Good Friday- Crux Fidelis (Pange Lingua)

Most Catholics would associate the text Pange Ligua with the hymn for the feast of Corpus Christi by the Angelic Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas. It is however, from the much earlier chant Pange Lingua by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609) that St Thomas took inspiration. It is worth pondering in this the true nature of tradition: development in seamless continuity with what has been handed down.

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Holy Thursday- Ubi Caritas

Ubi Caritas is one of the antiphons prescribed for the Mandatum – the washing of feet at the evening Mass on Holy Thursday (Novus Ordo, Ubi Caritas is an option for the offertory antiphon). The hymn reflects Our Lord’s ‘new commandment’ that the apostles might love on another as well as His prayer that they ‘may all be one.’ The text therefore is expressive of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood.

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Pre-1955 Holy Week Liturgy

On beginning a study and comparison of the liturgies of Holy Week before and after the 1955 reform of Pope Pius XII, I came across the following website. The site contains many outstanding resources for anyone wishing to learn more. I have only compared Palm Sunday liturgies so far and will post on that separately.

Vexilla Regis

As a director of liturgical music, I have the privilege of preparing, teaching and performing the great chants of the church and her rich polyphonic repertoire. I have often thought that I would like to find a way to share the beauty and theological depth of the texts which comprise the liturgy. They have indeed been inspired by God the Holy Ghost through generations and many were penned by saints. I hope that sharing liturgical texts, liturgical chant and motets, I might aid others in deepening their appreciation of the prayer of the Church and in fostering their own personal prayer life.

The first text that I would like to share is the Vespers Hymn for Passiontide, Vexilla Regis. The hymn was written by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609). The hymn is also used on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

VEXILLA Regis prodeunt:
Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.

Quae vulnerata lanceae
Mucrone diro, criminum
Ut nos lavaret sordibus,
Manavit unda, et sanguine.

Impleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,
Dicendo nationibus:
Regnavit a ligno Deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida,
Ornata regis purpura,
Electa digno stipite
Tarn sancta membra tangere.

Beata, cujus brachiis
Pretium pependit saeculi,
Statera facta corporis,
Tulitque praedam tartari.

O Crux ave spes unica,
Hoc passionis tempore
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.

Te, fons salutis Trinitas,
Collaudet omnis spiritus
Quibus Crucis victoriam
Largiris, adde praemium.

ABROAD the Regal Banners fly,
Now shines the Gross’s mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure,
And yet by death did life procure.

Who, wounded with a direful spear,
Did, purposely to wash us clear
From stain of sin, pour out a flood
Of precious Water mixed with

That which the Prophet-King of
Hath in mysterious verse foretold,
Is now accomplished, whilst we
God ruling nations from a Tree.

O lovely and refulgent Tree,
Adorned with purpled majesty;
Culled from a worthy stock, to
Those Limbs which sanctified

Blest Tree, whose happy branches
The wealth that did the world
The beam that did that Body
Which raised up hell’s expected

Hail, Cross, of hopes the most
Now in this mournful Passion
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.

Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring,
May every soul Thy praises sing;
To those Thou grantest conquest
The holy Cross, rewards apply.

Here is a recording of the original chant.
Here is a choral setting based on the chant by one of the best Catholic composers of all, Palestrina