℟. Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna in die illa tremenda, quando cæli movendi sunt et terra, dum veneris judicare sæculum per ignem.
℣. Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
℣. Dies illa, dies iræ, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde.
℣. Quid ego miserrimus, quid dicam vel quid faciam? cum nil boni perferam ante tantum Judicem?
℣. Plangent se super se omnes tribus terræ: vix justus salvabitur, et ego? ubi apparebo?
℣. Nunc Christe, te deprecor, miserere peto: qui venisti redimere, perpetim veni salvare.
℣. Tremebunt Angeli, et Archangeli: impii autem ubi parebunt?
℣. Commíssa mea pavesco, et ante te erubesco: dum veneris judicare, noli me condemnare.
℣. Vox de cælis: O vos, mortui, qui jacetis in sepulcris, surgite! et occurite ad judicium Salvatoris.
℣. Creator omnium rerum Deus, qui me de limo terræ formasti, et mirabiliter proprio sanguine redemisti: corpusque meum licet modo putrescat, de sepulcro facias in die judicii resuscitari: exaudi, exaudi, exaudi me Deus, ut animam meam in sinu Abrahæ patriarchæ tui jubeas collocari.
℣. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
℟. Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death in that awful day: When the heavens and the earth shall be shaken: When Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
℣. I am seized with fear and trembling until the trial shall be at hand, and the wrath to come.
℣. That day, a day of wrath, of wasting, and of misery, a great day, and exceeding bitter.
℣. What will I, most wretched, what will I say, or what will I do? Since I have accomplished nothing good to proffer before such a mighty Judge.
℣. All the tribes of the earth shall mourn for themselves: the just shall scarce be saved, and I? Where will I appear?
℣. Now, Christ, I beseech Thee, I beg Thee, have mercy: Thou who camest to redeem, come to save forever.
℣. The Angels and Archangels shall tremble: but the wicked, where shall they appear?
℣. I dread my misdeeds, and I blush before Thee: when Thou shalt come to judge, do not condemn me.
℣. A voice from the heavens: O ye dead, who lie in your tombs, arise! And hasten to the judgement of the Saviour.
℣. God, creator of all things, Who formedst me of the slime of the earth, and wondrously redeemedst me with Thy own blood: although my body should now rot, Thou shalt make it rise again from the tomb in the day of judgement: hear me, hear me, hear me, O God, that Thou mightst command my soul to be placed in Abraham’s bosom.
℣. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Although most of the great responsories of Matins have only a single verse, it was not uncommon in the Age of Faith to augment the more solemn instances of this repertoire with additional verses. The poignant Libera me responsory in particular enjoyed a remarkable wealth of verses already in the 10th century. It is the ninth responsory of the Office of the Dead when all three nocturns are sung (when only the third nocturn is sung, it is replaced by another responsory that also begins Libera me), and is also chanted after a Requiem Mass at the beginning of the Absolution at the bier. Additional verses were surely composed to provide additional solemnity for major funerals and for the special commemoration of the dead on 2 November, and also because this responsory was also frequently sung during funerary processions.
The verses Tremens, Dies illa, Quid ego (or its variant Quid ergo), and Plangent appear in the earliest MSS; the Tridentine books have only preserved the former two. In the Dominican use on 2 November, the verses Quid ego and a variant of Nunc Christeare sung in addition to the verses in the Roman books, while the Norbertine use has preserved the verses Quid ergo, Plangent, and Nunc Christe on 2 November and on the Office of the Dead sung upon the passing of a member of the community.
The prolix verse Creator omnium, with its beautiful melisma on jubeas, first appears later in the Middle Ages to be sung in procession after Requiem Masses, and it has been retained for this function in the Dominican rite.
Around the 15th century, a set of three rhythmic verses began to be sung with the Libera me responsory. Each stanza has seven verses of ten syllables with a cæsura after the fourth, and all three stanzas are sung to the same melody. Whereas the previous verses speak in the name of one of the dead begging for mercy on the Last Day, these rhythmic verses take up the voice of a narrator describing the Last Judgements, quoting Our Lord Himself as he separates the dead as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats. Our Lord’s words in praise of the saved and in condemnation of the damned are put to the same melody, with striking effect.
℣. Quando Deus filius Virginis
Judicare sæculum venerit,
Dicet justis ad dextram positis:
Accedite, dilecti filii,
Vobis dare regnum disposui:
O felix vox! Felix promissio!
Felix dator, et felix datio!
℣. Post hæc dicet ad lævam positis:
Nescio vos, cultores criminis:
Vos decepit gloria sæculi;
Descendite ad ima barathri,
Cum Zabulon et suis ministris.
O proh dolor! Quanta tristitia!
Quantus luctus! Quanta suspira!
℣. Jam festinat Rex ad judicium,
Dies instat horrenda nimium;
Et quis erit nobis refugium?
Nisi Mater Virgo, spes omnium,
Quæ pro nobis exoret Filium.
O Jesu Rex, exaudi poscimus
Preces nostras, et salvi erimus.
℣. When God the Son of the Virgin shall come to judge the world, he will say to the just on his right hand: Come, my beloved children, I have prepared a kingdom to give unto you. O happy word! Happy promise! Happy giver, and happy gift!
