Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
“Balance Instead of Harmony” : A Guest Article by Paweł Milcarek on the History of the Liturgical Reform (Part 1)Gregory DiPippo
We are very pleased to offer to our readers this excellent article by Paweł Milcarek, an account of some important aspects of the Liturgical Reform before Vatican II. Dr. Milcarek is a Polish philosopher and historian, founder and director of the journal “Christianitas”, (published thrice annually; see also christianitas.org), the author of several studies about the liturgical reforms in the 20th-century, and the critical editions of Vatican II documents. He lives in Brwinów near Warsaw, with his wife and six children. This article will be published in two parts.
The fact that personal piety was in practice narrowed down to private prayers and spiritual exercises made it easy to regard the social dimension of life as in a way neutral, no longer under the influence of religion, opening it to increasing “colonization” by secular ideologies of both the left and right.
The aim was not to create yet another elite with a specific spirituality, comparable to social activists, zealots for particular services, or clubs of people interested in theology. Promoters of the Liturgical Movement strongly felt themselves to be acting for the common good. One of its chief representatives, the Belgian monk Dom Lambert Beauduin, wrote in 1924:
Let’s be practical. Millions of Belgians (to mention only this small country) gather each Sunday only to attend a liturgical assembly headed by the priest, who can celebrate the liturgy due to the authority given to him by God and the people; the faithful gather in spacious buildings – located in the centers of human settlements, designed and consecrated for worship – willing to fulfill the work that according to Pius X... is the first and irreplaceable source of Christian life... May this fact – which we still take too little advantage of – become a life-giving act... Everything is in place, now all we need is to enrich the life of this organism. Can we even for a moment question the practical nature of such an undertaking? (Liturgy; the Life of the Church; transl. Virgil Michel, Farnborough, 2002)In this statement – taken from a booklet that expands upon the theses of his famous paper given at the Malines Congress in 1909 – there is of course a tension between the announcement that “substantially nothing will change” and the call to “enrich the life of this organism.” This tension was the starting point for various proposals that oscillate between the desire to transform the liturgy fundamentally (in its human aspects), and a determination to transform the pastoral care of the faithful, so that it could adjust itself to liturgical tradition.
However, when we speak of the Tridentine order of the liturgy, we are using a mental shortcut. The resolutions accepted at the Council of Trent did not lead to the creation of a new order of worship within the Catholic Church. The Popes who implemented the post-Tridentine liturgical reform, first among them St. Pius V, simply brought into general use an already-existing standard of Roman liturgy, with fairly small modifications. The Tridentine order of the liturgy is almost identical with the pre-Tridentine Roman liturgy, and preserved an incontestable and clearly visible continuity with its medieval and Gregorian form, and through them, with the very beginnings of the Roman Rite.
Among the elements of the Tridentine reform, one must note the far-reaching Romanization – or rather papalization – of the Latin liturgy, which permitting the whole Church of the Roman rite to use the Roman books, with exceptions in respect for acknowledged particular traditions; the centralization of power, which made the management of liturgical issues an exclusive prerogative of the Papal administration (1); and the precise legal codification of liturgical texts in typical editions.
We must also note the proclamation that this codified form of the Roman liturgy represents its “pristine” shape (2); an inaccuracy which, deriving from the Renaissance’s fascination with the “sources” of all things, can now be seen as the time-bomb that would explode into “archaeologism”, as the rationalistic cult of “the sources” intensified. Furthermore, alongside the inclination to “regulate” the development of liturgy exclusively through rubrics, propers and calendar, we see the growth of paraliturgical devotions that were supposed to make up for this “stiffening” of the liturgy.
However, has this protective factor itself not been subjected to some deformations, precisely under the influence of modern ideologies? Already at the time of St. Pius X, the Popes’ sovereign authority started to show a tendency towards liturgical absolutism, a tendency in contrast with the principle that authority consists in guardianship of what has been entrusted to it. This absolutist tendency prevailed in some cases of primary importance, such as the major reorganization of the Breviary by St. Pius X, or, to an even greater extent, the reforms of Pius XII to the text of the Psalter and the Holy Week services.
