Friday, November 08, 2019

The Ambrosian Absolution at the Catafalque

On All Souls’ Day last week, I posted a description of the Ambrosian Requiem Mass; as a follow-up, here is a description of the Ambrosian Absolution at the catafalque.

When the Mass is over, the celebrant and major ministers go to the Epistle side and remove their maniples; the celebrant removes his chasuble and dons a black cope. They then process out to the catafalque and stand at the head of it, preceded by two acolytes, one carrying the thurible and boat, and the other the holy water vessel and aspergil. In the meantime, the following antiphons are sung; the ninth, “In paradisum”, is sung only for the funeral of a bishop, priest or deacon. The music for these is quite simple, much of it with only one note per syllable, and the total length by note-count is less than that of the responsory Libera me which is sung at the Roman Absolution. (There are a number of other rites in the Ambrosian liturgy at which several antiphons are sung in a row without psalmody in this fashion, e.g. the Rogation days.)

Usque in vita mea laudavi te,
Domine: da requiem mihi cum
Sanctis tuis in regione vivorum,
et salva me.
In my life I have always praised
Thee, o Lord; grant me rest with
Thy Saints in the land of the living,
and save me.
Memorare, Domine, quae sit
mea substantia; quis est homo
qui vivit, et non videbit mor-
Remember, O Lord, what I am
made of; what man liveth, and
shall not see death?
Adhaesit pavimento anima mea:
vivifica me, Domine, secundum
verbum tuum.
My soul hath cleaved to the pave-
ment: quicken Thou me according
to thy word. Ps. 118, 25
Portio mea in terra viventium:
me expectant justi, donec retri-
buas mihi.
My portion in the land of the living;
the just wait for me, until Thou re-
ward me. Ps. 141, 6 & 8
Vide, Domine, humilitatem me-
am, et dimitte omnia peccata
See, o Lord, my abjection, and for-
give all my sins. Ps. 24, 18
Tu jussisti nasci me, Domine;
repromisisti, ut resurgerem.
Jussione tua venio, Sanctissime;
ne derelinquas me, quia pius es.
Thou didst command me to be born,
o Lord, that I might rise again. At
Thy command I come, o most
Holy one; abandon me not, for
Thou art gracious.
Credo, quod Dominus non me
derelinquet, nec condemnabit
me, cum venerit ad judicandum,
sed miserebitur mei Redemptor
meus, pius Deus.
I believe that the Lord will not
abandon me, nor condemn me,
when He shall come to judge, but
my Redeemer, the gracious God,
will have mercy on me.
Etenim pauci fuerunt dies mei;
da mihi requiem cum Sanctis
tuis, Domine.
And indeed my days have been few;
give me rest with Thy Saints, o
In paradisum deducant te An-
geli, et cum gaudio suscipiant
te sancti Martyres Dei.
May the Angels lead thee into Para-
dise, and may the holy Martyrs of
God receive thee with joy.
Tu es, Domine, protector meus;
in manus tuas, Domine, com-
mendo spiritum meum.
Thou art my protector, o Lord; into
Thy hands, o Lord, I commend my
spirit. Ps. 30, 5-6

In the following video, the antiphons are sung (from 0:36 to 4:43) alternating between the women’s and men’s sections of the choir; In paradisum is included, with the object “te” changed to the plural “vos”.

Once the antiphons are finished, the deacon intones another: “Redemptor meus vivit, * et in novissimo me renovabit. V. Renovabuntur denuo ossa mea, et in carne mea videbo Dominum Deum. – My Redeemer liveth, and at the end he shall renew me. V. My bones shall be renewed again, and in my flesh I shall see the Lord my God.” (Job 19, 25-26) This is a rare example of an “antiphona duplex”, an antiphon which is sung in full both before and after the psalm; the two parts (before and after the V.) are sung by two groups within the choir. The choir then begins Psalm 50, and the celebrant imposes incense in the thurible without blessing it.

