A Hildegard Chant for the Holy Innocents

I came across this (on http://hischola.blogspot.com ) today, and since Schola Cantorum is in America, and you may not be familiar with them, and since it allows me to indulge my passion for early liturgical music, I reproduce it here to celebrate this feast of the Holy Innocents.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Hildegard Chant for the Holy Innocents

Today is the feast of title of our beloved Holy Innocents’ Church. I will be rejoining the schola for this occasion.

And in honor of St Hildegard (soon to be canonized and made a doctor of the church), we will sing this responsory which she composed in honor of the slaughtered innocents.

The text is beautiful and profound, like all of her writing. I’ll give the English only, since the Latin is in the file:

℟. Our King is quick to receive the blood of innocents, whence the angels sing and resound in praise.
* But the clouds weep over that same blood.
℣. The tyrant, in the heavy sleep of death, was suffocated because of his malice.
℟. But the clouds weep over that same blood.
℣. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
℟. But the clouds weep over that same blood.

The music is wonderful. Hildegard’s treatment of the third mode is so different from Gregorian chant. You can hear some relatively modern touches: melodic contours based on octaves instead of hexachords, five-note climaci, and exploitation of the supertonic half step. It’s objectively beautiful, and more accessible to modern musical ears than pure Gregorian melodies.

Which leads me to the question: why do scholæ not sing Hildegard’s music more? Early-music ensembles have long recognized its value. I think it’s neglect born of the lack of a good, widely-available edition. I hope to remedy this by posting more chants soon.


About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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9 Responses to A Hildegard Chant for the Holy Innocents

  1. Toadspittle says:


    Is it true that the Massacre of the Innocents never happened?
    Toad seems to have read this somewhere. If it did happen, the repercussions would have surely been monumental.
    Is there any “independent” record of this mass slaughter of an entire generation? Would the Romans have allowed Herod to go unpunished and unrebuked and the event go unremarked?


  2. shieldsheafson says:

    Dear Toad, it probably did happen. Even today (Wed 28) a box containing the mortal remains of aborted children are being transferred from our hospital to the local crematorium for disposal.

    O Dear White Rose
    Whose petals enfold their hearts
    Draw them into the
    Centre of your sweetness, Jesus

    Fr. Leonard May


  3. Gertrude says:

    Julia: Many thanks for the link, which sadly I was unable to connect to – I kept getting Vietnamese ads! Youtube have several, but I can’t find this particular one for The Holy Innocents, but this (the antiphon De Sancta Maria – O Splendidissima Gemma) is worth a listen. http://youtu.be/udf0xdjbMXU


    How very poignant, and how very true. When Toad asks ‘would the Romans have left Herod unpunished’ the answer has to be yes – and here in the 21st century we continue to slaughter the innocents in Abortion clinics throughout the world, and this we do in the name of civilisation.
    May God have mercy on us.


  4. Thank you for linking to my post and spreading awareness of Hildegard’s music, which is not done enough in a liturgical setting. I’ve updated the post with a recording of our all-volunteer schola singing this at the mass: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/28266191/Responsory.mp3


  5. Toadspittle says:


    Toad did do a bit of research into the supposed incident – very vague.
    Another “impossible” (all right, call it improbable) thing to be believed before breakfast, he must suppose. However, true or not, Herod slaughtering boys under two has about as much to do with abortion as “The Da Vinci Code” has to do with “The Gospel of Saint Luke.” Thinks Toad.


  6. Gertrude says:

    Thank you Charles for commenting here, and thank you for the link to your schola singing this antiphon – which is absolutely lovely. It would have been nice to have seen them though! Perhaps you should post on Youtube? May I enquire – what made you choose Hildegard of Bingens antiphon for this feast? Her chants are little known here outside those devotees of Hildegard, and it would seem an inspired choice, but perhaps a little unusual. I pray we might hear more. God Bless.


  7. Gertrude says:

    Oh Toad. It isn’t about the rights or wrongs of killing under-two’s as opposed to the unborn. Your remark about Dan Brown and Luke was ill thought. It is about the sanctity of life – from conception to death. Regarding the Holy Innocents, the second chapter of the Book of Matthew records the story of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, an event which recalls the Pharaoh’s instructions to midwives during the time Israel was enslaved in Egypt:

    Exodus 1:15-16, 22:
    And the king of Egypt spoke to the midwives of the Hebrews: of whom one was called Sephora, the other Phua, Commanding them: When you shall do the office of midwives to the Hebrew women, and the time of delivery is come: if it be a man child, kill it: if a woman, keep it alive…

    …Pharaoh therefore charged all his people, saying: Whatsoever shall be born of the male sex, ye shall cast into the river: whatsoever of the female, ye shall save alive.
    Moses was saved from this murder when his mother placed him in a little ark and floated him in the river. Moses’s sister watched from afar as the Pharaoh’s daughter found the child (Exodus 2). The massacre from which Moses was spared is a type, a foreshadowing, of the massacre of the holy innocents that took place soon after Christ was born.

    As to the slaughter of the Innocents in the New Testament, first some background: Herod the Great, the Governor of Galilee, was an Idumean Jew whom History describes as an extremely cruel man: he was a man who killed several of his wives and his own sons when he suspected they were plotting against him. Challenges to his power were met with a swift and final response, and he even tried to ensure that his cruel campaigns survived him when he arranged that on the day he went on to his eternal reward, hundreds of men in the area would be killed so that there would be mourning at his funeral. Though this arrangement was never carried out, it speaks well of Herod’s nature. It had been his intention that the Magi would report back to him when they had found the Infant Jesus.

    Please tell me what you consider the difference betweenthese killings and the killing of unborn children? Whilst I agree that this post was not about pro-life, since it was brought up in a comment the similarity cannot be ignored. The fact remains that life is as sacred in 2011 as it was always was. Even the Psalmist talks about God knowing hin from the beginning of time (before birth).

    Incidentally, there is nothing ‘vague’ in Matthews description of the Massacre of the Innocents.


  8. Toadspittle says:

    Gertrude, the vagueness I found was regarding the numbers of boys involved. On a website ( don’t recall which) the highest number of victims was 64,000 – the lowest only 6 or 7 boys. There seems considerable dispute whether it even took place. However, assuming that it did, I still think its relevance to abortion is fanciful. These were not abortions.
    One might as well read some relevance between the Battle of Waterloo and 9/11/2001.
    Both deplorable events, involving considerable loss of life to be sure, but apart from that – nothing. Still, that is only my opinion.


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