Service music

Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 22, 2020)

Many members of the parish will no doubt be reading the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel readings that would be received if today’s services could be held. Those texts are readily available in the Prayerbook. But the Propers that punctuate our service are not as handy to read. So until we can restore our services, I’ll be posting the Propers here for each service.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is traditionally called Lætare Sunday, after the first Latin word in the Introit: “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem: and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: that ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breast of her consolations. I was glad when the said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.” Those verses from Isaiah 66 and Psalm 122 give evidence of the lessening of Lent’s austerity on this Sunday, which also goes by the names Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, mid-Lent Sunday (in French mi-carême) and Rose Sunday.

That sense of rejoicing can be heard in the plainchant setting of the Introit that has long been sung on this day:

The complete Latin text here is: “Lætare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum lætitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestræ. Lætatus sum in his quæ dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus.”

Having the Latin in front of you will help as you listen to that plainchant setting of Lætare Jerusalem sung by the female voices of the ensemble Discantus, directed by Brigitte Lesne. Notice how this setting inserts a “drone” voice, holding the same note underneath the chant voice.

The Gradual and Tract for this Sunday include a repetition of the text from Psalm 122, followed by some promises taken from the beginning of Psalm 125: “I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces. They that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as the mount Sion: which may not be removed but standeth fast for ever. The hills stand about Jerusalem: even so standeth the Lord round about his people, from this time forth for evermore. ”

The first two Latin words of that Gradual are Lætatus sum, “I was glad” or “I rejoiced.” The command in the first half of the Introit is “Rejoice.” The second half of the Introit and the opening of the Gradual declare that the joy has been experienced with the promise of entering the house of the Lord.

In the past, our choir has sung a setting of this text by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725). Below is a recording of that motet as sung by the Nederlands Kamerkoor, Harry Van der Kamp, conductor. The text is as follows:

Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi
     I rejoiced at the things that were said to me:
In domum Domini ibimus.
     We shall go into the house of the Lord.

The Offertory Proper for this Sunday is the third verse of Psalm 135: “O praise the Lord, for the Lord is gracious: O sing praises unto his Name, for it is lovely: whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven and in earth.” The verse before that one reads: “Ye that stand in the house of the Lord: in the courts of the house of our God.” So the connection between Psalm 122 and Psalm 135 is implicit; in the monastic tradition, in which the Psalter was chanted through once a week, that connection would have been obvious.

The Communion Proper for this Sunday presents another verse from Psalm 122: “Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity with itself: for thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord.” This Psalm is one of the 15 “Songs of Ascents,” Psalms 120-134, used by pilgrims on the way to the Temple at Jerusalem for the feasts.

Portions of this Psalm have been set by many composers. I’ll close this post with a recording of a setting of the by Tomás Luis de Victoria. This motet is appropriately joyous, scored for three choirs of four voices each. It is sung in the embedded music below by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers.

Here is the entire Latin text with translation:

Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: In domum Domini ibimus.
      I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.
Stantes erant pedes nostri, in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.
      Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, quae aedificatur ut civitas: cujus participatio ejus in idipsum.
      Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: testimonium Israël, ad confitendum nomini Domini.
     For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.
Quia illic sederunt sedes in judicio, sedes super domum David.
     Because their seats have sat in judgment, seats upon the house of David.
Rogate quae ad pacem sunt Jerusalem, et abundantia diligentibus te.
     Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and abundance for them that love thee.
Fiat pax in virtute tua, et abundantia in turribus tuis.
     Let peace be in thy strength: and abundance in thy towers.
Propter fratres meos et proximos meos, loquebar pacem de te.
     For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, I spoke peace of thee.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri, quaesivi bona tibi.
     Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
     Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
     As it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.