At the verse “Asperges me hyssopo”, the celebrant takes the aspergil, and accompanied by the acolytes, who hold up the ends of the cope, he makes a circuit around the catafalque as in the Roman Rite, sprinkling each side of it with holy water three times. At the same time, the deacon takes the thurible and, walking immediately behind him, incenses the catafalque three times on each side. They return together to their place at the head of the catafalque. When the psalm is finished (without Gloria Patri or Requiem aeternam, neither of which is said with the psalms and canticles in the Office of the Dead), and the antiphon repeated, the celebrant says “Dominus vobiscum”, and a prayer appropriate to the occasion.

The deacon incensing the catafalque.
There follows a responsory from the Office of the Dead, which is also sung at the Requiem Mass as the Psalmellus, the Ambrosian equivalent of the Gradual. The rubric lectoris indicates that the chant is to be led by a lector; there are many parts of the Ambrosian liturgy which are assigned to specific members of the clergy or choir in this way.

Responsorium lectoris Qui suscitasti Lazarum quatriduanum foetidum, tu dona eis requiem, et locum indulgentiae. V. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Dómine: et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Tu dona eis requiem, et locum indulgentiae. – Thou who raised Lazarus that stank on the fourth day, grant to them rest, and a place of indulgence. Eternal rest grant to them, o Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. Grant to them rest, and a place of indulgence.

However, on All Souls’ Day, and at the Requiem of bishops, including the Pope, and on their anniversaries, the following is sung instead.

Responsorium diaconi Rogamus te, Domine Deus, quia peccavimus tibi: veniam petimus quam non meremur. * Manum tuam porrige lapsis, qui latroni confitenti paradisi januas aperuisti V. Vita nostra in dolore suspirat, et in opere non emendat: si expectas, non corripimur, et si vindicas, non duramus. Manum tuam... – We ask Thee, Lord God, because we have sinned against Thee: we seek forgiveness, which we do not deserve. * Stretch out Thy hand to the fallen, Who didst open the gates of Paradise to the thief that confessed. V. Our life sigheth in sorrow, and emendeth not in deed; if Thou forbear, we are not reproved, and if Thou avenge, we cannot endure. Stretch out ...

The celebrant and servers standing at the head of the catafalque. This absolution was celebrated at the end of a Requiem Mass for our departed friend Mons. Angelo Amodeo, with our own Nicola dei Grandi serving as the master of ceremonies.
After the responsory, a special form of the Litany of the Saints is said, with all present kneeling. Two cantors begin with “Domine, miserere – Lord, have mercy” three times, each repeated by the choir, then “Christe, libera nos - Christ, deliver us” three times, to which the choir answers “Salvator, libera nos – o Savior, deliver us.” The names of the Saints are then sung by the cantors, to which all others answer “intercede pro eo (ea, eis).” In the Roman Rite, the list of the Saints in the litany is always the same, although other names may be added by immemorial custom; in the Ambrosian Rite, the Saints named in the litany change from one occasion to another. At the Absolution, after the Virgin Mary, the three Archangels are named, followed by Ss John the Baptist and Joseph, and the Apostles Peter, Paul, and Andrew; the martyrs Stephen, Lawrence, Vincent, Nazarius, Celsus, Protasius, Gervasius, George and Sebastian; the Virgin Martyrs Thecla, Catherine, Lucy, Apollonia, Agnes, Euphemia, Cecilia and Ursula; then Martha, Mary Magdalene, and Anne; the bishops Dionysius, Simplician, Eustorgius, Pope Gregory the Great and Augustine; the confessors Jerome, Anthony, and Martin; then Galdinus, Charles Borromeo, and Ambrose, who always conclude the litanies in the Ambrosian Rite, and lastly, “All ye Saints.” The litany ends with three repetitions of “Exaudi, Christe. R. Voces nostras. Exaudi, Deus. R. Et miserere nobis.”, (Hear, o Christ, our voices. Hear o God, and have mercy on us.), and three Kyrie eleisons. (In the first video, it runs from 10:07 to 13:17, sung in an abbreviated form.)

As in the Roman Rite, the celebrant makes the sign of the Cross over the catafalque, saying “Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis) Domine. R. Et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis).” He adds “Anima istius, et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. R. Amen.” The celebrant and ministers then all return in procession to the sacristy.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: