Sunday, 7 July 2013

Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross

Today begins the traditional novena in honour of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.

[Note: The feast was traditionally celebrated on 16 July. However, this conflicted with the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so the feast was translated first to 17 July, and then finally fixed on 21 July. For 17 July, the novena starts tomorrow, and for 21 July on 12 July.]

In the general calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, there are two feasts honouring the Holy Cross. First is the Invention of the Holy Cross, which commemorates the finding of the True Cross in A.D. 326 by Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. This feast is traditionally celebrated on 3 May, but after the institution of the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, the former was removed from the general calendar, and was listed amongst the pro aliquibus locis propers.

Second is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which commemorates the return of the True Cross in A.D. 628 by the Byzantine Emperor Flavius Heraclius Augustus. The True Cross was taken as a trophy by the Sassanid Emperor Khosrau II (not a Muslim but a Zoroastrian) when he captured Jerusalem in A.D. 614. The feast is kept on 14 September in the general calendar of the Church. It had also been also referred to as the Triumph of the Holy Cross.

For Spain, however, and her previous colonies, a third feast honouring the Holy Cross is allowed. This is the Triumph of the Holy Cross, originally kept in 16 July (or 17 July or 21 July, in other places). It commemorates the victory of the combined forces of the Catholic kings of Christian Iberia over the Almohad rulers of Muslim Iberia in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, in Jaén in Andalucía on 16 July 1212. This Crusade was organised by Alfonso VIII of Castille, the Archbishop of Toledo Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, and Pope Innocent III to protect the Christian realms of Iberia.

The miracle that begat the feast
The outcome was decisive, precipitating the eventual collapse of the Muslim empire in the Iberian Peninsula, imparting greater momentum to the Reconquista.

El triunfo de la Santa Cruz
Marceliano Santa María Sedano

Let us read a brief account of the battle as recounted in the three lessons of the third nocturn of the Office of Matins for 16 July in the breviary of the Dominicans of the Philippine Islands, organised under the Province of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These lessons were written by Archbishop Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada and by other worthy authors.

[Note: In the sixth lesson, we read a passage that describes a practice that was contentious at that time, namely, the carrying of the primatial Cross before the Archbishop of Toledo. Bishop Rodrigo vigorously protected and asserted his primatial rights and that of his See against what he called the pretentions of the Sees of Braga and Tarragona. Eventually, the primacy of the See of Toledo would be recognised all over Spain and the Spanish Realms, becoming at the same time, the richest see in the whole Western Christendom.]

The feast in the Philippines
The Ordo Divini Officii of the Islands ranks the feast as a duplex maius, equal in rank to the other two feasts of the Holy Cross.

This would be equivalent today to the rank of II classis. The Dominican breviary, on the other hand, ranks it as a totum duplex, which would be equivalent nowadays to I classis. These ranks and dignities notwithstanding, the feast has long disappeared from the greater ecclesial memory of the Philippines, and only the Invention of the Holy Cross appears to have taken deep root, evidenced by the multitude of santacruzan processions throughout May, never mind if they are liturgically correct or consistent with the teaching of the Church.

The novena of the Holy Cross itself, according to the text approved for the then Diocese of Cebu, especially remembers the victory at Las Navas de Tolosa on the seventh day. The novena was translated from Spanish into Cebuano by a priest of the diocese from the novena diffused throughout Querétaro in Mexico, composed or based on the tradition set by the Franciscan friar, the Venerable Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús, Servant of God. The translated text is given below:

Although the feast has seemingly disappeared from the religious life of the Isles, there is at least one municipality in the Philippines that still keeps the feast: the municipality of Carigara, the most prosperous residencia of the Jesuits in the island of Leyte. The town feast was thus instituted in commemoration of the day the first Jesuits arrived in Carigara, 16 July 1569, which fell on the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

The demise of the Filipino chant books: Part II

This is the second part of a five-part series.

I. Chant in the Catholic world

Sacred music in Catholic Philippines

Filipino chant is Hispanic in character. It is amongst the chant family that developed in the scholae cantorum of the august cathedrals of Spain, forming a chant tradition that is distinct from the more widespread Gregorian chant, which had fallen into abbreviations sometime after the Middle Ages that very little has been preserved from its authentic modulation. Gregorian chant itself, as has been noted elsewhere, is an amalgamation of the florid Gallican chant and the austere Roman chant. Different places had different chant traditions.