℣. Hereafter he will say to them who on his left: I know you not, workers of wickedness! The glory of the world hath deceived you! Go down to the depths of the abyss with the devil and his ministers. Alas! Oh, how much sadness! How much grief! How much sighing!
℣. Now the King hastens to judgement. That day exceeding terrible is nigh, and who shall be our refuge? None but the Virgin mother, the hope of all. May she pray for us to her Sun. O Jesus, our King, hearken, we beseech thee, to our prayers, and we shall be saved.
 The text of this verse manifestly inspired the sequence Dies iræ; even the first notes of the latter are based on the melody of the verse.
Nunc, Christe, te petimus, miserere, quæsumus; qui venisti redímere perditos, noli damnare redemptos.
A translation of a commentary on the Alleluia Qui Timent Dominum written by a monk of Triors on 13 October 2018, published on L’homme nouveau.
Alleluia. They that fear the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector. (Psalm 113, 19).
Here we have an original text that is neither a prayer of praise nor a prayer of petition. It is not the soul speaking to the Lord nor the Church addressing her Spouse, but rather a word of comfort that descends from on high. For once, one might say, it is God who speaks to men, passing through the psalmist, that experienced sage who encourages the people, inviting them to place their trust on the mighty deeds of the Lord throughout history. Psalm 113 (or 114 and 115 in the Hebrew tradition) is renowned (In exitu Israel) for its celebration of the mystery of the old Passover and especially the crossing of the Red Sea. In the second section, the psalm emphasizes the vanity of idols and the security, on the other hand, of trust in God. Three verses, from which this Alleluia takes the third, are addressed respectively to the people of God in toto, to the priests, and to those that fear the Lord, inviting them to place their entire faith and entire trust in God. The refrain of these three verses, which was surely taken up by the assembly, explains the reason behind this trust:
The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
They that fear the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
By choosing this last verse, the composer of this Alleluia seems to have meant to give the chant a universal scope. Those who fear the Lord does not refer only to Christians, but to all believers and even all men of good will. This is, therefore, a song of evangelization. We said above that it is God who speaks. It is also Christ who addresses his faithful servants as those who seek the truth. It is also the Church who encourages her children and does not hesitate to invite all of humanity to turn towards the only Saviour. This word that descends from on high does good for souls, but it is not only a word of comfort, but also a promise. The benefit of trust in God is not only feeling supported and protected by the tenderness and power of his heart and his arm; the true benefit it precisely to enter into an intimate relationship with God. And this intimacy is both a promise and a reality. I should say that the main benefit of trust is expressed more in the first part of the verse than in the second. Those that fear the Lord: that is the great benefit. To enjoy his succour and his strength is the result and recompense of love, but the fear of God is the cause of this trust and of everything that follows.
This leads us to say a word about fear: what does it mean to fear God? It is to dread him, yes, because God is dread-inspiring. He is the Infinite Being, All-Powerful, Transcendent, and we are nothing in his presence. But the Biblical notion of fear of God far surpasses this basic natural terror in the face of an invincible force. For the people of God, and especially its highest representatives, have experienced a force that is only exercised in the name of a love, a love that, more than any other quality, represents the very being of God. God is Love. Already in the Old Testament, the just had this intuition and experienced it. The fear of God, as it is sung in this Alleluia, and as it is desired by all men of good will, is reverence for his majesty, respect for his laws—especially those inscribed in nature—and finally the love of the creature who responds to the Love of the Creator, the love that is disseminated amongst men, the fear of hurting him who loves us so much and who has shown this in so many ways. This fear of God is the fear of children of the same Father. To live in this love is already hope; to already have the assurance of succour and protection from a love that shall never fail. Ultimately, this chant is suffused with the theological virtues: fear corresponds to charity, this charity begets hope, and hope is based on an act of faith. God is our help and our shield. Let us make this injunction ours, an injunction that is not strictly-speaking a prayer, but a true blessing as well as an infinite promise.
The first mode with its serene formulas seems perfectly suited to adorn this text. The melody of this Alleluia—which served as a model for the Alleluia Cantate Domino (of the 16th Sunday after Pentecost)—is very calm, full of trust, without any trouble or anxiety. The Church transmits this message full of sweetness and tenderness, doing so as a true Mother and also as a teacher, giving an example of total abandonment to divine protection.
After a sober and peaceful jubilus, the versicle is composed of two melodic phrases.
We admire the beautiful structure of the intonation, which is at once strong, slight, and serene. A starting note on Re, holding out on the double Fa, another hold on Sol, then a sober and fluid run up first to La then to Do in a well-developed and broad movement, before a smooth and gentle descent to the cadence in Fa. All of this forms a beautiful curve that is well-crafted, light and nuanced. The remainder of the jubilus is nicely contained in the Re-La fifth interval characteristic of the first mode with only one exception, the rest on the low Do in the second bar. Thus, despite the bright summit of the intonation, the jubilus is very modest, and one might say that the entirety of the piece unfolds in this quiet atmosphere.
