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Musical Musings: Christmas

Ideas from The Liturgy of the Hours:

The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

The Liturgy of the Hours provides a rich, underused source of creative ideas for music during Mass. We have here the wisdom of the Church, offering new readings to amplify the familiar readings at Mass. We also have valuable new psalm selections and hymns, all a legitimate part of Sacred Liturgy, which can be a fertile new ground for selecting music that the Church relates to the themes of a particular feast. Practically speaking, for the music planner, these texts may lead one to a long-forgotten choral motet, or to a new possibility for an opening or communion processional based on one of the prescribed psalms or canticles.

CanticaNOVA Publications will offer these Ideas from the Liturgy of the Hours periodically, with the hope that musicians may find new sources of traditional music to enhance the Mass within the guidelines proposed by the Church.

+ Brief History of this Feast +

The Epiphany (Greek for manifestation) is the name of a feast of the first rank and a holyday of obligation [unless transferred to Sunday] almost throughout the Christian world on January 6, which commemorates the manifestations of our Lord, (a) to the Gentiles in the person of the Magi, (b) of his divinity made at his Baptism in the Jordan and (c) of his power shown in the miracle of Cana. In all Eastern rites it is the Baptism that is chiefly celebrated and some give the miracle a separate feast; in the Latin rite the Magi have the greatest prominence in both Mass and Office of the feast, but the Baptism is the chief theme of the Mass of the octave: all three are referred to at Matins, Lauds and Vespers. [Note: this reference predates the calendar reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Now in the Latin rite, Epiphany, on January 6 or the closest Sunday, celebrates the coming of the Magi; the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday following Epiphany, or Monday if Epiphany falls late; the Wedding Feast of Cana is the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - and follows the Feast of the Baptism on that year. The references noted in the Office - see below - still apply on Epiphany, showing the original roots of the feast of "manifestations."] In cathedrals and other large churches the dates of the movable feasts of the coming year are solemnly announced at Mass. Until the 4th century the birth of the Lord was also celebrated on this day in the East. It is customary in the East to bless waters -- sea, lake, river -- with much ceremony on this day; a corresponding blessing appears in the Rituale Romanum.
Taken from: A Catholic Dictionary, © Copyright 1941, edited by Donald Attwater.

+ Evening Prayer I +

Latin Hymn Quicumque Christum quæritis

  • Psalm 135 (I)
    Antiphon Begotten of the Father before the daystar shone or time began, the Lord our Savior has appeared on earth today.
  • Psalm 135 (II)
    Antiphon Great is the Lord, our God, transcending all other gods.
  • I Timothy 3:16
    Antiphon The star burned like a flame, pointing the way to God, the King of kings; the wise men saw the sign and brought their gifts in homage to their great King.
Reading II Timothy 1:9-10

[excerpt] All peoples will be blessed in him, men and women of every race; all nations will acclaim his glory.

Magnificat Antiphon
Seeing the star, the wise men said: This must signify the birth of some great king.
Let us search for him and lay our treasures at his feet: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

[response] Save the poor, O Lord.

+ Invitatory Antiphon +

Christ has appeared to us; come, let us adore him.

+ Office of Readings +

Latin Hymn Magi videntes parvulum

  • Psalm 72
    Antiphon From Tarshish and from the islands, kings have come to offer gifts to the Lord our King.
  • Psalm 96
    Antiphon Adore the Lord in his holy court, alleluia.
  • Psalm 97
    Antiphon Worship the Lord, all you his angels, alleluia.
The heavens proclaim the justice of God; all nations shall see his glory.

First Reading Isaiah 60:1-22 [The revelation of God's glory over Jerusalem]

[excerpt] Arise, shine forth, Jerusalem, for now your light has come: the glory of your God has risen upon you.
All nations will walk in your brightness, and kings in the splendor of your dawn.

Second Reading From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope [The Lord has made his salvation known to the whole world]

[excerpt] This is the glorious day on which Christ himself, the savior of the world, appeared; the prophets foretold him, the angels worshiped him; the Magi saw his star and rejoiced to lay their treasures at his feet.
God's holy day has dawned for us at last; come, all you peoples, and adore the Lord.

 Back to Christmas Index

Part 2: Morning Prayer, etc.

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