Repertoire

Music for Passiontide IX — Good Friday responsories

Yesterday’s post explained the structure of the Maundy Thursday Matins in which the Tenebrae responsories were placed. The structure for the Matins on Good Friday is the same: three nocturns (groups of readings and chanted or sung responsories). Each nocturn contained three readings and a following responsory.

As was the case on Maundy Thursday, the traditional readings in the first nocturn on Good Friday were all from Lamentations, the first being from 2:8–11.

The Lord hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.

Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord.

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.

Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.

This reading was followed by Omnes amici mei.

Omnes amici mei dereliquerunt me,
     All my friends have deserted me,
et praevaluerunt insidiantes mihi:
     And plotters have prevailed over me.
tradidit me, quem diligebam.
     He whom I loved has betrayed me.
Et terribilibus oculis plaga crudeli percutiens
     And with fierce looks and cruel blows
aceto potabant me.
     they gave me vinegar to drink.

Inter iniquos projecerunt me
     They cast me among the wicked
et non pepercerunt animae meae.
     and did not spare my soul.
Et terribilibus oculis plaga crudeli percutiens
     And with fierce looks and cruel blows
aceto potabant me.
     they gave me vinegar to drink.

Here is the Gregorian plainchant of this responsory, sung by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes.

The second reading is from Lamentations 2:12–15.

They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers’ bosom.

What thing shall I take to witness for thee? what thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? what shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? for thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?

Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.

All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?

The responsory following this reading is Velum templi scissum est.

Velum templi scissum est,
     The veil of the temple was rent
et omnis terra tremuit:
     and all the earth trembled.
Latro de cruce clamabat, dicens:
     The robber from the cross cried out, saying:
Memento mei, Domine, dum veneris in regnum tuum.
     Remember me, Lord, when thou comest into thy kingdom.

Petrae scissae sunt, et monumenta aperta sunt,
     The rocks were split, and the graves were opened;
et multa corpora sanctorum qui dormierant, surrexerunt.
     and many bodies of the saints who slept, arose.
Et omnis terra tremuit:
     and all the earth trembled.
Latro de cruce clamabat, dicens:
     The robber from the cross cried out, saying:
Memento mei, Domine, dum veneris in regnum tuum.
     Remember me, Lord, when thou comest into thy kingdom.

Here is the Gregorian plainchant of this responsory, sung once again by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes.

The third reading from Lamentations follows, verses 1-9 of chapter 3.

I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.

He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.

Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.

My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.

He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.

He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.

He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.

Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.

He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.

The third responsory is Vinea mea electa.

Vinea mea electa, ego te plantavi:
     O vineyard, my chosen one. I planted thee.
quomodo conversa es in amaritudinem,
     How is thy sweetness turned into bitterness,
ut me crucifigures et Barrabbam dimitteres.
     to crucify me and take Barabbas in my place?

Sepivi te, et lapides elegi ex te,
      protected thee; I took the hard stones away from thy path,
et ædificavi turrim.
     and built a tower in thy defence.

Here is the Gregorian plainchant of this responsory, presented by the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes.

This text was set to music in the late 1930s by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). It was one of Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence (Four Penitential Motets), three of which (including this one) are based on Holy Week responsories. Vinea mea elec is here sung by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers.

The second nocturn on Good Friday again presents three readings from commentary by St. Augustine, this time on Psalm 64. THe first reading comments on verse 2:

“You have protected me from the gathering together of malignants, and from the multitude of men working iniquity” (Psalm 64:2). Now upon Himself our Head let us look. Like things many Martyrs have suffered: but nothing does shine out so brightly as the Head of Martyrs; in Him rather let us behold what they have gone through. Protected He was from the multitude of malignants, God protecting Himself, the Son Himself and the Manhood which He was carrying protecting His flesh: because Son of Man He is, and Son of God He is; Son of God because of the form of God, Son of Man because of the form of a servant: having in His power to lay down His life: and to take it again. (John 10:18) To Him what could enemies do? They killed body, soul they killed not. Observe. Too little therefore it were for the Lord to exhort the Martyrs with word, unless He had enforced it by example. 

The reponsory following this reading is Tamquam ad latronem existis.

Tamquam ad latronem
     You come as against a robber
existis cum gladiis et fustibus comprehendere me:
     with swords and clubs to apprehend me:

Quotidie apud vos eram in templo docens
et non me tenuistis:
     I was daily with you in the temple teaching
and you did not arrest me;
et ecce flagellatum ducitis ad crucifigendum.
     and behold you lead me to scourging and to be crucified.

Cumque iniecissent manus in Iesum et tenuissent eum,
     They laid hands on Jesus and held him fast,
Dixit ad eos:
     He said to them:

Quotidie apud vos eram in templo docens
et non me tenuistis:
     I was daily with you in the temple teaching
and you did not arrest me;

et ecce flagellatum ducitis ad crucifigendum.
     and behold you lead me to scourging and to be crucified.

Yesterday, we heard 6 of the 9 responsories as set by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), who composed short, poignant motets for 18 of the 27 Holy Week responsories. Here is a performance of Tamquam ad latronem by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers. This ensemble will also be featured singing the rest of today’s responsories.

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, director

The next reading from St. Augustine’s commentary on Psalm 64 picks up on the reference in verse 2 to the secret plots of the wicked.

