Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Monastic Wisdom: Lenten Preaching Series"

From the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA.
Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist’s Lenten preaching series. We are pleased you can join us.

Each Tuesday in March, the 5:15 Eucharist at the Monastery Chapel will feature a sermon reflecting on a specific practice from the SSJE Rule of Life. After the service there will be a soup supper and further conversation with the evening’s preacher.
March 3 - Br. Kevin Hackett, on Silence
March 10 - Br. Bruce Neal. on The Grace of Friendship
March 17 - Br. Robert L’Esperance, on Engaging Poverty
March 24 - Br. David Vryhof, on Prayer and Life
March 31 - Br. Geoffrey Tristram, on The Challenges of Community Life

If you cannot join us in person, check here for a weekly update, featuring an audio recording of the sermon and suggestions for further reading.
We encourage you to join in the conversation by leaving your own comments here.

The SSJE has put out a Compline CD, "Guard Us Sleeping," which contains two complete versions of the service of Compline, plus nineteen hymns, all in English (and both services in Rite II from the U.S. Book of Common Prayer). This CD helped me start learning the Daily Office. Compline is the most mystical of the offices, I think, and a good place to begin.

Their website is really wonderful these days. See this section from this past Christmas, for instance: "Christmas: Unwrapping the Gifts." There is an audio file for each day, which opens (and closes) with a chanted version of "Of the Father's Love begotten," and contains a sermon/reflection on a Christmas theme. And here, Mary Oliver reads her poetry. You can also subscribe to a daily (during Lent) podcast of a reading of and reflection on the SSJE Rule of Life.
We Brothers welcome you to a share one of our daily practices: listening to and reflecting on a chapter of our Rule of Life.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 25), a new chapter from our Audio Rule of Life, read by a Brother, will be available each day, along with suggestions for prayer and reflection.

Lots of good photography and other things, too.

The Great Litany

Many Anglicans/Episcopalians will sing The Great Litany at Lent 1 Divine Service tomorrow. One such parish is St. Barnabbas Episcopal Church in Falmouth, MA, and they have kindly made available at YouTube a video of the sung Litany:

From the YouTube page:
The Great Litany is a wonderful part of our Book of Common Prayer. At St. Barnabas, we chanted the Great Litany on the First Sunday of Lent at the beginning of our Eucharist. Learn more about the Great Litany at and Visit us at
Litanies are a very old form of prayer in worship:
The word litany comes from the Latin litania, from the Greek λιτή (litê), meaning "prayer" or "supplication"....The frequent repetition of the Kyrie was probably the original form of the Litany, and was in use in Asia and in Rome at a very early date. The Council of Vaison in 529 passed the decree: "Let that beautiful custom of all the provinces of the East and of Italy be kept up, viz., that of singing with great effect and compunction the 'Kyrie Eleison' at Mass, Matins, and Vespers, because so sweet and pleasing a chant, even though continued day and night without interruption, could never produce disgust or weariness".
The Litany was the first rite developed in English, as well:
An intercessory prayer including various petitions that are said or sung by the leader, with fixed responses by the congregation. It was used as early as the fifth century in Rome. It was led by a deacon, with the collects led by a bishop or priest. The Litany was the first English language rite prepared by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. It was first published in 1544. Cranmer modified an earlier litany form by consolidating certain groups of petitions into single prayers with response. The Litany's use in church processions was ordered by Henry VIII when England was at war with Scotland and France. It was printed as an appendix to the eucharist in the 1549 BCP. The Litany was used in each of the three ordination rites of the 1550 ordinal, with a special petition and concluding collect. The 1552 BCP called for use of the Litany after the fixed collects of Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The 1928 BCP allowed the Litany to be used after the fixed collects of Morning or Evening Prayer, or before the Eucharist, or separately. The 1928 BCP included a short Litany for Ordinations as an alternative to the Litany. The 1979 BCP titled the Litany "The Great Litany" (p. 148), distinguishing it from other litanies in the Prayer Book.
Another source dates litanies "from before the fourth century." Here is the whole litany, at (and I'll copy it at the bottom of this page, too - it's long!). You can listen to one version of the Orthodox Great Litany at this page at, sung by the Eikona ensemble. (Eikona is, it seems, Greek for "Icon.") As promised, The Great Litany, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, in full, below.
The Great Litany

To be said or sung, kneeling, standing, or in procession; before the Eucharist or after the Collects of Morning or Evening Prayer; or separately; especially in Lent and on Rogation days.

