Today, forty days after Easter, is the feast of Our Lord's Ascension (Introibo).
Et Dominus quidem Jesus postquam locutus est eis, assumptus est in cælum, et sedet a dextris Dei. Illi autem profecti prædicaverunt ubique, Domino cooperante, et sermonem confirmante, sequentibus signis.
Holy Mass at Saint-Eugène is beginning
now momentarily any minute any time now. The occasional delays of the beginning are due to the previous Mass running 'over time'. The Schola is singing the Mass Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (1699) of André Campra (French Wiki, with much more detail than the English), maître de chapelle at Notre-Dame and at Versailles in the reign of Louis XIV etc. The Credo is Henry du Mont's, who was maître de chapelle to Louis XIV. The sequence, from the proprium of Paris, is Solemnis haec festivitas. A motet at Communion of Jean-Batiste de Lully, Omnes gentes; at what point and in whose history books Lully acquired the particule nobiliare I don't know.
From the folks at Neumz on the Introit Viri Galilaei.
This Introit announces, with brilliance and with a melody that is among the most beautiful in the Gregorian repertoire, the great solemnity of the Ascension. The text, extracted from the Acts of the Apostles, is made up of the words of the angels to the Apostles on the Mount of Olives. Jesus ascended to heaven; Jesus must return one day.
This hymn presents us with a beautiful image. The Apostles look up to heaven, a gaze reflected by the Church. Ever since Christ ascended to heaven, the Church has kept looking to the sky in ardent expectation until He “returns” (ita veniet). Jesus has gone for now, but he will return; the composer's intention, made explicit by the melodic treatment of this passage, was to highlight the second advent of Christ at the end of time, and thereby direct the gaze of the disciples of Christ to this ultimate coming of the Messiah that the Church awaits with all her love.
Our Introit, taken from the 7th mode, the angelic mode, is happy and enthusiastic, articulated using a powerful breath. It is a light piece, soaring even, and very flexible. It consists of three main melodic phrases: the first corresponding to the declaration of the angels; the second to their promise; and the third to the three alleluias that conclude this song of joy.
The melodic line unfolds with great rapidity, almost without any support, up to in cælum, an expression that punctuates the two sections and precedes the cadence, articulated here by the two words, ita veniet. Note the great contrast with what preceded: ita veniet is sung in a very broad, affirmative way, especially on the powerful held note at veniet, which requires a beautiful crescendo, just before the gentle conclusion of the cadence. The expansive length attached to veniet could well indicate, in the mind of the composer, the length of time spent waiting for the return of Christ.
Gave up trying to format that. This happens because I neglect to remove the existing formatting when I copy text here from elsewhere.
Blessed Ildefonso's Liber sacramentorum essay for today's feast.
The liturgical festival of the Ascension, whilst less ancient than that of Pentecost, is yet one of the oldest of the cycle, and although we find no documentary evidence of its existence before Eusebius, the feast was already so universally observed at that time that St Augustine was able to attribute its institution to the Apostles themselves. The chief characteristic of the festival in olden days was a solemn procession which took place about midday in memory of the Apostles accompanying our Lord out of the city to the Mount of Olives. At Rome, the Pope, after the night Office was concluded, and after Mass had been celebrated at the altar of St Peter, was crowned by the cardinals, and towards the sixth hour was accompanied by bishops and clergy to the Lateran. On this day Jesus was taken up into heaven in the sight of his faithful disciples, who, however, continued to gaze heavenwards, striving to catch sight once more of their divine Master; but such contemplative life, wholly absorbed in the beatific vision of Paradise, is reserved for those who have already passed into the Church triumphant They indeed have their reward in mercede contemplationis, as St Augustine expresses it in a famous homily, which the liturgy in the Breviary appoints to be read on the feast of St John the Evangelist. Our calling, on the other hand, must be in opere actionis; wherefore the liturgy in today’s Introit repeats in one of the most beautiful of the Gregorian melodies the words of the Angels to the Apostles: 'Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven? Alleluia: he shall so come as you have seen him going up into heaven, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.' Ita veniet. This is our comfort in the sorrows and separations of life. Jesus has left us, but he