The first word of the versicle (timent) is very developed on the melodic level. It begins with a typical first-mode formula that is often used for the intonation of introits. This melisma is very beautiful, very light, very legato, full of momentum and suppleness, barely holding the long notes that nonetheless make an fitting rhythm, sometimes on Sol, other times on Do, or La, or even Fa. It seems that it does not want to finish, and the unresolved final on La expresses the movement that carries it beyond itself to the object of its praise and reverential fear: the Lord, Dominum. On this word there is a little more movement, but without exaggeration. Most of all, it is suffused tenderness and profound veneration, showing that this fear is precisely a fear of love. After this very modest peak, the melody confines itself without exception to the Re-La fifth interval until the end of the first phrase. It is always very light and, above all, peaceful, without interruptions. By this balance, it marvelously attires the expression of hope. Second intervals are dominant, since of the 26 intervals in this phrase, 17 are seconds, against 5 thirds and a single fourth, and three unisons.
The second phrase begins piano, on adjutor, full of recollection, with a melodic repetition and a gentle insistence on Fa that makes God’s succour come to life. The rise that follows by degrees, before coming to rest on the final syllable, remains sober, but one feels that trust continues to suffuse the soul. This confidence grows ardent on protector, but it never really gushes forth; rather, it is sung in a sentiment of profound peace and interior gratitude, as the soul feels itself enveloped in the powerful yet gentle divine protection. Protector is often translated as “shield”, which evokes battle. The contrast between the melody and text is then all the greater and more significant: there is truly nothing to fear if one fears God and is defended by the strength of his love. In the second part of the melisma on protector, the melody inevitably returns to the lower range, with its soothing final cadence on Re.
Beginning with eorum est, the light and tranquil atmosphere of the jubilus of this beautiful, interior Alleluia returns. Once again, we are obliged to note that Alleluias do not always merely express external joys. This one is a contemplative chant, without excesses. It gives the soul that sings it the certainty of being loved, heard, and protected by the strongest of loves.
Until the French Revolution, the custom prevailed in the Royal Abbey of St-Denys to celebrate the Octave Day of its patron St Dionysius on 16 October with a Mass where all the sung parts—the Ordinary, the Propers, and the Preface—were chanted in Greek. The text was translated from the Latin original and set to the same music. The parts said silently by the ministers, including the Canon, remained in Latin.
This Greek Mass was manifestly an expression of the tradition that St Dionysius, first bishop of Paris, was St Dionysius the Areopagite, the Greek disciple of St Paul, philosopher, and first bishop of Athens, who abdicated his Hellenic see to go evangelize Gaul with his companions SS. Eleutherius and Rusticus. However, this custom was only the longest-lived instance of an erstwhile more widespread practice of singing Roman Rite masses partly in Greek. Several mediæval manuscripts survive that contain the Ordinary of the Mass in Greek, written in Latin characters: Doxa en ipsistis Theo; Pisteuo eis ena Theon; Agios, Agios, Agios; and O amnos tu Theu. The fascinating question of the origin of these missae graecae has not been conclusively settled, as we hope to discuss in a future post.
Here we provide a translation of the introduction to an edition of the Greek Mass in honour of St Dionysius published in 1777. The author discusses the origin of the Greek Mass, as well as the practice among the monks of St Denys and elsewhere to receive Communion under both species, also a vestige of a once more common practice.
Three things demand some remark and explanation: first, the origin of this Greek Mass, and of the Prosechanted therein; secondly, the Edition here provided; and thirdly, the custom of Communion under two species observed during this Mass.
On the Origin of this Greek Mass and its Prose.
As the learned Dom Michel Félibien writes in his History of the Royal Abbey of Saint-Denys, the moment when this Mass in Greek began to be celebrated in the Abbey cannot be pinpointed exactly. This use seems to have arisen from the identification of St Dionysius the Areopagite with St Dionysius the first bishop of Paris. This opinion originated, according to some, or was accepted, according to others, from the time of Hilduin, Abbot of St-Denys around the year 826, when ambassadors from Constantinople presented Emperor Louis the Pious with certain works attributed to St Dionysius the Areopagite, wishing, perhaps, to thereby suggest to the French that the first bishop of Paris, venerated from that time as one of the main Apostles of the Gauls, was the Areopagite himself.
Huilduin believed it, and in his thanksgiving letter to Louis the Pious—who had ordered that these works be placed over the tomb of St Dionysius, to whom offered them—assured the Emperor that nineteen miracles had occured at the tomb of the holy martyr the very night the works were placed there. Around the year 835, then, Louis the Pious, attributing his recovery of the throne to the protection of St Dionysius, assigned Hilduin to write a life of this holy bishop, whose relics were kept in his monastery. Huildin, happy to enhance the glory of his abbey and honour its patron, gladly carried out the Emperor’s orders. He says that everything he writes is taken from Greek and Latin authors, from the works of St Dionysius, from his ancient Acts, and, inter alia, from two Masses and some hymns. Were these Masses in Greek or Latin? We do not have the answer, but, as his view that St Dionysius the Areopagite was the same as St Dionysius the first bishop of Paris was prevalent throughout France from the time of his writing until the 17th century, it is quite possible that the monks of this abbey took the occasion to celebrate this Greek Mass every year on the Octave Day of their holy patron. Hulduin died shortly after Louis the Pious, around 22 November 840.
