INTROITUS: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Intret oratio mea in conspectu tuo: inclina aurem tuam ad precem meam Domine.

“My prayer may come before you: incline your ear to my cry, LordYou have mercy on everything, Lord, and you hate nothing of the things that you made. You cover the sins of humans for the sake of repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord, our God.” (Ps 88(87):3)

Click here to listen to an audio of the chant, sung by Liborius Lumma, Innsbruck (Austria).

In the INTROITUS series I commented several times on melodic directions in Gregorian Chant. We find the same here at oratio mea and inclina: The praying person cries to God, and since God is metaphorically located upwards, in heaven, the melody moves upwards—in a very obvious and impressive way.

There are other typical Gregorian rhetorical techniques that we find in this antiphon: Not only stressed syllables of Latin words are emphasized (by many single notes or by dilated notes or by both), but also terminal syllables of important words. This is called the “articulation of words” in Gregorian Chant: Words are made round. Those terminal syllables must not and cannot be missed. Hence the entire word—not only the stressed syllables, but also unstressed syllables and especially terminal syllables—is thoroughly expressed.

We find this technique for example at mea in the first line (the terminal syllables contains more single notes than the stressed syllable!), tuo at the end of the first line, inclina in the second line, and at meam and Domine at the end of the antiphon—and there are even more.

So I would say that Intret oratio mea is paradigmatic for the very careful way how Gregorian Chant deals with words and sentences.

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