Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Easter Vigil: Exsultet

The Exsultet - also known as the "Easter Proclamation" - is sung at the opening of the Easter Vigil, just after the entry and procession with the Paschal Candle and the threefold singing of "The Light of Christ" verse/response.  It's a very long chant (that in the Episcopal Church is usually assigned to a deacon, although anybody - including a layperson - may sing it) that proclaims the joy of Easter.

Here's the most recent translation (from 2011 in the U.S., I believe) from the Roman Missal; the video includes the entire text:

Here's that new translation, along with the chant score (as above, in modern notation), from (that's the National Association of Pastoral Musicians).

Here's a very nice mp3 of the Exsultet, sung in English, found at this page. (A large file! 9.3MB, so be prepared to wait a bit.)  Here are the opening few verses of the text used on the mp3 file, courtesy of the Dominicans; it's an older translation:
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

Here's a PDF chant score of the Exsultet from that same site; it's the old translation.   Here's an Exsultet in PDF from the website of the Royal School of Church Music in England; it's yet another translation, from the Church of England's Common Worship.

Here's a PDF of an Ambrosian Chant version; I've never heard this tune. This version contains a phrase not used in any version I've yet heard:
"Holy Father, accept our evening sacrifice, the offering of this candle in your honor, the work of the bees your creatures."

Personally, I'm always happy when bees make an appearance in any of the chants (as they do, also, in certain prayers and chants for Candlemas).  Unfortunately, most candles today are not made of beeswax, which is very expensive;  it may not be completely helpful to sing as if they were.

Here's an mp3 of the Exsultet sung in Latin; it's from this page, at the website of Schola Benedyktynów at Tyniec Abbey, a Polish Benedictine monastic house.

Here is what TPL has to say about the Exsultet, and you can find all the words, from various versions in English and in Latin, there as well:
The Exsultet, sometimes seen as "Exultet" and also referred to as the Praeconium Paschale, is an ancient chant sung during the Easter Vigil. It is traditionally sung by the deacon after the Paschal candle has been lit and the clergy have processed to the altar. The lighted Paschal candle contains a twofold symbolism. First, it represents the pillar of fire that went before the Israelites during their flight from Egypt. Second, it represents Christ, who is the light of the world. The procession likewise has a twofold meaning. It symbolizes the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt, and also the arrival of Christ who is the Savior of the world. The Exsultet sings of this symbolism and recalls for us the history of our salvation; from the fall of Adam, to the events of that first Passover held by Moses and the Israelites, and then finally the events of that last Passover at which Jesus suffered, died, rose from the dead and by which mankind was redeemed. The tone of the hymn is very much one of joy at having received so great a gift as our redemption and eternal life.

Here are all the chants for the Easter Vigil, from, and sung by the Sao Paulo Benedictines:

Dominica Paschæ in Resurrectione Domini
Ad Vigiliam Paschalem in Nocte Santa

Lumen Christi
(9.9s - 158 kb) score

Præconium Paschale

(provisory mono files) Exsultet iam (2m16.2s - 400 kb)  Per omnia (33.5s - 101 kb)  Vere dignum (4m43.9s - 835 kb)  In huius (1m42.2s - 303 kb)  Oramus ergo (3m00.2s - 531 kb)

Ad liturgiam verbi - cantica post lectiones

Canticum: Iubilate Domino (1m23.0s - 1298 kb) score
Canticum: Qui confidunt
Canticum: Cantemus Domino (2m12.9kb - 2078 kb) score
Canticum: Laudate Dominum
Canticum: Vinea facta est (1m40.0s - 1564 kb) score
Canticum: Attende cælum
Canticum: Sicut cervus (2m01.6s - 1902 kb) score
Alleluia: Confitemini Domino (3m15.1s - 3052 kb) score
Antiphona: Vidi aquam (1m29.4s - 1400 kb) score

Offertorium: Dextera Domini (1m36.7s - 1512 kb) score
Communio: Alleluia (1m11.9s - 1124 kb) score
Ite missa est (28.7s - 451 kb) score

And here are posts on some of these at Chantblog:

Not long ago, I came across the digitized version of a book called "The Exultet in Southern Italy." This is from the .gif of the page shown below, which I think is taken from an intro to the book:
The peculiarities of the Exsultet in the South-Italian Church have often been the subject of scholarly investigation. Quite recently, several new studies have been devoted to this famous and indeed very beautiful liturgical prose hymn which was sung on the Saturday of Holy Week. Among these peculiarities, the practice, for example, of writing the hymn on a long scroll and of embellishing the text with illuminations was observed nowhere but in Southern Italy. This scroll, as is well known, was intended to fall more and more over the ambo so that, as the archdeacon sang the text, the congregation could at the same time gaze at the illustrations to the respective parts of the prayer. Word and illustration thus supported each other in a singular way.

Isn't that wonderful? Liturgical innovations happen all the time, and some of them - like this one - are multi-media and pretty great. You can get the book at Amazon.

May the joy and peace of this Most High Day, and of the 50 days of the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, be yours. Alleluia in the highest Heaven!


Anonymous said...

Here's the link to an Exsultet I download to my iPod to practice with:

Deacon T

Anonymous said...

The link to the Ambrosian version seems to be broken
GLM, Shenzhen, China

bls said...

Thanks - looks like they moved the site. I'll try to find another version out there.....

Marco da Vinha said...

The reference to the bees is in the old Latin Exultet.

MarkNW said...

The bees are also available as an option in the Church of England liturgy

bls said...

Thanks, MarkNW! Thanks for the link, too.


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