HE SECOND SUNDAY of Easter (also known as “Divine Mercy Sunday”) is the “Octave of Easter,” the eighth day of the Easter celebration. The Christian concept of celebrating feast days as “octaves” most likely grew from the Jewish practice of observing seven and sometimes eight day feasts. By the fourth century, the feasts of Easter and Pentecost were given “octaves”—an eight day celebration that lasted from Sunday to Sunday. In particular, the neophytes, those newly baptized in the Church, remained in a joyful retreat until the Second Sunday of Easter. In practical terms, what does this “octave” mean? Each day of the Octave of Easter is as important and carries the same liturgical weight as Easter Sunday itself. Each day this week—from Sunday to Sunday is a solemnity. At each Mass, the Gloria, the Church’s hymn of praise, is sung or recited. The Gospel verse each weekday mass during the octave is the same: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.” This proclamation is an important reminder of the central reality of our faith: Christ is risen! Alleluia! Each day of the octave, it has been an ancient custom to sing the 11th century sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes, a poetic liturgical hymn. (Download score with translation here. Listen here)
My colleague has posted a free organ accompaniment:
This ancient hymn tells the story of death and life locked in a struggle, wherein Christ, the Paschal victim, victorious over death, reconciles us to the Father. It tells the story of Mary Magdalene, who upon finding the empty tomb of the risen Christ and of finding the clothes which once covered his head and limbs, proclaims “Christ my hope has arisen.”
• Mini History of Sequences by Fr. David Friel
Some clarification for the Ordinary Form:
Check the Ordo in your diocese. From the Ordo in the Archdiocese of Boston:
1 • Under the heading “EASTER SEASON”:
“The sequence Victimae paschali, obligatory at Mass on Easter Sunday, is optional on the other days of the octave.”
From the GIRM:
2 • 64. The Sequence which, except on Easter Sunday and on Pentecost Day, is optional, is sung before the Alleluia
Clarification for the Extraordinary Form:
3 • In the Extraordinary Form there are two important differences: Victimae paschali is specifically listed in the Missal each day of the Octave of Easter (through Saturday) and is therefore not optional. However, it does not appear on the Second Sunday and is not allowable then as it in the Ordinary Form. Secondly, it is sung after the Alleluia, not before as in the Ordinary Form (as it is an extension of the Jubilis in the Alleluia.)
ICTIMAE PASCHALI LAUDES is also one of the most accessible chants both for a congregation to absorb and for a schola to sing. It bears repetition, and is one of the great jewels of the Church. I still get chills every time we sing, “Dic nobis Maria,Quid vidisti in via?” “Tell us, Mary, what did you see upon the way?” “Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis” “I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ; I saw the glory of the Risen One…”
Singing (or reading) the sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes is truly appropriate every day this week. We will sing it at St. Cecilia Parish on Divine Mercy Sunday as we have for several years. It will be sung at the Jesuit Community Mass at Boston College during the Octave.
Like Mary, we are filled with joy because Christ our hope has arisen. We are redeemed. We are a saved people!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Here is a recording of the Sequence by The University of Notre Dame Liturgical Choir from Easter Sunday 2012 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Indiana. This is a different approach which includes massive pipe organ interludes. The beautiful Alleluia follows:
Let Christians offer sacrificial praises
to the passover victim.
Agnus redemit oves:
The Lamb has redeemed the sheep:
Christus innocens Patri
the innocent Christ has reconciled
the sinners to the Father.
Mors et vita duello
Death and life contended
in a spectacular battle:
dux vitae mortuus,
the Prince of life, who died,
Dic nobis Maria,
Tell us, Mary,
quid vidisti in via?
what did you see on the road?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
“I saw the tomb of the living Christ
et gloriam vidi resurgentis,
and the glory of his rising,
the angelic witnesses,
sudarium, et vestes.
the Shroud and the clothes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
Christ my hope is arisen:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
into Galilee, he will go before his own.”
Scimus Christum surrexisse
We know Christ is risen
a mortuis vere:
truly from the dead:
Tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere!
To us, victorious King, have mercy!