Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Vigil of the Nativity

Uniquely in the Liturgical Year the Vigil of the Nativity changes rank after Mattins and from being a simple then becomes a double from Lauds onwards.

Mattins has one nocturn of three lessons. The invitatorium is Hodie scietis and the hymn Verbum supernum, the antiphons and psalms are from the ferial psalter for Wednesday but the vericles, lessons and responsories are proper. Lauds has proper antiphons on the psalms and Benedictus.

Prime is festal and the Martyrology is sung with extra soleminity today. The Hebdomadarius dons a violet cope and preceded by acolytes bearing candles and a thurifer with incense. After reverencing the choir the Martyrolgy is censed, as a Gospel book, three times. The the choir rise and the Hebdomadarius chants 'Octavo Kalendas Januarii. Luna vicesima septima. Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit coelum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimonono: A diluvio etc. listing the years since the birth of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the anointing of David, the time since Daniel the Prophet, since the founding of Rome and the conception of the LORD by the Holy Ghost '...novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus', then raising the pitch of the chant, whilst the choir kneel, he continues, 'in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus Homo'. Then in the tone of the Passion: 'Nativitas Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundem carnem.' The choir then rise and sit whilst in the normal tone the Hebdomadarius continues with the entries for the day: 'Eodem die natalis santae Anastasiae etc. The lectio brevis is proper to the Vigil. The antiphons from Lauds are used in sequence at the Hours.

After None Mass is sung. Today the ministers do not wear folded chasubles but dalmatic and tunicle. There is just one collect. The dismissal, Benedicamus Domino, is sung by the deacon to a most beautiful and ornate tone reserved for today, the feast of the Holy Innocents (when celebrated in violet which won't happen this year) and pro re gravi Masses.

First Vespers of the Nativity are sung in the afternoon. All hymns of Iambic metre have the Doxology Jesu, tibi sit glori, qui natus es de Virgine... for the Octave and up until the feast of the Epiphany.

In the 'liturgical books of 1962' there is no change of rank between Mattins and the rest of the day. The antiphons at Mattins and the Hours are doubled. At Prime the special lesson is omitted and the one used for all of Advent sung. Not having folded chasubles the distinction of the lightening of the penitential tone is lost at Mass and the beautiful chant of the Benedicamus Domino is replaced by Ite, missa est.

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