Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gregory the Great: The Namesake of Chant

Tomorrow is the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great, name sake of Gregorian chant.  The chant neumes were standardized and propagated long after his death, but Gregory, to whom many compositions are ascribed, is remembered as its father for his attempts to improve and standardize church music.

Ecce jam noctis, a Lauds hymn, is one of those pieces traditionally attributed to Gregory

Deus nostri miserátus, omnem
Pellat languórem, tríbuat salútem,
Donet et nobis pietáte Patris
Regna polórum.

Præstet hoc nobis Déitas beáta
Patris, ac Nati, paritérque sancti
Spíritus, cujus résonat per omnem
Glória mundum.

* * *

Lo! the dim shadows of the night are waning;
Radiantly glowing, dawn of day returneth;
Fervent in spirit, to the mighty Father
Pray we devoutly.

So shall our Maker, of His Great compassion,
Banish all sickness, kindly health bestowing;
And may He grant us, of a father’s goodness,
Mansions in heaven.

This He vouchsafe us, God forever blessed,
Father eternal, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Whose is the glory which through all creation
Ever resoundeth. Amen.

Ecce jam noctis has a very pleasant tune to carry along the very to-the-point (and proper) morning sentiments. I am particularly struck by "Fervent in spirit, to the mighty Father, pray we devoutly." This is a good morning reminder for any of us as our mind and will wanders during the day. "Fervent" and "devoutly" remind us that the Christian's core business is seeking God, not worrying about what's left to do on our desk or what we wish we had done. Fervent: with warmth and passion. Devoutly: with humble awareness of our relationship to the God who was and is and will be.