INTROITUS: New Pray Tell Series

INTRODUCTION: Today Pray Tell begins a new series, “Introitus,” providing short commentaries on the Latin Gregorian Chant introit antiphon for each Sunday and also for solemnities and special occasions. The author is Pray Tell’s own Dr. Liborius Lumma, liturgy professor at Innsbruck University and board member of the German section of the International Association for Studies of Gregorian Chant (AISCGre). Each commentary will first appear as a featured post on the Tuesday before the coming Sunday, and after a day or two it will move to the Plaza. In each case a link will be provided to the “corrected” melody as found at Anton Stingl’s Gregor und Taube (Gregory and the Dove). All the posts will be indexed under the Series link at the top of our page.

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January 1: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

The new year starts with a solemnity that could not be more complicated. Established in 1960, this day is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, to whose protection we entrust the new year. It is also the end of the Christmas Octave and – according to the Biblical chronology (Luke 2:21) – the day of Jesus’ circumcision, which is the Gospel reading in the Mass.

That is a lot for one single day, hence the Roman ordo offers a choice of two introits:

Salve sancta Parens, enixa puerpera Regem, qui caelum terramque regit in saecula saeculorum.

(Hail, holy Mother, giving birth to the King who reigns over heaven and earth unto the ages of ages.)

or

Lux fulgebit hodie super nos: quia natus est nobis Dominus: et vocabitur Admirabilis, Deus, Princeps pacis, Pater futuri saeculi: cuius regni non erit finis.

(Radiant light will shine over us today, for the Lord is born for us, and he will be called the admirable, God, prince of peace, father of the future age; his kingdom will never end,” a compilation of verses of Is. 9).

The first of these texts, Salve sancta Parens, is not from the Bible and is not part of the original early medieval treasury of chant. For those who want to understand the spirit of the early Middle Ages that shaped so greatly Latin Christianity, Lux fulgebit is more interesting.

Lux fulgebit
Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 121(1151), p. 27 – Graduale – Notkeri Sequentiae (https://www.e-codices.ch/en/list/one/sbe/0121)

The image above shows the beginning of Lux fulgebit in the manuscript Einsiedeln 121 (late 10th century). The reconstructed melody in modern notation can be found in this file.

Lux fulgebit has already been sung in the little-known Christmas Morning Mass. Hence this is clearly a chant for the Octave, leading back to the beginning of this solemn week. Hodie, “today”: This is not just one particular day of the year. Hodie is rather a state of mind. What has happened at Christmas can be alive and present every day, in the Octave, in the new year, in everyone’s lives.

The syllable with the most notes is non e-rit finis, “it will ne-ver end.” Stretching the unstressed final syllable might be a hint at the meaning of the words: The words do not want to end, just as the Lord’s kingdom will not end. This is what Christians believe: there will be no absolute darkness anymore, there will be a light forever. Like Mary, we can trust in that message as we start a new year.

Featured image: Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 121(1151), p. 231 – Graduale – Notkeri Sequentiae
(https://www.e-codices.ch/en/list/one/sbe/0121)

3 comments

  1. “Hodie, “today”: This is not just one particular day of the year. Hodie is rather a state of mind. What has happened at Christmas can be alive and present every day, in the Octave, in the new year, in everyone’s lives.”

    Thank you for this. “Today” appears as well in at least one of the antiphons for Evening Prayer used throughout the octave. It is not easy for us to set aside our modern literalness and precision in the measurement of time.

  2. It is indeed a particularly beautiful chant. It can also be used during the Octave of Christmas: the Graduale Romanum (or perhaps I should say the Ordo Cantus Missae) gives a choice between two sets of propers, “Lux fulgebit” of the Dawn Mass, and “Puer” of Mass during the Day, in either case with a proper gradual, for 29, 30 and 31 December. This particular proper then disappears after the Octave, as the Ordo Cantus gives a choice between “Puer” and “Dum medium selentium” (of the 2nd Sunday of Christmas) for the days between 1st January and the Epiphany. But the light of Christmas morning shines anew after the Epiphany, as the choice from that feast until the Baptism of Christ is between “Lux fulgebit” and “Ecce advenit”, of the Epiphany. So we’ll have plenty of opportunities this year to sing of today’s shining light, and the kingdom that, like the light, will have no end.

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