Exsultet

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Deacon singing the Exsultet

The Exsultet (spelled in pre-1920 editions of the Roman Missal as Exultet) or Easter Proclamation,[1] in Latin Praeconium Paschale, is the hymn of praise sung, ideally by the deacon, before the paschal candle during the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite of Mass. In the absence of a deacon, it may be sung by a priest, or by a cantor. It is sung after a procession with the Paschal Candle before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word. It is also used in Anglican and various Lutheran Churches, as well as other Western Christian denominations.

History[edit]

Since the 1955 revision of the Holy Week rites, the Roman Missal explicitly gives the title "Praeconium" to the Exsultet, as it already did implicitly in the formula it provided for blessing the deacon before the chant: "ut digne et competenter annunties suum Paschale praeconium". Outside Rome, use of the paschal candle appears to have been a very ancient tradition in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and perhaps, from the reference by St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, XV, xxii), in Africa. The Liber Pontificalis attributes to Pope Zosimus its introduction in the local Church in Rome. The formula used for the "Praeconium" was not always the Exsultet, though it is perhaps true to say that this formula has survived, where other contemporary formulae have disappeared. In the "Liber Ordinum", for instance, the formula is of the nature of a benediction, and the Gelasian Sacramentary has the prayer "Deus mundi conditor", not found elsewhere, but containing the remarkable "praise of the bee"-- possibly a Vergilian reminiscence—which is found with more or less modification in all the texts of the "Praeconium" down to the present. The regularity of the metrical cursus of the Exsultet would lead us to place the date of its composition perhaps as early as the fifth century, and not later than the seventh. The earliest manuscript in which it appears are those of the three Gallican Sacramentaries: -- the Bobbio Missal (seventh century), the Missale Gothicum and the Missale Gallicanum Vetus (both of the eighth century). The earliest manuscript of the Gregorian Sacramentary (Vat. Reg. 337) does not contain the Exsultet, but it was added in the supplement to what has been loosely called the Sacramentary of Adrian, and probably drawn up under the direction of Alcuin.

As it stands in the liturgy, it may be compared with two other forms, the blessing of palms on Palm Sunday, and the blessing of the baptismal font at the Easter Vigil. The order is, briefly:

In pre-1970 forms of the Roman Rite the deacon, or if there is no deacon the priest himself, puts off his violet vestments and wears a white dalmatic for the entry into the church with the paschal candle and the singing or recitation of the Exsultet, resuming the violet vestments immediately afterwards. In the later form, white vestments are worn throughout. The affixing, in the pre-1955 form of the Roman Rite, of five grains of incense at the words incensi hujus sacrificium probably arose from a misconception of the meaning of the text, and was removed in Pope Pius XII's revision.

The chant is usually an elaborate form of the well-known recitative of the Preface. In some uses a long bravura was introduced upon the word accendit, to fill in the pause, which must otherwise occur while, in the pre-1955 form of the rite, the deacon is lighting the candle. In Italy the Praeconium was sung from long strips of parchment, gradually unrolled as the deacon proceeded. These "Exsultet Rolls" were decorated with illuminations and with the portraits of contemporary reigning sovereigns, whose names were mentioned in the course of the "Praeconium". The use of these rolls, as far as is known at present, was confined to Italy. The best examples date from the tenth and eleventh centuries.[2]

The beginning of the Exsultet in the Liber Usualis.

Roman Catholic English and Latin Text[edit]

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises).

(Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.)
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants' hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
a flame divided but undimmed,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Exsúltet iam angélica turba cælórum:
exsúltent divína mystéria:
et pro tanti Regis victória tuba ínsonet salutáris.


Gáudeat et tellus, tantis irradiáta fulgóribus:
et ætérni Regis splendóre illustráta,
tótius orbis se séntiat amisísse calíginem.


Lætétur et mater Ecclésia,
tanti lúminis adornáta fulgóribus:
et magnis populórum vócibus hæc aula resúltet.


