Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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Let two cantors in the choir answer :
Salvatorem Christum Dominum, infantem pannis involutum, secundum sermonem angelicum. (The Saviour, Christ the Lord, a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, according to the angelic word.)
And the deacons:
Adest hie parvulus cum Maria, matre sua, de qua, vaticinando, Isaias Propheta : ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium; et nuntiantes dicite quia natus est. (Present here is the little one with Mary, His Mother, of whom Isaiah the prophet foretold : Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bring forth a son ; and do ye say and announce that He is born.)
'Then let the cantor lift up his voice and say:
Alleluia, alleluia, jam vere scimus Christum natum in terris, de quo canite, omnes, cum Propheta dicentes : Puer natus est ! (Alleluia, alleluia. Now we know indeed that Christ is born on earth, of whom sing ye all, saying with the Prophet : Unto us a child is born.) " 3
The dramatic character of this is very marked. A comparison with later liturgical plays suggests that the two deacons in their broad vestments were meant to represent the midwives mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, and the cantors the shepherds.
A development from this trope, apparently, was the " Office of the Shepherds," which probably took shape in the eleventh century, though it is first given in a Rouen manuscript of the thirteenth. It must have been an impressive ceremony as per­formed in the great cathedral, dimly lit with candles, and full of mysterious black recesses and hints of infinity. Behind the high altar a praesepe or " crib" was prepared, with an image of the Virgin. After the "Te Deum " had been sung five canons or their vicars, clad in albs and amices, entered by the great door of the choir, and proceeded towards the apse. These were the shepherds. Suddenly from high above them came a clear boy's voice : " Fear not, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy," and the rest of the angelic message. The " multitude of the heavenly host " was represented by other boys stationed probably
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