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"Thus," wrote Isaac Jogues, "on the 29th of September, René Goupil, an angel of innocence and martyr of Jesus Christ, was immolated in his thirty-fifth year for Him who had given His life for ransom. He had consecrated his heart and his soul to God, and his work and his life to the welfare of the poor Indians."
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"This was first breach in the walls of a fortress, centuries old, stoutly built, strong and robust, but no longer capable of responding to the spiritual needs of the age." [N.B. the "fortress" is a liturgy which nourished countless great saints.]
— Annibale Bugnini (19 March 1966)
What Are The Mass Propers? Installment no. 9
published 29 November 2011 by Corpus Christi Watershed

One of my favorite Gregorian hymns is the Christmas hymn A solis ortus cardine. As you can tell by this MP3, the Solesmes monks sing a slight variation from the melody Abbot Pothier included in the Vatican Edition:
This same melody is used for the hymn Audit tyrannus anxius (associated with the feast of the Holy Innocents for obvious reasons). Here is an ancient MS of this hymn, which also has slight variations in the melody. My guess on the approximate date of this MS would be around 1550, but I could be wrong:

Please note: This is a post about Gregorian hymns, which have very little in common with what folks normally refer to when speaking of a “hymn.” Click here to learn more.

What Are The Mass Propers? is an ongoing series dedicated to exploring the Graduale Propers and other aspects of the Catholic liturgy. The views presented here do not necessarily represent the views of Corpus Christi Watershed. Comments, advice, and criticism are welcome, and can be E-mailed. E-mails will be read, but cannot always be answered (due to time constraints). “AF” refers to Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (1912).
        Down through the centuries, the Church has carefully assigned beautiful prayers to each Mass. We call these prayers “Mass Propers” or “Graduale Propers.” Over the centuries, Gregorian composers have created unbelievably beautiful chant melodies for each prayer. Under special circumstances, Catholics are allowed to replace the sung Mass Propers with “some other chant.” Unfortunately, this practice has become so widespread that many Catholics go to Mass without hearing a single Mass Proper. It is difficult to understand why Catholic musicians would toss out these wonderful, ancient prayers . . . especially when they choose to replace them with uninspired modern texts in a secular musical style. Currently, the only pew book to contain the complete Mass Propers is the Vatican II Hymnal. Next time you hear a Catholic musician replace, for example, the Communion Proper or Entrance Proper, please consider asking, “What made you want to replace the sacred text assigned by the Church?”

Pictures of ancient manuscripts appearing in this blog come from various sources. The author has collected his own color photographs of manuscripts from libraries and monasteries in the United States and Italy. A Canadian chant scholar who has been taking photographs of MSS since the 1960’s has generously made his collection available as well, and the author is grateful. Some photographs also come from online archives hosted by libraries and universities the world over. All photographs are used with permission.