Friday, December 25, 2015

Chistmas Day Matins: Sancta et immaculata virginitas ("Holy and spotless Virgin")

Sancta et immaculata virginitas is the sixth responsory of Christmas Matins, but as CPDL notes, it is "frequently used for Marian feasts as well."  It's sung here by Ensemble Officium:



Here's the text in Latin and English, from Divinum Officium:

R. Sancta et immaculata virginitas, quibus te laudibus efferam nescio:
* Quia quem coeli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.
V. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
R. Quia quem coeli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.

V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.
R. Quia quem coeli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.
R. O Mary, how holy and how spotless is thy virginity! I am too dull to praise thee!
* For thou hast borne in thy breast Him Whom the heavens cannot contain.
V. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
R. For thou hast borne in thy breast Him Whom the heavens cannot contain.

V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. For thou hast borne in thy breast Him Whom the heavens cannot contain.

See it here, too, in the Bute translation-Winter edition of the Roman Breviary (1908).

And sure enough, you find the same text as the Responsory after the first reading of "Matins of the Virgin," at medirvalist.net's Hypertext Book of Hours.

Here's the chant score, from the Liber Usualis 1961:



This Responsory contains one of those rare extra-Biblical citations; I'm trying to find the origin of the notion that "The highest heavens cannot contain God whom you carried in your womb"; that is an old idea.  But I haven't been able to pin down the coiner of that phrase so far; will return to edit this when I do.  It's a quite beautiful thought, and one of the reasons I wanted to post on this chant today. 

[EDIT
:  This cite may belong to Augustine, who said in Sermon 184, on the Nativity:  “He who sustains the world lay in a manger, a wordless Child, yet the Word of God. Him whom the heavens do not contain the bosom of one woman bore.  She ruled our King; she carried Him in whom we exist; she fed our Bread.” And in fact, it's not totally extra-biblical anyway;  Auggie was clearly riffing on 1 Kings 8:27 (or its clone, 2 Chronicles 6:18):  "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you...." ]

Several other composers have set this text; here's Gabrieli's:




A blessed Christmas to all.

2 comments:

Julia Marks said...

What a blessedly beautiful piece this is. Thank you.

bls said...

It really is a beauty, isn't it?

Thanks for coming by and commenting. Merry Christmas!

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