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12th Night! Sung Mass by William Byrd at Journal Square Church tonight
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2008/5/8 22:53
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Epiphany High Mass at 7:00 PM
St. John the Baptist, 3026 Kennedy Blvd., Jersey City, NJ 07306.
Journal Square.

For the `12 day of Christmas, Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be offered at 7:00 PM for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, tonight, Friday, January 6th.
The Mass setting is Byrd’s Mass for three voices. Propers will be sung from the Liber Usualis and traditional carols and motets will be sung.

Musicologist Brian Robbins explains:
The three unaccompanied masses Byrd composed during the 1590s are masterpieces of late Elizabethan polyphony. The Mass for Three Voices (1593-1594), like its companions for four and five voices, is a setting of the sections of the Ordinary: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Byrd wrote the work for use by Catholics during a period when celebration of the mass was strictly forbidden. Still, Catholics (or recusants, as they were then known in England), continued to perform their central act of worship under cover of strict secrecy. Byrd's masses were therefore composed for practical use and conceived expressly for small-scale, furtive performances. After moving from London to Essex in 1593, Byrd himself may have been involved in such acts of worship at the nearby home of Sir John Petre, a notable member of the Catholic community and a friend and patron of the composer.
The Mass for Three Voices is the briefest of Byrd's three masses, almost certainly because the opportunities for passing thematic material from one voice to another are restricted by such a small number of parts. There is no evidence that Byrd had a particular vocal disposition in mind, and the mass works as well for soprano, alto, and tenor as it does for alto, tenor, and bass, or even tenor, baritone, and bass. Such flexibility is obviously logical, given the conditions under which the work was originally intended to be sung. In each of his masses, Byrd was careful not to make the vocal writing too complex; the scoring in the present work is mainly syllabic, with little complex melismatic writing. Still, within such apparent austerity, Byrd produces many wonderfully expressive moments, with key passages in the text highlighted to great effect.

This feast was kept in the East from the third century and its observance spread to the West towards the end of the fourth. The word Epiphany means manifestation, and just as at Christmas, it is the mystery of God appearing in visible form; only no longer does He show Himself to the Jews alone but “on this day" it is “to the Gentiles that God reveals His Son" (Collect). In a magnificent vision, Isaias beheld the Church as typified by Jerusalem, whither should flock kings and nations, the “multitude of the sea" and the “strength of the Gentiles,” coming from afar with countless caravans, singing the Lord’s praises and bringing Him frankincense and gold (Epistle). “The kings of the earth shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him" (Offertory). In to-day’s gospel we see this prophecy fulfilled.

While at Christmas we extolled the union of our Lord’s divinity with His humanity, at the Epiphany we honour the mystic union of souls with Christ. “This day a star led the Wise Men to the manger; this day water was turned into wine at the marriage feast; this day Christ chose to be baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation, alleluia." So we read in to-day’s liturgy which thus connects this feast with that of the Octave Day and of the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.

At St. Peter’s, where are the relics of the Church’s first visible head, the liturgical celebration of the entry of the Gentiles into the Church takes place. “In the adoring Magi,” says St. Leo, “let us acknowledge the first-fruits of our own calling and faith; and let us commemorate with hearts full of joy the foundations of this our blessed hope. For from this moment we have begun to enter our heavenly patrimony.”

Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus: et regnum in manu ejus, et potestas et imperium. * Deus, judicium tuum Regi da: et justitiam tuam Filio Regis.
Behold the Lord the Ruler is come: and dominion, and power, and empire, are in his hand. * Give to the King thy judgment, O God, and to the King’s Son thy justice.
(Malachias 3:1 and Psalm 71:2 from the Introit of Mass)

Deus, qui hodierna die unigenitum tuum Gentibus, stella duce, revelasti: concede propitius, ut qui jam te ex fide cognovimus, usque ad contemplandam speciem tuam celsitudinis perducamur.
O God, who by the direction of a star, didst this day manifest thy only Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant, that we, who now know thee by faith, may come at length to see the glory of thy Majesty.

Omnes de Saba, venient, aurum et thus deferentes, et laudem Domino annuntiantes. * Surge et illuminare, Jerusalem, quia gloria Domini super te orta est.
Alleluia, alleluia. Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente: et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum. Alleluia.
All shall come from Saba, bringing gold and frankincense, and publishing the praises of the Lord. Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
Alleluia, alleluia. We saw his star in the east, and are come, with our offerings, to adore the Lord. Alleluia.

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold there came wise men from the East, to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. And Herod, hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests, and the scribes of the people, he enquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda: for it is written by the Prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod privately calling the Wise Men, learned diligently of them the time of the star, which appeared to them: and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go, and diligently enquire after the Child: and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him. Who, having heard the king, went their way. And behold the star, which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, his Mother, (here, all kneel,) and falling down, they adored him. And, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep, that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their own country.
(St Matthew 2:1-12)

The Catholic Encyclopaedia on the Epiphany:

Dom Gueranger on the Epiphany:

Meditation from Bishop Challoner for the Epiphany:

Posted on: 2017/1/6 9:19
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