Feast of the Presentation

By Sr. Fidelis
Fra-Angelico-Presentation-crop

Detail of “The Presentation” by Fra Angelico

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Presentation, and it is one of my most favorite times of the Church Year. There is rich symbolism in the beautiful chants, with texts taken from the Psalms as well as other sources. This feast is thought of as the last day of the Christmas Season, coming 40 days after the celebration of Christ’s birth, and celebrates Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple. This is the time when the Church candles for the year are blessed. The connection between Christ and the “light”, represented by the candles, is very strong.

The Communion for this Feast, Responsum, takes its text from the book of Luke.  “Simeon had received an answer from the Holy Spirit, that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” This Mode 8 piece has a great sense of mystery to it, created by the use of  the lower part of the modal range, going below the home tone of SOL. Also there is an “undulating” effect created by what is known as the special torculus. The torculus is a three-note neum (low-high-low), where all three notes are normally equal. But with the special torculus, the first note is weaker and lighter, with the emphasis on the next two notes. This phenomena can be seen (and heard!) on the words accepit and Simeon. Finally, notice that the piece peaks only one time on the word mortem, on the reciting tone DO.

Responsum