The cathedral chant of Spain may be related to Mozarabic chant, and influenced by it, but per se it is not. It is difficult to reconstruct the practice and execution of Mozarabic chant as the manuscripts that survive are adiastemic, and nobody since the time of Cardinal Cisneros had been able to interpret them according to the original tradition. The published chant books for Spain, which have an appearance akin to the graduals published by Pustet (the unreconstructed Gregorian chant), make a distinction between canto llano (plainchant) and canto figurado (figured chant). The first visible difference between the two is time. Figured chant developed from or simultaneously with measured chant (canto mensurado) which imparted time duration on a note, a practice that eventually necessitated different forms or figures (hence, figured chant) for each time duration.

This is the chant tradition that came into the Philippines, and for three solid centuries reverberated from each consecrated edifice in the Isles, from the smallest ermita (shrine) to the grandest cathedral, under the direction of a village cantor mayor (principal cantor) or a cathedral capiscol (choirmaster). The books of Spain also came to the Philippines, and we have Arte del canto llano y figurado by D. Francisco Marcos y Navas as an example, which went through many editions. The lessons, unlike the manner of the Método de canto llano y figurado by José Flores Laguna, are presented in catechetical manner; that is, in a question-and-answer format.

An example of the chant from this book is given below, taken from the very same Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

Introit for the Feast of the Nativity of the B.V.M.
Arte del canto llano y figurado

Note that that all the notes are a punctum, regardless of whether it is ascending or descending. While the neumes on the first syllable of Sálve and on the first syllable of Régem coincide with the neumes in Gregorian chant given here, the neume for the last syllable of puérpera is just a punctum, as opposed to the podatus subbipunctis of Gregorian chant and torculus of the chant from Germany.

Now, let us look at the chant for the same text abstracted from a Filipino chant book.

Introit for the Feast of the Nativity of the B.V.M.
Misal o yntroitos del Coro de esta Iglesia de Baclayón 1827

Immediately, we notice that both chants are written on a five-line stave, as opposed to the standard Gregorian four-line stave. Both are divided at every word. Both are written only with puncta or a combination of puncta. These, in themselves, are not a great distinction as some mediaeval chant books were also written in this manner, with the exception of having puncta inclinata and the quirky quilismata where they ought to appear.

Filipino chant was written on large books called cantorales, which were meticulously reproduced by a music scribe known as escribano or escribiente de solfa. The books were usually written on parchment or cowhide. According to Filipino musicologists, the most complete set of cantorales is in the Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, Bohol. They are perhaps called complete because the pages are still intact and are physically still organised into blocks (the binding has long deteriorated).

Large parishes were often able to fund the production of chant books, a process which took many years since the writing is tedious, the preparation of each page, and the confection or procurement of the ink, not to mention the historiations and illuminations themselves that were coloured with more than one pigment.

The cantorales were propped on a special lectern called facistol to facilitate the flipping of the pages, and the sightreading of the neumes. Taking our example from the cantorales of Baclayon, it would necessitate two chant books to musically decorate a solemn liturgy.

A page from the antifonario of Baclayon

Each book is ordered for a specific set of sacred music. The four books of Baclayon are classified into [1] Mass ordinaries (kyriale), [2] Mass propers (introitale, since the gradual is omitted), [3] Office antiphons (antiphonarium), and [4] Office psalms (psalterium). The kyriale and the introitale go together for the Holy Mass, and the antiphonarium and the psalterium go together for the Divine Office.

[Note: From above we see dark blotches in the lower margin. The dark blotches create a corona or halo around an area that had been eaten away, forming a lacuna. These lacunae correspond to the places where the cantors placed their fingers to flip the pages. Sweat from the hands would then be imprinted on the folios. In other areas of study, human sweat had been proven to serve as food for some type of bacteria that would live on antique materials such as these folios. Also the acidity of human perspiration would have weakened the signatures made of cowhide material, embrittling them. Finally, this provides insight into the type of ink used as it apparently bled off when sweat made contact with it.

Notice also from the above that the subsequent folios have no lacunae. This would imply that these first pages with the lacunae were extensively used, meaning there were many feasts honouring the Holy Cross sung in those days.]

These books expressed in their music the flowering of faith in God, and their size the magnitude of that faith, that worship, that could not bear to elevate the supreme honour to the Triune Godhead without the sacred music of the ages, sung from a book that was so lovingly and meticulously confected as though it itself embodied the holiness of sacred Liturgy.