The 3rd Sunday in Advent is traditionally called by the name of its Introit.
Rose vestments instead of violet ones are worn, the organ may be played for its own music, and not simply to support the chant, the altar is for today decorated with flowers. At Saint-Eugène, the Schola is singing François Cosset's Missa ad imitationem moduli Gaudeamus omnes (1649). I still don't know what imitatio moduli means unless it is just 'based upon a melody from' (in this case) the introit Gaudeamus omnes; I see at the Wikipedia article that this work is called there Missa quinque vocum Gaudeamus omnes simply.
The Schola is singing the Credo III this morning. The Credo of Josquin des Prez's Mass in four voices from the 1480s on the same Gaudeamus omnes.
During the incensing of the altar at the Offertory, the Sol sub nube latuit was again sung-- it is a beautiful conduit à deux voix sur l’Incarnation; the text is by Gauthier de Châtillon (who died at toward the very end of the 12th century) and the music is found in the Magnus liber organi of the great école de Nôtre-Dame de Paris.
During the Communion, a prose from the Parisian books of the 11th century, Qui regis sceptra, which was lovely.
Qui regis sceptra forti dextra solus cuncta:
Tu plebi tuam ostende magnam excitándo poténtiam.
Præsta illi dona salutária.
Quem prædixérunt prophética vaticínia,
In nostra Jesum mitte, Dómine, arva. Amen.
Seeing that in Rome on the fourth Sunday of Advent there was no station-- because of the great ordinations of priests and deacons mense decembri which took place on the preceding night-- this third station preparatory to Christmas was celebrated at St Peter’s, with unwonted splendour of rites and processions, as if it were the mind of the Church to introduce us at this moment to the holy joys which belong to the season of our Lord’s birth.
This, in fact, is the week of the great scrutinies and of the solemn fasts preceding the ordinations; hence the faithful also on this day assemble at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, in order to obtain for themselves his heavenly protection, and to share with the Pastor Ecclesiae the joy which fills the hearts of the flock at the glad news of the approaching parousia: Prope est jam Dominus....
Formerly the Pope used to repair to the Vatican Basilica at sunset on the Saturday, and, being present at Vespers, intoned the first and last antiphons which were indicated to him by one of the canons. The Ordines Romani tell us that in reward for this service the Pontiff was accustomed to place a gold coin in the mouth of the worthy ecclesiastic. It was the duty of the Vatican Chapter to provide the Pope and the cardinals with supper and sleeping accommodation for the first part of the night; this latter, however, was not required for long, since the Office of the Vigil began shortly after midnight. The Pope, preceded by acolytes with candles and torches, went first to incense the altars of St Leo I, St Gregory the Great, St Sebastian, St Tiburtius, the Apostles SS Simon and Jude, the Holy Face, the Blessed Virgin and lastly that of St Pastor. This being done, he went down into the crypt of the Confession of St Peter, and after he had offered incense at the tomb of the Apostle the first Offices of the Vigil began. Three psalms and three scriptural lessons were chanted by the clergy, then the primicerius intoned the Te Deum, the Pope recited the collect, and so ended the first part of the night psalmody ad corpus. The procession then returned to the basilica above in the same order in which it had come down, and after the altar under which the body of St Peter rested had been incensed, began the Office of Matins, properly so called. This proceeded without there being anything special to be noted. The Vatican canons chanted the lessons of the first nocturn; in the second, the first two lections-- extracts from the letter of St Leo I to the Patriarch Flavian-- fell to the bishops; the third lection and the first of the third nocturn to two of the cardinals; the last but one to the senior canon of the Vatican Chapter; and the last one of all to the Pope.
The Office of Dawn [Lauds] followed, in which the Pontiff intoned the antiphon preceding the Canticle of Zachary [the Benedictus], and last of all recited the final collect. The stational Mass for this day, as it immediately precedes the Christmas season, had originally a strikingly festive character. We know that novenas and triduums in preparation for the greater feasts are of later origin, and in the golden age of the Liturgy these weeks before Easter and Christmas, with their vigiliary Masses and stational synaxes at the most famous basilicas of the Eternal City, were intended to prepare the souls of the faithful and to obtain for them from heaven the grace to profit by the various solemnities of the liturgical cycle.
