Friday, December 11, 2020

Nunc gaudeant

Votive Antiphon for the Dedication of a Church (D 170r-v, R 472va)Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
Nunc gaudeant materna viscera
quia in superna
simphonia filii eius
in sinum suum collocati sunt.
Unde, o turpissime
serpens, confusus es, quoniam
quos tua estimatio in visceribus
suis habuit
nunc fulgent in sanguine Filii Dei,
et ideo laus tibi sit, Rex altissime.
Now let the Church’s mother womb
For in the heavens’
symphony her children
are gathered to her bosom.
O vile snake,
you are confounded,
for those your hollow reckoning had thought
it clutched within its guts
now sparkle in the blood of God’s Son—
praise be to you, the King most high!
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This antiphon completes the arc of its pair in the collection, O virgo Ecclesia, by affirming the resolution to the crisis described in the previous piece. This connection between the two antiphons is both thematic and musical. While O virgo Ecclesia is written with lower pitches in E mode, this C mode antiphon ranges much higher, as befits the thematic restoration of the celestial harmony. Meanwhile, the two antiphons deploy very similar melodic lines (adjusted for their respective modes) to match their shared textual elements: the two phrases Sed o quam preciosus est sanguis Salvatoris, / qui in vexillo regis (p. 1, line 8-p.2, line 1 in O virgo Ecclesia) each outline a similar melody followed by nunc fulgent in sanguine Filii Dei in the antiphon above (p. 2, line 3). Thematically, the resolution here rests on the same two key elements: the restoration of the Church’s children within the heavenly symphony, and their gleaming salvation from the Devil’s clutches by the blood of Christ. As with O virgo Ecclesia, these elements respond both to Hildegard’s cosmic vision of salvation and to the specific historical context that we can conjecture for this pair of antiphons.

Barbara Newman’s suggestion that Hildegard is writing in veiled response to Arnold of Brescia’s revolt helps to explain several elements of this antiphon (see Symphonia, p. 315). At the climax of his response to Arnold’s revolt, Pope Adrian IV put the city of Rome under interdict during Holy Week of 1155. This means that as the Church remembered the drama of Christ’s death and resurrection, the music that would usually accompany her most elaborate liturgies was silenced. This antiphon’s restoration of the heavenly symphony alludes to the resolution of the crisis, when the interdict was lifted. Meanwhile, the concluding “Alleluia!” of the antiphon alludes to the specific timing of that resolution, at Easter.