But whatever the origin of this use, it is certain that it is ancient, for this Greek Mass in the Roman Rite, as it is sung today, is marked by a ceremonial over five hundred years old. Moreover, as it is certain that Charlemagne and Louis the Pious introduced the Roman Rite into France at the beginning of the 9th century, the origin of this Mass must lie between the 9th and 13th centuries.
When the Congregation of St Maur took over the Abbey of St-Denys in 1633, it did not think it needful to change its customs, and hence has continued to celebrate the Greek Mass, without presuming to enter into a debate about the three different views that the scholars hold about St Dionysius. Some, like Hilduin, assert that St Dionysius, the first bishop of Paris, was the same as St Dionysius the Areopagite, first bishop of Athens. Others believe, following the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Dionysius, which are recognized as predating Hilduin, that another St Dionysius, different from the Areopagite, was sent to the Gauls by Pope St Clement. The third party holds, following Sulpicius Severus, that the faith did not reach the Gauls until the second century, and, following St Gregory of Tours, that St Dionysius was one of those sent to the Gauls in the middle of the third century. But ALL ARE AGREED in honouring St Dionysius as the first bishop of Paris.
The monks of St Dionysius have preserved the ancient Mass as it was handed down to them by their predecessors.
And so one should hardly be surprised to find in this Mass an Epistle taken from the Acts of the Apostles that makes reference to St Dionysius the Areopagite, and in the Prose, the martyrdom of St Dionysius is placed during the rule of the Emperor Domitian, whose persecution began in the year 95, and ended with his death in 96. It is remarkable that this Prose certainly supposes that St Dionysius came from Greece, as is clearly enough shown by his name, but does not say that he was the same as the Areopagite. The Greek Prose is simply a translation of the Latin Prose, and the Latin Prose or Sequence might have been written by King Robert, son of Hugh Capet, who died in 1031. It is essentially the same as the one sung in the diocese of Paris; only a few stanzas have been changed in the last few centuries. The chant is also essentially the same, with only minor differences.
François de Harlay, Archbishop of Paris († 1695), after having consulted the theological faculty of Paris about the reform of the Parisian breviary, decided that this breviary would follow the ancient tradition of the Gallican church about the identity of St Dionysius the Areopagite and St Dionysius bishop of Paris.
About Communion under Two Species
Most people who attend the main Mass in the Abbey of St.-Denys on Sundays and feasts pay no heed to something that might prove edifying to their piety, and remind them of one of the most respectable customs of the early Church: viz., that the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon receive communion under both species.
Immediately after the Kiss of Peace, which those in choir give one another during the Agnus Dei, the deacon goes up to the left of the celebrant, while the subdeacon betakes himself to the credence to pick up an empty chalice and a golden reed (chalumeau; Latin calamus, fistula) which he takes to the altar at the celebrant’s right.
While the celebrant receives the Body of Our Lord under the species of bread, these two ministers bow profoundly and say the Confiteor. Then, the subdeacon present the golden reed to the celebrant, who uses it to drink part of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ in the large chalice by sipping it. At this moment, all those in choir come together beneath the altar steps, with the deacon and subdeacon above them, and make a profound genuflection.
The celebrant, after having taken part of the Precious Blood, gets up and the deacon takes the chalice with one hand and the reed with the other. He remains beside the altar for an instant to give the celebrant time to adore the Saviour’s Blood. Then, the deacon and subdeacon, to the former’s left, go together to the Altar of Communion, preceded by part of the clerics in choir. This Altar stands against a pillar of the sanctuary, on the Gospel side. Here, the deacon, after having put down the chalice and reed in the hands of the subdeacon, goes back to genuflect before the middle of the high altar, where he receives Communion from the hands of the celebrant under the species of bread, as usual. He then comes down, genuflects again, and returns to the small altar. When he arrives, he again adores Our Lord and takes the reed from the hands of the subdeacon, with the end of which he takes the particle that the celebrant placed there after the fraction of the host. He takes it up to his mouth and swallows it, and then takes portion of the Precious Blood by sipping it.
Meanwhile, the sub-deacon does the same thing. He leaves the little altar after having adored the Saviour’s Blood and goes to the base of the high altar to make a genuflection, climbs the steps, receives Communion from the hands of the celebrant, and returns to take the rest of the Precious Blood with the reed which the Deacon gives to him.
This done, the deacon pours wine into the chalice for the ablution, drinks a portion of it with the reed, and ascends the altar to change the celebrant’s book to the other side. The subdeacon, after having taken his own part of the ablution, takes the chalice and carries it to the altar, where he purifies it along with the one used by the celebrant for his particular ablutions, then carries everything back to the credence.
On Maundy Thursday, although all the religious of the community communicate at the High Mass under the species of bread, a Communion under two species is made nevertheless by the deacon and subdeacon immediately before the general communion.
On the opening day of the general Diet that takes place at St-Denys every three years with a Solemn Mass of the Holy Spirit, on the Second Sunday after Easter, the ministers at the altar are members of this assembly. Nevertheless the deacon and subdeacon commune under the two species because they are monks of the same body of a single Congregation, which justifies the same privilege.