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God,
Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ, our offenses, nor the offenses of our forefathers; neither reward us according to our sins. Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and by thy mercy preserve us, for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; and from everlasting damnation,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from allthedeceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and submission to the Law; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation,

Good Lord, deliver us.

By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension; and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost,

Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment,

Good Lord, deliver us.

We sinners do beseech the to hear us, O Lord God; and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church Universal in the right way,

We beesech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illumine all bishops, priests, and deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thyWord; and that both by their preaching and living, they mayset it forth, and show it accordingly,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to send forth laborers into thy harvest, and to draw all mankind into thy kingdom,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give to all people increase of grace to hear and receive thy Word, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants, the President of the United States (or of this nation), and all others in authority, that they may do justice, and love mercy, and walk in the ways of truth,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world; to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to bestow freedom upon all peoples,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives, the homeless and the hungry, and all who are desolate and oppressed,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the bountiful fruits of the earth, so that in due time all may enjoy them,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to inspire us, in our several callings, to do the work which thou givest us to do with singleness of heart as thy servants, and for the common good,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all who are in danger by reason of their labor or their travel,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve, and provide for, all women in childbirth, young children and orphans, the widowed, and all whose homes are broken or torn by strife,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to visit the lonely; to strengthen all who suffer in mind, body, and spirit; and to comfort with thy presence those who are failing and infirm,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to support, help, and comfort all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to have mercy upon all mankind,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; toforgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to thy holy Word,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to forgive our enemies,persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; to comfort and help the weak-hearted; to raise up those who fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant to all the faithful departed eternal life and peace,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant that, in the fellowship of [__________ and] all the saints, we may attain to thy heavenly kingdom,

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,

Grant us thy peace.

O Christ, hear us.

O Christ, hear us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Kyrie eleison.
Christ, have mercy upon us. or Christe eleison.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Kyrie eleison.

When the Litany is sung or said immediately before the Eucharist, the Litany concludes here, and the Eucharist begins with the Salutation and the Collect of the Day.

On all other occasions, the Officiant and People say together

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

V. O Lord, let thy mercy be showed upon us;

R. As we do put our trust in thee.

The Officiant concludes with the following or some other Collect

Let us pray.

Almighty God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son's Name: We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ear to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have asked faithfully according to thy will, may be obtained effectually, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Officiant may add other Prayers, and end the Litany, saying

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore.

The Supplication

For use in the Litany in place of the Versicle and Collect which follows the Lord's Prayer; or at the end or Morning or Evening Prayer; or as a separate devotion; especially in times of war, or of national anxiety, or of disaster.

O Lord, arise, help us;

And deliver us for thy Name's sake.

O God, we have heard with our ears, and our fathers have declared unto us, the noble works that thou didst in their days, and in the old time before them.

O Lord, arise, help us; and deliver us for thy Name's sake.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O Lord, arise, help us; and deliver us for thy Name's sake.

V. From our enemies defend us, O Christ;
R. Graciously behold our afflictions.

V. With pity behold the sorrows of our hearts;
R. Mercifully forgive the sins of thy people.

V. Favorably with mercy hear our prayers;
R. O Son of David, have mercy upon us.

V. Both now and ever vouchsafe to hear us, O Christ;
R. Graciously hear us, O Christ; graciously hear us, O Lord Christ.

The Officiant concludes

Let us pray.

We humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of your Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Come, true light

From Speaking to the Soul:
Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly you create,
refashion, and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved,
yet at every instant you are wholly in movement;
you draw near to us who lie in hell,
yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips;
yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my endless delight.

From Hymns of Divine Love by Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), quoted in 2000 Years of Prayer, compiled by Michael Counsell. Copyright © 1999. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Chant-related Google Alert (Yes!)

Last week, I signed up for "Google Alerts" on the topic of "Gregorian Chant" - I really did! - and believe it or not, this was in my Inbox today: "It's a Still Life That Runs Deep," a piece written about the Baroque painter Francisco de Zurbarán - by the contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen. In, of all places, the Wall Street Journal! It's a good article, and I'm really glad I was Googled.

