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Introit Salve sancta Parens

Author: Mr. Jean-Pierre Exter

Our choir Cantica has sung the Introit Salve Sancta Parens multiple times in a Mass: see Salve, Sancta Parens. This is particularly the case in May and October in Masses devoted to Holy Mary. October is the month of the Rosary and October 7th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The Introit or entrance song Salve Sancta Parens has its lyrics made by priest and poet Sedulius in the fifth century:

Salve sancta Parens,
enixa puerpera Regem;
qui caelum terramque regit in saecula saeculorum.
Verse: Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum:
dico ego opera mea Regi.
      Hail Holy Mary
who put a king in the world,
who reigns over heaven and earth in eternity.
Verse: My heart thrills at the good words,
I talk about my work(s) to the Lord.

The melody is identical to the one of the Introit of Epiphania (Epiphany): Ecce advenit dominator Dominus. The way of singing however is different. At Epiphany it is allowed to sound loudly, after all it is the confirmation of the King who is there. Three other kings are even coming to confirm that. Salve sancta Parens however includes tenderness and should be interpreted in a different way.

Salve Sancta Parens in the Albi manuscript (eleventh century)

The use of one and the same melody for different lyrics is a tradition in Gregrorian chant and somehow it is understandable. In the beginning there was the soloist who had to sing lots of verses and psalms all alone. He had no support, there were no scores and sometimes everything, words and melody, had to be sung by heart. Then it becomes understandable indeed that well known melodies were reused.

The Introit has arised in a proper way very early in the Gregorian repertory. The pope walked to multiple churces in Rome and stopped at some stations. He was accompanied by monks who sung verses and the faithful answered with a simple verse like Ora pro nobis or Miserere mei. When the Schola Cantorum was founded this changed: the melody became more difficult and could be sung by the Scholae only. It was sung when the officiant entered and got the name Antiphona ad Introitum.

An Introit always accompanies a liturgical act, in this case the entrance of the officiant. The short name Introit is used from the fourteenth century only. In the Ambrosian rite in Milan it was called Ingressa.

October 2019

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Our commentators:

  Mr. Jean-Pierre Exter
  Mrs. Myriam Van Lerberghe-Thibaut

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