will certainly come back to us. The expectation of his coming should be the pulse of our inner life, whilst with our hearts turned to him and the eyes of our faith fixed on heaven, we eagerly await his return.The Collect, too, is full of beauty. Our Redeemer has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven. He is our head, and it is only by a kind of violence that his mystical members are compelled still to remain as pilgrims here on earth. Since we are unable to follow him at once to heaven, we must dwell there with him in our thoughts, our affections, and our desires, so that although we are exiles in the body we may be able to say with St Paul, conversatio nostra in coelis est.The Lesson is taken from the Acts of the Apostles (1,1-2) and gives an account of our Lord’s Ascension into heaven. Jesus ascends from the Mount of Olives, from the place where his passion began, in order to teach us that the cross is the one and only way to Paradise. He promises the Apostles that he will send to them the Paraclete, but only after his triumphal entry into his kingdom, because it was fitting that the fulness of glory should be shed on the members from their head. Before disappearing from their sight, Jesus blesses his Apostles, so as to assure them in the secret places of their hearts of his unfailing assistance, intimate and unseen. It is there that he establishes, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the temple in which he comes to dwell with his heavenly Father. The angels dissuade the Apostles from remaining to gaze up to heaven, because our present life is a time for work and not for repose. Now we sow, later we shall reap. We sow in toil and sorrow, we shall reap in joy and gladness. We must therefore work, but in this, too, there is a rule to be observed. We must work as do the angels, when they exercise their loving ministry of watching over us. They assist us and are always at our side, but at the same time they fix their gaze on Paradise, seeking their happiness in the contemplation of the beauteous countenance of the Eternal Father, in quem desiderant Angeli prospicere. The alleluia verse is from Psalm 46: 'God is ascended with jubilee; and the Lord with the sound of the trumpets' of the angelic hosts, who acclaim him as their leader and Saviour, and render him thanks, since by means of the redemption of man, he has filled the gaps in their ranks caused by the lapse of the fallen angels. A circumstance which added to the splendour of the Ascension was that the holy Prophets and Patriarchs, who rose from their sepulchres at the moment of the death of our Lord upon the cross, and appeared to many in Jerusalem, in all probability accompanied him in this glorious triumph. The verse immediately preceding the Gospel is derived from Psalm 67: 'The Lord who showed himself on Sinai, now ascends on high, and leads captivity captive'; that is, he triumphs over sin and the devil, whose power he treads underfoot. The followers of Christ need have no fear of Satan; he is chained like a savage animal, and can harm only those who foolishly put themselves within his reach.The Gospel, relating the story of the Ascension, comes from St Mark (16,14-20). It tells at once the history not only of the forty days which our Lord spent with his Apostles after the resurrection, but also of the later days of the Church’s more immediate life and work. The disciples are imbued with the power of working miracles in confirmation of their divine mission, and go forth to preach the Gospel in all parts of the world. Jesus from heaven gives efficacy to their words, and thus the Church, like her divine Master whose beneficent work she carries on, spreads everywhere her saving influence: pertransiit benefaciendo et sanando. Nor must it be thought that this picture applies only to the apostolic ages, for the Church is the same now as she was then. There exists no corporal nor spiritual work of mercy to which she does not also now devote herself, especially through the agency of her marvellous religious orders. As to the gift of miracles, this, too, is a grace which has never failed her. Indeed this gift is in such close connection with her mark of sanctity, that in her wisdom the Church insists that before inscribing any one of her members on the roll of the saints, the wonders obtained through his intercession shall first be judicially examined, discussed and approved. Moreover, there are always a great number of these apostolic processes before the Sacred Congregation of Rites, which is the competent tribunal for these causes.The Offertory is drawn from Psalm 46: 'God is ascended in jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet, Alleluia.' On the day of the Incarnation the angels proclaimed his glory only in heaven: Gloria in excelsis Deo; the gift most fitted on earth whilst the Saviour was in poverty and humiliation, was that