Francisco de Zurbarán's "Still Life With Lemons, Oranges and a Rose" normally hangs on a back wall of one of the smaller rooms in the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena. Like a large black magnet, it draws its viewers from the entry into its space and deep into its mystical world. Completed in 1633, it is the only canvas the early Baroque Spanish master ever signed and dated.

We are shown a table set against a dark background on which are set three collections of objects: in the center, a basket containing oranges and orange blossoms; to the left, a silver saucer with four lemons; and, to the right, another silver saucer holding both a single rose in bloom and a fine china cup filled with water. Each collection is illuminated and placed with great care on the polished surface of the table.

But it is much more than a still life. For Zurbarán (1598-1664) -- known primarily for his crisply executed and sharply, even starkly lit paintings of ascetics, angels, saints and the life of Christ -- the objects in this work are symbolic offerings to the Virgin Mary. Her love, purity and chastity are signified by the rose and the cup of water. The lemons are an Easter fruit that, along with the oranges with blossoms, indicate renewed life. The table is a symbolic altar. The objects on it are set off in sharp contrast to the dark, blurred backdrop and radiate with clarity and luminosity against the shadows.

Here's the painting itself:

Then, Lauridsen talks about the Christmas matins responsory, O Magnum Mysterium, comparing it with de Zurbarán's painting, and then discusses his own composition using the same Latin text:
The Latin text for the Christmas Day matins responsory, "O Magnum Mysterium," also celebrates the Virgin Mary as well as God's grace to the meek:

O great mystery and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in their Manger!

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

(O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio!

Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum. Alleluia!)


For "O Magnum Mysterium," I wanted to create, as Zurbarán had in paint, a deeply felt religious statement, at once uncomplicated and unadorned yet powerful and transformative in its effect upon the listener.

I also wanted to convey a sense of the text's long history and theological importance by referencing the constant purity of sacred music found in High Renaissance polyphony, especially in works by Josquin des Prez and Palestrina. The harmonic palette I chose, therefore, is simpler and direct; the complex chords abounding in my "Madrigali" and "Canciones" are nowhere to be found here. Further, both the musical themes and phrase shapes in "O Magnum Mysterium" have their roots in Gregorian chant, with a constant metric flow and ebb.

The piece seems to float, to hover in the air, due to a predominant use of inverted chords, recalling the Renaissance practice of fauxbourdon. Inclusion of the "Alleluia" descant over sustained pedal tones references yet another characteristic of the era, and dynamics throughout are subdued, contributing to the aura of meditation and prayer.

The most challenging part of this piece for me was the second line of text having to do with the Virgin Mary. She above all was chosen to bear the Christ child and then she endured the horror and sorrow of his death on the cross. How can her significance and suffering be portrayed musically?

After exploring several paths, I decided to depict this by a single note. On the word "Virgo," the altos sing a dissonant appoggiatura G-sharp. It's the only tone in the entire work that is foreign to the main key of D. That note stands out against a consonant backdrop as if a sonic light has suddenly been focused upon it, edifying its meaning. It is the most important note in the piece.

Nice, eh? Who would ever have thought such an article would show up in "Google Alerts"?

You can listen to Lauridsen's beautiful O Magnum Mysterium at the WSJ link, too.

Attende Domine (The Lent Prose), 2009

I'm starting to get quite a few of the usual seasonal hits for this wonderful Lenten responsory that I first heard sung in procession at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue; according to TPL, it's a Mozarabic hymn from the 10th century.

Here's the English language version of the original Attende Domine, "Hear Us O Lord"; it's led by George Curnow, Senior Cantor at the Church of St. Martin in Roath:

EDIT: The St. David's Compline Choir of Austin, TX offers this mp3 of "Hear Us, O Lord" (the English translation of Attende Domine), with harmonized fauxbourdons refrain. Quite beautiful!

Here's the text, which comes from the translation in the English Hymnal of 1906:
Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee.

To thee, Redeemer, on thy throne of glory:
lift we our weeping eyes in holy pleadings:
listen, O Jesu, to our supplications.

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee.

O thou chief cornerstone, right hand of the Father:
way of salvation, gate of life celestial:
cleanse thou our sinful souls from all defilement.

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee.

God, we implore thee, in thy glory seated:
bow down and hearken to thy weeping children:
pity and pardon all our grievous trespasses.

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee.

