Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A Lauds antiphon for the Vigil of the Epiphany: O Admirabile Commercium ("O Wondrous Exchange")

This is a recording of the single - in the Sarum breviary, anyway - Psalm antiphon at Lauds of the Vigil of Epiphany, which is today.  It's very beautiful, and sung here by the Schola Gregoriana Del Coro Paer:

The text, from CPDL, is this:
O admirabile commercium!
Creator generis humani,
animatum corpus sumens,
de Virgine nasci dignatus est:
et procedens homo sine semine,
largitus est nobis suam Deitatem.

O wondrous exchange:
the Creator of humankind,
taking upon him a living body,
vouchsafed to be born of a Virgin
and, without seed, becoming a man,
hath made us partakers of his Divinity.

Here's the chant score:

The Psalm sung on the recording is not the one for Lauds of the Vigil of Epiphany; it's instead the first Psalm at 2nd Vespers of the Circumcision: Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus.  That's because this antiphon is used on that day for that Psalm in the Roman Breviary.  In the Sarum, however, the Psalm prescribed to follow this antiphon is Psalm 93, Dominus Regnavit ("The Lord is King").

Many of the days of the Twelve Days of Christmas are also feasts in their own right:  December 26 is St. Stephen; December 27th is Holy Innocents; December 28th is St. John Evangelist, and so on.   As a result, there are numerous Octave days within the Twelve Days as well - and sometimes the Octave Days are feasts in their own right, too!  For example. Circumcision (also called Holy Name) is the Octave of Christmas - a big day.  (Octave days are the days eight days after a major feast, counting inclusively the first and last days, and bring that feast's eight-day "season" or celebration to a close.)

So there are numerous overlaps and recapitulations going on in the Breviary; chants are often repeated on the octave days of their feasts, and there are many intertwining themes happening in this period.   The Vigil of Epiphany seems to be celebrated as kind of a mini-octave of Circumcision in the Sarum Breviary.  For instance, the first three Matins Responsories on Circumcision are repeated at the Vigil of Epiphany, but at the tail end of Matins (in, more or less, the last three spots).

And this antiphon, and its Psalm, are sung exactly in the same way at Lauds of Circumcision.

This is very interesting to me, and at some point I'll have to go through the Breviary to see exactly where the duplications occur - there are many! - and see what patterns may exist.

Meantime, here is Thomas Stolzer's (c.1480–1526) gorgeous setting of the chant text; I'd never heard it before today.   It's sung expertly and beautifully by the choir of Christ Church, New Haven CT.

Epiphany tomorrow!  Here's Full Homely Divinity's Epiphany page, which you really should not miss:  20 + C + M + B + 16.

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