Thursday, December 24, 2009

Laetentur Coeli!

That's the Offertory for Divine Service at Christmas Midnight - but I really just wanted to post Saint-Saëns' Tollite Hostias from his Christmas Oratorio, which uses the same text. This version is sweetly sung by Bavarian schoolchildren at their 2008 Christmas concert - and led by an enthusiastic conductor. Perfect.

I can't resist it, sorry. Here are the words (and maybe later I'll post the Gregorian chant, but right now I have to go sing the midnight service myself....

Tollite hostias,
et adorate Dominum
in atrio sancto eius.
Laetentur coeli,
et exultet terra
a facie Domini,
quoniam venit.

Bring offerings,
and adore the Lord
in his holy place.
Rejoice, heaven,
and exult, all the earth,
before the Lord,
for he comes.

Rejoice, heaven! A blessed Feast of the Nativity to all. See The Christmas Office here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Virgo Virginum: O Virgin of Virgins (2009)

December 23:

O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? That which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Still no sound file available for this one; the only people who sing it are Anglican and Norbertine monastics - and that's a small population indeed.

(EDIT: There are now (12/2010) a couple of versions of this one at YouTube. The one linked in the commments, and this one - from Japan!:


And that is the last O Antiphon; it's now Christmas Eve. A blessed Feast of the Incarnation to all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Emmanuel (2009)

December 22:
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

And here, again, is the "O Antiphon" page at Full Homely Divinity.

Here, the wonderful Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, sings the great Advent hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"; the hymn developed around the 12th Century, taking its verses from the original Great "O" Antiphons. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

O Rex Gentium: O King of the Nations (2009)

December 21:

O King of Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

More here and here.

And more from "Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons."
Dec 17th:* O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end [of the heavens] to another, and dost mightily and sweetly order all things: come to teach us the way of prudence!

Dec 18th: O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai: come to redeem us with outstretched arm!

Dec 19th: O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom the kings shall shut their mouths, unto whom the Gentiles shall seek: come to deliver us, make no tarrying!

Dec 20th: O Key of Davd and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth; and shuttest and no man openeth: come to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death!

Dec 21st: O Day-spring Brightness of the everlasting Light, Sun of Righteousness: come to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death!

Dec 22nd: O King of the Gentiles, yea, and Desire thereof, O Cornerstone that makest of twain [two] one: come to save man, whom Thou hast made of the dust of the earth!

Dec 23rd: O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and Salvation thereof: come to save us, O Lord our God!

(If the missing optional antiphon is used, it should be used on the 23rd and the others moved back one day: O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? That which ye behold is a divine mystery.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

O Oriens: O Morning-Star (2009)

December 20:

O Day-Spring, Brightness of the Light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Go here to listen to the Boston Camerata version I like best of any.

And more from "Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons."
Each antiphon begins with a metaphor, a title for Christ, most evoking not just a passage but whole swathes of Scripture. This metaphor is expanded by ancillary images and references that add depth and dimension to the Scriptural stories. Last, an imperative beseeches Christ to come and liberate us from sin, death, and darkness. As we take the words and images of the prophets in our mouths, we join their cry for the coming of the babe of Bethlehem. And speaking our own future, we call for the Coming King who will consummate the redemption of all creation. And—furthermore—we cry Christ into our own hearts, asking that the birth of the divine child be not only in history of distant days or future consummation but that we see, we experience, his redemptive resurrection power in our own flesh.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

O Clavis David: O Key of David (2009)

December 19:

O Key of David, Scepter of the house of Israel; that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth: come, and bring forth from the prisionhouse the captive, who sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A new video of this one this year:

Here's the Musica Sacra mp3, with Magnificat.

More from "Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons."
The antiphons are a mosaic of Scriptural citations and allusions. As Advent privileges the writings of the prophets, so the central image of each antiphon is drawn from a prophet nugget. Since the Book of Revelation was composed in a similar fashion—always in conversation with the prophets and the psalms—many of the antiphons have multiple Scriptural sources. We hear the words of the prophets not only from their own time and place but through the lens of New Testament's use of them as well. In the scriptural cloud that surrounds each core image, some links are obvious—others are less so, drawing on the interpretive methods and decisions of the Church Fathers.