Sins oft committed, now we lay before thee:
with true contrition, now no more we veil them:
grant us, Redeemer, loving absolution.

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee.

Innocent captive, taken unresisting:
falsely accused, and for us sinners sentenced,
save us, we pray thee, Jesu, our Redeemer.

Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee.

Also, from a "First Sunday in Lent" mass, offered by St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church in Edinburgh:

And then here's something pretty nice, too: an arranged version of Attende Domine, presented by singers from St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church, "a group of volunteering musicians in the Chicago area" who have "done several concerts over the past few years mostly for benefits in local churches as well as performances at The Cultural Center of Chicago." A nice job, and actually a nice arrangement, I think, too:

Here's the original Latin version of the responsory:
Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Ad te Rex summe,
omnium Redemptor,
oculos nostros
sublevamus flentes:
exaudi, Christe,
supplicantum preces.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Dextera Patris,
lapis angularis,
via salutis,
ianua caelestis,
ablue nostri
maculas delicti.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Rogamus, Deus,
tuam maiestatem:
auribus sacris
gemitus exaudi:
crimina nostra
placidus indulge.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Tibi fatemur
crimina admissa:
contrito corde
pandimus occulta:
tua, Redemptor,
pietas ignoscat.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Innocens captus,
nec repugnans ductus;
testibus falsis
pro impiis damnatus
quos redemisti,
tu conserva, Christe.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

About those Epiphanytide Office Hymns....

....I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, listed in Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books as hymns assigned "From the Оctave of the Epiphany until the 1st Sunday in Lent." Here again is that group, and the tune numbers prescribed for them:
From the Оctave of the Epiphany until the 1st Sunday in Lent:
On Sundays:

Mattins: Primo dierum omnium ... ... ... 15
Lauds: Eterne rerum Conditor ... ... ... 17
Evensong: Lucis Creator optime ... ... ... 19

On Mondays:

Mattins: Somno refeftis artubus... ... ... 15
Lauds: Splendor Paterne glorie... ... ... 17
Evensong: Immense celi Conditor... ... ... 20

On Tuesdays:

Mattins: Consors Paterni luminis... ... ... 15
Lauds: Ales diei nuncius ... ... ... 17
Evensong: Telluris ingens Conditor... ... ... 20

On Wednesdays:

Mattins: Rerum Creator optime... ... ... 15
Lauds: Nox et tenebre et nubila... ... ... 17
Evensong: Celi Deus sanctissime ... ... ... 20

On Thursdays:

Mattins: Nox atra rerum contegit... ... ... 15
Lauds: Lux ecce surgit áurea... ... ... 17
Evensong: Magne Deus potencie... ... ... 20

On Fridays:

Mattins: Tu Trinitatis Unitas... ... ... 15
Lauds: Eterna celi Gloria... ... ... 17
Evensong: Plasmator hominis, Deus... ... ... 20

On Saturdays

Mattins: Summe Deus clemencie ... ... ... 15
Lauds: Aurora iam spargit polum ... ... ... 17
Evensong: Deus, Creator omnium ... ... ... 21

Well, I'm realizing now that this is the same list of Office hymns that TPL lists in its Tempus per Annum (Ordinary Time) section. In other words, these are the hymns to be sung throughout the year (according to TPL), on days not part of special saints' days or seasonal celebrations.  [EDIT:  Since I wrote this post, I've found audio files for most of these hymns; see The "Weekday Propers Sung," according to the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood to hear them.  I need to go through them to see if the melodies given above match - and will also write a post about the hymns themselves at some point.]

At first I thought that Hymn melodies was merely prescribing certain tunes for these hymns during Epiphanytide - tunes different from those sung at other times of the year. But in fact, as far as I can tell, Hymn melodies does something else entirely: it assigns hymns by season precisely, and does not assign hymns to the days of the week at all. The same hymn, in other words, is sung each day at Lauds during the season of Advent, for instance - Vox clara ecce intonat, it happens to be - and a different one - Ecce iam noctis - is sung each day, for another instance, "From the Octave of Corpus Christi until Advent."

In other words, the only time (in the Sarum Use) that these 21 hymns are sung is during Epiphanytide - as opposed to the Catholic (and I think Lutheran as well, given what I find on the LLPB site, and then perhaps others as well) system of singing those 21 hymns whenever the day is a feria (not a feast of any kind, that is). I should add that the Anglican religious communities I'm familiar with use the 21-hymn system, not the Sarum system. I wonder if this simply reflects an older practice, and I only know about this difference because I've been using Hymn melodies for research? All very nteresting, in any case!