This ceremony, or rather this communion under two species, which appears to be a privilege and which is today effectively a very singular prerogative, is nothing more than the ancient custom of many churches of France.
Our Holy Father the Pope, in Masses at which he celebrates, gives the deacon and subdeacon communion not with two individual hosts but from half of the large host he consecrates at Mass, of which he puts a portion in the chalice after the fraction. Thus the pope communicates with only half of the host and then takes a portion of the Precious Blood with the reed. Thereafter, having divided the half of the host already eaten into into two parts, he gives one to the deacon, who takes with the end of the reed the part the Pope has left in the chalice. Then he takes a portion of the Precious Blood. The Pope thereupon gives the other part of the large host to the subdeacon, to whom the deacon gives the reed that he might take the rest of the Precious Blood. The deacon then puts a bit of wine into the chalice for the ablution, of which he takes a portion and the subdeacon the other.
The Lord Bishop of Chartres has informed us that on Maundy Thursday, he receives communion with the deacon and subdeacon under both species, with the difference that the bishop himself consumes the portion of the host he put into the chalice.
In the Abbey of Cluny, communion is received under both species on all Sundays and all Major and Minor Solemnities, which are called Feasts of the First and Second Order in the Congregation of St Maur.
Before Mass, the Sacristan prepares a credence on the Gospel side. He covers it with a very clean cloth, two candlesticks with their candles, a cross in the middle, and a chalice to give the ablution to those who received communion under the species of bread and wine, who use a reed given to them for this purpose during communion.
The deacon always performs this ceremony. After consuming the large host, the celebrant drinks a bit of the Precious Blood with the particle that is in the chalice. He then goes to the epistle side to make way for the deacon, who takes the chalice, takes it to the credence that has been prepared, upon which lies a corporal and a purificator. The two acolytes accompany him with their candlesticks on hand.
After the due inclinations and genuflexions, the deacon remains on his knees next to the credence, while the celebrant gives communion to the subdeacon (if he is not a priest) and to the two acolytes, professed monks who are called assistants.
The subdeacon and these two acolyte assistants then go to the small altar or credence and there receive communion under the species of wine by means of the reed. The deacon gives this reed to the subdeacon, putting it between his fingers, and then to the two others.
When all three of them have partaken of the Precious Blood, the deacon takes the chalice, in which there is still wine left, and carries it to the high altar accompanied as before by the acolytes with their candles. The celebrant consumes the remaining wine. Then the necessary ablutions take place, for the celebrant as well as for those who have communicated under two species.
This communion is not done under two species at Cluny at the great masses in commemoration of the dead, as it in at St-Denys.
The deacon who serves at the altar on the days of this communion is always a priest and he does not take part in it. It is his duty to keep the chalice on the credence and present the reed to the three communicants.
On the opening day of the General Chapter at Cluny, a ceremony is performed in the church which is considered a vestige of venerable antiquity. At the offertory, each of the capitulars goes up bearing a small bread to be consecrated for communion. They put it upon a paten held by the Lord Abbot General, kissing his ring and the paten. During communion, all the capitulars go up to the altar to receive the species they have offered, but they do not receive communion under the species of wine, except for the two acolytes assistants, as mentioned above.
This communion is a remnant of the ancient practice of many churches, which since the holy Council of Trent has become the precious prerogative of those churches that have preserved it. Indeed, the in records of this Council, collected by M. Dupuy, one finds that the ambassadors of the King of France pointed out to the Council legates that, if anything would be changed in what had been planned in the 21st session, it should be without prejudice to the prerogative of the Kings of France, who received communion under both species on the day of their Coronation and Anointing, and to the ancient custom of certain Monasteries of the Realm where the monks who were not yet priests also communicated under both species on certain days of the year. Although the Abbey of St-Denys was not mentioned specifically, it is certain that it was included in the ambassadors’ Instruction, as was the Abbey of Cluny. To-day, only these two monasteries have retained communion under both species, not by special privilege, as many suppose, but by uninterrupted practice in these two churches during the Solemn Mass of Sundays and the main feasts of the year.
Prose (prosa) is the usual Gallican term for a Sequence (sequentia).
Akin to the fistula, the reed used by the Pope to receive the Precious Blood in Papal Mass.
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.
We have previously seen how hardily if unsuccessfully the Castilians of Burgos defended their traditional Mozarabic rite against the efforts of King Alphonse VI, backed by Pope St Gregory VII, to impose the Roman rite. It is particularly interesting that the chronicles report that God’s judgement on the Mozarabic and Roman missals was invoked by subjecting them to a trial by fire, from which the former emerged unscathed whilst the latter burned. As we saw a fortnight ago in M. Henri de Villiers’ article on the Ambrosian rite, a similar event took place in 9th-century Milan, as recounted by Landulf in his Historia Mediolanensis.
Continuing the policy begun by his father Pippin, the Blessed Charlemagne attempted to establish liturgical unity in his kingdoms by imposing the Roman rite throughout, to the detriment of the Gallican and Ambrosian rites. The Gallican rite was indeed suppressed (although several of its elements merged into the Roman rite), but the people of Milan successfully defended their indigenous rite, and it has survived till the present day.
