Another Sequence question
  • So, I've been accompanying for some local churches who are very much into the "glory-and-praise-and-worship" type of stuff, and we're doing "the sequence" for this weekend ...

    O Veni, Sancte Spiritus by Christopher Willcock, SJ, Andrew Hamilton

    Refrain: O veni, Sancte Spiritus, O veni, Christi caritas.
    O veni, Christi caritas, O veni, Sancte Spiritus.

    Verse 1: You etch upon our minds and hearts the traceries of Jesus’ life. May our slow hearts run out in love to those who share his wounded face.
    Verse 2: You make us sit so Christ can wash our travelstained and blistered feet. Now give us gentle, subtle hands to serve those wearied on the road.
    Verse 3: You hand us map and bread and pack, to follow Jesus' painful way. So sing us songs, make light our path, and make faithful friends in Christ.
    (optional round after verse 3)

    When I compare this to the the text of the actual sequence, I feel as though a lot of text is missing.

    GIRM 2011 says:
    64. The Sequence which, except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is optional, is sung before the Alleluia.

    I would assume from this description that "The Sequence" is a specific set of text for the assigned day - like the other propers, and not some random piece of music. In this case, this particular piece of music doesn't even claim to be a sequence for Pentecost. So, what makes a sequence a sequence? In other words, does it take more than just the first three words? Does it take more than just putting it in the sequence spot, before the Alleluia? How far can an English setting stray from the actual text and still count as a sequence?

    Yes? No? I don't know?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,679
    Doesn't the Lectionary contain a translation of the sequence?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I don't know that there is any qualification. A sequence is extra-liturgical poetry, musically in an AABBCCDD...... form, which likely developed from a troped Alleluia.

    I've made the case before (though never attempted it) that one could indeed put any old hymn before the Alleluia and call it a "sequence". I've in the past brought back the old Christmas sequence, which is a gem. Also, I've done Dies Irae for All Soul's Day.

    The existence of the sequence brings up a lot of uncomfortable questions for me. In its origins, it was a text/music combination, inserted into the Mass, with no approval and often of varying quality. It only needed to be loosely related to the Mass, and indeed could espouse heresy at times. The text was non-scriptural and, at best, contained allusions to scripture. At worst, it may be a political tract set to music. Oh, and the form of the music was a dance form.

    Sound a little familiar?
  • Jeffrey -
    You are quite correct! The text you quote is not THE sequence and should under no circumstances take its place. Gavin has given a very good sketch of the background of sequences. For purposes of our time, there are two required sequence hymns (Easter & Pentecost) and two optional ones (Coprus Christi & a Marian feast which I don't recall at the moment: Our Lady of ....). It cannot be stressed enough that the 'sequence' is that found in the lectionary and NOT a similar text or paraphrase from some other source.

    Gavin -
    as to your case for 'any old hymn': indeed, it is not uncommon in the Anglican/Episcopal world for a hymn sung between the epistle and gospel to be called a 'sequence hymn'.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Coggins
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Well, Gavin, it just goes to show that (a) the abuse of freedom isn't a reason to deny it, and (b) the Church is happy to consider & sift liturgical developments, reject those that are unhelpful and co-opt the good. No?
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Jeffrey: I'm feeling distinctly queasy, having read your transcription of Fr. Willcocks' poetry just after eating a curry soup. Thanks a bunch.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Coggins
  • Protasius
    Posts: 468
    @Jackson: The sequence you didn't recall is Stabat mater, the sequence for Our Lady of Sorrows.
  • Protasius -
    Thanks. I alway want to say our Lady of the Snows... but didn't think that was it. I don't know why I always think of that... possibly because I am inordinately fond of (and dazzled by) snow.
  • hilluminar
    Posts: 109
    Gavin, where is this "old Christmas sequence" you mention? Could we have a copy?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Christmas Sequence = Laetabundus, which is in the New English Hymnal. Unfortunately, I don't have it handy so I can't give page numbers.
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    A handy source for Laetabundus is here:

    It is proper to the Dominican rite. It could not be used as a sequence in the OF, but would make a fitting motet at an appropriate point.

    The reference to the blindness of the synagogue is a hint of the much less prudent language of many defunct sequences, excised by Trent due to questionable theological content.

    While you’re browsing Chants of the Church, be sure to check out Languentibus in purgatorio. We might benefit from a judicious revival of such texts.
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    The 2008 thread cited above is very helpful, but in light of the principles of the new Missal translation (albeit not the Sequence), a stronger case can be made to avoid unofficial versions of the text.

    Most readers of this blog don’t need reminders; however if you are a DM in a parish with a “contemporary” choir, this is the best time to clamp down on any odd variations. Things to note:

    1. There is no indication in the revised instruction (nor has there ever been) than an alius cantus aptus may replace the Sequence (GIRM 64.) The practise of substitution-where-permitted has created a false assumption that anything sung can be substituted by another appropriate song/chant (c.f. bizarre settings of the Litany of Saints.) Time to review all of those assumptions.

    2. We are now in the age of a new English translation, where scrupulous attention is paid to texts and the resulting uniformity of the Roman Rite (see Liturgicam authenticam.) The lectionary translation is the only translation in an official liturgical book and is therefore normative.

    If insisting that the contemporary group sing the chant setting is unrealistic at present, I’m sure you can put your foot down regarding the text. I don’t know what the commercial publishers offer, but I would give the guitar group guitar chords for whatever 7-7-7 tune they like to strum to, and let then add sweet harmonies until the cows come home. At least it would be a big step towards the “textual unity” of the Roman Rite that Msgr Wadsworth of ICEL refers to in his talks.
  • Our former director used a very P&W kind of "Sequence" with paraphrased text. Today, I did the ICEL version in the AABBCCDD format. It was received nicely and was done acapella. I don't think a contemporary group that is used to rhythm guitars and drums should even attempt any chant until they are VERY accustomed to it.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,374
    The sequence : Laetabundus, which is a beautiful piece of music and deserves to be sung much more, is also in the Cantus Selecti published by Solesmes. As Fr. Adrian Fortesque says : it's a shame that the sequence for Christmas was cut from the Missal at the Council of Trent; also the hymn Salve Festa Dies. (Prarphrased from his treatise : The Mass; a study of the Roman Rite.)