At the Mass the Pope intoned the Angelic Hymn [the Gloria], which was then taken up by all the clergy. After the Collect, the singers, led by the cardinal deacons, the apostolic subdeacons and the notaries, recited the Acclamations or Laudes, in honour of the Pontiff, the clergy and the Roman people, a custom still observed at the coronation ceremony of the Sovereign Pontiffs. At the termination of the holy sacrifice the deacons replaced the tiara on the head of the Pope, and, having mounted their horses, the whole cavalcade proceeded with all due solemnity to the Lateran, where the banquet took place.
Today’s ceremonial has preserved very little indeed of all this brilliant ritual setting; joy is, indeed, by no means the dominant note of modem society. At the Mass, it is true, the sacred ministers are clothed in rose-coloured vestments in place of the customary ones of violet, and the organ once again fills the aisles with its strains. The divine Office itself has not undergone any change; it preserves intact its primitive spirit of festivity and eagerness aroused by the nearness of the coming of the Saviour. The Introit is derived from St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (iv, 4), and is well adapted to the occasion. The Lord is now very close at hand, and at this announcement the heart overflows with joy. Yet this joy is in complete contrast to that to which the world gives itself up, for it is the fruit of that inward peace which the Holy Ghost communicates to the soul when it remains faithful to God’s holy will. Such fidelity-- the careful fulfilling, that is, of the duties belonging to one’s state, is here called by St Paul modestia; the exact measure and form, as it were, of all the virtues. Interior peace might well find an obstacle in the sorrows and anxieties of the outward life; but St Paul would have us banish from our hearts all excessive solicitude, having recourse in humble confidence to God in prayer, and laying all our needs trustingly before him whom he calls the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation. Psalm 84, which forms the concluding portion of the Introit, is in a special manner the canticle of the Redemption. In the Collect we pray God to incline his ear to our sighs and speedily to disperse the shadow of sin by the brightness of his coming.
The Epistle is drawn from the same passage of St Paul’s letter to the Philippians as is the Introit (iv, 4-7). The Apostle concludes by wishing that the ineffable peace of the Holy Ghost may keep the faithful of his flock in the love of Christ. This supernatural peace, which is one of the fruits of the Paraclete, is the serene steadfastness of the soul in the service of its Creator. The Gradual comes from Psalm 79, which we have already seen in the Introit of the preceding Sunday. He who sits tranquil above the Cherubim of his glory, and guides the destinies of mankind, is about to come in all his power to subdue his agelong enemy. The alleluiatic verse belongs to the same psalm. In the Gospel (St John i, 19-28) the Baptist continues his mission of preparing the way of all hearts for Jesus, so that they may become fruitful ground for the sowing of the holy seed. The world seems weary of long waiting, and by the mouth of its most authoritative representatives questions John if he be at last the prophet who was promised by Moses, whose coming has been so long announced. But the friend of the Bridegroom does not usurp his rights; nay, he abases himself still further in his humility, in order to proclaim the Messianic dignity of the Saviour and his existence from all eternity. As for himself, he says that he is merely an echo, a shadow, unworthy to render to Jesus even those menial services which slaves were then accustomed to perform for their masters. Such humility is truly in keeping with the greatness of the forerunner, of whom it was said, by the mouth of the divine Word himself, that none greater had arisen among the sons of men. In the first days of apostolic preaching, the testimony borne by John to our Lord’s divinity greatly facilitated the spread of the faith among the priests and among the disciples and admirers of the austere preacher of the Jordan. At Ephesus, even, St Paul found whole groups of believers who had received only the baptism of the Precursor.
The Offertory is taken, like the Introit, from Psalm 84. The coming of our Lord on earth is the blessing promised by Jehovah to Abraham; it is freedom from slavery, it is the remission of sins. In the Secret we ask God so to help us that we may renew the unbloody sacrifice by constant devotion, and that the eucharistic mystery now about to be accomplished may be for us a pledge of eternal salvation.
In the Communion comes a last invitation to timid souls: "Fear not: it is no longer a prophet, a lawgiver, a scribe, but God himself who comes to save you ” (Isa. xxxv, 4). In the Post-Communion-- the Eucharistia-- we pray God that the sacred gift may so purify us as to prepare us fittingly for the coming solemnity. To dispose our souls for the worthy reception of divine grace demands suitable preparation before approaching the sacraments, by giving due care to prayer and meditation. If Jerusalem rejected the Messiah, it was precisely for want of preparation for the receiving of the Messianic grace. Wholly immersed in vain and worldly desires, she was indeed ill-prepared to see the King of Glory in the Man of Sorrows. Ritual and external practices of worship are praiseworthy and necessary, but preparation for the right use of grace is something far more searching and needful.