[was broadcast] Every Sunday at 8am from 27 November 1994 to 4 June 1995 on BBC Radio 3 (90-93 FM)
Since the Last Supper on the night before Jesus' crucifixion, the Church has celebrated the 'Lords Supper', 'Mass' or 'Holy Communion' with bread and wine. Another name for this celebration is the ‘Eucharist’, which means simply 'thanksgiving'.
Down the centuries the Church has found many voices with which to celebrate what should be a symbol of unity: as St. Paul says. "Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share the one bread."
Every Sunday morning at 8am, as part of Radio 3's regular programme Sacred & Profane (7am - 8.55am). Paul Guinery - in conversation with the Reverend Alan Walker - presents some of the vast corpus of music sung at the Eucharist over the last two thousand years.
Series producer: Antony Pitts
1. THE ORIGINS OF THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
"In the same night that he was betrayed (Jesus) took Bread; and, when he had given thanks, he brake it and gave it to his disciples, saying. Take, eat THIS IS MY BODY which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper he took the Cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying. Drink ye all of this; for THIS IS MY BLOOD OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as you shall drink it in remembrance of me." (From the Order of the Administration of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer)
The central act of Christian worship involves a re-enactment of part of Jesus’ farewell meal with his disciples. In the New Testament this celebration is known as "the breaking of the bread' or the 'Supper of the Lord', and at least since the beginning of the second century it has been called the 'Eucharist', a Greek word for 'thanksgiving'. The term 'Eucharist' is popular today because it is free of the doctrinal connotations that other titles - particularly 'mass' carry. In fact the word 'mass' itself has no theological meaning, but simply derives from the Latin word of dismissal at the end of the service. “Ite missa est” (Go, you are dismissed" or "It is concluded").
Although every Eucharist evokes Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper, the church has at various periods in her history emphasised different aspects of the celebration, and some of the major doctrinal controversies have involved its interpretation. In the Middle Ages the emphasis came to be placed on the belief that the Eucharist was a 'participation' m the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and that the elements of bread and wine 'became' the body and blood of Christ through the action o< the priest The Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century saw the rite more as a sign and memorial of God's forgiveness of sins through the work of Christ.
In recent years there has been a degree of agreement between the Christian traditions and the Eucharist is seen as representing and conveying God's gift of salvation, and as the Great Thanksgiving to God for everything accomplished by him in creation, redemption and sanctification in spite of the sins of human beings, and for everything he will accomplish in bringing the Kingdom to fulfillment.
Despite divergences of theological understanding the actual celebration of the Eucharist developed in a common pattern throughout the Church. This involved the gathering of the assembly around a president the reading and explanation of the scriptures, prayers of intercession, the offering of the gifts of bread and wine, the Eucharistic Prayer or 'Canon', and Communion.
Over the centuries it became customary to sing particular hymns and scriptural verses at the Eucharist, and. in the West, these, together with the Creed (the Church's statement of belief), became fixed and known as the 'Ordinary' of the mass to distinguish them from the 'Propers' or those parts of the service which varied according to the season or the saint being commemorated In the Roman Mass the Ordinary consists of the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the Credo, the Sanctus and Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei, and these became the sections of the 'mass' as a musical work. Even after the Reformation it was still possible to compose 'masses' for the new Anglican and Lutheran services which retained the traditional parts of the service because these were unaffected by doctrinal changes.
In The Great Thanksgiving we explore some of the vast corpus of music sung at the Eucharist over the nearly two thousand years of Christian history. Although we are focusing on the development of music for the Ordinary, we also hear examples of liturgical music from the great Byzantine and Slav traditions, as well as from some of the less welt known churches of the East The churches of the Reformation and of the modem period are also represented.
The first programmes in The Great Thanksgiving look at the development of Christian music from its origins within Judaism where music and singing were employed in the worship of the Temple in Jerusalem (Ecclesiasticus 50. 16-18). The first Christians seem not to have used instruments in their "sacrifice of praise' because of the association with animal sacrifices in the Temple as well as in pagan worship, but preferred instead "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in the heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 6. 19). They composed new psalms in imitation of those found in scripture, and then, from the end of the second century, entirely new hymns. The earliest Christian hymn with music to survive is found h the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus discovered in Egypt in 1897 and dates from about the year 300.
Following the adoption of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine the musk of the Church, along with its architectural and liturgical setting, was transformed as the Eucharist previously celebrated in secret and in fear of persecution, became the public worship of the Roman Empire.
