10 January 2010
What's with the antiphons?
These little verses sung before (and often, after) a given Psalm or Canticle are sadly rare in the experience of the 21st century Lutheran. But one cannot spend any time with the old Lutheran Cantionals without marveling at the inordinately huge space that is devoted to them and giving them their proper chant tones. In contrast to the relatively simple Gregorian Psalm tones employed for the Psalms and Canticles, the music for the antiphons is more complex and varied. As you can see from the ones I provided for the Baptism of Our Lord, they contain in themselves a liturgical key to unlocking the meaning of the Feast - doing a similar task in the Daily Office that the Introit, Gradual and Verse do in the Divine Service. But unlike these, there was never a compunction that the Antiphons should be simply the words of Scripture (though we note the occasional use of the Apocrypha in the propers for the Divine Service - the tell-tale giveaway in LSB is when they use the term: "liturgical text" - which comes across as a rather chicken way of saying: you don't want to know where this is from...). Rather, you see something approximating the way that the eastern liturgy expounds on the images for the given day and emotionally unpacks them, often giving details that are not in Scripture but that teach a Scriptural truth. Hence, John's trembling as he thinks to touch the head of God Enfleshed and begs Him for salvation. I marvel at how much richness would be restored to our Western liturgy if these little treasures from our spiritual forebears were learned and sung and so set before our people again - I wonder if anyone is up for the publication of an English language Antiphony Book that offers these in standard musical notation?
Posted by William Weedon at 5:55 PM