of peace between God and man: et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. But today the grand work of redemption being completed, the glory of heaven is reflected also upon earth, since the barrier of separation has been removed and the two families of men and angels have become one. Thus whilst Jesus Christ, caput hominum et angelorum, is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, the members of his mystical body, in which he continues to live and work, remain here on earth. As then the Saviour unites in himself these two attributes, that of the glorious head in heaven and that of the members who labour on earth, so likewise the Church is militant here below, but has already through her head begun the blessed life of Paradise.In the Secret we call to mind that the sacred gifts are offered on this day in commemoration of the glorious Ascension of Christ, which is the consequence of his passion. Therefore we pray God to make the path to heaven easier for us by removing all stumbling-blocks which lie in the way so that we may safely reach the longed-for goal. It is to be noted, however, that we do not at all ask here that the soldiers of Christ should be withdrawn entirely from the battle, to spend their time in a place of safety-- by no means, for this life is a season of warfare-- but we do ask that God will guard our steps against the only real harm and danger that can threaten us, which is that of offending him. In the eucharistic anaphora or Preface which introduces the Trisagion, there is inserted during the whole Octave of the Ascension the commemoration of this sublime mystery, in accordance with the Roman custom, mentioned by Pope Vigilius in writing to Profuturus of Braga: 'Who after his resurrection appeared and showed himself to all his disciples; and while they beheld him was lifted up into heaven, so that he might make us partakers of his Godhead'. This is the meaning of today’s feast, and the end which Christ desires to compass by ascending into heaven. He fully attains this desire on the approaching feast of Pentecost, when together with the Holy Spirit he bestows on us his own divine life, his own Sacred Heart. We also commemorate today’s solemnity within the Action before the apostolic diptychs in the words [i.e. there is a proper Communicantes]: 'Communicating and keeping the most holy day, on which thine only-begotten Son our Lord set at the right hand of thy glory the substance of our frail human nature which he had taken to himself'.The Communion is taken from Psalm 67: 'Sing ye to the Lord, who ascendeth above the heaven of heavens to the east, Alleluia.' The 'heaven of heavens' here signifies the very throne of the Godhead, of which the sacred humanity of Christ takes possession today. He ascends in the East because all the works of God are full of light and splendour, and the Church has never had, like some modern theosophists, two doctrines, one secret for the initiated, and one open for the people at large. God works in full daylight, Jesus Christ dies on a hill-top, in the presence of a whole people, on the great day of the Parasceve of the Jews at Jerusalem itself. He rises again and lets himself be seen and touched not only by the Apostles, but by the holy women and even by as many as five hundred persons at one time. Today he ascends to heaven from the heights of the Mount of Olives in the presence of at least eleven persons besides his holy Mother and his brethren. In the Eucharistia or prayer of thanksgiving [i.e. in the Post-Communion prayer], we beseech the divine clemency to grant that the visible sign of God’s grace, that is, Holy Communion, may produce within us its full effect: in other words, we ask that the material incorporation with the victim of the Eucharistic Sacrifice may unite us spiritually to Christ. The supreme glorification of the head who is this day enthroned at the right hand of the Father in heaven affects the members also, like the precious balsam which, as Psalm 132 tells us, descended from the head of Aaron on to his flowing beard and on to his gorgeous pontifical vestments. This spiritual unction is the gift of the Holy Ghost, which Christ obtains today from heaven for his Church. Hence the connection between the Ascension and Pentecost is very close, nor can we understand the one without the other.
Ante Nonam. Have been listening to the Idoménée of André Campra this afternoon. Five acts, two and three quarter hours, Les Arts Florissants from about twenty years ago. It's quite lovely and Mozart used a libretto based on it for his Idomeneo. Such cheerful music for what is, after all, an unpleasant tragedy.
It is also the feast of Saint Ignatius (19th century), of Saint Gemma (15th century), and of Saint Natalis (8th century).
V. Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum. R. Deo grátias.
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