Landulf asserts that the survival of the Ambrosian rite was due to a test the conflicting missals were made to undergo, whence the Ambrosian book emerged with divine approbation. Later writers, such as Durandus, repeat his account.
Landulf’s history was written around 1080, when Milan was racked by the often violent conflict between the reformist pataria, backed by the papacy, and its opponents, who saw themselves as the defenders of the traditions bequeathed to Milan by St Ambrose. Landulf himself was a married priest who claimed clerical marriage was one of these ancient Milanese customs. In terms of the liturgy, the reformist popes who backed the pataria, such as Nicholas II, were also those who most forcefully attempted to impose the Roman rite on all the West, and the anti-patarini obviously became the great advocates of the Ambrosian rite. Since Landulf’s objective in writing his Historia is largely to defend what he considered to be Ambrosian traditions against Roman claims, some have cast doubt upon the veracity of his account of the events described here. Ludovico Antonio Muratori, in his Antiquitates italicæ, accuses Landulf of being prone to writing fables (pronus in fabulas) and specifically questions the story about how the Ambrosian rite survived Charlemagne’s persecution, although he grants it must have some grounds in truth, given Charlemagne’s known efforts to create liturgical uniformity in the Empire. Anton Baumstark suggests the story was circulated by Landulf in response to the efforts by Nicholas II to impose the Roman rite on Milan in 1060.
DURING the first years of Charles’s reign, when he was in Rome surrounded by magnificent and innumerable army of knights of the Empire, and Hadrian sat as pope, an immense synod was held with many bishops from all parts of the globe. During it, when they had discussed many and sundry matters, they unwisely set themselves against the holy rite (mysterium) of God and the blessed doctor and confessor Ambrose, scarcely or not at all recalling with what reverence and what love the blessed Gregory was once united by affection to the Ambrosian church. And so, as if blinded and demented, and bereft of any judgement, they sought to mar, as it were, and to darken, and, what’s more, to altogether destroy what was illustrious and for a long time stable and hallowed.
Charles, therefore, having informed by a number of bishops, set out throughout the whole Latin land to entirely destroy whatever he might come upon that was different from the Roman use in chant or the divine ministry, and bring it to unity with the Roman rite (mysterium). And so it was done: the Emperor went to Milan and laid waste to Pavia, which he loathed with unquenchable wrath on account of his enemy the Emperor Desiderius, whom the knights of Pavia had manfully defended against Charles with arms and wit. Then all the books marked with the Ambrosian label which he could grab ahold of by purchase or gift or force he either burned or took with him across the mountains as if into exile. But pious men, seeing so many such books, piously preserved them. Yet God, who sees and knows all things, and foreknows to investigate the hidden things of men’s hearts and open up souls and foresees the intentions of all, did not suffer what He had recognized as ordained by the Holy Ghost and drawn up by the bishop Saint Ambrose to the praise and honour of His name to be violated and torn apart by evil men.
However, Eugenius of glorious memory, a bishop over the mountains, a lover and as it were the father of the Ambrosian rite [mysterium]as well as its protector, and Charles’s spiritual father, set out to Rome, and found that the Apostolic Lord Hadrian, who was the first to give the rings and staves to Charles for episcopal investiture, had already been holding council for three days. He investigated all that had been done diligently and in order, for he was a sensible man, judicious in prudence and wisdom, mild of soul, serene of countenance, affable in teaching and words; and, as his dignity demanded, kinder than all, what seemed to him worthy of praise, he duly ratified. In the end, he wrenched out of them as if by force in what way or manner the synod had adjuged the Ambrosian rite (mysterium). When Eugenius heard their account, much frightened and grieved, calling himself a wretch with a tearful voice, with tears flowing from his eyes like water, he said:
“O woe is me, what will I do? The world and its judge have died: the all the world’s teaching, all that hinders the vanities of this life has passed away! The beauty of the entire Church, Latin as well as Greek, is darkened! The good, the just, and the holy are cast away! The column of the Church, the foundation of the faith, the champion of justice, the lover of the word of God is brought low! A brilliant doctor, renowned for his experience in all the arts, has been crushed! A most excellent rite [mysterium mysteriorum] has perished, on which Gregory, as the Lord and Most Reverend Pope, never dared to lay a finger, and from which Gregory, as teacher and doctor, devotedly drew so many wonderful and brilliant flowers and added them to the Roman rite [mysterio], where they remain to this very day.”
He recovered his spirit and energy, and then, backed by a papal order and the wishes of the majority of the Roman nobility and people, he recalled all the bishops, archbishops, abbots, religious, laymen and clergy who had been at the council to the court of the Supreme Pontiff, though they had departed Rome already three days before. When they had been assembled, the holy bishop Eugenius advocated at length in favor of the Ambrosian rite [mysterio], to which they had given such short shrift. Having heard him out, the foreign clergy recognized that he was an upright man and lover of justice, and began to wonder and feel ashamed. Need I say more? The Apostolic Lord, all the bishops, the whole clergy and the entire Roman people clamoured and insisted that both the Ambrosian book and the book of blessed Gregory should be placed upon the altar of blessed Peter by the religious, clearly sealed with the apostolic signet. Then all the doors of the Church should also be firmly sealed, and a three-day fast proclaimed, during which all from the youngest to the oldest should fast with fervent devotion. Then whichever book they should find open and unsealed by God’s grace they would hold fast to with unshaken devotion; and whichever they found unmoved and sealed they would burn, having been given the clearest possible permission.
