Thursday, February 09, 2012

Manifestations of Lived Continuity: A.D 1000 to A.D. 2012

I quite enjoyed this post from the Transalpine Redemptorists recently, which looks at the antiquity of one of the proper chants for Septuagesima Sunday (we are referring to the liturgical books of the usus antiquior it goes without saying).

I have a few additional thoughts, but first their piece itself (my own comments in addendum to follow):

A Little Piece of History

It is always a thrill to think of the centuries and millennia that have gone into making the venerable Liturgy we have today; how many saints, holy monks, nuns, priests and lay folk have sanctified themselves while celebrating or assisting at this Liturgy.

It is even more of a thrill when you can put your hands, so to speak, on evidence that much of that Liturgy is the same now as it was all those years ago.

This page of the manuscript St Gall 339, written around the year 1000, shows part of the Holy Mass for today, Septuagesima Sunday.

When comparing the text of that ancient Mass to the text used in today's celebration you can see that they are exactly the same.

Clearly the interpretation of the chant is a little different today (yes, those markings above the words are the neums of Gregorian Chant!), but the words of the Mass have remained unchanged for over 1000 years! Have a look at the Offertory, for example (highlighted in the manuscript):

Bonum est confiteri Domino et psallere nomini tuo Altissime.

It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to thy name, O most High.

* * *

Following on from this train of thought which the Transalpine Redemptorists sparked by their post, I sought out the following digital images of the St. Gallen Stiftsbibliothek Cod. Sang. 339 antiphonary which is dated to around A.D. 1000.

Now if you look on the 61st and 62nd pages you will see the chanted propers for Septuagesima Sunday ("Dom. in LXX"). Here you will not only see that the aforementioned Offertory chant is the same then as it is now, but additionally the same may be said of the Introit (Circumdederunt me), the Gradual (Adjutor in opportunitiatibus), Tract (De Profundis), and Communion chant (Illumina faciem tuum).

What wonderful continuity.

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