Here's the English version of the chant score of "O Clavis David":

Friday, December 18, 2009

O Radix Jesse: O Root of Jesse (2009)

December 18:

O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall stop their mouths, whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us, and tarry not.

From the Blackfriars. You can listen to the antiphon sung on each side of Magnificat, as it really is sung, here via this mp3 file at this post at Musica Sacra, where 7 of the antiphons are posted together.

More from "Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons."
Jumping back a thousand years, the deep roots of the antiphons in the English tradition may be seen in the leaves of the Exeter Book, a collection of poetic texts and riddles from the tenth century written in Old English. The opening lines—only partially preserved—are poetic paraphrases of not seven but twelve “O” antiphons that ponder the Advent, the time of waiting, the Incarnation, and its implications for fallen humanity. The choice of these antiphons is not happenstance—rather these texts are rich with spiritual and doctrinal content that beg for further expansion, explanation, and appreciation. I feel this urge today as surely as it was felt over a millennium ago.

Here's the chant score to the antiphon in English:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Adonai (2009)

December 17:

O Adonai and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the Bush of Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

From the Blackfriars:

More from "Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons."
A curious entry appears in the December liturgical calendar of English Books of Common Prayer. The year 1561 brought an influx of minor saints from the Roman cycle back into the calendar of the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer by way of the Latin Book of Common Prayer used in college chapels—places where Latin was expected to be “a tongue understanded of the people.” But among this number came an entry that was not the name of a saint or martyr. December 16th bears the legend: O Sapienta—O Wisdom. Formally ratified by its inclusion in the calendar of the 1662 Prayer Book—still the official prayer-book of the Church of England and often considered the liturgical norm for the Anglican Communion—this entry holds an indisputable place in our history grounding the “O” Antiphons in the Anglican tradition although they have never yet appeared in an authorized prayer book. The Roman Catholic Church has retained these antiphons as well, but their course begins on December 17th—meaning that the Anglican tradition retains an antiphon no longer used by Rome. Ironically, the missing antiphon is the one addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here's another version.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

O Sapientia: O Wisdom (2009)

December 16:

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

For each night this week, as I post the Great "O" Antiphons of Advent, I'll also post a paragraph from Derek's article, "Sapientia-tide: The Great O Antiphons."
I doubt you've heard of Sapientia-tide—but I'll bet you know “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The liturgical obscurity and the popular hymn are both vestiges of an ancient tradition that celebrates the Incarnation of Christ: The Great “O” Antiphons. The intentional liturgical communities of the Middle Ages—the monastic houses and cathedrals—always sang the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, as part of their Evening Prayer (Vespers). To further their meditation upon the various mysteries of Christ made present in the liturgical cycles, one-line antiphons drawn from biblical or traditional sources were interwoven with Mary's canticle. The verses we now know as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are versions of the antiphons traditionally sung on the seven nights leading up to Christmas Eve. These antiphons are worthy of our attention as we enter this time before Christmas for both their spiritual riches and for their place in our Anglican heritage.

A nice version here, although with dizzying visuals. And it includes the Magnificat, which most audio versions of the antiphons don't.

Here's more from the link above:
Photos are taken at Abteikirche Niederaltaich, Bavaria, Germany.

The Benedictine monastery of Niederaltaich was founded in 731 and has seen a lot of ups and downs during the centuries.

Monastery and village of Niederaltaich are placed next to the Donau river.

The Basilica of Niederaltaich is nowadays belonging to the worldly parish, but the monastery cares for the parish. It is dedicated to St. Mauritius.

An mp3 version is here; and another one here, sung along with the Magnificat.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rejoice in the Lord Alway

The Introit for Advent III is Gaudete in Domino - "Rejoice in the Lord." Here's a beautiful video of the chant (no indication at the YouTube page about who's singing it):

Here's the full score:

The first part of the text is taken from Philippians 4:4-6 (the Epistle reading for Advent III in both the RCL and BCP lectionaries for Year C):
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

The second half is taken from Psalm 85, Benedixisti Domine: "LORD, You have been favorable to Your land; You have brought back the captivity of Jacob."