[Quaprópter astántes vos, fratres caríssimi,
ad tam miram huius sancti lúminis claritátem,
una mecum, quæso,
Dei omnipoténtis misericórdiam invocáte.
Ut, qui me non meis méritis
intra Levitárum númerum dignátus est aggregáre,
lúminis sui claritátem infúndens,
cérei huius laudem implére perfíciat.]

[V/ Dóminus vobíscum.
R/ Et cum spíritu tuo.]
V/ Sursum corda.
R/ Habémus ad Dóminum.
V/ Grátias agámus Dómino Deo nostro.
R/ Dignum et iustum est.

Vere dignum et iustum est,
invisíbilem Deum Patrem omnipoténtem
Filiúmque eius unigénitum,
Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum,
toto cordis ac mentis afféctu et vocis ministério personáre.

Qui pro nobis ætérno Patri Adæ débitum solvit,
et véteris piáculi cautiónem pio cruóre detérsit.


Hæc sunt enim festa paschália,
in quibus verus ille Agnus occíditur,
cuius sánguine postes fidélium consecrántur.

Hæc nox est,
in qua primum patres nostros, fílios Israel
edúctos de Ægypto,
Mare Rubrum sicco vestígio transíre fecísti.

Hæc ígitur nox est,
quæ peccatórum ténebras colúmnæ illuminatióne purgávit.


Hæc nox est,
quæ hódie per univérsum mundum in Christo credéntes,
a vítiis sæculi et calígine peccatórum segregátos,
reddit grátiæ, sóciat sanctitáti.



Hæc nox est,
in qua, destrúctis vínculis mortis,
Christus ab ínferis victor ascéndit.

Nihil enim nobis nasci prófuit,
nisi rédimi profuísset.
O mira circa nos tuæ pietátis dignátio!
O inæstimábilis diléctio caritátis:
ut servum redímeres, Fílium tradidísti!

O certe necessárium Adæ peccátum,
quod Christi morte delétum est!

O felix culpa,
quæ talem ac tantum méruit habére Redemptórem!

O vere beáta nox,
quæ sola méruit scire tempus et horam,
in qua Christus ab ínferis resurréxit!

Hæc nox est, de qua scriptum est:
Et nox sicut dies illuminábitur:
et nox illuminátio mea in delíciis meis.


Huius ígitur sanctificátio noctis fugat scélera, culpas lavat:
et reddit innocéntiam lapsis et mæstis lætítiam.
Fugat ódia, concórdiam parat et curvat impéria.


In huius ígitur noctis grátia, súscipe, sancte Pater,
laudis huius sacrifícium vespertínum,
quod tibi in hac cérei oblatióne solémni,
per ministrórum manus
de opéribus apum, sacrosáncta reddit Ecclésia.

Sed iam colúmnæ huius præcónia nóvimus,
quam in honórem Dei rútilans ignis accéndit.
Qui, lícet sit divísus in partes,
mutuáti tamen lúminis detrimenta non novit.

Alitur enim liquántibus ceris,
quas in substántiam pretiósæ huius lámpadis
apis mater edúxit.

O vere beáta nox,
in qua terrénis cæléstia, humánis divína iungúntur!


Orámus ergo te, Dómine,
ut céreus iste in honórem tui nóminis consecrátus,
ad noctis huius calíginem destruéndam,
indefíciens persevéret.
Et in odórem suavitátis accéptus,
supérnis lumináribus misceátur.

Flammas eius lúcifer matutínus invéniat:
ille, inquam, lúcifer, qui nescit occásum.
Christus Fílius tuus,
qui, regréssus ab ínferis, humáno géneri serénus illúxit,
et vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculórum.

R/ Amen.[3][4][5]

Prayer for the Emperor[edit]

Until 1955, the Exsultet ended with a long prayer for the (Holy Roman) Emperor:

Respice etiam ad devotissimum imperatorem nostrum [Nomen] cujus tu, Deus, desiderii vota praenoscens, ineffabili pietatis et misericordiae tuae munere, tranquillum perpetuae pacis accommoda, et coelestem victoriam cum omni populo suo.
Look also upon our most devout Emperor [Name], the desires of whose longing you, O God, know beforehand, and by the inexpressible grace of your kindness and mercy grant him the tranquillity of lasting peace and heavenly victory with all his people.

