Wednesday, March 2, 2016

O lucidissima apostolorum turba

Responsory for the Apostles (D 161r-v, R 469va, Scivias III.13.4b) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
R. O lucidissima
apostolorum turba,
surgens in vera agnitione
et aperiens
clausuram magisterii diaboli,
captivos in fonte
viventis aque,
tu es clarissima lux
in nigerrimis tenebris,
fortissimumque genus columnarum,
sponsam Agni sustentans
in omnibus ornamentis

R. ipsius,[1] per cuius gaudium
ipsa mater et virgo est

V. Agnus enim inmaculatus
est sponsus ipsius
sponse inmaculate

R. ipsius, per cuius gaudium
ipsa mater et virgo est
R. O luminous
apostles’ band—
to recognize the truth you rise
and open wide
the schoolhouse prison of the devil’s mastery,
to wash
its captives clean within the font
of living water—
you are a brilliant light
within the darkest shadows,
the strongest kind of pillars
the Lamb’s Bride to uphold
in all the ornament

R. of him through whose rejoicing
that Mother Virgin bears
her banner.

V. For the spotless Lamb’s
the Bridegroom of
that spotless Bride

R. of him through whose rejoicing
that Mother Virgin bears
her banner.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.
[1] Normally, the manuscripts of Hildegard’s music indicate the final portion of the respond that is to be repeated as the repetendum or refrain by copying out the first few notes/words after the verse (the medieval version of a coda). However, both manuscripts lack any indication of the repetendum for this responsory. In her edition, Newman assumed the final phrase, per cuius...vexillata, would have served that role (Symphonia, pp. 164 and 286). However, such an assumption would violate the musical grammar, as per cuius begins on the high octave g rather than the final of the mode, G, and thus could not begin a new choral phrase after the final solo notes of the verse (immaculate, ending on the final G); see further in Beverly Lomer’s Notes on the music below. If we are to conjecture a repetendum for this piece, the only musically appropriate place to begin it is on the prior word, ipsius, which begins on the final G. Because our edition privileges the musical grammar, we have allowed this transgression of textual propriety to stand.

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This responsory gleams with images of the light of truth shattering the darkness of ignorance, thus developing one of the themes of its companion antiphon, O cohors milicie, for the idols overturned by the apostolic guard’s mighty shout in the latter might be thought of as the guardians of the Devil’s darkened classroom in this piece. The epistemological blindness sown by that diabolical instruction is countered by the true teaching mission of the apostles, as described in the explication of the lost “core connections” of a people without a city in the parable in Scivias III.7.7 (for which see the commentary on O cohors milicie):
And so, going forth, they made their way among the faithless peoples who did not have core connections [umbilicos], which is to say the sign of the knowledge of holy innocence and justice, and whose city, which is to say the instrument of God’s law, had been destroyed by faithlessness. And to these they announced the words of salvation and of the true faith in Christ. And thus they brought back many of this throng to the knowledge of God and led them to the core [umbilicum], which is to say the font of baptism, where they received the holiness that they lost by their proud transgressions. And they built the holy city of the commandments of God, thus rebuilding the city which the seducer the Devil had taken from them in Adam, and restored it to them in the faith that leads to salvation.[1]
Scivias II.4:
Tower of the Church

Rupertsberg MS,
fol. 60r.
In this responsory, Hildegard roots this apostolic mission of rebuilding the city in images drawn from her frequent visions of Ecclesia, the Mother Church. In particular, the light of apostolic teaching gleams from the Holy Spirit’s anointing fire at Pentecost, which in Scivias II.4.1 supports the Church as a tower, immense and round, of gleaming white stone. Though the preceding vision (II.3) had introduced the figure of Mother Church as she cries out to conceive and give birth to her children in the cleansing waters of baptism, it is in this one that she is strengthened and her children confirmed by the anointing of the sacrament of Confirmation:
After the illumination of baptism, which rose with the Sun of Justice Who sanctified the world by His own washing, the new Bride of the Lamb was adorned and confirmed in the fire of the ardor of the Holy Spirit for the perfection of her beauty. So also each of the faithful who is regenerated by the Spirit and water should be decorated and confirmed by the anointing of a bishop [superioris doctoris], so that he will be strengthened in all his members toward achieving beatitude and find himself most perfectly adorned with the full fruits of highest justice.
     —Scivias II.4.1
Much of Hildegard’s emphasis in this vision of the confirmed citadel of the Church falls on the vital role of the bishops—the absolute successors of the apostles—as teachers. In the passage just quoted and at several other points in the vision, she uses the term “superior teacher” (superior doctor) for the office of bishop, and ties it directly to the the apostolic teaching that reveals the Trinity (three windows shining at the top of the tower). She again invokes the military metaphor that would reappear in O cohors milicie to describe that apostolic mission against the “ravening wolves” of the pagans, “so that by fighting they constructed the Church and strengthened her with strong virtues to build up the faith and adorned her with many brilliances [multimodis coruscationibus ornauerunt]” (Scivias III.4.3).