I posted about this Introit last year, too - but have since come to realize that there are some very nice polyphonic settings of this text. And also that I really like the English version of the text, so I'm giving it equal time this year; I especially like the older words:

Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice. Let your softness be known unto all men, the Lord is e'en at hand. Be careful for nothing: but in all prayer and supplication, let you petitions be manifest unto God with giving of thanks. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesu. Amen.

Here's one of those settings, for instance; we're singing this this Sunday. It isn't known who the composer was - kind of interesting, that, I think. It's sung by the College of William & Mary Choir, and they do a good job keeping a really brisk pace:

Here's the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, singing Henry Purcell's setting, also called "The Bell Anthem" - and it is gorgeous:

Here's one that isn't really "Gaudete" - but I like it all the same:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Arise, O Jerusalem!

It seems that the Revised Common Lectionary - and apparently we use a version created specially for the Episcopal Church, which makes me wonder what's so "ecumenical" about having adopted it in the first place? - is in fact following fairly closely the 1979 BCP Lectionary for the Sundays in Advent, at least. Well, except that it goes mad with Canticles in Year C, as a replacement for the Psalm.

In any case, for Old Testament this week we have the choice of readings from Baruch or Malachi; who, though, could resist the gorgeous Baruch reading, which comes from Chapter 5, verses 1-9:
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
"Righteous Peace, Godly Glory."
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God's command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

I even like the NRSV translation of this reading! I'm going to check a few others, but this one certainly must do it justice, I'd think.  I've come to notice that I really am a huge Old Testament fan; there is so much I love in the Hebrew Bible.  Psalms, the Prophets, the Apocrypha - all the really old, ecstatic and mystical poetry that so appeals to me.  I think I'm going to try to learn Hebrew, in fact; I'd like to read these things in the original.

And as usual, I checked the chant propers for this coming Sunday (this more recent version, too) - and lo and behold, I find the lovely "stand upon the height" verse embedded in the Communio for Advent 2 (mp3):

Jerusalem surge, et sta in excelso, et vide
jucunditatem quae veniet tibi a Deo tuo.
Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high, and behold
the joy that comes to thee from thy God!

Giovanni Battista Martini and Heinrich Isaac have both apparently written settings of this song, says CPDL (which BTW is now a registration-required site). I believe this must be the Heinrich Isaac piece, and it is very beautiful indeed:

Here's another version, not mentioned above, by one Giacomo Mezzalira. Nice, too!

Interestingly, there is another version of "Jerusalem, Surge," one used in Holy Week - it's the Responsory II of the Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday - which does exactly the reverse of what the reading above does!  Here's the chant (sung by Benedictines from Solesmes) with score, and the Latin text and English translations from CPDL below; CPDL says the texts come from Jonah 3:6 and Lamentations of Jeremiah 2:18:

Jerusalem, surge, et exue te vestibus
jucunditatis; induere te cinere et cilicio:
quia in te occisus est Salvator Israel.
Deduc quasi torrentem lacrimas per diem et noctem,
et non taceat pupilla oculi tui.
Arise, O Jerusalem, and put off thy garments
of joy; put on ashes and sackcloth:
For in thee was slain the Saviour of Israel.
Shed thy tears like a torrent, day and night,
and let not the apple of thine eye be dry.

And Gesualdo and Benedetto Pesenti have written settings of this one. Here's the Gesualdo, sung by the Hilliard Ensemble (sorry for the mournful Holy Week-ishness of this, but I can't resist Gesualdo):

So here's what must have happened:  the author of the responsory (I'm sure this must be the correct scenario) used the Jonah passage to respond directly to the author of the Communion Song/Baruch, using the converse of the image.  Isn't that wonderful?   And of course, this is done throughout the Scriptures, too; everybody is constantly responding to somebody else across time and space through their writings.

And this is what I love - more and more, actually - about the Scriptures of late. There are long drawn-out conversations and discussions going on throughout them - poets speaking in rhymes and rhythms to one another, and ideas picked up centuries later and elaborated upon - and we get to watch from this distant country. It's really beautiful.


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