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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Musical Musings: Gaudete means rejoice!

And what am I to do
Just tell me what am I supposed to say
I can't change the world
But I can change the world in me
If I rejoice

Rejoice (U2/October)

Many of us celebrated last Sunday as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for Rejoice (the imperative form, as my house Latin scholar was pleased to note)! The first words of the old Latin entrance antiphon were "Gaudete in Domino semper " -- Rejoice in the Lord always!

Advent is a liturgical season with a long tradition. In the 6th century a 40 day fast paralleling the Lenten fast leading up to Easter was instituted. The season began on St. Martin's feast on the 11th of November, hence the old name for Advent: St. Martin's Lent. (Think of all the wonderful Advent music we could use if it were still that long.) Gregory the Great shortened the season to four weeks, but provided a liturgical richness that we still draw on.
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virginæ, gaudete!

Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!
refrain to Gaudete from the Piae Cantiones
In the 16th century, the Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum (Devout ecclesiastical and school songs of the old bishops) was published. This was a collection of medieval Latin songs (both sacred and secular) for the students of the Cathedral School. It's a true musical treasure, and was published in English about 100 years ago. One of the songs in the collection is Gaudete, Steeleye Span's cover of which made the pop charts in Britain in 1972 (along with Pie Jesu the only Latin song to do so).

As we await our own celebrations of the Nativity, let us rejoice, in many ways, with all these many voices, through all the long centuries:
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.

It is now the time of grace
That we have desired;
Let us devoutly return
Songs of rejoicing.
There are many versions of the original, here are few of my favorites:
  • This may be as close to the original as you can get: a medley of another of my favorite Christmas motets, Personet Hodie, and Gaudete recorded using period instrumentation by a Finnish ensemble. Piae Cantiones
  • I don't know if it's their name or their voices, but my favorite version is by Mediaeval Baebes
  • Don't miss the Steeleye Span cover!
Ergo nostra cantio,
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.

Therefore let our choir
Now sing a hymn in purification
Let it give praise to the Lord:
greetings to our King.
If you want something a little less Papist, rejoice with these many splendored voices:
The antiphons for Vespers in these last days leading up to Christmas are the O Antiphons. Today we cry out
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings are silent,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

My thanks to Mary Beth for the pointer to the IHM site reflecting on the O Antiphons. I created an iTunes iMix for the music if you want to listen to snippets that way!


  1. Michelle, I look forward to looking into these links - right now I am heading out to run a couple of errands.

    Thank you for the links!

  2. great list, michelle, and thanks for the interesting background! last saturday some of us participated in a posada sin fronteras and i blogged about it.

  3. Ah, nothing like some good Christmas music!

    For those missing out one the Wednesday Festival, might I recommend the following:

    Last name dilemmas with female pastors

    ..and while not yet a RGBP site, I recommend checking out my wife's blog: How to Get Pre-Teen Girls to Have Sex, Live With Regret, and Contract as Many STDs as Possible


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