The head of the Holy Roman Empire alone could be prayed for with this formula, and the resignation in 1806 of the prerogatives of that position by Emperor Francis II of Austria, left that position unfilled thereafter, so that the prayer was in practice not used.

And so, after 1804, the prayer actually ended with the immediately preceding petition for the members of the Church:

Precamur ergo te, Domine: ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum: una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. quiete temporum assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris.

However, by the decree Imperii Galliarum of 10 September 1857, Pope Pius IX allowed Emperor Napoleon III of France to be prayed for in the Exsultet from 1858 to 1870, not with the formula reserved for the Holy Roman Emperor, but only by adding "necnon gloriosissimo Imperatore nostro N." to the preceding petition, which became:

Precamur ergo te, Domine: ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum: una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. necnon gloriosissimo Imperatore nostro N. quiete temporum assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris.

In 1955 Pope Pius XII added a phrase to the prayer for the members of the Church and definitively removed the prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor, replacing it with a generic prayer for the civil authorities inspired by the prayer for the Emperor:

Precamur ergo te, Domine: ut nos famulos tuos, omnemque clerum, et devotissimum populum: una cum beatissimo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N. quiete temporum concessa, in his paschalibus gaudiis, assidua protectione regere, gubernare, et conservare digneris. Respice etiam ad eos, qui nos in potestate regunt, et, ineffabili pietatis et misericordiae tuae munere, dirige cogitationes eorum ad iustitiam et pacem, ut de terrena operositate ad caelestem patriam perveniant cum omni populo tuo.

This was removed in the 1970 revision.

Lutheran text[edit]

The following is an example form of the Lutheran Exsultet, taken from the Lutheran Service Book. This version, or a similar translation, may be among various Lutheran denominations.[6]

[After the candle bearer places the paschal candle in its stand, the cantor, deacon, or assisting minister turns to face the people and chants the Exsultet.]

Rejoice now, all you heavenly choirs of angels;
Rejoice now, all creation;
Sound forth, trumpet of salvation,
And proclaim the triumph of our King.
Rejoice too, all the earth,
In the radiance of the light now poured upon you
And made brilliant by the brightness of the everlasting King;
Know that the ancient darkness has been forever banished.
Rejoice, O Church of Christ,
Clothed in the brightness of this light;
Let all this house of God ring out with rejoicing,
With the praises of all God's faithful people.

[The following exchange between the presiding pastor and the congregation takes place.]

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.
It is right and just.

[The presiding pastor then chants or speaks the conclusion of the Exsultet.]

It is truly good, right, and salutary
That we should at all times and in all places,
With all our heart and mind and voice,
Praise You, O Lord, Holy Father, almighty everlasting God,
And your only begotten Son,
Jesus Christ.
For He is the very Paschal Lamb
Who offered Himself for the sin of the world,
Who has cleansed us by the shedding of His precious blood.
This is the night
When You brought our fathers, the children of Israel,
Out of bondage in Egypt
And led them through the Red Sea on dry ground.
This is the night
When all who believe in Christ
Are delivered from bondage to sin
And are restored to life and immortality.
This is the night
When Christ, the Life, rose from the dead.
The seal of the grave is broken
And the morning of a new creation breaks forth out of night.
How wonderful and beyond all telling is Your mercy toward us, O God,
That to redeem a slave You gave Your Son.
How holy is this night
When all wickedness is put to flight
And sin is washed away.
How holy is this night
When innocence is restored to the fallen
And joy is given to those downcast.
How blessed is this night
When man is reconciled to God in Christ.
Holy Father,
Accept now the evening sacrifices of our thanksgiving and praise.
Let Christ, the true light and morning star, shine in our hearts,
He who gives light to all creation,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever.
Amen.

Notes[edit]


References[edit]

External links[edit]

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