Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Seventh Sunday in Easter: Alleluia. Non vos reliquam orphanos ("I will not leave you orphans")

GREGORIAN ALLELUIA • Non Vos Relinquam (6221) from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

The text for this chant comes from John 14:18 and John 16:22b; both verses come from Christ's "Farewell Discourse."
I will not leave you orphans. I am going, but I will come back to you, and your hearts will be full of joy.

Interestingly, it seems that Young's Literal Translation (1898) renders the first phrase as "I will not leave you bereaved" - and it seems the King James translators went that way, too, with the famous "I will not leave you comfortless."  I'm interested in knowing why, actually - and will try to find out.  "Orphanos" seems clear and straightforward enough, to me - but perhaps there's something else going on here.

This is the full chant score; as you can see, it's a very complex chant - fitting, for one of the last Sunday chants in the Easter season:

Here it is sung in monastic choir, by the São Paulo Benedictines:

This text is also the Antiphon upon Magnificat for First Vespers of Pentecost; to see it in context, use Divinum Officium and enter 6-7-2014, then click "Vesperae."   This is a very old usage, going back to the "pre Trident monastic" Roman Breviary.

This is a video of William Byrd's setting of the text, from 1607, sung by The Cambridge Singers.

Here, as "I will not leave you comfortless,"  it's sung beautifully in English by the "Mennonite Acapella" Oasis Chorale:

Here's an interesting little item about the liturgy during the "Ascentiontide" period at Full Homely Divinity's "Rogation and Ascension" page:
Traditionally, the Paschal Candle was extinguished following the reading of the  Gospel on Ascension Day. The gentle ascent and disappearance of the smoke from the smoldering wick was a poignant symbol of the departure of the Risen Lord from the earth.  Now, it is customary in many places to keep the Candle burning until Pentecost and to omit entirely any special ceremony of extinguishing it. There are credible reasons for this change. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that so little attention is given to the extinguishing of this Candle which was lit with major ceremony at the beginning of the Paschal Vigil and holds a place of such prominence in the church building throughout the season.

Like the Church at large, we at FHD are not of one mind on this practice. However, apart from the rites of the Church set forth by authority (i.e., The Book of Common Prayer), it is never our intent to prescribe, only to suggest. The rubric regarding the Paschal Candle in the American Prayer Book (p. 287) says "It is customary that the Paschal Candle burn at all services from Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost." At the risk of being accused of nitpicking, we note that "customary" is a relative term. Customs vary over both time and space and we are simply pointing out that this is one that is not universal. It has changed before and it could change again. Some of us see value in the old custom, and like it enough to keep it alive.

There are other liturgical customs for this day which have also fallen by the way. One such custom was the lifting up of a statue or picture of Christ. In some places, this was quite elaborate, with ropes or chains rigged to elevate the image. In some places, it disappeared behind a veil or into a representation of clouds, while in others it went through a hole in the ceiling. After the image vanished, the congregation would be showered with rose petals and other flowers, symbolizing the gifts which the ascended Christ gives to his Church:  When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people....that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.... (Ephesians 4:7,11)

In Germany, it was the custom for the priest to lift high a crucifix after the reading of the Ascension Gospel.  This custom has much to recommend it. It makes visible the symbolic link between the Cross and the Ascension which is implicit in Jesus' words when he says, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32)   On the Cross, Jesus is glorified. When he ascends, he ascends to reign in glory. It could be a simple, yet effective, bit of liturgical drama to revive this custom. An extra acolyte, carrying a crucifix, could be added to the Gospel procession on Ascension Day. Or, if the parish owns a processional cross which has a figure of Christ on it, that should be carried at the head of the Gospel procession. It is important for this particular ceremony that the cross not be empty. While in many contexts an empty cross is an effective symbol, here the focus is on Christ himself, so a crucifix is needed. At the conclusion of the reading of the Gospel, instead of lifting the Gospel book and proclaiming "The Gospel of the Lord," the deacon or priest should exchange the book for the crucifix, and lift it high. It is still appropriate to say "The Gospel of the Lord," for the uplifted figure of Christ on the cross is indeed the Good News (Gospel) that we proclaim and celebrate. A processional crucifix would be especially dramatic as it would enable the Gospeller to lift the figure very high.

And don't forget to check out, and pray, FHD's Ascension-to-Pentecost "Novena to the Holy Spirit" at the bottom of the same page. lists all the propers for today, which were the same in the Tridentine Rite:
Hebdomada septima paschæ
Introitus: Ps. 26, 7.8.9 et 1 Exaudi, Domine... tibi dixit (not available)
Alleluia: Ps. 46, 9 Regnavit Dominus (not available)
Alleluia: Io. 14, 18 Non vos relinquam (3m32.2s - 3316 kb)
Offertorium: Ps. 46, 6 Ascendit Deus (1m33.8s - 1469 kb MONO)
Communio: Io. 17, 12.13.15 Pater, cum essem (not available)

And these are posts on Chantblog for today's propers:

Here's a rather amazing and beautiful painted Paschal Candle at the church of St. James, Spanish Place (Marylebone, London):

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