Continuing with our discussion of the Medieval Period, I wanted to take a look at the church
liturgy, or the church calendar year.
If we were living in the Medieval Period, and we had dedicated our lives to God, and
we had decided to move into a church, or a convent or a monastery, then we would be going
through the motions of saying and singing in the mass at multiple times during the day.
Back in this time period, you said the mass every three hours of the day. Three because
of the trinity, God the Father; Christ the Son; and the Holy Spirit. So, if daylight
was around, let’s say at 6 o’ clock in the morning, then we had a mass; then we had
one at 9, noon, 3 o’clock, 6 o’ clock, 9 o’clock at night, if there’s still daylight
All of those masses, during that one particular day, would have certain prayers that were
always sung. But the melodies might not be the same. On that Monday let’s say, we would
have certain melodies. Later on in the week, we would have different melodies. Different
times of the year would bring to light different melodies. And still, some of those, the text
would remain the same. So it’s a very interesting piece of music, the mass, and that’s one
reasons why in the last segment I mentioned that I had a friend who is a music director
in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s very hard to pinpoint everything that’s going
on with this particular musical worship service.
I grew up in the United Methodist Church, and in terms of the Protestant Churches today,
the Methodist Church probably falls right in the middle of all the other Protestant
Churches that, in terms of following the Church liturgy, or the calendar year. Our brothers
and sisters in the Presbyterian Church, and the Episcopalian Church, they’re going to
follow the liturgy more. Typically, the Baptist Church, the Church of God, they’re going
to follow it a little bit less. However, my best friends go to a First Baptist Church
in the city of Dalton, and that church is much more liturgically based than my Methodist
Church in Cartersville. So you can always find exceptions to this rule. But generally
speaking, the Methodist Church, we’re going to focus on the seasons of the year.
Now the calendar year, of course, we all know, begins with January 1. But not so for the
church. The church begins with a season called Advent. Advent comes around maybe the last
Sunday of November, the first Sunday in December, depending upon when Christmas falls, and that’s
exactly what it precedes. Advent is the time in the life of the church when we’re preparing
for the birth of Christ. So that lasts for a few Sundays. You might have seen an Advent
wreath before that has the four candles, and then a center white candle. Eventually we
do get to Christmas, and you all have heard The Twelve Days of Christmas, that endless
Christmas song. Well there are twelve days of Christmas, and so we spend in Christmastide
different days, as the song suggests.
After we get through those twelve days, then we reach an all-important day, January 6,
which is called, Epiphany, which is the day that we remember that the three kings, of
the three Magi, came to greet the Christ child. In my church today, we put out the nativity
set, and we put that out in early Advent, with Mary, and Joseph, and the baby, and the
shepherds, and the three kings, and all the animals. But, at one point in my history,
when I was at graduate school, I was singing at a Methodist Church that was VERY liturgical.
They wanted everything just so. And so, whoever was in charge of the nativity set, she didn’t
put out the three kings until Epiphany. So the stable was there at the beginning of Advent,
but no Mary and Joseph, and no baby yet, of course. And then as time progressed, and Christmas,
then everybody was there, and so on and so forth. So you might watch your nativity set
at your church to see how liturgical your church happens to be.
But after we get through Epiphany, then we’re kind of in a generic time, and then we await
the arrival of another preparatory season. The season that leads up to Easter is called,
Lent. You might have heard of somebody giving up chocolate for Lent, or giving up cussing
for Lent. Well they’re trying to sacrifice something and better themselves. Lent coincides
to a time in Christ’s life, forty days and forty nights, when Christ was in the desert,
and He was tempted by the devil three times, and He fasted and prayed during that particular
period in His life. And so it’s a very introspective, very sacrificial time, and we remember things
that Christ has done for us, and we try to better ourselves, and model ourselves after
At the end of Lent, we go into Holy Week with Palm Sunday, and the Maundy Thursday, and
then Good Friday, which leads up to Easter. Then we’re in Eastertide for a while, and
I’m filming this particular lecture in the month of May, and we are in this Eastertide,
but we’re leading up to another celebration in a couple of weeks called Pentecost.
Pentecost is a time when the Holy Spirit was unleashed on the remaining disciples in a
room, and some other people, and they were able to speak in lots of different tongues,
and they were able to understand one another. And so this is another celebration that’s
going to affect the music that’s chosen for the church. In my history, I have been
a music director at a couple of different Methodist churches, and so I would choose
songs like Joy to the World, or While Shepherds Watch Their Flock By Night, or The First Noel,
for Advent and Christmastide. I would not sing The First Noel in the middle of July.
So the church calendar year offers a little suggestion of what songs to sing. In Lent
time, when we’re preparing for Easter, then anything with the word ‘cross’ in it is
a really good fit; Beneath the Cross of Jesus, or Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone, The Old
Rugged Cross, things really fit well at that particular time.
But for the Roman Catholic Church, they follow all of these seasons, and then they have high
holy days, feast days, remembrances of popes, saint days, and all of these things affect
the mass. They affect which melodies are used for the different texts, and which musical
texts are going to be used for different occasions.
So this is what I would like for you to know – On your PowerPoint, find the slide that
says 2 Categories of Mass Prayers. There is the Mass Ordinary, five prayers that are ALWAYS
present; and then there’s the Mass Proper, prayers that are only used because of certain
occasions; certain seasons; certain times of the day; so they are the variable texts.
What I would like for you to know for your first test, the 5 prayers that fall under
the Mass Ordinary. You may tell me the original Latin or you may tell me the English translation,
whatever you remember the best.
The first one is the Kyrie Eleison, or Lord Have Mercy Upon Us. The second one is the
Gloria; Glory to God in the Highest. Now there’s always an exception to the rule, I’m saying
that all five of these are always present; the Gloria, though, is omitted during Lent,
except for the Sundays during Lent, because every Sunday is a little Easter. But for that
Monday through Saturday, it is left out during just Lent, but all the other seasons of the
year it’s there. Credo, I believe. Sanctus, a celebration of the Trinity; Holy, Holy,
Holy. And then the final one is the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God that taketh away the sins
of the world. So you can tell me, again, the original Latin – Kyrie; Gloria; Credo; Sanctus;
Agnus Dei – or its English translation.
Why do I want you to know this? Throughout the semester, we’re going to be following
certain church tendencies with the different composers, and a lot of them turn to a special
type of the mass called the requiem, which is the funeral mass or the mass for the dead.
So when a composer loses someone that’s very close to them, or maybe they’re simply
commissioned to write a requiem, certain ones of these prayers are going to be included
in that text as well. So the mass and the requiem are a composition that’s very important,
not just to the confines of the Roman Catholic Church, but also to the historical perspectives
of classical music history. So please learn these for your first test.