Friday, 5 June 2009

Whit Friday - Ember Day


The Sibyl said...

Dear Terra,

I need your help on a musico/liturgical question.

The ember days of Whitsun week are distinct in that unlike any other emberdays they retain the Gloria, alleluia's and sequence.

The ember Saturday is unique with it's many old testament readings and the placement of the Gloria, it is virtually a Vigil.

A question has a risen regarding todays Mass;

1. Is it really a penetential mass at all?

2. The ordinary given for emberdays is Mass XVIII - does one then revert to the fons bonitatis mass for the gloria?

3. Does the Mass change character from the Gloria onwards as with the Easter Vigil or indeed the Ember Saturday?

One priest has suggested that nothing of the penetential nature of the emberday is to be displayed in the octave - I'm not so sure about this since the tract's of the Saturday are penetential of their very nature.

What is your view?

Terra said...

Way above my pay grade Sibyl! I'm certainly no expert on this, but perhaps someone else reading might have some insights to offer.

Having stated my ignorance, let me have my two bobs worth anyway!

For what's its worth, I'd tend to agree with your priest. The Saturday Mass marks the end of the three day fast, is the time at which ordinations traditionally occurred, and marks the close of Paschal tide - it is a vigil as it were, into 'ordinary time'(not that this exists in the EF of course!). That said, as you note it really is a curiosity with Alleluias and a tract, and I'm sure someone must have done some work on the history of it (though I couldn't find much of use on a very quick check of a couple of the most obvious sources such as Gueranger).

The idea of it changing character at the Gloria is an interesting suggestion, but I can't see any indication of that in the propers here - the tract and Alleluias after all are both post the Gloria.

As I noted in an earlier post the problematic nature of the Ember Day masses this week is compounded (or perhaps in this case confirmed by?), as far as I can see, from the decision of Pius XII to bump them up a level in Class, so that under the 1962 rubrics they become Class I rather than II.

As for the chant to be used - I'd note that the allocations of particular chant masses to particular seasons/feast types are essentially Solesmes constructions of the nineteenth century which have only a tenuous relationship, as far as I can gather, to prior historical practice! So I wouldn't personally feel too constrained by the allocations in the Liber Usualis...but as I said, I'm no expert.

Terra said...

PS I'd suggest posting your question to the Musica Sacra forum, it has a lot of experts on tap! The link is