Sunday, May 28, 2023

Durandus on the Liturgy of Pentecost

The following excerpts are taken from book 6, chapter 107, of William Durandus’ Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, the Summa Theologica of medieval liturgical commentaries.

Alleluja is frequently sung through the whole week of Pentecost, since throughout these (fifty) days, the Church gathers the people to God through baptism, and therefore the (mystical) body, rejoicing at their salvation, sings the hymn of praise (i.e. ‘alleluia’) as long as they wear the white garments. For then we stand and pray as a sign of the deliverance of those who, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, have merited to be raised from death to life, for on this day was the Spirit sent upon the Apostles in tongues of fire.
(The following recording begins with the antiphon version of “Confirma hoc, Deus” from Matins, which is also used at the rite of Confirmation; the other two antiphons of Matins are sung in exactly the same melody. The same text is sung to a more complex melody as the Offertory at the Mass of Pentecost.)
Aña Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operátus es in nobis: a templo sancto tuo, quod est in Jerúsalem, allelúja, allelúja. (Strengthen, o God, that which Thou hast wrought in us, from thy holy temple that is on Jerusalem, alleluia, alleluia.)
On the night of Pentecost (i.e. at Matins) three lessons are read, and three psalms are said with three antiphons, as on the night of Easter … because of the sacrament of Baptism, celebrated in the name of the three Persons, or because of the burial for three days of the Lord, with Whom we are buried in baptism.
Three psalms are said with three antiphons because the Holy Spirit did three things with the Apostles. For He renewed the aged, He confirmed the renewed, and sent the renewed to convert others. To the first belongs what is said in the first antiphon, “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven”, to the second, what is said in the second antiphon, “Confirm this, o God,” and the third to what is said in the third antiphon, “Send forth Thy spirit.” … and because the Holy Spirit wrought two things in the Apostles, the forgiveness of sins, and the working of miracles, the antiphons end with a double alleluia.
… from every nation which is under heaven, people had to come together for the feast day, and then the Holy Spirit descended visibly upon the disciples, as Christ had promised, and they spoke in all tongues before all. Therefore the Introit begins, “The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the world”, that is, the Church, which is called “the world”, for just as literally nothing lives outside the world, so spiritually, nothing lives outside the Church.
There follows, “and that which containeth all things,” that is, the Holy Spirit, in whose goodness all things subsist, “hath the knowledge of the voice,” that is, of tongues, and thus could He give it to the Apostles, and did so. From this, the enemies of Christ were confounded, and so there follows the verse, “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered” (in the Use which Durandus knows), for through the Holy Spirit all the demons are constrained and cast out.
Again He filled the world when He inebriated the Apostles, whose sound went out into all the earth (Ps. 18, 5, a text traditionally referred to the preaching of the Apostles throughout the world), of which sound it is said in the Epistle, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.” And since the world is separated into four regions, therefore ‘alleluia’ is said four times in the Introit.
The epistle from the Acts of the Apostles (begins), “And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished”, namely the fiftieth day from the Resurrection; for just as the Pentecost of the Jews took place on the fiftieth day after Passover, so does ours. And just as the people of Israel, on the fiftieth day from the sacrificing of the Paschal lamb … came to the mountain of God Horeb, … which is also called Sinai, then they received the law, so also on the fiftieth day from the Resurrection of the Lord, the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in the upper room as they awaited His coming.
The lower section of the Pentecost Polyptych, ca 1478, by the Venetian painter Alvise Vivarini (1442/53 - 1503/5). To the left are Ss Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua, to the right, Ss Louis of Toulouse and Bernardin of Siena. Now in the Bode Museum in Berlin. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY 3.0)) 
For it is commanded in Leviticus (23, 16) that on the day of Pentecost there should be offered new loaves of bread … from the new fruits, by which it is signified that we must give thanks to God, because He gave the new law through the Holy Spirit on that same day on which the old law was given…
Therefore Luke says about this day, “When the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, all the disciples were together in the same place,” that is, in unity of voice and heart, and then, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.” … the Holy Spirit, is given, but suddenly, since ‘the grace of the Holy Spirit knows no delay in its workings.’ (St Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, 2, 19) He came down in fire, because just as fire illuminates and inflames, so does the Holy Spirit illuminate unto the knowledge of God, and inflame onto the love of God. Therefore He appeared to them in fiery tongues, that they might be eloquent in every type of speech. And because He himself is the tongue which from the hidden place of His goodness spoke forth the Word into the Virgin’s womb, and brings forth the word in the heart of man, according to that (which the Lord said), “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10, 20), those whom He fills, He makes also eloquent.
Now the double Alleluia which is sung after the Epistle signifies that rejoicing is to be doubled, and that the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles twice, from earth and from heaven, and it signifies those who sing in spirit and in mind, and the conversion of two peoples (i.e. of the Jews and of the gentiles.) …
Alleluja, Alleluja. Ps. 103 Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae. (Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.)
Alleluja, Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. (Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.)

Now because in the Epistle it is said, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming”, therefore, to represent this, in some churches trumpets are sounded while the Sequence is sung. For the Holy Spirit came in a mighty wind, because just as a mighty wind casts dust from the face of the earth, so the Holy Spirit casts from the heart of man all earthly concern.
Indeed, the ancients used (two) trumpets, as we read in the book of Numbers (10, 1-10), to gather the multitude to fight, to celebrate on festive days, but with a difference of sounds, and the use of them was of such power in the rejoicing that at the sound of them, the walls of Jericho fell.
The Fall of Jericho; an illustration of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews by Jean Fouquet, 15th century. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
These then are the two Testaments, and the preachers by whom the people is called to gird itself up in faith, to penitence, excited to tearful compunction, and invited to give praises in every way, and to Mount Zion, and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the gathering of many thousands of angels (Hebr. 12, 22), and called forth to the future judgment of God. And note that both in adversity and prosperity, noise is made with trumpets, for every time befits the Word, whence (the words of Psalm 33, 2), “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be always in my mouth.”
… Then also fire is cast down from high, because the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples in tongues of fire, and also various flowers, to denote the joy and diversity of tongues and virtues. Doves are also released to fly through the church, by which the sending of the Holy Spirit is indicated.
Rose petals falling through the oculus of the dome of the Pantheon on Pentecost of 2010. (Courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.)

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