Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Vox Clara

Fr Zuhlsdorf has posted about the beautiful 6th century hymn Vox Clara, saying:

Light and reason and clarity and beauty are all associated with the VOICE, the VOX. The Latin word vox means not just "voice" but also "That which is uttered by the voice, i. e. a word, saying, speech, sentence, proverb, maxim." VOX = VERBUM and thus the glorious voice which makes everthing clear and understood, thundering from heaven, is the Risen Christ Coming at the world’s end to lay all things bare and resolve them.

The hymn Vox Clara is about the beginning of the day, the beginning of an examination of conscience, the beginning of repentance and conversion, all in light of the ending of the world.

Most of the time when people translate Vox clara they pick up rightly that the "Vox" refers to St. John the Baptist, "the voice shouting in the desert" to make straight the path of the Lord who is coming. This is a constant theme of Advent: make straight the path, prepare well for Christ. In fact, Christ, when He comes will undoubtedly come by the straight path whether you have taken time to straighten them or not. His Coming (to you) as Lord and Judge at the end can thus be smooth or, alternatively, pretty violent if HE is doing all the straightening… in the twinkling of an eye.

So, there is the hymn an interplay between the Vox and the Verbum, the Precursor and the Messiah. The one who announces is in fact a pre-echo of the one who is the Word.

This hymn is on page 6 of Liber Hymnarius.

The Anonymous 4 sing a version of this chant on, for example, their album: On Yoolis Night: Medieval Carols and Motets and a somewhat different version on A Star from the East: Christmas Music from Medieval Hungary. I prefer the On Yoolis Night version which starts with less ornamentation, as in Liber Hymnarius.

Speaking of Anonymous 4, their American Angels - Songs of Hope, Redemption and Glory is a lovely bridge from or to more familiar American shape note music and the older chant & polyphonic tradition.

1 comment:

tdunbar said...

Aural experiment:

1) Anonymous 4's VOX Clara (from Yoolis Night) and then
2) Dylan's Blind Willie Mctell

Cool, huh? To my ear, anyway.