Gone are the shepherds who knelt before the manger. Departed are the Magi who had there adored and offered their gifts. But the spirit of adoration which animated all of them has remained. It continues to thrive in the Church.
Introit: Omnis terra adoret te
We are not only to prostrate ourselves trembling before the divine majesty; the Introit incites us to sing and to rejoice, for we find these words prominent: adoret and psallat. Melodically, also, these thoughts are entwined into one. Each begins with a similar motive. Psalmum dicat nomini corresponds to omnis terra adoret, with its ascent to C and the descending fourth.
The second phrase is more serene. Te Deus finds an echo in psallat tibi and even in tuo.
The second last (unaccented) syllable of (Altis)-sime carries groups of neums, in order that a quieter descent may be possible. We find these groups always on the second last syllable.
Gradual: Misit Dominus
The present misit is a fulfillment of our Advent cry: Mitte Domine, quem missurus es—"Send Him, O Lord, whom Thou art about to send."
The Lord has sent His Word, His eternal Word, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; this Word is Jesus, the Saviour; He heals our wounds and saves us from destruction.
It is difficult to explain the frequent repetition of the third-intervals at the beginning of the verse.
The clivis alone produces a slight variation in the melody concealed in the third c'-a', the fourth 'e-g', and the ascending fifth 'f-c'.
An admirable effect is afterwards produced by the development over misericordiae. The pressus, it is true, constitute the supports of the melody; still one should give close attention also to the notes which precede in every instance.
Alleluia: Laudate Deum omnes Angeli
The Introit had incited the entire world to adoration and to the praise of God; in the Gradual the eternal Word of God Himself fulfills this service of thanksgiving; in the Alleluia all the choirs of angels join this hymn.
This melody presents a typical form of the fourth mode. It does not, however, like all other pieces of this type, ascend to 'bb' on the third syllable of the text. Virtutes repeats the preceding formula of ejus.
Offertory: Jubilate Deo universa terra
This song of thanksgiving is the most animated. The first two phrases predominate not only by reason of their length, but through the joy that wells up from within: The entire earth is to shout with joy.
An effect of tone-painting is produced by the great intervals over universa. But the singer is more concerned with jubilate. His heart is filled to the point of bursting; he wishes to have his jubilation resound throughout the entire world.
Rapidly the melody falls into the depths; then expanding, ever-expanding, it rushes upward. The pressus (given in the manuscript as trigons) not only divides the movement but also supplies it with new power and energy. However, they should not be emphasized too strongly, lest the delicate melodic line suffer from it. The melody shows a marvelous development and gradation till the outburst with 'f1', a twelfth above the lowest note of the piece. A vigorous tone-sequence relaxes the tension.
The only other extended figure we meet with is that over the second terra. In place of the 'bb' in the first phrase, the second shows an energetic 'b'. After this unusual development comes comparative rest and relaxation in the third phrase. God's name is pronounced reverently. Its close with the impetuous pressus already prepares for the following phrase and has some relation to the third member in the second Jubilate phrase.
The fourth phrase is an impulsive exhortation to all who fear God. Its three short expressions: "venite, et audite, et narrabo vobis — come, hear, I will tell you —" not only tend to awaken and attract the attention by the delicate interplay of motives, but they also serve to give us an inkling of powerful movements of the singer's heart. The motive over omnes has been borrowed from the third phrase and is introduced like it. Then it gradually dies away, expressing the contents of the message to expectant hearts in its descent to 'd'. In the fifth phrase the singer devoutly ponders all the marvels that God has wrought in him. This inner agitation is still felt toward the end over animae. The closing alleluia really is shorter than that generally found in Offertories, but even the oldest manuscripts have the present form.
Communion: Dicit Dominus: Implete hydrias
With dramatic brevity the Communion summarizes the Gospel story.
Consider first of all the contrast between the first dicit, introducing the Saviour's words, and the second dicit, introducing those of the chief steward. Already from the intonation we can gather that we have here to do with something unusual. In the tone of extreme astonishment, the singer cries out: "Who can do such a thing?"
With the threefold repetition of the same high torculus one seems to see the man shaking his head as if unable to comprehend.
Naturally, this passage demands a lively rendition. Then there ought to be a considerable pause, after which the second phrase, relating in reverent astonishment the first miracle, is to follow in a solemn manner. It differs from the other phrases by reason of its almost syllabic character.
In the first phrase there is nothing striking about the textual treatment of Dominus. It seems that the principle of counting the syllables was applied here. The low inception of implete necessitates the bending over of the last neum. Thus it becomes apparent that plain song can also create vivid contrasts. The expression beginning with implete recites on the tonic, but thrice reaches down energetically to the lower third; while that beginning with et ferte supports itself on the dominant 'a'. Over the close of the second architriclinus we find the same figure repeated as occurs over the first.
Thus in this first public miracle Christ revealed Himself as the Lord and King of creation. An act of the will, a word from His lips, and Nature obeys—the water changes into wine. Today we also have been witnesses of a miracle of change; but of one much more sublime then is here related. This was only a type of and preparation for the Eucharistic transubstantiation. With the former the Saviour began His public Messianic activity. The consecration at the Last Supper is the final stupendous miracle He wrought before His death, but it will continue to the end of days. We have now been privileged to partake of that most excellent wine, the very blood of Jesus Christ.
Today He has prepared a marriage banquet for us. Until now, the last, the Messianic era, the Lord has reserved this good rich wine. But its inebriating powers only reveal themselves in us in the measure with which we correspond to our duties (implete hydrias) and give ourselves over wholly to Christ. This "good wine" is to prepare us for the change of the earthly man into the spiritual, for the eternal, blissful nuptials with the heavenly bridegroom, Christ.