Monday, April 6, 2015

Terra tremuit!



The schola at our diocesan traditional Latin Mass sang this antiphon, which is appointed for the Offertory rite on the Mass of Easter Sunday. 

Terra tremuit et quievit * dum resurgeret in judicio Deus, alleluia.
The earth trembled and was still * when God arose in judgment, alleluia.

Listen here while reading the rest of this post!

Offertory antiphon and verses of Easter Sunday: Terra tremuit



The chant is from Psalm 75 (76 in the KJV-style numbering). On Easter, the phrase "the earth trembled" evokes the medieval image of Christ harrowing hell and, of course, the earthquake in Matthew's account of the Resurrection:

"And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it." (Matthew 28:1-2)

The Douai-Reims translation is one of very few that uses the phrase "the earth trembled" for the psalm. Other translations, such as the King James, use "the earth feared". If this version were sung in an English adaptation of the traditional Offertory antiphon, the rationale behind its use would be lost to modern listeners. No, I think "the earth trembles" is the way to go.

At Mass, we also added one of the fantastical verses from the 1935 Offertoriale compiled by Karl Ott. Here are all the verses as used by Ensemble Organum is the wonderful recording above. You'll notice that the structure is responsorial, rather than antiphonal. After the antiphon, one or two cantors sing an elaborate verse which continues the psalm; in this case, Psalm 75; and then the rest of the choir repeats the last section of the antiphon. These Offertory verses seem to have fallen out of fashion by the 13th century, perhaps thanks in part to the low Mass's influence on high Mass; namely, the omission of all but the most essential texts of the propers in the Missal. Still, a final vestige can be seen in the Requiem Mass's famous Offertory antiphon, with its verse and the repetition of quam olim Abrahae.

(And, of course, since this is an Easter chant, the word alleluia is liberally attached to the end of every verse. This is a happy chant!)

1. Notus in Judea Deus in Israel magnum nomen eius, alleluia *
dum resurgeret in iudicio Deus, alleluia.

2. Et factus est in pace locus eius et habitatio eius in Sion, alleluia *
dum resurgeret in iudicio Deus, alleluia.

3. Ibi confregit cornua arcum, scutum, gladium et bellum, iluminans tu mirabiliter a montibus aeternis, alleluia.
1. In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel, alleluia, *
when God arose in judgment, alleluia.

2. His dwelling is in peace and in repose, and in Sion is His habitation, alleluia, *
when God arose in judgment, alleluia.

3. There He broke bow arrows, shield, sword, and war weapons, you are glorious, more wonderful than eternal mountains, alleluia.

The harrowing of hell


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