Anyway, below again are the chant scores for those listed tunes. I can say right away that tune #17, prescribed for Lauds hymns during the week, is the same one used by the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood (and one I know from my own experience, too); here's an mp3 with the tune (the Monday Lauds hymn, called "O Splendor of God's glory bright" - Splendor paternae gloriae at TPL - by the LLBP).

Also that tune #20, prescribed for Vespers hymns during the week, is the same one used by LLPB; here's an mp3 with the tune (the Tuesday Vespers hymn, called "Earth's Mighty Maker" - Telluris ingens Conditor at TPL - by the LLBP).

I may post again if I find others of these melodies online:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bless Thou the Lord, O My Soul

I'm nuts for singing Orthodox (and Orthodox-ish) music these days. The melodies (and harmonies) are almost always pretty simple; it's the dynamics that give these songs their impact - and working on dynamics like this is really good for breathing, which is so key in singing everything.

We sang Bogoroditse Dyevo (the Orthodox "Hail Mary") at Christmas:

And this morning as the Motet after Communion we sang the beautiful Bless Thou the Lord, O My Soul, by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov; I believe this is a setting used in the Russian Orthodox liturgy - and specifically (unless I'm reading this all wrong), Ippolitov-Ivanov's "Liturgy of John Crysostom." You can download the whole liturgy in PDF form (found at this page); go to page 6, "No. 2" for Blagoslovi dushe moya Gospoda, "Bless Thou the Lord, O My Soul."

If you're feeling patient (or feeling like skipping ahead) you can listen to it sung by the Minnesota Compline Choir on this .wma recording, at about 19:50; follow along with No. 2 above, too! The translation we used today was better, IMO, but the music is the same in either case. (And don't forget: you can always listen to the whole service of Compline, and sing along with the parts you know, just before bedtime tonight, too. Heh.)

Here's another version, not the one we sang today, but gorgeous: Blagoslovi dushe moya Gospoda, in a modern setting by Sergei Tolstokulakov:

The note says that "Bless the Lord, O my soul" is "the first antiphon of the liturgy." A place of key importance!

Here's another, labeled Blagoslovi Dushe Moya Gospoda (Vespers):

The note on that page says:
The first psalm (Psalm 103, Septuagint numbering) of the Vechernya ("evening service, Vespers) in the Ipatiev Monastery Chant, with harmonisation by Archimandrite Matfei Mormil, the grand old man of modern Russian Orthodox chant.

That's Psalm 104, for us 'Piskies.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.

7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.

8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.

9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.

10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.

11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.

13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.

14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;

17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.

18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.

19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.

22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.

23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.

29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.

32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.

33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.

(I have to say it amazes me that each time I read a Psalm, there are portions of it I could swear I've never seen before! I've read or sung all the Psalms literally dozens (if not hundreds) of times each - and yet something is always new; it's really uncanny - but it demonstrates perfectly why Psalms are the "worship of the church" and utterly timeless.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

"Praise the Lord and Green the Roof"

An article in the New York Times today about the (Episcopal) Community of the Holy Spirit in New York:
SISTER FAITH MARGARET, wearing a turquoise corduroy jacket, a flowered blouse and a wooden cross on a chain around her neck, set down a plate of freshly baked oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies on the table in the conference room of her convent on 113th Street in Morningside Heights.

Sister Claire Joy, attired in her order’s elective habit of navy robe and black rope belt, poured glasses of cold tap water. Six other men and women were seated around the table on this gray autumn afternoon, dressed in business casual.

Spread out in front of them were BlackBerrys, legal pads and architectural blueprints, along with a few samples of bricks of varying color and texture that the sisters were considering for their new “green” convent, to be built in West Harlem.

“This is the Palmetto brick?” asked Sister Claire Joy, rubbing her fingers along a sample from a South Carolina company. “I really love these crunchy-looking bricks myself.”

“And are any of these local?” she asked. “We really want to use as many indigenous materials as we can.”

“I think most of these samples here are from Pennsylvania,” replied Stephen Byrns of BKSK Architects, the Chelsea firm that is handling the project. As his colleague Julie Nelson spread out the blueprint for the new convent’s chapel, members of the group proceeded to debate the relative merits of stone, bamboo or cork for the chapel floor, as well as of different kinds of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

In setting out to construct an environmentally advanced building to replace the trio of connected brownstones that they now call home, the Episcopal sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit were taking a giant step in their decade-long journey to weave ecological concerns into their daily ministry. While they have long tried to reduce their carbon footprint at 113th Street, the new convent, for which construction will begin in March, will help them be green from the ground up.

Of the 14 firms that the sisters had invited to submit proposals, BKSK ultimately wooed them with a plan that features rooftop gardens, water heated by solar power, rainwater collection, natural light and ventilation and the use of environmentally sensitive materials throughout.

BKSK is no stranger to this field; the firm has also designed a new green building at the Queens Botanical Garden and is drawing up plans for what will potentially be a new “eco-synagogue,” the Sephardic Synagogue, in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Now it is the sisters’ turn to go an even deeper shade of green, which raises the question: Why would a community of nuns, devoted as they presumably are to spiritual matters, take the relatively unusual step of embracing environmentalism so energetically?

“It’s a question of stewardship,” said Sister Faith Margaret, a Staten Island native. “Of responsibility.”

The green convent that the architects were discussing on this fall day seemed a far cry from their current convent, which is known as St. Hilda’s House. Yet a close look at St. Hilda’s reveals the same environmentalism that is shaping the new building.

Dotting the walls of the conference room — a long space filled with a hodgepodge of slightly faded furniture and painted with a thick coat of cream-colored paint — were framed paintings of rivers, forests and planet earth, along with assorted wildlife scenes. Underneath fluorescent lights, copies of National Geographic, Scientific American, Solar Today and World Ark sat neatly organized on a bookshelf, next to a slim book bearing the title “Mainstreaming Renewable Energy in the 21st Century.”

The site of the new building, on Convent Avenue at 150th Street, is currently an empty lot. But if all goes as planned, then by the spring of 2010, the eight nuns of the Community of the Holy Spirit, most of whom are in their 50s and 60s, will be living in a home that reflects the environmental ethos that has become a central tenet of their lives.

The sisters approached Columbia University about buying the sisters’ current building, and Columbia has also taken over the complex task of obtaining the construction permits required for the new convent. Although neither the sisters nor Columbia would cite specific costs, the nuns did say that the new building will be entirely financed by the sale of the old one, with money left over to create an endowment for their order.

When the work is completed, after 57 years in the shadow of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine a few blocks away, the sisters will have accomplished their mission of scaling down both their space and their ecological footprint.

More at the link, including some photographs. HT Daily Office Blog.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More about Letabundus

I've found the Latin words for Letabundus - or some of them, anyway - in these program notes of a Christmas concert sung by the "Blue Heron Choir," (here's the mp3 again, so you can follow along):
Letabundus exsultet fidelis chorus:
Regem regum
intacte profudit thorus:
res miranda.
Angelus consilii
natus est de virgine,
sol de stella,
Sol occasum nesciens,
stella semper rutilans,
semper clara.
Sicut sidus radium,
profert Virgo Filium,
pari forma.
Neque sidus radio,
neque mater filio,
fit corrupta.
Cedrus alta Libani
conformatur hyssopo
valle nostra.

Full of joy,
let the chorus of the faithful exult:
The King of Kings
is brought forth from an intact womb,
a thing of wonder.
The Angel of Counsel
is born of a virgin,
the sun from a star:
A sun that knows no setting,
a star ever shining,
always bright.
As a star its ray,
the Virgin produces her Son,
alike in form.
Neither the star by its ray,
nor the mother by her son,
is corrupted.
The tall cedar of Lebanon
is formed by the low hyssop
in our valley.

Here's another interesting note in that program:
Finally, a word on words. Our human nature, too, is double, containing both good and evil, and it is a bitter truth that some of the most joyous Christmas texts are marred by venomous barbs aimed at Jews and others regarded by Christianity as unbelievers; some of these were set to beautiful music. There is no single solution to this problem. Our choice is to emend the texts so that we can sing them wholeheartedly, and Richard Tarrant and Larry Rosenwald devised good solutions for Nova vobis gaudia and Letabundus. As for the Middle English of the carols, we sing it as if it were modern English, our own mother tongue. We lose thereby the savor of
the original pronunciation (insofar as we can know what that was), but gain immediacy in understanding and in communication between singer and listener.
Again, no solution is perfect; for those who wish to enjoy the original texts, we have included them among the printed texts

I hadn't noticed these "barbs" in Letabundus, actually; I'd only read through about half of the hymn. I totally understand what he means by wanting to sing these hymns "wholeheartedly" - but being unable to do so as they were originally written; I run into that problem all the time.

So why not rewrite them - and at the same time make sure to write program notes like the above? There's no denying the reality of the pain and damage caused by the Christian church and its people in their (our) sinfulness, and we shouldn't sweep it under the rug - but at the same time, is there any reason to sing words that today we recognize as having caused much pain? I don't think so.

Monday, February 02, 2009

"The Feast of the Purification of the B. V. Mary (Feb. 2)" (also called "Candlemas," and "The Presentation")

From Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum Service books:
On the Feast of the Purification of the B. V. Mary (Feb. 2):
1st Evensong: Quod chorus vatum ... ... ... 56
Mattins: Quem terra, pontus, ethera ... ... ... 63
Lauds: O gloriosa femina ... ... ... 63
2nd Evensong: Letabundus ... ... Sequence, p. 11
       (But in Septuagesima, Quod chorus vatum as above).

Our current Book of Common Prayer calls this feast "The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple," a name that supplants the older names - "Purification" or "Candlemas" - for what had been for hundreds of years a Marian feast.  

All that is to explain the reason that most of these hymns are used at other Marian feasts - the Nativity of the BVM, Annunciation, and the (August 15) Feast of the BVM, to name three - and I will borrow from previous posts to discuss them.

One hymn, though, that I haven't come across before is Quod chorus vatum, sung to tune #56:

This melody is the same one Hymn melodies often gives for Iste Confessor (as here for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours); the tune is the one on this mp3, from the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood. (The words sung on that sound file are those of Iste Confessor, not Quod chorus vatum.)

Quod chorus vatum is attributed to attributed to Rabanus Maurus (ca.776-856), and is another hymn in Sapphic meter (11 11 11 5). Here are the words, in Latin:
Quod chorus vatum venerandus olim
Spiritu Sancto cecinit repletus,
in Dei factum genitrice constat
esse Maria.

Haec Deum cæli Dominumque terræ
virgo concepit peperitque virgo,
atque post partum meruit manere

Quem senex iustus Simeon in ulnis
in domo sumpsit Domini, gavisus
ob quod optatum proprio videret
lumine Christum.

Tu libens votis, petimus, precantum,
regis æterni genetrix, faveto,
clara quæ fundis Geniti benigni
munera lucis.

Christe, qui lumen Patris es superni,
qui Patris nobis reseras profunda,
nos fac æterne tibi ferre laudes
lucis in aula.

The English translation, by Thomas A. Lacey, is: All prophets hail thee, from of old announcing:
All prophets hail thee, from of old announcing,
by the inbreathèd Spirit of the Father,
God's Mother, bringing prophecies to fullness
Mary the maiden.

Thou the true Virgin Mother of the Highest,
bearing incarnate God in awed obedience,
meekly acceptest for a sinless offspring

In the high temple Simeon receives thee,
takes to his bent arms with a holy rapture
that promised Savior, vision of redemption,
Christ long awaited.

Now the fair realm of paradise attaining,
and to thy Son's throne, Mother of the Eternal,
raisèd all glorious, yet in earth's devotion
join with us always.

Glory and worship to the Lord of all things
pay we unresting, who alone adorèd,
Father and Son and Spirit, in the highest
reigneth eternal.

Here is the chant score for #63 from Hymn Melodies:

Here's an mp3 of the cantor from LLPB singing melody #63 above; this is "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky" (the English version of Quem terra, pontus, ethera posted at Oremus Hymnal). Here are the words listed there:
The God whom earth and sea and sky
adore and laud and magnify,
whose might they own, whose praise they swell,
in Mary's womb vouchsafed to dwell.

The Lord whom sun and moon obey,
whom all things serve from day to day,
was by the Holy Ghost conceived
of her who through his grace believed.

How blessed that Mother, in whose shrine
the world's Creator, Lord divine,
whose hand contains the earth and sky,
once deigned, as in his ark, to lie.