And so it was done: after all the bishops and the entire clergy and people of Rome had observed the fast, on the third day, on Tuesday of that week on which the Ambrosians devoutly sing Misericordia Domini plena est terra [The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord] even to this day1, when all had come together for the unseen and unheard of miracle, in the presence of the Apostolic Lord the doors of the church were unsealed and opened of their own accord. When everyone had entered, they found both books as they had left them, sealed and altogether intact. Having seen this, whilst everyone marvelled and was astounded and groaned exceedingly, the books, breaking their ties by themselves, gave forth a great and frightful noise in the hearing of all, and opening themselves up by God’s finger, they were both opened so that one could not find a further page in one part more than the other.
Immediately everyone felt a great joy and burst out in tears. Meanwhile, having seen how both books appeared opened, all cried out as if with one voice, saying: “Let the Gregorian and Ambrosian rites [mysterium] be praised by the universal Church, confirmed and preserved entirely.” For they said, “It is determined that the will of almighty God and blessed Peter the Apostle is that these rites [mysteria] may be praised and steadfastly maintained by all the bishops of the globe.” Although to some these words seemed to be good, to others however they were difficult and very hard. Finally, it was highly commended by the Lord Pope and the other wise and discerning men that the Ambrosian see remain content with that rite [mysterio] alone by which she was ordered and exalted by blessed Ambrose, and that the rest of the globe that resounds with the Latin tongue should strive to keep the Gregorian rite diligently and carefully, to the exclusion of any other.
After all these things were over and done, Eugenius, exulting with great joy, reached Milan as if going to see his own children. In that city, a few days earlier, the Emperor, by order of the council that took place in Rome, wishing to wipe out the Ambrosian rite entirely from the face of the earth, had butchered many clerics in minor and major orders and eliminated all the Ambrosian books, which had been established according to Ambrose with respect to passages of the New and Old Testament as well as to the musical arts. Nothing indeed remained except for a missal, which a certain good and faithful priest had hidden and faithfully preserved for six weeks in the caverns of the mountains. Afterwards, however, with the aid of the most faithful bishop Eugenius, those wise priests and clerics who remembered much of the rite came together and, with God’s help, handed over to posterity what they had once come upon entire.
Karuli primi tempore, cum idem apud Romam imperii magnifice et inenarrabili militum exercitu stipatus frueretur, et papa resideret Adrianus, synodus inmensa multis diversarum terrarum episcopis congregatis celebrata est, in qua cum de multis atque diversis tractassent negotiis, indiscrete erga mysterium Dei et beati doctoris et confessoris Ambrosii sese intulerunt, parum aut nichil quantae reverentiae quantique amoris beatus Gregorius olim ecclesiae Ambrosianae per affectum contulisset, reminiscentes; propterea quasi caecati et ementati, et absque ullo iudicio, quod inclytum et per multa tempora firmum atque sancitum, quodammodo decolorare et obnubilare, et plus dicam, omnino delere aggressi sunt.
Edoctus itaque Karolus imperator a quampluribus episcopis, ut per totam linguam proficisceretur Latinam, et quicquid diversum in cantu et ministerio divino inveniret a Romano, totum deleret, et ad unitatem mysterii Romani uniret. Unde factum est, veniens imperator Mediolanum, devastata Papia quam ipse ira inextinguibili ob imperatorem Desiderium suum haemulum oderat, quem milites Papiae contra Carlonis imperium viriliter armis et ingenio tutaverant, omnes libros Ambrosiano titulo sigillatos, quos vel pretio vel dono vel vi habere potuit, alios comburens, alios trans montes quasi in exilio secum detulit. Sed religiosi viri tales et tantos libros videntes, religiose tenuerunt. At Deus qui omnia videt cunctaque cognoscit, et cordium occulta investigare et aperire praenovit animos et intentionem cunctorum praevidens, quod ad laudem et honorem nominis sui per Spiritum sanctum sancto Ambrosio episcopo dictante ordinatum noverat, violari aut a malis dilacerari non passus est.
