Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Case for Christus Vincit

I was just thinking that I needed to create an image out of the Christus Vincit pdf we uploaded the other day, the one created by Richard Rice. But happy news: this blog already did it! This kind of inadvertent collaboration is one of the many wonderful things about the web. (Page 2 is not pictured)

We are so excited about singing this as the introit on Sunday. I wish I knew more about its history. It is not in the Roman Graduale as part of the Mass. Is it in the Liber Usualis? I don't think (books are not with me) but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

It is an acclamation and it appears in the Liber Cantualis and the Cantus Selecti (1949, if memory serves). I'm not sure I've heard it in old rite that I've attended but there must be some reason the editors of the Liber Cantualis put it in there as a stable of chant to be used in the Roman Rite. How rich and deep is its history? Scott Turkington said that it is very old and has been popular in parishes in the United States. More than that I do not know. I've conjured up my own fantasy history of Christians singing this for a thousand years, in some procession with a crucifix of Christ the King. It must have delighted the multitudes with its incredible strength and conviction.

It perfectly meets the new rite's cultural insistence on singing by the faithful. The words are not difficult. The melody is triumphant and unfamiliar enough (modal) to grab the attention of any modern ear.

There is another important point about using it as a processional chant at the beginning of Mass. Most parishes are stuck in the hymn-mode in this part of the Mass. More and more people are coming understand that this is not ideally a place for a hymn but rather for the Introit from the Graduale. But how does one break out of old practice into a new one? People and priests just expect to be picking up a hymnal at this point and singing the same old stuff.

Well, here is a great and perfect opportunity to break the habit. Christus can be sung by everyone on the spot. And as they sing, they can watch the processional taking place. And they can sing loudly and aggressively without fearing a mispronounced word or wrong note or wrong entrance.

It's Thursday today. There is plenty of time for a cantor and schola to work this up in time for Sunday. Get your programs printed! Practice for 10 or 15 minutes. It will be ready to go. I'll predict that the result will be one of the most unforgettable liturgical moments of the year. Print it and distribute it widely.

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