Friday, August 15, 2014

"She is our model and our hope"

Our Lady was assumed into Heaven in body and soul at the end of the course of her earthly life. "A great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve star." It is an incredible mystery. We have no relics of the body of the Blessed Virgin, few second-class relics from the clothes that she wore, and of course no third-class relics, since there was no body of hers to touch. It should be noted that one relic that is venerated is her belt, which came to the Apostle Thomas at the time of her Assumption. (I can't find the blog post where I first read about that...but the gist is that it rather mirrors the behavior of the Apostles at the Resurrection!).

Father Ray Blake writes:
She already enjoys the fullness of what we hope for at the 'consummation of the ages'. Our hope is what we say in our funeral rites, 'In my flesh I shall see God', 'I shall behold him face to face'... If we are truly Christian we need to have a Chris-tlike devotion to His Blessed Mother. It needs to be founded not on the saccharine, touchy-feelingness of much modern 'charismatic' devotion but on basic Christian teaching of death, judgement, heaven and hell and on above all a true understanding of what Christ has accomplished for us, especially by His Saving Death and Glorious Resurrection, for what Mary enjoys now is what we are called to enjoy after the Consummation of the Ages, when God's Holy Will is accomplished, for She is our model and our hope, and the fulfillment of God's will.
Liturgically this is reflected in the chant. Prior to 1950 and also since 1974 with the revised Graduale Romanum the Introit of the day is Gaudeamus, a composed chant, i.e. one of the few that is not from Scripture.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino diem festum celebrantes in honorem beatae Mariae Virginis,
de cujus Assumptione gaudent Angeliet collaudant Archangeli Filium Dei. Let us all rejoice in the Lord celebrating the feast in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary in whose assumption the angels rejoice, while the Archangels praise the Son of God.

It's  a very simple chant. Strikingly, the more important the feast, the simpler the chant. The Introit iSuscempimus Deus for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost (reassigned to the 14th Sunday per annum ) which begins with the same melody and is in the same mode, mode I. But there is much more ornamentation along the way. The ending is quite melismatic, which is appropriate since it should be sung when the celebrant approaches the altar for the prayers at the foot of the altar.

Of course there are more notes (and interpretive marks-"signs") for the important words in Gaudeamus. For instance, Assumptione is emphasized since it is the feast celebrated. But the chant moves along more quickly, and it sounds as it should be more quickly. When Suscepimus Deus is sung quickly, it sounds like one does the text an injustice. But that is the opposite case for the Gaudeamus.

The reality of death, judgment, Heaven and Hell, the Incarnation of the Logos for the redemption of the world is above human comprehension. We can understand it with the aid of the Holy Spirit, but its entirety escapes us. We see this in the Gospel tones; the long and melismatic Alleluias are followed by a very simple chant for the text. Chanting by the way elevates the Word, showing its true dignity as the revelation of God's very self so that we might be with Him in the Trinity, living eternally.

 For what it is worth, Pope Pius XII didn't really have to change the propers and readings after his dogmatic declaration of the Assumption in 1950. I'm not sure why they lacked mention of Revelation 12:1 beforehand (I feel a medieval history paper on that verse, the doctrine, and Marian devotion in medieval liturgy and piety), but the future changes really don't make much sense as far as emphasizing the dogma goes, nor do the chants work as well. And why must the Psalm verse be Cantate dominio? Its use did not need to be expanded! That is not to say that Signum magnum isn't beautiful, for it is, but that Gaudeamus has a special place in my heart

Here is the chant sung according to the markings presented in the Einsideln manuscripts.


For another musical treat, here is the setting of the Ave Maris Stella by Hans Leo Hassler.


Let us celebrate the life of Our Lady and its conclusion, striving to follow her heart, so that we might come ever closer to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, her son eternally begotten of the Father and incarnate temporally for the redemption of the world. Let us fly to her, our mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope who intercedes for us as Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptrix before her Son sitting at the Father's right hand so that we might come to love God for God is love and whoever is in love remains in God and God in him.

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