Chant: March 2008 Archives

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My doctoral dissertation — it seems so long ago — focused on the Proper Chants of the Paschal Triduum in the Graduale Romanum. The chants of the Church are, in effect, nothing less than sung theology. Among the chants of the Triduum is the Pange Lingua of Venantius Fortunatus (different from the Pange Lingua composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas); it is sung at the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, but also sung at the Divine Office beginning with the Fifth Sunday of Lent. I thought I might share with the readers of Vultus Christi, something of what I learned in singing, praying, and pondering this monument of Catholic hymnody.

The Pange Lingua of Passiontide

The hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, like the Holy Week Vespers hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt, is the work of Saint Venantius Fortunatus (530-600). Friend and secretary of the Queen Saint Radegonde (518-587), Fortunatus composed the hymns at her request to celebrate the arrival of a relic of the True Cross at the monastery she had founded at Poitiers. A gift of Emperor Justin II, the relic was solemnly received by Saint Radegonde on November 19, 569.

In the Divine Office

In the Divine Office of the 5th Week of Lent and Holy Week (Passiontide), the Pange lingua is divided into equal sections, the first being sung at Matins (The Office of Readings) and the second at Lauds.

On Good Friday

At the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, the hymn is sung with the refrain Crux fidelis, which appears for the first time in the seventh century. In the Romano-Germanic Pontifical of the Tenth Century Crux fidelis and Pange lingua are the last chants sung during the adoratio Crucis. In the reformed liturgy they occupy the same place. Like Gloria laus on Palm Sunday and Ubi caritas est vera on Maundy Thursday, Pange lingua has a refrain between each strophe.

Struggle and Triumph

1. Sing, my tongue,
the Savior's glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

In the first strophe Venantius Fortunatus introduces his theme: a combat to the death, a great struggle in which Christ will triumph over death by death. In like manner, the sequence Victimae paschali laudes will trumpet on Easter Day:

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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