Proficiscens autem gloriosae memoriae Eugenius transmontanus episcopus, amator et quasi pater Ambrosiani mysterii nec non et protector, pater spiritualis Karlonis, causa concilii Romam, invenit apostolicum Adrianum, qui primus annulos et virgas ad investiendum episcopatus Karloni donavit, iam per tres dies celebrasse concilium. Qui studiose omnia, ut gesta erant, per ordinem inquirens, prout erat vir discretus, conscilio ac sapientia providus, animo placidus, vultu serenus, doctrina et verbis affabilis, atque ut eius dignitas exposcebat, ultra omnes benignus, quod dignum laude esse sibi videbatur, competenter affirmabat: tandem qualiter aut quomodo super mysterium Ambrosianum sese synodus habuisset, quasi vi ab illis extorsit. Quod ubi Eugenius audivit, plurimum expavescens condoluit, et voce lacrimabili miserum se vocans, lacrimis velut aqua ab oculis decurrentibus inquit:
« O miser, quid agam? mundus et eius iudex periit; orbis doctrina, cuncta huius vitae quae vanitates sunt obfuscans, elabitur. Decus totius ecclesiae tam Latinae quam Graecae obnubilatur, bonum, iustum, sanctum eliminatur. Columpna ecclesiae, fundamentum fidei, assertor iusticiae, verbi Dei amator deprimitur. Doctor egregius omnium artium peritia imbutus disternitur, mysterium perit mysteriorum, de quo domnus et reverentissimus papa Gregorius aliquid sinistrum proferre timuit, de quo quanta et quam magna quasi lucidissimos flores beatus magister et doctor Gregorius curiose attrahens Romanoque mysterio interserens usque hodie adiunxit. »
Spiritu demum animoque resumpto, iussu papae et magna nobilium parte Romanorum cum plebis simul voluntate laudante, omnes episcopos, archiepiscopos, abbates, quoscunque religiosos, laicos et clericos, quos concilio interfuisse cognovit, quamvis per tres dies recessissent a Roma, ad curiam summi pontificis revocavit. Quibus congregatis beatus Eugenius episcopus de mysterio Ambrosiano voce benigna, unde incomposite tractaverant, multum conquestus est. Quo audito, extranei clerici cognoscentes virum valde probum iustitiaeque amatorem, partim satis mirari ac verecundari coeperunt. Quid multa? Ab apostolico et universis episcopis et a toto clero ab universoque populo Romano conclamatum et conlaudatum est ut librum Ambrosianum et beati Gregorii librum ambos super beati Petri altare optime sigillatos, videlicet evidentissime apostolico sigillo signatos, viri religiosi supponerent; quin etiam omnibus hostiis ecclesiae apertissime sigillatis, indito ieiunio per tres dies cuncti a minimo usque ad maximum devote ieiunarent; et sic Deo propitio, quemcunque apertum et reseratum invenirent, illum summa cum devotione et indubitanter tenerent; et quemcunque immotum ac sigillatum reperissent, illum evidentissima dispensatione comburerent.
Quod factum est, ieiunio ab episcopis omnibus et universo clero et populo Romano celebrato, in tertia die tertiae feriae illius hebdomadae, in qua Ambrosiani « Misericordia Domini plena est terra » usque hodie devote cantant, in unum universis convenientibus ad invisum et inauditum miraculum, ecclesiae ianuae stante apostolico reseratae et ultro apertae sunt. Quibus introgressis, ambos libros ut dimiserant sigillatos et omnino intactos invenerunt. Quo viso cunctis mirantibus valdeque obstupescentibus nimiumque congemescentibus, libri ligaturas per se rumpentes, sonum magnum atque terribilem audientibus universis, dederunt, et sese digito Dei aperientes, ita ambo aperti sunt, ut aliquis unam illorum foliam non inveniret plus in unam partem quam in alteram.
Itaque ingens gaudium omnes abruptis lacrimis illico invasit. Interea libris ambobus visis, qualiter aperti apparuerunt, omnes quasi una voce proclamabant dicentes: « Gregorianum et Ambrosianum misterium ab universa ecclesia laudetur confirmetur simulque ex toto teneatur. » Dicebant enim: « Ut haec mysteria laudentur firmiterque ab universis totius orbis episcopis teneantur, Dei omnipotentis et beati Petri apostoli cernitur esse voluntas. » At quibusdam hoc verbum videbatur fore bonum, quibusdam vero difficile atque durissimum. Tandem domini papae et aliorum sapientium atque discretorum virorum collaudatum est ut sedes Ambrosiana, in quo mysterio ordinata et a beato Ambrosio exaltata est, illo solo contenta permaneat, nec non cetera pars orbis, quae linguae Latinae vocibus resonare videtur, omnibus aliis praetermissis, Gregorianum studiose et curiose tenere studeat.
His omnibus rebus factis, finitis et terminatis, Eugenius gaudio magno tripudians, quasi ad proprios filios tendens Mediolanum pervenit. De qua urbe paucis antea transactis diebus imperator iussu concilii quo Romae interfuit, omne mysterium Ambrosianum desuper faciem terrae omnino delere desiderans, trucidatis multis clericis minorum et maiorum ordinum, omnes Ambrosianos libros, tam in sententiis novi quam veteris testamenti quam in musica arte secundum Ambrosium descriptos, abrasit. Nichil enim praeter missale remansit, quod quidam bonus atque fidelis sacerdos absconsus in cavernis montium per sex ebdomadas fideliter reservavit. Manualem autem postea astante Eugenio episcop[o] fidelissim[o], sapientes tam sacerdotum quam clericorum, qui multa memoriter tenebant, convenientes in unum, Deo opitulante, ut antea integer fuit invenientes, in posteris tradiderunt.
1. I.e. on the Tuesday following the Second Sunday after Easter.