Saturday, September 13, 2008

September 14: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

For September 14, Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service books says this:
"On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14): as on the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross."

("Invention," here, means "discovery," from the Latin invenire. According to Wikipedia: "In the Gallican usage, beginning about the seventh century, the Feast of the Cross was celebrated on May 3, and called 'Crouchmas' (for 'Cross Mass').")

So, we back up to May 3 to find this group of hymns listed to be sung at Divine Office:
On the Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross (May 3):
1st Evensong: Impleta sum que concinit: ... ... ... 35
Mattins: Pange lingua, gloriosi Prelium: ... ... ... 36
Lauds & 2nd Evensong: Crux fidelis inter omnes: ... ... ... 45

These hymns are all well-known from their use during Passion Week, as we will see. 

(Follow along with the Offices for Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross here, at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885); the hymns are not the same as in Sarum, however.)

Impleta sum que concinit, the hymn for 1st Evensong, is sung  to the same tune as the Passiontide hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt; here's the score for that one, using melody #35:

Here's Vexilla regis prodeunt (mp3) sung in English by the St. David's Compline Choir of Austin, TX;  Vexilla regis itself is a Vespers hymn for weeks 5 and 6 in Lent (i.e., in Passiontide).

The name of hymn in the listings for Exaltation, though, seems to be incorrect; it should probably be Impleta sunt quae concinit; those are the words that begin the fourth verse of Vexilla Regis Prodeunt, as you can see below.   (This seems to be another case of a long hymn being broken into parts for use at different offices on one feast day, or on different feast days altogether.)  Here are all the words to Vexilla Regis Prodeunt:
VEXILLA Regis prodeunt;
fulget Crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

Confixa clavis viscera
tendens manus, vestigia,
redemptionis gratia
hic immolata est hostia.

Quo vulneratus insuper
mucrone diro lanceae,
ut nos lavaret crimine,2
manavit unda et sanguine.

Inpleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,

dicendo nationibus:
regnavit a ligno deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida,
ornata regis purpura,
electa, digno stipite
tam sancta membra tangere!

Beata cuius brachiis
pretium pependit saeculi!
statera facta est corporis
praedam tulitque Tartari.

Fundis aroma cortice,
vincis sapore nectare,
iucunda fructu fertili
plaudis triumpho nobili.

Salve ara, salve victima
de passionis gloria,
qua vita mortem pertulit
et morte vitam reddidit.

 Here's TPL on Vexilla:
Vexilla Regis was written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) and is considered one of the greatest hymns of the liturgy. Fortunatus wrote it in honor of the arrival of a large relic of the True Cross which had been sent to Queen Radegunda by the Emperor Justin II and his Empress Sophia. Queen Radegunda had retired to a convent she had built near Poitiers and was seeking out relics for the church there. To help celebrate the arrival of the relic, the Queen asked Fortunatus to write a hymn for the procession of the relic to the church.

The hymn has, thus, a strong connection with the Cross and is fittingly sung at Vespers from Passion Sunday to Holy Thursday and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The hymn was also formerly sung on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the repository to the altar. The text given below is the full text of Fortunatus' hymn, but verses 2, 4, and 7 are omitted when the hymn is used liturgically. The last two verses which form the concluding doxology are not by Fortunatus, but is rather the work of some later poet.

Here's a set of the English words to just the "Impleta sunt quae concinit" section of Vexilla:
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old:
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and trimphed from the Tree.

O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose trumphas breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest:

On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The wight of this world's ransom hung,
The price of humankind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

O Cross, our one reliance, hail!
In this our Easter joy, avail
To give fresh meric to the saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

To thee eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done:
Whom by the Cross thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.

Below is a video of Pange lingua, glorisi sung to melody #36 The only problem is that it isn't the same hymn as the one we're looking at for today!  St. Thomas Aquinas took the original 6th Century Fortunatus hymn (the hymn for Exaltation) and re-purposed it for Corpus Christi and general Eucharistic Devotion; the video uses Aquinas' text, which is better known and thus far easier to find online.

I've put the words from the earlier hymn just below the video, so just sing along using those.

Here are the words to the Fortunatus hymn in Latin and in English:
PANGE, lingua, gloriosi
proelium certaminis,
et super Crucis trophaeo
dic triumphum nobilem,
qualiter Redemptor orbis
immolatus vicerit.

De parentis protoplasti
fraude Factor condolens,
quando pomi noxialis
morte morsu corruit,
ipse lignum tunc notavit,
damna ligni ut solveret.

Hoc opus nostrae salutis
ordo depoposcerat,
multiformis proditoris
ars ut artem falleret,
et medelam ferret inde,
hostis unde laeserat.

Quando venit ergo sacri
plenitudo temporis,
missus est ab arce Patris
natus, orbis, Conditor,
atque ventre virginali
carne factus prodiit.

Vagit infans inter arcta
conditus praesepia:
membra pannis involuta
Virgo Mater alligat:
et manus pedesque et crura
stricta cingit fascia.

LUSTRA sex qui iam peracta
tempus implens corporis,
se volente, natus ad hoc,
passioni deditus,
Agnus in crucis levatur
immolandus stipite.

En acetum, fel, arundo,
sputa, clavi, lancea:
mite corpus perforatur,
Sanguis, unda profluit
terra, pontus, astra, mundus,
quo lavantur flumine!