You know what a gathering together there was of malignant Jews, and what a multitude there was of men working iniquity. What iniquity? That wherewith they willed to kill the Lord Jesus Christ. So many good works, He says, I have shown to you, for which of these will you to kill Me? (John 10:32) He endured all their infirm, He healed all their sick, He preached the Kingdom of Heaven, He held not His peace at their vices, so that these same should have been displeasing to them, rather than the Physician by whom they were being made whole: for all these His remedies being ungrateful, like men delirious in high fever raving at the physician, they devised the plan of destroying Him that had come to heal them; as though therein they would prove whether He were indeed a man, that could die, or were somewhat above men, and would not suffer Himself to die. The word of these same men we perceive in the wisdom of Solomon: with death most vile, say they, let us condemn Him; let us question Him, for there will be regard in the discourses of Him; for if truly Son of God He is, let Him deliver Him. (Cf. Wisdom 2:20,18.)

This reading is followed by the responsory Tenebrae factae sunt.

Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent Jesum Judaei:
     Darkness fell when the Jews crucified Jesus:
et circa horam nonam exclamavit Jesus voce magna:
     and about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:
Deus meus, ut quid me dereliquisti?
     My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.
     And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.
Exclamans Jesus voce magna ait: Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.
     Jesus cried with a loud voice and said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.
Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.
     And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

Fittingly, Victoria’s setting of this responsory is the most powerful in the enture set.

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, director

The third and final reading from St. Augustine moves on to the third verse in Psalm 64.

“For they have whet like a sword their tongues” (Psalm 64:3). Which says another Psalm also, Sons of men; their teeth are arms and arrows, and their tongue is a sharp sword. Let not the Jews say, we have not killed Christ. For to this end they gave Him to Pilate the judge, in order that they themselves might seem as it were guiltless of His death. For when Pilate said to them: You put him to death, they responded: It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. […] But if he is guilty because he did it though unwillingly, are they innocent who compelled him to do it? By no means. But he gave sentence against Him, and commanded Him to be crucified: and in a manner himself killed Him; ye also, O you Jews, killed Him. Whence did ye kill Him? With the sword of the tongue: for you did whet your tongues. And when did ye smite, except when you cried out, Crucify, Crucify? (Luke 23:21)

The following responsory is Animam meam dilectam.

Animam meam dilectam tradidi in manus iniquorum,
     I delivered my beloved soul into the hands of the wicked,
et facta est mihi haereditas mea sicut leo in silva
     and my possessions have become to me like a lion in the forest.
Dedit contra me voces adversarius meus;
     My adversary spoke out against me saying:
congregamini et properate ad devorandum illum;
    
Come together and make haste to devour him.
Posuerunt me in deserto solitudinis et luxit super me omnis terra,
     They placed me in a solitary desert and all the earth mourned for me;
quia non est inventus qui me agnosceret, et faceret bene.
     because nobody could be found who would claim me and be kind to me.
Insurrexerunt in me viri absque misericordia, et non pepercerunt animae meae.
     Men without mercy rose up against me, and they spared not my soul.
quia non est inventus qui me agnosceret, et faceret bene.
     because nobody could be found who would claim me and be kind to me.

Since a number of these lines of text are repeated when sung, this is the longest of the responsories.

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, director

The final nocturn on Good Friday features readings from the letter to the Hebrews. Unfortunately, I cannot determine which passages were read, only that they focused on the theme of Christ as the great High Priest (which doesn’t narrow it down a lot.

But here are the texts to the final three responsories for Good Friday. The first of these is Tradiderunt me.

Tradiderunt me in manus impiorum
     They delivered me into the hands of the wicked
et inter iniquos proiecerunt me
     and cast me among evildoers.
et non pepercerunt animae meae:
     and did not spare my soul:
congregati sunt adversum me fortes:
Strong men gathered together against me;
Et sicut gigantes steterunt contra me.
     And, like giants, stood against me.
Alieni insurrexerunt adversum me
     Foreigners rose against me
et fortes quaesierunt animam meam.
     and strong men sought my soul.
Et sicut gigantes steterunt contra me.
     And, like giants, stood against me.

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, director

The next responsory was Jesum tradidit impius. Note that in this text, St. Peter is singled out for special attention.

Jesum tradidit impius summis principibus sacerdotum, et senioribus populi:
     The wicked man betrayed Jesus to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
Petrus autem sequebatur eum a longe, ut videret finem.
     Peter, however, followed him from a distance, to see the end.
Adduxerunt autem eum ad Caipham principem sacerdotum,
     They led him to Caiaphas, the high priest,
ubi scribae et pharisaei convenerant.
     where the scribes and the Pharisees were met together.
Petrus autem sequebatur eum a longe, ut videret finem.
     Peter, however, followed him from a distance, to see the end.

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, director

The final responsory for Good Friday — one which our choir has sung a few times — is Caligaverunt oculi mei.

Caligaverunt oculi mei a fletu meo:
     My eyes are darkened by my tears:
quia elongatus est a me, qui consolabatur me:
     For he is far from me that comforted me:
Videte, omnes populi,
     See, O all ye people,
si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
     if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.
O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte
     O all ye that pass by, behold and see
si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
     if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, director