In the fourth century we hear of specially commissioned cantors and choirs, and at the end of the sixth century of a schola cantorum in Rome. To begin with important churches such as those at Milan, Metz and Toledo developed their own style of plainsong but eventually there was a move to uniformity as the Frankish kings Pepin and Charlemagne tried to restore political and cultural unity in the former Roman Empire. This led to the development of the so-called Gregorian chant, which was probably a blend of Roman and Gallican styles.
Originally the singing of the liturgy had been performed by the whole assembly but by the tenth century the Ordinary was increasingly becoming the preserve of specialist choirs. The chant itself became more complex and with the growth of polyphony the Ordinary began to be treated more as a musical composition than an integral part of the liturgical celebration of the Great Thanksgiving.
2. THE ORDINARY OF THE MASS
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
'Kyrie eleison' is Greek for 'Lord have mercy’. In the Ordinary the petition is repeated three times, followed by three of ‘Christe eleison’ ('Christ have mercy'), and then by 3 further three of "Kyrie eleison'. 'Kyrie eleison' was a fixed response to short prayers probably originally made by the bishop in the daily prayer of the Church [in Jerusalem], and later by the congregation (and possibly by children in particular).
By the fourth century [in Antioch] these prayers became almost fixed in the form of a litany read after the Gospel in the Liturgy of the Eucharist by the deacon on behalf of tire clergy, the civil rulers, the benefactors of the church, the sick, and for peace.
This type of prayer eventually came into use throughout the Church often with the Kyrie still in Greek whatever the language of the petitions. In sixth-century Rome the litany was placed closer to the beginning of the Mass. and eventually became separated from the intercessions until [by the eighth century] the 'Kyrie/Christie eleison' stood alone in its nine-fold form.
In mediaeval settings of the Mass the Kyrie is often 'troped'. that is sung with interpolated verses (rather than petitions), the choice of which often gives valuable insight into contemporary understanding of the Eucharist.
Since the revision of the Roman Rite in 1969 the Kyrie is usually to be said as three two-fold petitions although the traditional form is still permitted for example in choral celebrates and Tropes may be introduced. The rite also allows 'Lord have mercy/Christ have mercy' as a response to petitions in a litany of repentance that replaces both the introductory confession and the separate Kyrie.
In the Church of England the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) preserved the nine-fold Kyrie rendered in English as 'Lord/ Christ have mercy upon us' and to be said by the pnest or sung by the 'clerks', but the second (1552) employed the formula as a penitential response to the reading of the Ten Commandments. Since 1966 they have been permitted again in the nine-fold form (in English or Greek), and in 1980 the Alternative Service Book introduced the Roman-style six-fold pattern. It is Customary today to use the Kyrie as an alternative to the Gloria, particularly m the penitential seasons.
In the Eastern churches the Kyrie retains its original form as a response to a litany of intercessions.
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Glory be to God on high.
and on earth peace, good-will towards men.
We praise Thee.
we bless Thee,
we worship Thee.
we glorify Thee.
we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.
0 Lord God heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord the Only-begotten Son, Jesu Christ
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us:
Thou that takest away the sins of the worl,. receive our prayer
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.
For Thou only art holy:
Thou only art the Lord;
Thou only, O Christ
with the Holy Ghost art most high
in the glory of God the Father.
The Gloria is a non-Biblical 'psalm' composed on the model of New Testament hymns. It was originally a song of thanksgiving that stood on its own or was sung at Morning Prayer (as it still is in the East). By the sixth century it was being used in the Mass at Rome on special occasions and festivals particularly when the bishop himself celebrated. By the end of the eleventh century it was in regular use on Sundays and festivals even when a priest celebrated.
The Gloria was originally a congregational hymn, indicated by the fact that even the pope turned to the congregation as he intoned the first line. But, because its use was restricted to festal occasions, it quickly became the preserve of trained singers and like the Kyrie was expanded with tropes. Since 1970 there has been a renewed emphasis on the involvement of the congregation.
In the 1549 Book of Common Prayer the Gloria retained its traditional position after the Kyrie (but could be omitted on weekdays or in private celebrations) the priest 'beginning' with the opening words and the clerks continuing. The 1552 and subsequent Prayer Books transferred it to the end of the rite as a hymn of praise and thanksgiving said or sung by all. Since 1965 the Gloria may be used in either position at the Holy Communion, and its use as a canticle at Morning Prayer was restored in 1968.
I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ
the Only-begotten Son of God.
Begotten of his Father before all worlds.
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made. Being of one substance with the Father.
