At the Lord’s Table

In the Extraordinary Form calendar, this past Sunday was Quinquagesima, for which the appointed communion antiphon is this first-mode gem:

Manducavérunt, et saturáti sunt nimis, et desidérium eórum áttulit eis Dóminus: non sunt fraudáti a desidério suo.

They ate, and were satisfied in abundance, and the Lord gave them all that they craved: they were not cheated of their desire.

The text is adapted from Ps 78(79):29. This particular Psalm is a long exhortation to Israel recounting their history of suffering and redemption, sin and repentance, and God’s justice and mercy, written to instruct future generations “that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God” (v. 8). As adapted for this antiphon, verse 29 is entirely appropriate as a meditation while receiving the Eucharist, and at first blush it seems wholly consolatory.

That impression is tested when one reads the next few verses of the Psalm:

[30] But before they had sated their craving,
while the food was still in their mouths,
[31] the anger of God rose against them
and he slew the strongest of them,
and laid low the picked men of Israel.
[32] In spite of all this they still sinned;
despite his wonders they did not believe.

[36] But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
[37] Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not true to his covenant.
[38] Yet he, being compassionate,
forgave their iniquity,
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often,
and did not stir up all his wrath.
[39] He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again. (RSV)

There is consolation there, yes, but also a rebuke to our waywardness. Our points for meditation are twofold: first, the Eucharist, which is Christ himself, is that which we crave, which satisfies us in abundance when we eat it, and our God who loves us has not cheated us of our desire. Second, on the threshold of Lent, we recall that we have still sinned, disbelieving despite God’s wonders, flattering him with our mouths and not remaining true to his covenant, yet God is compassionate to us and forgives our iniquity when we turn back to him.

These two streams of reflection meet in the discipline of fasting we are about to embrace, in which our denial of earthly food is meant to remind us of our dependence on our daily and supersubstantial bread, the Bread of Life. Let us thus end in consolation, as the God whom we desire has promised to accompany us on our way, and he keeps his promises.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Holy Cross Catholic Church
Champaign, IL
5:30 PM

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Prelude O Sapientia + Magnificat
Offertory Veni, redemptor gentium
Communion Ecce virgo concipiet
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Christ the King

Holy Cross Catholic Church
Champaign, IL
5:30 PM

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Prelude Regnum eius (Graduale Simplex)
Offertory Kyrie fons bonitatis
Communion Meditation Vexilla Christus inclyta
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Bereavement Mass (All Souls)

Holy Cross Catholic Church
Champaign, IL
6:30 PM

Prelude Requiem æternam
Offertory Domine Iesu Christe
Communion In paradisum
Chorus angelorum
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Libera me, Domine

My mother-in-law died at the end of May. She had been ill for many years and was haunted by the memory of things for which she blamed herself, and perhaps by other things for which she was not at fault, but suffered nonetheless. One of her last requests was for a funeral in the Extraordinary Form, and thanks to the generosity of Fr. Scott Archer, Fr. Matthew Deptula, and Msgr. Stanley Deptula, she was buried with the full ceremony of the usus antiquior.

I had sung for many funerals before, but never one in the EF, and while I had the Mass pretty much under control, the burial service was almost entirely new to me. The first responsory at the Absolution quickly became my favorite piece as I practiced:

The mix of terror and hope, the dread in apprehension of the Latter Day mingled with the consolation that the souls of the just are in the hand of God (Wisdom 3:1), seemed to me an appropriate prayer, something that my mother-in-law and I would be comfortable praying together.

Today we pray for all the faithful departed, and that is fitting and just, but if you could spare an extra prayer for Mary Ann Zeilenga, I would be grateful.

Save me, O Lord, from everlasting death, in that dreadful day when the heavens and the earth shall be shaken, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

V. I tremble and am sore afraid at the judgment and the wrath to come,
R. When the heavens and the earth shall be shaken.

V. That day, that day of wrath, of woe, and of misery, that great and most bitter day,
R. When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: and may perpetual light shine upon them.

Save me, O Lord, etc.

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Gloria Cartusiæ

October 6 is the feast of St. Bruno of Cologne, founder of the Carthusian Order.

The Carthusians are famous as by far the most austere Western monastic order. Their motto is Stat crux dum volvitur orbis (“The Cross is steady while the world turns”), and of them it is said that Cartusia nunquam reformata, quia nunquam deformata (“The Carthusians have never reformed, because they have never deformed”).

Most Carthusian monasteries don’t allow visitors who are not discerning a vocation, but the 2005 documentary film Into Great Silence gives a glimpse of their life.

The Carthusians are also famous for one of the world’s great liqueurs, Chartreuse, with which they support themselves. The green variety is the official liqueur of the Sts. Gregory and Romanos Guild.

St. Bruno carefully guarded his humilty by refusing ecclesiastical honor in his lifetime, and the Carthusians honor his choice by not giving him his own hymn in their liturgy. Instead, he gets only the common hymn of a monk. Here is the Carthusian tune for it, transcribed into Roman square notes, with English translation by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936):

1. Serve Dei, qui únicum
Patris sequéndo Fílium,
Victis triúmphas hóstibus,
Victor fruens cæléstibus.

2. Tui precátus múnere
Nostrum reátum dílue,
Arcens mali contágium,
Vitæ rémovens tǽdium.

3. Solúta sunt iam víncula
Tui sácrati córporis:
Nos solve vinclis sǽculi
Amóre Fílii Dei.

4. Deo Patri sit glória,
Eiúsque soli Fílio,
Cum Spíritu Paráclito
Et nunc et in perpétuum. Amen.

1. Servant of God, whose strength was steeled
To follow close God’s only Son,
Well didst thou brave thy battlefield,
And well thy heavenly bliss was won!