In both that vision and this responsory, Hildegard sees the powerful girding and strong columns of the Church as irradiated by the divine light of truth, perhaps like the stone tracery in which windowpanes are set. The beauty of the Church’s adornment is intertwined with the lightsome power of her teachers: “Just as gold is adorned by having precious stones set into it, so baptism is adorned with the chrism given to those baptized in the faith by the hand of the bishop [superioris doctoris]” (Scivias III.4.6). The gleam of bejeweled and golden adornment is also the gleam of the Holy Spirit’s fire, which “enkindled [the apostles’] hearts as the sun” and “passed through them and showed the bright sunlight of their teaching” (Scivias III.4.8). As the fire of Pentecost brought fully into the light the apostolic mission that had previously been hidden in timidity, so confirmation at the hands of a bishop—a teacher—sets alight the grace first kindled in baptism:
Therefore, a person who has received the mystery of regeneration unto life has not taken possession of the fullness of churchly ornaments unless he is anointed in this way, as the Church is adorned by the glorious Holy Spirit. And as the Church is perfected by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a believer ought to be confirmed by the anointing of the bishop [principalis doctoris], who is the reverend master [formidabilis magister] in the honor of the Holy Spirit; for the Holy Spirit by its fire brings forth and kindles sure doctrine in the Christian people.
     —Scivias III.4.9
As the Scivias symphony continues its movement through the ranks of the celestial hierarchy, the initial ministry of the apostles as historical teachers and preachers of God’s true reality becomes the bedrock upon which Christ’s Bride, the Church, stands tall, entrusted with his banner of victory. Successive choirs will water that tower’s verdant grown with their blood and blossom as roses upon its walls (the martyrs) and continue that apostolic ministry within the sacerdotal offices (the confessors), while the dawn light will gleam green and beauteous with Hildegard’s own choir of virgins. This responsory forms the transition point by allowing the individual lights of the apostles to coalesce into Mother Church’s singular, joyous beacon.

In that regard, this responsory should also be read in conjunction with Hildegard’s antiphons dedicated solely to the Church in Symphonia 66-69. The first two form a pair that first lament “the savage wolf” snatching away her children (O virgo Eccleisa) before rejoicing at her victory over the “vile snake” (Nunc gaudeant). The turning point in that battle comes at the end of O virgo Ecclesia as “the Savior’s precious blood...seals his bridegroom’s promise to the Church with the banner of the king.” Meanwhile, the third piece, O orzchis Ecclesia, uses words drawn from Hildegard’s Lingua Ignota (“Unknown Language”) to describe the Church in an arresting amalgam of images: immense, enfortressed, bejeweled and gleaming, redolent of the balm that heals the wounds of her people, a city of sciences and knowledge anointed with soaring song.[2] The final antiphon, O choruscans lux stellarum, again conjoins bridal imagery with glittering light to invite the Church to “flee the cavern of the ancient destroyer” and “come into the palace of the King.”

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

G mode
Range: C below the final to B an octave and a third above the final
Setting: Melismatic and neumatic

O lucidissima is a responsory of praise for the apostles as the pillars of the Church, who support her as the Bride of the Lamb. It opens with a two part melismatic salutation: O lucidissma, which begins on the final and finishes on F; followed by apostolorum turba, which begins and ends with the pitch F.

While Hildegard’s usual practice is to outline key phrases and words with the final or fifth of the mode, in this piece she shifts from G to F, with occasional excursions into other pitch areas. The word surgens is a fulcrum that connects the salutation to the beginning of the narrative, with the melody dipping down a third to D, while the subsequent phrase, in vera agnitione, ends on F. The next segment, et aperiens, also commences with D and is completed on F. Note the placement of tick barlines on lines 3, 5 and 8 of the first page of the transcription. These are intended to clarify the phrases, as the melodies are too long to place on one line as per our usual methodology.

If one keeps in mind the stylistic shifts between G and F as outlining pitches, the phrasing after the salutation and opening of the narrative should be fairly straightforward, with one exception. On page 3 of the transcription, the text sense would appear to break between ipsius (line 3) and per cuius (line 4), as ipsius properly belongs with the previous phrase, in omnibus ornamentis. However, per cuius gaudium might alternatively function as an elliptical connector, which Hildegard frequently employs. The musical grammar of the melodic line interrupts the textual grammar: to end one phrase with the high G on ipsius and begin a new one with the liquescent on per makes less musical sense than the grouping we have chosen. We have included a tick barline on the main staff after est (line 5) to indicate that that a break should not be made after gaudium ipsa, i.e. lines 4-5 are a single phrase.

In this segment there is also a significant difference between the sources, as shown in the ossia staves. Given that per cuius gaudium ipsa ends on D, the Riesenkodex version (in the ossia staff) might make more sense for mater et virgo est, which ends on F, in line with the general use of G and F as alternating outline tones in this piece. On the other hand, the Dendermonde rendition of the next segment, the melismatic vexillata, adheres more closely to the use of G and F as tonal markers; the Riesenkodex ending of the respond on pitch B seems odd. We would recommend following R for mater et virgo est and D for vexillata.

It is our policy to add no editorial ficta. In this piece, there are a number of iterations of the tritone (interval of F to B, B to F). While the B flat is notated in some of these iterations, it is not in all, as medieval singers would have known to add them. We recommend judiciously applying additional B flats.

Further Resources for O lucidissima apostolorum turba

Footnotes to the Commentaries

[1] All quotes from Scivias adapted from the trans. of Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990); Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 and 43a (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978). 
[2] See further discussion in Nathaniel M. Campbell, “Imago expandit splendorem suum: Hildegard of Bingen’s Visio-Theological Designs in the Rupertsberg Scivias Manuscript,” Eikón / Imago 4 (2013, Vol. 2, No. 2), esp. pp. 60-1; accessible online here

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