In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Card. Ratzinger states: “After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the Pope really could do anything in liturgical matters.” However, this idea is clearly much older than Vatican II, rooted in an absolutist interpretation of both the Popes’ supreme authority in liturgical matters, as articulated after Trent, and in the understanding of Papal supremacy in general. “In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the Pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The Pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not ‘manufactured’ by the authorities. Even the Pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the Pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.” (transl. John Saward, pp. 165-66)
The principle of the Popes’ liturgical sovereignty was openly expressed in Pius XII’s 1947 encyclical on the liturgy Mediator Dei. This principle constitutes a “strong refrain” (4) of the encyclical, as the author repeatedly speaks of the absolute authority of the Holy See, and explicitly states that the Pope has the right to “recognize and establish”, “to introduce and approve new rites”, which can be modified by him if “he judges... [that they] require modification.” (5)
The paucity of references to liturgical tradition as such in Mediator Dei underlines the emphasis on the prerogatives of “authority” even more strongly, granting it the status of the first principle of the liturgical order. Of course, we must also bear in mind that this emphasis derived from a desire to tame some of the unrestrained experimentation of the liturgical movement.
Still, if we describe this as a kind of absolutism, we must also note that it strove to be an enlightened absolutism, exercised in consideration of the researchers’ achievements and the experts’ opinions; provided, of course, that the latter respect the Popes’ supreme authority.
A perfect illustration of these concepts is found in the speech by Card. Gaetano Cicognani, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, given at the famous liturgical congress of Assisi:
The essential end of this congress is to pass in review the admirable initiatives of Pope Pius XII in the field of pastoral Liturgy, and to pass them in review with the spirit of loyalty and reverence which every one of the faithful ought to nourish toward the Supreme Shepherd who guides us. The Liturgy demands precisely the direction of the Supreme Shepherd... We have come together not to study problems or to propose reforms, but to put into relief ... the laws and ordinances emanating from Pope Pius XII in his untiring activity as father and master...Long before the Second Vatican Council, the promise of a general reform of the liturgy began to blossom in the encounter between the highest authority that “fixes the principles”, and the researchers who “present or indicate” the issues. To some extent, this was happening without regard for the context of Tradition, or the principles of the organic development of liturgy.
Looking over the documents which integrate this liturgical period, we have been able to notice that His Holiness welcomes with delicate courtesy what the students of the Liturgy present or indicate; but in virtue of the supreme power which belong only to him, it is the Pope who fixes the principles; giving secure and firm orientations to minds and spirits, he puts them on guard against opinions not in conformity with the aim of the spiritual life. (The Assisi Papers: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy, p. 6-7, as cited in Alcuin Reid’s The Organic Development of the Liturgy, pp. 248-49)
Giving a reason for the reform of the liturgy, the Memoria begins with a statement that the liturgy suffers from a number of problems, such as an overcrowded calendar, too many octaves, the complexity of the rubrics; and all this is said to diminish the love of the priests for the Liturgy. Hence there arises “a desire for a reform that would bring about a sensible simplification and a greater stabilization of the liturgy”. Fortunately, the development of liturgical studies allows “a solid revision of the Liturgy on a broad and secure basis in [liturgical] science”. Therefore, it is possible to fulfill the desire, reinforced by the Liturgical Movement, to free the liturgy “from certain accretions that obscure its beauty and diminish in a certain sense its efficacy”.
After briefly summarizing earlier projects to modify the liturgy, fundamental principles of future reform are presented in no. 15 of the Memoria. The first of these says, “The opposed claims of the conservative tendency and the innovative tendency must be balanced.” This first principle is later developed in no. 16, where so called archaelogism, (7) on the one hand, and innovativeness, (8) on the other, are indicated as two unacceptable extremes.
