Of all the many musical settings of Psalm
51 130, my favourite is Arvo Pärt’s. It is luminously simple, but it never fails to move me. Even if you’ve not heard it before, I expect you would find it not too difficult to sing along with the score, and what better day to do it?
Archive for the 'Church Calendar' Category
Of all the many musical settings of Psalm
Earlier this week was a special day in the Church calendar: Septuagesima. This is one of those days (together with Sexagesima, Quinquagesima, and Elevensesagesima) that has fallen into obscurity since the Second Vatican Council. To be honest, I’m not even sure they are still officially on the Church calendar, nor what their observance would involve.
I was delighted, therefore, to find this helpful little primer at The Low Churchman’s Guide to the Solemn High Mass:
A popular custom associated with this season is the “burying of the Alleluia.” Because “Alleluia” will not be said or sung from Septuagesima until Easter Eve, the preceding Sunday’s worship includes a special “Alleluia Office” – a variant of Solemn Evensong, differing from the normal Sunday office in that an Alleluia is sung between each verse of the Magnificat, a Te Deum with seventeenfold Alleluia is sung instead of the Nunc dimittis, and each word of the Apostle’s Creed is pronounced “Alleluia.”
I’m not entirely confident that our loyal churchman has all the details exactly right, but no doubt he’s doing his best, and I appreciate the help.
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also called the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, also called Candlemas. The Gospel reading tells of how the Christ-Child, brought to the temple for the first time, was received into the arms of St. Simeon and St. Anna, and of how Simeon sang a canticle that has been set to music hundreds of times since:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Here is Arvo Pärt’s setting, sung by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir:
We have a happy conjunction of festivals today: in the secular calendar it is New Year’s Day, and in the sacred we have the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. To mark the former, here is Tom Waits singing his inimitable “Auld Lang Syne”:
And to mark the second, here is Schola Antiqua of Chicago singing Josquin’s superb Ave Maria…Virgo serena, which ends (at 4:45 in this video) with an invocation of Our Lady under the title we celebrate today:
A very merry Christmas, one and all!
A very happy feast of Our Lady to everyone! Here is the Alleluia chant for today:
And here is Palestrina’s six-part elaboration of a related text, sung by Stile Antico:
A great sign appeared in heaven:
A woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
Sing ye to the Lord a new song:
because He hath done wonderful things.
Work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling.
– Epistle to the Philippians –
In the context of a discussion of Kierkegaard, Etienne Gilson touches on a matter fit for Lenten reflection:
Christianity’s own goal and solemn promise is to give each man eternal beatitude. It is both that promise and the way to fulfill it. Such a promise is for man of a literally “infinite” interest, and the only way for him to welcome it is to experience an “infinite passion” for it. In terms of the religious life, this means that the only answer a man can give to God’s message is a passionate will to achieve his own salvation, that is, to achieve his own infinite beatitude. A half-hearted effort to such an end would be quite out of proportion with it; it would not at all be a will to that end; it would not be that will at all.
On the other hand, if such a will actually arises in any man, it has to be the will to his own salvation, because what God has promised is actually to save him. Whether or not he was aware of the fact, Kierkegaard himself was merely repeating Bernard of Clairvaux, when he said: “This problem concerns no one but me.” And such indeed is the case, if the problem actually is to know how I myself can share in that beatitude which Christianity promises.
True enough, the same problem arises for each and every man, so that for an infinite number of men its solution, which is Christianity itself, is bound to be the same, but this does not mean that there is a general solution to the problem. Quite the reverse. Out of its own nature, this is such a problem as requires to be solved, an infinite number of times, once at a time; to solve it differently is not to solve it at all.
– Being and Some Philosophers
I like to do something to honour the feast of St. Thomas every year (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009). This year the day has snuck up on me, so I’ll simply use what I have at hand. I have been reading — or trying to read, really — Etienne Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers, in which St. Thomas’ metaphysics of being has a starring role. Here is a passage I highlighted:
This is a cardinal point in the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas. To posit substance as the proper receiver of existence (proprium susceptivum ejus quod est esse) is not to posit it as a “container” into which existence has but to flow in order to make it be. So long as there is no existence, there is no receptacle to receive it. Existence is here fulfilling an entirely different function. As we have already described it, the substance is “that which” exists, and it is quod est in virtue of its form. Form then is ultimate act in the order of substantiality. In other words, there is no form of the form. Consequently, should we have to ascribe “to be” or “is” to a form, it could not be considered as a form of that form. No point could be more clearly stated than is this one in the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas.
My emphases. Maybe I am just not getting enough sleep these days, but I’ll give a special prize to anyone who can state this a little more clearly.
In the meantime, here is something edifying: my friend Adam Hincks, S.J. has posted a short reflection on the principal lessons he learned from a recent course he took on Thomistic metaphysics: What I Learned from St. Thomas Aquinas.
A little late this year, but no less sincere: Merry Christmas!
Last week when I posted the music for the Advent compline antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater, Osbert pointed out that the same text has a solemn setting that is, in his words, “one of my favourite melodies in the entire plainchant repertory”. He has good reason to think so. I believe that this is the setting he was talking about:
Today being a great feast of Our Lady, I can hardly imagine a better day to start learning it.