Thursday, November 7, 2019

Finding the roots of the ordinary of the mass

In 2001 I attended a small conference at Cambridge, the roots of Christian sacrifice. led by the Milgroms. It was my introduction to conferences as a way of learning.
Here I heard and read with another Canadian (unknown to me) my first Targum taught by Jo Milgrom, and where I was first introduced by her husband Jacob to his theories of purity based on his work on Leviticus. Stefan Rief also presented as did George Bebawi and Bishop Kallistos. There too Bishop Basil introduced me to Réné Girard. Not a bad beginning to conferences.
This past few weeks I have been thinking again of the origins of the smaller sections of the Eucharist. When we sing Kyrie Eleison or the Agnus Dei, where are the sources for these hymns. The Sanctus and Benedictus are more obvious (Isaiah 6 and Psalms 118) but the others are less obvious.

My first question (Does the phrase kyrie eleison occur in the Septuagint?) which I put on a Facebook group generated a focused dialogue (detail here). The result for me was to recognize that the Kyrie seems to arise from the character of God as expressed in Exodus 34:6,
... Yahweh, Yahweh, a God compassionate and gracious (ἐλεέω),slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth, Preserving mercy for thousands, bearing iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and as for holding innocent, he will not hold innocent, visiting the iniquity of forebears on children and on the children’s children over three and over four generations
The discussion confirmed my texts for the Kyrie, Psalms 6:3 and 103:8 which I chose in 2011 before I had fully developed the transcription of the music. The first is traditional and applies to the individual or a representative of the corporate body. The second reminds us that in the bootstrap of all things, character rather than raw power is the key to love. Notice that the two verses share a melodic ending.

The raw data is as follows:
Psalms 6:3
Psalms 103:8
I begin the Sanctus with a distant Hosanna. In Isaiah's vision, I imagined the Seraphim singing more than Holy. To begin with a background Hosanna celebrates the prayer - save now, that precedes the Benedictus in Psalms 118. This invites an invocation of the graciousness of the character of God in the vision of holiness.

Here the texts and the melody of the trope are clearly defined in the Tanakh.
Isaiah 6:3
Psalms 118:25-26
For the Agnus Dei, I returned to the themes of the Kyrie, noting by the way that the only verse to include both the words lamb and God is Genesis 22:8, the verse I read with Jo Milgrom in that conference 18 years ago. I wondered how to include that as background, but for now I left it out. The music source for the Agnus also includes Isaiah 53:7 and 12 where the bearing of sin is indicated. One might notice that take away is included in the idea of bearing or lifting up (נשא) sin. I have allowed a slight overlap with the Hebrew לקח (but not in this verse).

Isaiah 53:7, 12, in part

Here is the product after a week of construction.


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