Then the document states:
Now, a wise reform of the Liturgy must balance the two tendencies: that is, conserve good and healthy traditions, verified on historico-critical bases, and take account of new elements, already opportunely introduced and needing to be introduced. Since the Liturgy is a living organism ... so the Liturgy, which is a continuous manifestation of ... religious vitality [of the Church], cannot be something set in stone; rather, it must develop, as in fact it has developed, in parallel line with all the other vital manifestations of the Church.It is easy to sense the appeal for some restraint and prudence behind these words – but it is the balance that seems to be a central notion here. And balance is always about allowing the opposing forces to act, in order to sustain some object, which would otherwise literally loose its balance. The authors of the Memoria are aware of the fact that there exist “opposing tendencies,” and their counsel is to balance them through a “wise reform”. Interestingly, the things to be balanced are the notions of change and of preservation – while pastoral care for “liturgical participation”, so significant within the Liturgical Movement, is not even mentioned here. The balance of “forces” seems to prevail over the harmony of the whole entity.
Hence, it is the task ... of the liturgical reform to balance ... the just demands of the opposed tendencies, in such a way as not to change through sheer itching for novelty and not to mummify through exaggerated archeological valuation. To renew therefore, courageously what is truly necessary and indispensable to renew and to conserve jealously what one can and must conserve.
footnotes: 1) This principle derives from authorization delegated by the Council of Trent in the Decree on the Index of Books, on the Catechism, Breviary, and Missal, 4th December 1563.
2) In the bull Quo primum issued on 14th July 1570, which promulgated the Roman Missal and was part of each edition of this Missal until the reform of 1969, St. Pius V spoke of restoring the Missal “to the pristine form and rite of the Holy Fathers” (ad pristinam sanctorum Patrum normam ac ritum)
3) The principle itself was briefly and clearly described in the 1917 Code of the Canon Law, can. 1257. “Unius Apostolicae Sedis est tum sacram ordinare liturgiam, tum liturgicos approbare libros.”
4) Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, p. 140
5) “It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, and also to modify those he judges to require modification. Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship.” (Pius XII, Mediator Dei 58, emphases added).
6) Cf. Congregatio Sacrorum Rituum, Sectio Historica, Memoria sulla riforma liturgica, no. 71, Vatican 1948. Parts of the Memoria analyzed here are cited and commented in Reid, pp. 150-161
7) “There are some liturgists and promoters of the Liturgical Movement who sin by archaelogism; for them the most archaic forms are always and of themselves the best; those later ones, even if of the High Middle Ages, are always to be set after those more ancient. They would like to take the entire Liturgy back to a state closest to its origins, excluding all successive developments, regarded as deteriorations and degenerations. In short, listening to them, the Liturgy would be reduced to a species of a precious mummy, to preserve jealously as in a museum.” (Memoria no. 16. s 15)
8) “There are others, instead, of precisely the opposite tendency, who would actually like to create a new and modern Liturgy; we no longer understand, they say, the forms, gestures, chants, created in now distant ages; the Liturgy must be a manifestation of current religious life; hence, the language, pictorial and sculptured art, music, dramatic action, and so on, ought to be completely new, in conformity with modern culture and sentiments.” (ibid.)
The Facebook page is called “Sacred Art School, Florence/Summer Courses 2015.“ ” It appears from this that the three week class is one of several things that he is doing in Florence over the summer. For more information email Anthony directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the poster:
St John Chrysostom died on September 14, 407, at the city of Comana in Pontus (in the north-central part of modern Turkey) while travelling into exile, banished at the behest of the Empress Eudoxia by her husband Arcadius. Over thirty years later, their son Theodosius II, as a gesture of penance for his parents’ injustices against the Saint, had John’s relics translated from their original burial site to the church of Hagia Irene (Holy Peace) in Constantinople. Since he died on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, his feast day was appointed for November 13th, and is still kept on that day in the Byzantine Rite; the Byzantine Calendar also marks the feast of the translation of the relics on January 27th, whence his traditional Roman day. I have a copy of the Hieratikon, a priestly service book for all the main functions of the Byzantine Rite, printed in 1977, an official publication of the Orthodox Church of Greece; in the Calendar, the feast of his Translation is marked as one of a fairly small number of “red letter days,” but the November 13th feast is not.