By whom all things were made:
Who for us men
and for our salvation,
came down from heaven.
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
of the Virgin Mary,
AND WAS MADE MAN.
And was crucified also for us
under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.
And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven: And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And He shall come again with glory
to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost The Lord, and Giver of life.
Who proceedeth from the rather [and the Son],
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the prophets.
And I believe One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge One Baptism for the remission of sins;
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the world to come.
Creeds originally belonged to the rite of Baptism. The Nicene Creed, which is a summary of the teachings of the Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381). was introduced into the Eucharist in Antioch at the end of the fifth century and in Jerusalem and the other Eastern churches from the beginning of the sixth century as a proclamation against heresy.
In the West it was ordered to be said at every Mass in Spain by the Third Council of Toledo in 589 as a renunciation of the Anan heresy. Charlemagne introduced it into his kingdom at the end of the eighth century, but it was not used in the Mass in Rome until 1014 because of the claim that the mother church had never been tainted by heresy and so had no reason to proclaim her orthodoxy. Even after the introduction of the Creed in Rome the point was still made by ordering its use only on Sundays and festivals as part of the enhanced celebration rather than as an essential part of each Eucharist.
The version of the Creed adopted by the Franks and subsequently m Rome included an interpolation which had first appeared in the wording at the Toledo council This is the single Latin word 'filioque' which refers to the procession of the Holy Spirit 'and from the Son' rather than from the Father alone. The Filioque remains a major ground for disagreement between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches- The Church of England, in common with the other Reformed churches, retained the Filioque when it broke with Rome in the sixteenth century, but the Anglican - Orthodox Joint Statement of 1976 and the Lambeth Conferences of 1978 and 1988 recommended its omission.
In the East and in Milan the Creed is placed immediately before the Eucharistic Prayer, whereas Rome followed Frankish use in placing it after the Gospel and before the sermon. This position was retained in the English Prayer Books, but since 1966 it has followed the sermon in the Alternative Services. This has also been its position in the Roman rite since 1970.
Because the Creed was a popular profession of belief it was never in the East sung or recited by the priest alone, but always satd by the people or their representative, and was therefore frequently expressed in the plural form: "We believe...." In the West the original chant was kept simple so that all could join in. but with the rise of polyphony it often became the most complex and exaggerated part of choral settings of the Ordinary. This practice was repeatedly condemned by the Church. The 1970 rules prefer it to be said, but if it is to be sung, all present should participate. In the 1549 Prayer Book the priest begins "I believe in one God" and the clerks sing the rest reflecting the pre-Reformation custom. In 1552 the Creed was ordered to be said by all together, but since 1966 singing the Creed has again been permitted.
Sanctus & Benedictus
Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God of Sabaoth;
heaven and earth are full of the majesty of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The Sanctus comes from the first vision of Isaiah (Isa. 6. 3) and was used in the worship of the synagogue. It was in use in the Eastern Church at least from the late fourth century, and probably considerably earlier, and in Rome from the sixth. The Sanctus has always been introduced by a reference to the company of heaven as a reminder that the church on earth shares in their worship. All the people were therefore to join in its singing and its melody was kept simple until as late as the twelfth century. The 1970 Roman rules allow no exception to a rendition by all present.
The Benedictus was attached to the Sanctus in some of the Eastern liturgies at an early date, but is not recorded in the West until the early sixth century. The determining idea is that the glory of the Lord was incomplete before the coming of Christ. The Benedictus was omitted from English Prayer Books after 1552, but restored as an option in the Alternative Services from 1966. Since 1967 some Church of England orders permit the Benedictus to be detached from the Sanctus and placed at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world;
Have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world:
Have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world;
Grant us Thy peace.
The Agnus Dei was introduced into the Roman Liturgy from the East by the Syrian Pope Sergius I (687-701). From the start it was a chant to accompany the breaking of the bread, and could be repeated as often as was necessary. It was sung by priest and people together and remained a popular chant until the eleventh century when more complex melodies suggest it had been taken over by the choir.
Originally there was only a single petition: "Have mercy upon us", but because of association with the Kiss of Peace which it followed, and because the re-introduction of unleavened bread meant many repetitions were no longer needed, the Agnus Dei was reduced to three, the last ending "Grant us peace".
In the first Book of Common Prayer (1549) the Agnus Dei is sung by the clerks "in the communion time". It was omitted from Prayer Books after 1552, but was restored in Alternative Services from 1966. In the 1970 Roman Rite it is sung by the choir or cantor with the people responding or said by all together.