Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Video of Medieval Vespers of Easter in Paris (2020)

Second Vespers of Easter in the Use of Paris are celebrated according to a very particular form: after the first part, which is celebrated in the choir, the clergy and faithful process to the baptismal font, which is incensed, then return, making a station before a Cross in the nave. This ceremony did not originate in Paris, but rather in Rome, and goes back to the earliest days of the Church. It is described in the Ordines Romani of the 8th-11th centuries, which call it the “triple Vespers” from the three Magnificats. The Pope began the Office at St John in the Lateran, then went in procession to the baptistery, finishing at St Andrew of the Cross, a monastery attached to the Lateran basilica. The same ceremony was observed each day within the Easter Octave.

During the ceremony, numerous Alleluias were sung, with alternating verses in Greek and Latin. The presence of these chants and the evidence of St Gregory the Great indicate that the rite was brought to Rome at the time of Pope St Damasus I (366-384) by St Jerome, in imitation of the practice of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the very site of Christ’s Resurrection. Vespers of Easter and its octave began in the basilica, followed by a procession to the baptismal font, and ended at the chapel over the site of Golgotha. The catechumens baptized on Easter night participated in the procession in white robes, (hence the term “in Albis - in white garments” for the Easter octave), and the bishop of Jerusalem delivered to them each day a catechetical sermon, explaining the mysteries which they had received. (We have 23 of these Catechetical Lectures from St Cyril of Jerusalem.) The Use of Paris preserves a memory of this in the albs which the cantors wear in place of the normal copes.

The 70 years of Papal residence in Avignon in the 14th century led to the disappearance of this venerable office from the Roman basilicas; the Roman Office therefore simply repeats the antiphons of Lauds. However, most dioceses of France and the Rhineland continued to observe this tradition, which was included in their diocesean propers even into the 19th and 20th centuries. (Text thus far by Henri de Villiers.)

As I described in an article last year, there were a huge number of variations to this ceremony, depending on local customs; my article was based on the Sarum Use, since the rubrics of the Sarum liturgical books are unusually thorough and clear. The Parisian version is fairly long and complicated; fortunately, our friends from the Schola Sainte-Cécile are assiduous in making the liturgical texts of their ceremonies available. (Their work in this regard should be a model for all apostolates which celebrate the traditional rites!) At the following link, you can access a pdf with the complete text of the ceremony in Latin, with all of the music, rubrics, and a French translation. I know our readers will find the ceremony very interesting, and as always, enjoy the superb music.

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