2. Now join thy prayers with ours, who pray
That God may pardon us and bless;
For prayer keeps evil’s plague away,
And draws from life its weariness.

3. Long, long ago, were loosed the chains
That held thy body once in thrall;
For us how many a bond remains!
O Love of God, release us all.

4. All praise to God the Father be,
All praise to Thee, eternal Son;
All praise, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
While never-ending ages run. Amen.

The text is a variant of the anonymous hymn for feasts of martyrs Martyr Dei, qui unicum. There’s something deeply appropriate about that: the Greek root from which we get “martyr” means “witness,” and in the austerity and simplicity of their lives the Carthusians witness to the vanity of the passing world and the joy and stability of deep union with God. Stat crux dum volvitur orbis.

As usual, here’s a printable PDF version of the hymn.

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Carmina Angelorum

In my last post I mentioned that my family sings chant as part of our everyday prayer, specifically grace before meals. It’s not the only bit of chant I’ve incorporated into the daily round; we also sing the prayer to one’s Guardian Angel, using the tune for the hymn at Vespers during early Advent, Conditor alme siderum.
The idea is not original to me, coming rather from an old children’s activity book my wife had when she was a girl. I like that the meter of the prayer lets us use a hymn tune rather than one of the liturgical recitative formulas, thus adding a bit of variety.

In case you don’t like gathering around a warm computer to pray (doesn’t everyone? :) ), here’s a PDF for printing it off.

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Pure Spiritual Milk

Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal blog has an interesting article on how chant makes the liturgy friendlier for children:

Why Chant is Good for Children

A couple passages are worth noting in particular:

Music in the Roman Rite functions seemingly as an interlude to the actual work of liturgical praise. It’s like, “Hey, it’s getting wordy, let’s sing something to give people a break. Now back to the reading. We’re worshiping God!”

Last Sunday, we went to the Melkite Liturgy on campus. […] Despite our son’s lack of familiarity with the words on the page, he hummed along the entire time (sometimes even during the Eucharistic Prayer). With his slight speech delay, with his limited grasp of understanding of English, the chant allowed him to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice in a way that he rarely experiences.

I have seen the same behavior out of my children in similar contexts. My mom regularly attends Divine Liturgy at a Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish, despite my family belonging to the Latin Rite, and my children find the chant and ceremony of the Byzantine liturgy as enthralling as Mr. O’Malley’s son did. Likewise, my kids have a great deal of trouble staying focused in the midst of the wordiness of the modern Roman rite. They have certainly improved as they have gotten older and gained greater skill with language, but proper liturgical music still involves them more deeply than any amount of speaking can.

The kids’ behavior when they were younger prompted my wife to postulate the Toddler Test for Good Liturgy: if the liturgy bores the toddlers, you’re doing it wrong.

Outside of Mass, chant is great for involving children in devotional prayer as well. At my house we often pray what we call “Solemn High Grace” before meals, chanted in Latin, with the final Sign of the Cross in Ukrainian because Grandma’s church is cool, and my kids love it. It goes something like this:

A PDF is also available for making printed copies, should you want to try it with your family.

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Solemn Requiem and Absolution for Archbishop John Lancaster Spalding

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Peoria, IL
7:15 PM

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Ad Missam

Introit Requiem æternam
Kyrie Kyrie pro defunctis
Gradual Requiem æternam
Tract Absolve, Domine
Sequence Dies iræ
Offertory Domine Iesu Christe
Sanctus Sanctus XVIII
Agnus Dei Agnus Dei XVIII
Communion Lux æterna

Ad Absolutionem

Responsory Libera me, Domine
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Ut, A Hymn, A Latin Hymn

Happy Solfège Day! Wait, Happy Nativity of St. John the Baptist! Wait, they’re the same day!

Yes, today we celebrate both the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets and the musical mnemonic that enabled Julie Andrews to caper about the Austrian countryside.

The Italian monk Paulus Diaconus (c. 720-799) wrote a hymn in Sapphic meter for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which was eventually assigned to the canonical hour of Vespers. The first stanza is the key bit (emphases in bold are mine):

Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
mira gestorum famuli tuorum,
solve polluti labii reatum,
sancte Ioannes.

which in English goes something like this:

O for thy Spirit, Holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen,
So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

A couple centuries later, the Italian monk Guido of Arezzo (c. 991-sometime after 1033) found, or composed, a plainchant tune for this hymn, and he noticed that the first note of each phrase (except the last) made an ascending sequence. He got the brilliant idea to use the corresponding syllables of the hymn text as names for the degrees of the scale, and thus was born solfège:


Do, with its easy-to-sing open vowel, replaced Ut in the 1600s, and Si (from Sancte Ioannes) was added to complete a diatonic scale around the same time. Si became Ti in English-speaking countries in the 19th Century so that each syllable might begin with a different letter.

This evening, then, let us raise our voices to sing Ut queant laxis, and thank God both for Saint John and the ingenuity of our musical forebears.

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