Blessed in the message Gabriel brought,
blessed by the work the Spirit wrought;
from whom the great Desire of earth
took human flesh and human birth.

O Lord, the Virgin-born, to thee
eternal praise and glory be,
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.


Words: attributed to Fortunatus, sixth century;
trans. John Mason Neale, 1854

Music: St. Ambrose, O Amor quam ecstaticus, Quem terra, pontus, aethera

This one and O gloriosa femina (or sometimes "O gloriosa domina") are sung to the same tune.

Here's a page from the Poissy Antiphonal that includes both of these hymns - but the melodies seem quite different:

Here are the words, in Latin and English:
O gloriosa Domina
excelsa super sidera,
qui te creavit provide,
lactasti sacro ubere.

Quod Eva tristis abstulit,
tu reddis almo germine;
intrent ut astra flebiles,
Caeli fenestra facta es.

Tu regis alti janua
et porta lucis fulgida;
vitam datam per Virginem,
gentes redemptae, plaudite.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
in sempiterna secula. Amen.

O Heaven's glorious mistress,
elevated above the stars,
thou feedest with thy sacred breast
him who created thee.

What miserable Eve lost
thy dear offspring to man restors,
the way to glory is open to the wretched
for thou has become the Gate of Heaven.

Thou art the door of the High King,
the gate of shining light.
Life is given through a Virgin:
Rejoice, ye redeemed nations.

Glory be to Thee, O Lord,
Born of a Virgin,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
world without end. Amen.

And here again is Letabundus, the Christmas Sequence Hymn, sung at Second Vespers; a wonderful way to bookend the entire Christmas season. Here's a lovely version, sung by the Gregorian Singers of the Cremona Church of Sant’Abbondio:

Here's the score, from Hymn Melodies for the whole year from the Sarum service-books:

Here's an image of the score from the same source:

"From the Оctave of the Epiphany until the 1st Sunday in Lent"

I have already posted the Office hymns for Epiphany and its Octave - but imagine my surprise at finding, in Hymn melodies for the whole year from the Sarum Service books, something I'd never noticed before at all: a long section titled, "From the Оctave of the Epiphany until the 1st Sunday in Lent." There are 3 different hymns listed for every day of the week here - 21 different hymns all together.

I have finally begun to create posts for each of the weekdays for this period, and will add links here as they go up.  Meanwhile you can listen to audio files of most of these hymns at The "Weekday Propers Sung," according to the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood; the LLPB use is just about the same as the Sarum (although you won't find Mattins hymns there).  FYI, the LLPB prescribes these hymns for all "ordinary time" periods during the year:  for the short period between Epiphany and Lent, and also for the long period between Pentecost and Advent.

(Follow along with the Offices for this Octave and the weeks following here, at Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885).   I'll link-in via iFrame at the bottom of this post, too.)
From the Оctave of the Epiphany until the 1st Sunday in Lent:
On Sundays:

Mattins: Primo dierum omnium ... ... ... 15
Lauds: Eterne rerum Conditor ... ... ... 17
Evensong: Lucis Creator optime ... ... ... 19

On Mondays:

Mattins: Somno refeftis artubus... ... ... 15
Lauds: Splendor Paterne glorie... ... ... 17
Evensong: Immense celi Conditor... ... ... 20

On Tuesdays:

Mattins: Consors Paterni luminis... ... ... 15
Lauds: Ales diei nuncius ... ... ... 17
Evensong: Telluris ingens Conditor... ... ... 20

On Wednesdays:

Mattins: Rerum Creator optime... ... ... 15
Lauds: Nox et tenebre et nubila... ... ... 17
Evensong: Celi Deus sanctissime ... ... ... 20

On Thursdays:

Mattins: Nox atra rerum contegit... ... ... 15
Lauds: Lux ecce surgit áurea... ... ... 17
Evensong: Magne Deus potencie... ... ... 20

On Fridays:

Mattins: Tu Trinitatis Unitas... ... ... 15
Lauds: Eterna celi Gloria... ... ... 17
Evensong: Plasmator hominis, Deus... ... ... 20

On Saturdays

Mattins: Summe Deus clemencie ... ... ... 15
Lauds: Aurora iam spargit polum ... ... ... 17
Evensong: Deus, Creator omnium ... ... ... 21

Here are the five chant scores used during this period:

Here's the peek-in to the SSM Breviary:


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