The Byzantine Rite keeps on January 30th a feast with the imposing title (again, from my copy of the Hieratikon) “Our Fathers among the Saints, the Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian (i.e. Gregory of Nazianzus) and John Chrysostom.” This commemoration arose from a vivid dispute in the 11th century as to which of the three should be regarded as the Church’s greatest theologian and teacher, a dispute in which people formed parties that called themselves “Basilians” (not, of course, in reference to the religious order), “Gregorians,” or “Johannites”. It was resolved when all three Saints appeared to John, bishop of Euchaita (a city fairly close to where Chrysostom died), saying “There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another.” The Byzantine Calendar keeps the feasts of St Basil on January 1st, and Gregory Nazianzen on the 25th, the days of their respective deaths; therefore, the principle feasts of all three, as well as their joint commemoration, all occur within the same month. Along with St Athanasius, all three were declared Doctors of the Church by Pope St Pius V in 1568.
|A 17th-century icon of the Three Holy Herarchs. (image from wikipedia)|
While the tradition of keeping the Saints’ feasts on the day of their death is certainly very ancient, and for that reason alone laudable, it was frequently applied with more zeal than wisdom to the Calendar reform of 1969. One could hardly keep St Basil as a mere commemoration on the newly-created Solemnity of the Mother of God, which replaced the Circumcision in the Roman Rite, even if commemorations still existed. He and Gregory were therefore given a joint feast on January 2nd. Chrysostom, on the other hand, was moved from January 27th to September 13th, the day before his death. It is perplexing, to say the least, why any of this was thought necessary, especially in an age purportedly so concerned with ecumenism. The final result of these changes is that none of these Saints keeps his traditional Western day, not even the one shared by the East; none of them moves to his Byzantine feast day; and none of them moves to his death day.
Monday, January 26, 2015
What I'd like to post on today, instead, is an amazing "competition" that took place on this year's winter expedition. Because they knew the two College chaplains would be traveling from site to site to celebrate Mass, the students challenged one another's groups to build the ultimate snow altar for the occasion. (Credit for the initial idea goes to Mr. Rob Meeker, Assistant Director of the Outdoor Adventure Program.) And, as the photos show, they outdid themselves. Altars weren't enough; they built chairs, pews, altar rails, and other furnishings, and decorated them with Latin phrases. One of the photos shows Fr. Christopher Saliga's Byzantine altar cloth that he carried with him so that he could celebrate Mass upon the relics of saints.
Congratulations to the freshmen of the College for their creative adaptation of the plentiful God-given ice and snow, so that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass could be fittingly celebrate even in the remote wilderness. How can one not be reminded of the verse of the Benedicite: "Benedicite, rores et pruina, Domino; benedicite, gelu et frigus, Domino, laudemus et superexaltemus eum in saecula. O frost and cold, bless the Lord; O ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise Him, and exalt Him above all for ever."
I'll post the photos according to student groups -- there are five different Masses (and therefore five different "sanctuaries") shown here.
|The sanctuary -- with altar, altar rail, chair, and ambo.|
|Getting ready for Mass. Where has the sun gone?|
|Celebrating ad orientem.|
|A new kind of monastic cowl?|
|There's even a statue of Our Lady.|
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2015
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Please consider donating to the scholarship fund for seminarians and religious to attend the conference, or consider sponsoring someone you know to come to the conference.
I have already received numerous requests for scholarships from seminarians who are tight on funds, as well as religious communities bound to the vow of poverty who would very much like to come to the conference to receive formation but are unable to do so. To make a contribution, send an email to email@example.com and we will be in touch about how to make a donation. Every contribution made with this intention will be reserved specifically for this purpose.
Additionally, if you are a seminarian or member of a religious community and would like to get on the waiting list for scholarships, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org stating your interest in the conference and your financial need.
May God bless your generosity.
All of them were from Offerimus Tibi Domine. HT to Sam Guzman for the find.
