Cardinal Schuster on To-day’s Offertory

sanctificavit
The Offertory Sanctificavit Moyses, with verses and St Gall neums, from the Offertoriale restitutum.

Unhappily, far too few of our readers will have had the opportunity to hear the entirety of today’s sublime Offertory, Sanctificavit Moyses. The Offertory chant was originally a responsory, like the Gradual: a respond was followed by one or more verses, whereafter the entirety or part of the respond was repeated. During the course of the Middle Ages, however, the verses fell into obsolescence, and the Tridentine books ratified this situation by keeping only the Offertory respond. 

It is curious that the Offertory verses did not see much of a revival in the 20th century, when so many liturgical scholars and reformers set themselves to counteract the results of what they saw as the issue of mediæval liturgical decadence. In fact, both scholars and reformers generally ignored the Offertory chant; as we shall discuss in a future post, this is likely because the Offertory responsory challenged the prevailing liturgical shibboleths of a fervidly reformist age.


The Offertory Sanctificavit Moyses, sung by Les Chantres du Thoronet.

Today we shall limit ourselves to reproducing a meditation on the respond and verses of the Offertory Sanctificavit Moyses of the 18th Sunday after Pentecost by Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, Archbishop of Milan:

Sanctificavit Moyses altare Domino, offerens super illud holocausta, et immolans victimas: * fecit sacrificium vespertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel. 

℣. Locutus est Dominus ad Moysen dicens: Ascende ad me in montem Sina et stabis super cacumen eius. Surgens Moyses ascendit in montem, ubi constituit ei Deus, et descendit ad eum Dominus in nube et adstitit ante faciem eius. Videns Moyses procidens adoravit dicens: Obsecro, Domine, dimitte peccata populi tui. Et dixit ad eum Dominus: Faciam secundum verbum tuum. 

℟. Tunc Moyses fecit sacrificium vespertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel. 

℣. Oravit Moyses Dominum et dixit: Si inveni gratiam in conspectu tuo, ostende mihi te ipsum manifeste, ut videam te. Et locutus est ad eum Dominus dicens: non enim videbit me homo et vivere potest: sed esto super altitudinem lapidis, et protegam te dextera mea, donec pertranseam: dum pertransiero, auferam manum meam et tunc videbis gloriam meam, facies autem mea non videbitur tibi, quia ego sum Deus ostendens mirabilia in terra.

℟. Tunc Moyses fecit sacrificium vespertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel. 

Moses hallowed an altar to the Lord, offering upon it holocausts, and sacrificing victims: * he made an evening sacrifice to the Lord God for an odour of sweetness, in the sight of the children of Israel.

℣. The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Come up to me in Mount Sinai and thou shalt stand upon the top thereof. Arising, Moses went up into the mount, where God appointed him, and the Lord came down to him in a cloud and stood before his face. Seeing him, Moses falling down adored him, saying: I beseech thee, Lord, forgive the sins of thy people. And the Lord said unto him: I will do according to thy word.

℟. Then Moses made an evening sacrifice to the Lord God for an odour of sweetness, in the sight of the children of Israel.

℣. Moses prayed to the Lord and said: If I have found favor in thy sight, show me thyself manifestly, that I might see thee. And the Lord spake unto him saying: for man canst not see me and live: but go up to the height of the rock, and I will protect thee with my right hand, till I pass: when I shall have passed, I will take away my hand, and then thou shalt see my glory; but my face shall not be seen by thee, for I am God, showing wonderful things in the land.

℟. Then Moses made an evening sacrifice to the Lord God for an odor of sweetness, in the sight of the children of Israel.

The Offertory is epitomized from Exodus xxiv, and tells of the solemn sacrifice with which Moses ratified the alliance between Jehovah [sic] and Israel in the blood of the victims. It is to be regretted [the original is stronger: è un danno], however, that in the Roman Missal this splendid Offertory is cut down to a single verse. In the ancient Antiphonaries this Antiphon [sic] rises to the grandeur of a true liturgical drama. The Law-giver, at the command of the majesty of God, intercedes for the apostate people, imploring mercy for them. The Lord answers him: “I will do according to thy word.” Then Moses, taking courage, begs the Lord to reveal him his glory. “No one,” replies Jehovah, “can see my glory and live; but stand upon this rock, and when my glory shall pass, I will set thee in a hole of the rock and protect thee with my right hand till I pass, lest my glory shall blind thee. When I shall have passed I will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back, but my face thou canst not see” (Exod. xxxiii, 13-23).

This narrative, clothed in the splendid melodies of the Gregorian Antiphonary, has a deep significance. The vision of the Godhead is not for those who are still wayfarers in this life, and probably, as the doctors of the Church hold, it has never been granted to any living man, being the privilege of Christ alone. Our mortal nature is unsuited to such a condition, which in itself would imply the actual but inadmissible possession of the highest Good. Faith, however, here comes to our assistance, and acts as a veil before the face of God, in such a manner that the rays of his glory enlighten our path without too greatly dazzling us, and without taking away from us the merit of virtue, which presupposes the liberty of the human will. 

(Translation by Arthur Levelis-Marke.)

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Part of the Offertory Sanctificavit Moyses, in the Codex Sangallensis 376.

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