CRUX fidelis,
inter omnes
arbor una nobilis;
nulla talem silva profert,
flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavo,
dulce pondus sustinens!

Flecte ramos, arbor alta,
tensa laxa viscera,
et rigor lentescat ille,
quem dedit nativitas,
ut superni membra Regis
miti tendas stipite.

Sola digna tu fuisti
ferre saeculi pretium,
atque portum praeparare
nauta mundo naufrago,
quem sacer cruor perunxit,
fusus Agni corpore.

Aequa Patri Filioque,
inclito Paraclito,
sempiterna sit beatae
Trinitati gloria,
cuius alma nos redemit
atque servat gratia. Amen.
SING, my tongue,
the Savior's glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

Eating of the tree forbidden,
man had sunk in Satan's snare,
when our pitying Creator did
this second tree prepare;
destined, many ages later,
that first evil to repair.

Such the order God appointed
when for sin He would atone;
to the serpent thus opposing
schemes yet deeper than his own;
thence the remedy procuring,
whence the fatal wound had come.

So when now at length the fullness
of the sacred time drew nigh,
then the Son, the world's Creator,
left his Father's throne on high;
from a virgin's womb appearing,
clothed in our mortality.

All within a lowly manger,
lo, a tender babe He lies!
see his gentle Virgin Mother
lull to sleep his infant cries!
while the limbs of God incarnate
round with swathing bands she ties.

THUS did Christ to perfect manhood
in our mortal flesh attain:
then of His free choice He goeth
to a death of bitter pain;
and as a lamb, upon the altar of the cross,
for us is slain.

Lo, with gall His thirst He quenches!
see the thorns upon His brow!
nails His tender flesh are rending!
see His side is opened now!
whence, to cleanse the whole creation,
streams of blood and water flow.

above all other,
one and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit thy peers may be;
sweetest wood and sweetest iron!
Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

Lofty tree, bend down thy branches,
to embrace thy sacred load;
oh, relax the native tension
of that all too rigid wood;
gently, gently bear the members
of thy dying King and God.

Tree, which solely wast found worthy
the world's Victim to sustain.
harbor from the raging tempest!
ark, that saved the world again!
Tree, with sacred blood anointed
of the Lamb for sinners slain.

Blessing, honor, everlasting,
to the immortal Deity;
to the Father, Son, and Spirit,
equal praises ever be;
glory through the earth and heaven
to Trinity in Unity. Amen.

Here's the chant score for melody #36, the same as in the video:

Below is the chant score for melody #45, used for the Lauds and 2nd Evensong hymn, Crux fidelis inter omnes:

This is not the usual tune used for Crux fideles; as you can see above, the text is taken from the last third of the longer Pange lingua gloriosa and is most often - in my experience at least - sung to that melody.   Oremus hymnal, though, has a midi of this plainsong melody; interestingly, it's the same one used for Urbs beata Hierusalem and Angulare fundamentum, the Office hymns sung "On the Feast of the Dedication of a Church".

So, just sing the Crux fideles section of  Pange lingua gloriosa to this tune for Lauds and 2nd Evensong.

Here's an image of  a medieval "Good Friday Missal fragment" from 1549, at the Bergen (Norway) University library; look at the lower right of the page and you'll Crux fidelis inter omnes.'s entry for Holy Cross Day, September 14, begins this way:
During the reign of Constantine, first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena went to Israel and there undertook to find the places especially significant to Christians. (She was helped in this by the fact that in their destructions around 135, the Romans had built pagan shrines over many of these sites.) Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was dedicated on 14 September 335. It has become a day for recognizing the Cross (in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday) as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ's victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, "And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32)

Tertullian, in his De Corona (3:2), written around AD 211, says that Christians seldom do anything significant without making the sign of the cross. Certainly by his time the practice was well established. Justin Martyr, in chapters 55 and 60 of his First Apology (Defence of the Christian Faith, addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and therefore written between 148 and 155 AD), refers to the cross as a standard Christian symbol, but not explicitly to tracing the sign of the cross as a devotional gesture. In the ruins of Pompeii (destroyed 79 AD), there is a room with an altar-like structure against one wall, and over the altar the appearance of the plaster shows that a cross-shaped object had been nailed to the wall, and forcibly pulled loose, apparently shortly before the volcano buried the city. It is suggested that this house may have belonged to a Christian family, and that they took the cross and other objects of value to them when they fled the city. This is not the only possible explanation, but I do not know of a likelier one.

Here are the mass chants for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, from the Benedictines of Brazil. Here's an mp3 of the beautiful Gradual, Christus factus est; here's the chant score:

The words in English (which come from the Epistle read on the day, Philippians 2:5-11), are:
Christ became obedient for us unto death,
even to the death of the cross.
Response. Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him a Name
which is above all names.

Many, many composers have written choral pieces using this text: Felice Aniero and Anton Bruckner, for two.

Here's the beautiful Bruckner:

Here's an interesting fresco of the Exaltation of the Cross: "Piero della Francesca: Frescoes in San Francesco, Arezzo." I'm not sure what that headgear is about, though:

Here's a Russian icon of the Exaltation of the Cross, from the "Novgorod School," according to this page:

Here's another icon, one of several I've seen that use this motif (with the central figure - not always the same person - "elevating" the cross in this way):

Here's a peek-in to the Offices in the SSM Breviary, linked above:

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