Friday, January 23, 2015
January 23rd is the traditional day of the feast called “The Espousal of the Virgin Mary with St Joseph.” Although never on the general Calendar, it was kept by many religious orders, especially those with a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary, and on many local calendars. On January 10th, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke celebrated a Votive Mass of the Espousal of the Virgin in the Basilica of San Nicola in Carcere in Rome, as part of a recent conference of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy; this Mass was chosen because marriage and the family, and issues related to them, were the topic of the conference. His Eminence has very kindly allowed New Liturgical Movement to share the full text of his sermon with our readers, for which we offer him our gratitude. (The Scriptural readings of this Mass are Proverbs 8, 22-35, and Matthew 1, 18-21.)
From the text of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, it is clear that Mary was already married to Saint Joseph at the time of the Annunciation, but that Saint Joseph had not yet brought her into his home. For that reason, upon learning of her pregnancy, Saint Joseph, for the sake of decency, thought to divorce her in as discreet a manner as possible. To be clear, the word “betrothed” is not rightly understood as “engaged,” but rather as “espoused” or “married,” as the rest of the language of the text makes clear.
Here, it is important to recall the Jewish Rite of Marriage, which the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, as devout Jews, were carefully observing. The Rite consisted of two phases: a first phase by which the contract of marriage was sealed, making the parties truly husband and wife, and a second phase by which the marriage was consummated by the bringing of the wife into the home of her husband. In his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, Pope Saint John Paul II, described the observance of the Jewish marriage practice by the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph with these words:
According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her husband.Mary is indeed the spouse of Saint Joseph and, therefore, the Divine Child conceived in her womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit is a member of the family of Joseph and Mary, and enjoys the divine maternity of the Virgin Mary and the foster-fatherhood or guardianship of Saint Joseph.
Father René Laurentin, making reference to Mary’s decision from her youth “not to belong to any man but to God alone,” thus describes her marital status at the time of the Annunciation:
The Bibles inexactly translate “engaged,” while Mary is really married to Joseph in keeping with the two phases of Hebrew marriage: the consent (qidushin) before the Annunciation, and the second phase, the introduction of the wife into the house of the husband (nissuin), in accord with Joseph’s agreement to a virginal marriage (non-consummated). - (Marie, source directe de l’Évangile de l’Enfance).Father Laurentin goes on to explain how Mary, by reason of her status of wife in a virginal marriage, believed that she had renounced the possibility of maternity of the Messiah. Accordingly, at the Annunciation, she asked the Archangel Gabriel: “How shall this happen, since I do not know man.” The Archangel then made clear that it is precisely her virginity which prepared her to be the Mother of God. Father Laurentin, referring to her vow of virginity, writes:
But this vow brought about, on the contrary, the only means of achieving this unique privilege. Such are the paradoxes of the Most High. She receives, then, the response which makes new and clarifies everything. (ibid.)The Church, in fact, has seen in the text about the eternal wisdom of God from the Book of Proverbs an image of the Virgin Mary whom God had chosen, from the beginning, to be the Mother of the Redeemer: “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” The inspired text draws us into a deeper reflection on Mary’s Marriage to Joseph and her Divine Maternity in the great Mystery of Faith, the mystery of our eternal salvation. Searching its deepest meaning, we understand the truth of the final verses:
For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; But he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death.Contemplating the Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph, we see how, at the very beginning of the work of salvation, God the Father took care that the conception of His only-begotten Son in our human flesh be virginal, as it indeed must be, but, at the same time, completely legitimate, so that it manifest fully the truth, beauty and goodness of God. God the Son is virginally conceived in the womb of Mary, Wife of Saint Joseph. The Gospel according to Saint Matthew is marked, in particular, by attention to the juridical nature of our faith and its practice, presenting Christ as the New Moses, the New Lawgiver, most eminently in the Sermon on the Mount. It is inconceivable that God the Son, at His Incarnation, would not respect fully, indeed would not bring to perfection, both the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the sanctity of her marriage to Saint Joseph.
