24 June 2012

‘In a word, one pure love’

An icon of the Holy Trinity by Trinity, Eileen McGuckin

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Third Sunday after the Trinity and may also be marked as the Feastday of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist [Sunday 24 June 2012].

An appropriate prayer for these weeks in Ordinary Time immediately after Trinity Sunday comes from Saint John of Kronstadt: “As the Holy Trinity, our God is One Being, although Three Persons, so, likewise, we ourselves must be one. As our God is indivisible, we also must be indivisible, as though we were one man, one mind, one will, one heart, one goodness, without the smallest admixture of malice – in a word, one pure love, as God is Love. ‘That they may be one, even as We are One’ (John 17: 22).”

This morning, I am presiding at the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at 11 a.m., when the preacher is the Revd Canon Roland Heaney, Rector of Dunganstown, Co Wicklow. The readings are: Job 38: 1-11; Psalm 107: 1-3, 23-32; II Corinthians 6: 1-13; Mark 4 35-41.

The Cathedral Eucharist this morning is sung by the cathedral choir, and the Eucharist Setting this morning Victoria’s Missa o quam gloriosum.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) was the most famous composer in 16th century Spain, and he stands alongside Giovanni da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso as one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation. He may have been taught by Palestrina and is sometimes called the “Spanish Palestrina.”

Victoria was born in Ávila in Spain, the seventh of nine children and was a choirboy in Ávila Cathedral, where he began studying the keyboard at an early age.

He went to Rome around 1565, and there he became cantor at the Collegium Germanicum, founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola. After Palestrina left the Roman Seminary, Victoria took over as maestro, and he was ordained priest in 1574. A year later, he became Maestro di Capella at S. Apollinare.

He returned to Spain in 1587 at the invitation of King Philip II, who made him chaplain to his sister, the Dowager Empress María. He was her chaplain for 17 years until she died in 1603, and his most famous work, and his masterpiece, was a Requiem Mass for the Empress Maria. After her death, he worked as a convent organist. However, he was in Rome in 1593, and again in 1594 for Palestrina’s funeral in 1594. He died in 1611 and was buried at the convent.

Victoria is the one of the greatest composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance, and his music expresses the passion of Spanish mysticism and religion. Many commentators hear in his music a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal. He was a master at overlapping and dividing choirs with multiple parts with a gradual decreasing of rhythmic distance throughout. He incorporates intricate parts for the voices, and in many of his choral pieces he treats the organ almost as a soloist.

This morning’s hymns are:

Processional: ‘New every morning is the love’ (John Keble, 1792-1866);
Offertory: ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’ (Horatius Bonar, 1889), sung to the tune ‘Kingsfold,’ adapted from an English folk tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams;
Communion: ‘All ye who seek a comfort sure’ (translated from an 18th century Latin hymn by Edward Carswell, 1814-1878);
Post-Communion: ‘Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go’ (Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

The motet is Victoria’s O sacrum convivium.

Choral Evensong at 3.30 p.m. this afternoon is a bilingual service in English and Irish sung by the cathedral choir. The Psalm is Psalm 49 and the readings in Irish are Jeremiah 10: 1-16; Romans 11: 25-36.

The Preces and Responses are by Philip Radcliffe (1905-1986), and the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are from the Evening Service in G by Herbert Howells (1892-1983).

The anthem is SS Wesley’s ‘Ascribe unto the Lord,’ based on Psalms 96 and 115, and there is a closing hymn in Irish, Hymn: Ag Críost an síol by Michael Sheehan and Seán Ó Ríada.


Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

O God,
whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
Give us a glimpse of your glory on earth
but shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

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