Friday, April 10, 2020

Improperia (aka, the Reproaches)

Today being Good Friday, I'd like to expose a piece that's important to Good Friday liturgy that is hardly ever seen in hymnals anymore, let alone sung - well, not in the Ordinary Form.  That piece is known as the "Reproaches", or more formerly, the "Improperia".

The Reproaches is a chant that is traditionally sung during the Adoration of the Holy Cross.  It is written in two portions.  Some may recognize this antiphon:
- My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me! 
Or, in Latin:
- Popule meus, quid feci tibi?  Aut in quo contristavi te?  Responde mihi!

These are the words of Christ.  The verses are very strong as well.

Here is the entire chant, in English...

(Key: R./ = Response; V./ = Versicle)
Part I
Sung twice:
My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me.

V./ Because I led you out of the land of Egypt, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior.

R./ Holy is God, / Holy and Strong, / Holy and Immortal One, have mercy on us.
(Traditionally, this is alternated with the Greek: "Hagios o Theos, / Hagios Ischyros, / Hagios Anthanatos, eleison himas,"  Each passage alternates Greek by chanters, then English as the response by full choir and/or congregation.  In a Latin Mass, it would be Greek then Latin.)

V./ Because I led you out through the desert for forty years and fed you with manna and brought you into a land of plenty, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior.  R./
V./ What more should I have done for you and have not done?  Indeed, I planted you as my most beautiful chosen vine, and you have turned very bitter for me, for in your thirst you gave me vinegar to drink and with a lance you pierced your Savior's side.  R./

Part II

V./ I scourged Egypt for your sake with its firstborn sons, and you scourged me and handed me over.

R./ My people, what have I done to you?  Or in what have I offended you?  Answer me.

V./ I led you from Egypt as Pharoah lay sunk in the Red Sea, and you handed me over to the chief priests.  R./
V./ I opened up the sea before you, and you opened my side with a lance.  R./
V./ I went before you in a pillar of cloud, and you led me into Pilate's palace.  R./
V./ I fed you with manna in the desert, and on me you rained blows and lashes.  R./
V./ I gave you saving water from the rock to drink, and for drink you gave me gall and vinegar.  R./
V./ I struck down for ou the kings of the Canaanites, and you struck my head with a reed.  R./
V./ I put your hand in a royal scepter, and you put on my head a crown of thorns.  R./
V./ I exalted you with great power, and you hung me on the scaffold of the Cross.  R./

I'm fixing to prepare a setting of this to be sung next year on Good Friday, God willing.

A blessed Triduum to you all!

Quod scripsi, scripsi!