The accurate understanding of the marital status of Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary is important for our fuller knowledge and love of the Mystery of Faith, but it is also important for the avoidance of a confusion and an error which are common today. Reference is made to the serious situation in the revised edition of The Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Basic Catholic Catechism Course. It will be helpful to quote a part of his treatment of the subject:
The fact that Jesus was virginally conceived and born after the marriage of Mary and Joseph means that Jesus was conceived and born within wedlock. This is contrary to what so many, even priests, are saying at the present time, namely, that Jesus was born out of wedlock, like the children of so many unmarried women today, and that this is not an “abnormal” situation. A pregnant, un-wed mother is said to be, according to these people, in the same condition as Mary, who they claim was also un-wed at the time she conceived Jesus. This is false; it is indeed a very serious falsehood, for it undermines the sanctity of marriage and the reason for that sanctity. It is said by defenders of this position that Jesus was conceived after Mary and Joseph were engaged, but not yet married. (The Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Basic Catholic Catechism Course, Manual, Revised Edition, ed. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.),The erroneous position described above is held not only by those who knowingly dissent from the constant teaching of the Church but also by many individuals who are simply poorly catechized and therefore fall prey to such false teaching.
The importance of clarity regarding the marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph is also most important for the discussions regarding marriage undertaken at the present time by the Synod of Bishops. While the Synod of Bishops is called to lift up the beauty of marriage, as God established it from the beginning, there is a strong attempt to introduce discussions about the so-called “positive elements” in the cohabitation of a man and of a woman, like husband and wife, without respect for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We see in the marriage of Mary and Joseph, in a most remarkable way, the beauty of marriage, established by God at the Creation and restored to its original perfection by God the Son Incarnate at the Redemption. Contemplating the marriage of Mary and Joseph, we understand more fully and heartfeltly the words of Christ Himself, when the Pharisees tested him regarding the truth of the indissolubility of marriage:
Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one”? What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. (Matthew 19, 4-6)The teaching of Christ on Holy Matrimony shines forth with particular splendor in the marriage of His Mother Mary and His Foster-Father Joseph.
We are about to witness the great victory of the Cross, the great work of God the Son Who took our human nature in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary. Christ now sacramentally offers the Sacrifice of Calvary. He gives us the incomparable fruit of His Sacrifice: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He gives us the Heavenly Medicine and Food by which we overcome sin in our lives and live in true freedom for love of God and our neighbor. May our contemplation of the Mystery of Faith in the marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph inspire us to teach, to celebrate, and to live the truth about Holy Matrimony, as God established it from the beginning and redeemed it through His saving Passion, Death and Resurrection. May we seek always in the Eucharistic Mystery the grace so to teach, so to celebrate, and so to live.
Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music - a piece of choral music written for more than one part - has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.
The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered.
Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, ... (t)he piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John’s College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.
Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.
Varelli’s research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece – a short “antiphon” with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment – was writing around the year 900.
... the piece is also significant because it deviates from the convention laid out in treatises at the time. This suggests that even at this embryonic stage, composers were experimenting with form and breaking the rules of polyphony almost at the same time as they were being written.
“What’s interesting here is that we are looking at the birth of polyphonic music and we are not seeing what we expected,” Varelli said....
Nicolas Bell, music curator at the British Library, said "This is an exciting discovery. When this manuscript was first catalogued in the eighteenth century, nobody was able to understand these unusual symbols. We are delighted that Giovanni Varelli has been able to decipher them and understand their importance to the history of music."The complete text of the antiphon is: Sancte Bonifati, martyr inclyte Christi, te quaesumus ut nos tuis precibus semper gratiae Dei commendare digneris. (Saint Boniface, renowned martyr of Christ, we ask thee that by thy prayers, thou may ever deign to commend us to the grace of God.)
|British Library MS Harley 3019, with the polyphonic antiphon Sancte Bonifati. Image from the original article.|
|Image from Wikipedia by Andreas Praefcke|