Saturday, March 07, 2009

Qui Habitat: "The First Sunday of Lent: A Note on the Tract"

Here's an interesting post, from last week at MusicaSacra:
The Sunday which heads the Lenten season takes its theme from the paradigm of all Christian fasting: Jesus’ forty-day fast in the desert and his temptation by the devil there. In tempting Jesus to show his divinity by casting himself down from the parapet of the temple, the devil quoted Psalm 90, “He hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.” This quotation is such a powerful memory of the event of the temptation that the psalm is the source of all the Propers of the Mass for this Sunday. Rarely are Mass Propers so unified; moreover, the place of this psalm is even more emphasized by the fact that the tract for the day comprises most of the verses of the psalm.

The tract is direct psalmody—the singing of successive verses of a psalm without refrain, and it is sung in alternation by two halves of the choir. By replacing the alleluia sung in the normal seasons, it represents a kind of fasting from the wordless jubilation of the alleluia. While the tract normally comprises three to five verses of a psalm, the tract for this day has thirteen verses. Only two other days have these long tracts: Palm Sunday and Good Friday. On these days, the Passions are sung, and the tract serves as a long preparation for these extended Gospels. Today, however, the long tract simply stands by itself, and its function could be seen as an intense entry into the Lenten Season, a turning to God as refuge and protector. Throughout the Lenten season, the tracts can be the point of recollection in the liturgy and a meditative preparation for the hearing of the Gospel.

Here's the sung proper, from ReneGoupil, with the full score below (and it's a whopper!):

Lent - First Sunday: Tract from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

And here's an mp3 of the tract
(along with all the other chant propers for Lent 1), from the Benedictines of Brazil;  as you will see, the mp3 provides only about the first third of what's in that score.

Here, BTW, is an English translation of the tract above; it comes from another document at MusicaSacra, "The Propers of the Mass" (a PDF file, see p. 55 - and thanks to "Anhaga," a poster on this thread at MusicaSacra) - published by the Gregorian Institute of Guam!:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High shall abide in the protection of the God of heaven. Vs. He shall say to the Lord, "You are my support and my refuge; my God, in You I trust." For he has rescued me from the snare of the hunter and from the blade of the sword. With his shoulders He will cover you, and under his wings you shall find refuge. His truth shall surround you with a shield ; you shall not fear the terror of the night. Nor the arrow put in flight by day; nor the plague that roams in darkness, neither invasion nor the noonday evil. Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, it shall not come near you. For he has given his angels charge over you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the asp and the basilisk, and you shall trample under foot the lion and the dragon. Because he has hoped in me, I will deliver him, because he has confessed my name. He shall call upon me, and I will hear him; I will be with him in distress. I will deliver him and glorify him; I will satisfy him with length of days and show him my salvation.

That is Psalm 91 for Episcopalians, and a Compline Psalm. EDIT: A friend adds an interesting note:
[The English translation above is] the Vulgate and therefore a translation of the LXX rather than the Hebrew. Thus what is translated above as "noonday evil" is actual "the noonday demon"--which takes on quite specific notion when placed in connection with the Matthew 4 temptation of Jesus by Satan as the Gospel!

Here are the propers for for Lent I, from the Brazilian Benedictines:

Hebdomada prima quadragesimæ
Introitus: Ps. 90, 15.16 et 1 Invocabit me (cum Gloria Patri) (4m21.1s - 4083 kb) score
Graduale: Ps. 90, 11-12 Angelis suis (4m03.3s - 3805 kb) score
Tractus: Ps. 90, 1-7 et 11-16 Qui habitat (2m59.0s - 2801 kb) score
Offertorium: Ps. 90, 4-5 Scapulis suis (1m04.4s - 1011 kb) score
Communio: Ps. 90, 4-5 Scapulis suis (4m32.5s - 4261 kb) score

Here are posts on Chantblog about the propers for the First Sunday in Lent:


Theodore said...

What is most interesting is that when compared with Psalm 90 as found in the Vulgate and used in the Divine Office at Compline, the Tract shows five minor textual variations :
- "a ruina" instead of "ad incursu" ;
- "tibi autem non appropinquabit" instead of "ad te autem"
- "ne unquam offendas" instead of "ne forte offendas"
- "invocabit me" instead of "clamabit ad me"
- "longitudine dierum adimplebo eum" instead of "longitudine dierum replebo eum".

Which is kind of puzzling ! Are these remnants of a pre-Vulgate translation ? It seems too close to the Vulgate, unless we admit that Jerome heavily relied on the previous Roman translation. Is there antthing that has been written on that topic ?

bls said...

Hi Theodore:

It's not unusual for Scriptural passages to be slightly altered for the chant propers. Of course, these Tracts are whole Psalms, which puts a bit of a different spin on things.

But in any case, I have found these phrases in several side-by-side comparisons of what may be two different versions of the Vulgate; I have not been able to tell what's going on, yet, though.

Here's one example of this:

There are other examples as well. If you google both versions of the last phrase you chose, you'll see several of these side-by-side comparisons.

You seem like you may be more fluent in Latin than I am, so perhaps you'll be able to discern what is going on here more quickly than I. But I am curious to know now, so will continue to look at this.

bls said...

Here's that URL, linked: I thought Blogger would put in the link automatically....

bls said...

After looking at this a little bit, I think it's simply that there are numerous manuscripts of the Vulgate translation around; you were looking at one, and whoever set this chant was looking at a different one. Perhaps there is now a standard version, but at the time there may have been various versions floating around. That's my guess, anyway.

More here:

bls said...

Well, here's a little bit more. In the side-by-side comparison I mentioned above, the version on the left comes from the Gallic Psalter, and the version on the right from the Roman Psalter. So this translation difference could be limited to the Psalter itself.

This Wikipedia page: says that Jerome is credited with both versions, but that is just a traditional attribution, I think.

Anyway, the chant proper uses the Roman Psalter here, which makes sense.

bls said...

One more comment: this is a PDF from the website of the NPM (the National Association of Pastoral Musicians).

It explains exactly what's happening. Apparently the Gallic Psalter - the one you're looking at - was originally or eventually became the Psalter of the Vulgate. But the Roman Psalter was "used widely in Italy in early Middle Ages. Used in St. Peter’s Basilica until Vatican II."

That explains everything and brings us completely up-to-date! :-)


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