammachini and the Malosso, with the Glories of the Virgin Mary. The Romanesque bell tower with terracotta conic covering stands out magnificently outside. The bell tower has pairs of walled ogival windows on each side and a triple-lanced window for the belfry. In 1624, following the will of Count Conte Giovanni Pietro Ala, a perfect copy of the Holy House of Loreto, containing a worshipped statue of the Black Madonna inside, was built inside the Church. The Lauretano Museum on the upper floor of the old apartment of the prior of the Humiliated displays memories and evidence of the devotion of Loreto, which is related to the Holy House, as well as of the events of the history of the Church of St. Abbondio. Worth mentioning is the annexed cloister in Bramante style, with terracotta decorations and elegant duotone effects.

Here's an image of the cloisters at the church, from cremonaitaly.org; beautiful:

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