Yet the antiphon works equally well without reference to a specific historical circumstance, because for Hildegard, the restoration of celestial music is a hallmark of Christ’s restoration of life, a synaesthetic collaboration of light and sound and Word:
And you see a serene Man coming forth from this radiant dawn, Who pours out His brightness into the darkness; and it drives Him back with great force, so that He pours out the redness of blood and whiteness of pallor into it, and strikes the darkness such a strong blow that the person who is lying in it is touched by Him, takes on a shining appearance, and walks out of it upright. This is the Word of God, imperishably incarnate in the purity of unstained virginity and born without pain, and yet not separated from the Father. How? While the Son of God was being born in the world from a mother, He was still in Heaven in the Father; and at this the angels suddenly trembled and sang the sweetest praises of rejoicing. And, living in the world without stain of sin, He sent out into the darkness of unbelief His clear and blessed teachings and salvation; but, rejected by the unbelieving people and led to His passion, He poured out his beautiful blood and knew in His body the darkness of death. And thus conquering the Devil, he delivered from Hell his elect, who were held prostrate there, and by His redeeming touch brought them back to the inheritance they had lost in Adam. As they were returning to their inheritance timbrels and harps and all kinds of music burst forth, because humankind, who had lain in perdition but now stood upright in blessedness, had been freed by heavenly power and escaped from death.
     —Scivias II.1.13[1]
As Hildegard explained when responding to the interdict placed on her own monastery, this restoration of the inheritance lost in Adam was the restoration of the Spirit’s voice, the living breath that inspires the children of the Church to sing as the angels sing:
When we consider these things carefully, we recall that man needed the voice of the living Spirit, but Adam lost this divine voice through disobedience. For while he was still innocent, before his transgression, his voice blended fully with the voices of the angels in their praise of God. Angels are called spirits from that Spirit which is God, and thus they have such voices by virtue of their spiritual nature. But Adam lost that angelic voice which he had in paradise.
Consider, too, that just as the body of Jesus Christ was born of the purity of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, so, too, the canticle of praise, reflecting celestial harmony, is rooted in the Church through the Holy Spirit. The body is the vestment of the spirit, which has a living voice, and so it is proper for the body, in harmony with the soul, to use its voice to sing praises to God.[2]
The transition from Virgin Mother to Virgin Mother, from Mary to the Church, is another hallmark of Hildegard’s theology. We noticed in O virgo Ecclesia, for example, that Ecclesia took the place of Mary beneath the beam of the Cross in Hildegard’s vision of the Crucifixion. The analogous relationship between the two comes to the fore in Hildegard’s first vision of the Church in Scivias II.3 (ch. 9):
And on [Ecclesia’s] breast shines a red glow like the dawn; for the virginity of the Most Blessed Virgin when she brought forth the Son of God glows with the most ardent devotion in the hearts of the faithful. And you hear a sound of all kinds of music singing around her, “Like the dawn, greatly sparkling” [quasi aurora valde rutilans]; for, as you are now given to understand, all believers should join with their whole wills in celebrating the virginity of that spotless Virgin in the Church.[3]
These two Virgins conceive and give birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the Church, the means of that rebirth are the waters of baptism that flowed mingled with blood from the Crucified’s side. Thus, Hildegard’s heavenly voice continues:
And thus the Church is the virginal mother of all Christians, since by the mystery of the Holy Spirit she conceives and bears them, offering them to God so that they are called the children of God. And as the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Blessed Mother, so that she miraculously conceived and painlessly bore the Son of God and yet remained a Virgin, so does the Holy Spirit illumine the Church, happy mother of believers, so that without corruption she conceives and bears children naturally, yet remains a virgin.
     —Scivias II.3.12
One final element of this antiphon worth noting is the contrast between the Church’s womb (viscera) and the Devil’s “guts” (visceribus). The Devil’s plan had been to ensnare the human race, stealing them away from God and his Church (as in O virgo Ecclesia) and swallowing them up in his greed. But his plan was flawed, because he made an assumption (estimatio) that turned out not to be true. As Hildegard explains in The Book of Divine Works 3.4.5:
Within his own deceit [the devil] assumed that humankind, now wallowing in such filth, could not enter the kingdom of heaven, for the children of fornication could not be God’s people, nor could he be their God. The devil indeed takes great pleasure in the smut of the flesh’s gyrations and says to himself, “I’ve yanked humankind from their glorious place and thrust them into the deepest filth! There’s no place left in them for God, for his utter cleanliness neither wants nor accepts any filth. That’s also why humankind will remain in my quarters.”

But God concealed from the ancient serpent how he wanted to free humankind: the dirtiness that bubbled up at the serpent’s trick he washed away through his Son, and through him blotted out the wounds that lust had inflicted upon humankind.[4]
All the Devil saw in humans was the transmission of original sin through procreation, and so the blood of human birth was a blood that tied them in bondage to him. But the Church’s womb is an altogether different kind of birth: bathed in the blood of the Cross, it is the rebirth of baptism, the rebirth unto eternal life.

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

Mode: C
Range: G below final to C an octave above
Setting: primarily neumatic and syllabic

In this antiphon, C, the modal final, is the primary grammatical marker. Hildegard also deploys A to begin phrases on the last line of page 1 and line 2 of page 2. All phrases end on C. Lines 4 and 5 are intended as one phrase, so as to keep the C as the outlining tone. A tick barline has been added to indicate this. It does make for a long phrase, however, and thus it might mean some adjustments for performers in order to breathe.

There are considerable small differences between the manuscripts in this work that have resulted in many ossia staves. This was done in order to reduce clutter. On line 4 on page 1, there is one note that might need clarification. Parentheses were placed around the pitch D, with the note that this pitch is only found in Dendermonde. The next note, an E in Dendermonde, is F in the Riesenkodex.

As always, performers are welcome to adjust the breathing pauses and to reshape phrases in accordance with their individual interpretation.

Further Resources for Nunc gaudeant


[1] All quotes from Scivias are adapted from the translation of Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (Paulist Press, 1990); Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1978). 
[2] Letter 23, Hildegard to the prelates at Mainz. Adapted from The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen. Vol. I, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 76-80; Latin text in Epistolarium I, ed. L. Van Acker, CCCM 91 (Brepols, 1991), pp. 61-6. 
[3] The words of the song that Hildegard hears ringing around the Virgin’s central place upon the Church’s breast are from the antiphon for the Magnificat from First Vespers on the Feast of the Assumption: “Virgo prudentissima, quo progrederis quasi aurora valde rutilans? Filia Sion, tota formosa et suavis es, pulchra ut luna electa ut sol.” (See the entry for this antiphon in the Cantus database and at ChantBlog). 
[4] St. Hildegard of Bingen, The Book of Divine Works 3.4.5, trans. Nathaniel M. Campbell (The Catholic University of America Press, 2018), pp. 400-401. 

1 comment:

  1. This music appears in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, but only at the extended edition.