Invite the Cherubim!

After I became a Latin Rite Catholic, I used to dream of bringing some of the beautiful music I loved into the Western church. The Orthodox Churches have a rich treasury of music and poetry.  However, much of it is so bound to the Liturgies of Sts. John Chrysostom and Basil that it is difficult to “import” it into the Novus Ordo.  (Obviously, since it’s not in Latin, I never worried about the Extraordinary Form.)

Musicians and worshippers often lament the somewhat lackluster offertory section of the Mass.  The Propers aren’t an option in many parishes and even if they are, the offertories that are simplified end rather quickly.  Or should the congregation sing a hymn sitting down, while writing their checks or digging in their wallets?   Or is the choir going to sing an anthem or motet?

Invite the cherubim!  Of course, they are already there, but the Cherubic Hymn joins the voices of the choir to that invisible host of angels that wait to welcome the Lord.  Here’s the text:

“We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,

And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,

Let us set aside the cares of life

That we may receive the King of all,

Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.”

You don’t need a masterful choir that can sing the Rachmaninoff Vespers.  Most Russian Orthodox churches have modest choirs and there is a wealth of arrangements of this work.  In the Orthodox liturgy, the hymn is interrupted by the Great Entrance.  In a Latin Rite context (or in concert), there is no interruption.

Where do you find this?  Well, more on that next time.  And in the meantime, why not enjoy this?  An English choir singing in Poland.



3 Replies to “Invite the Cherubim!”

  1. The Rachmaninoff Cherubic Hymn is in Old Church Slavonic, a translation of the Greek, IIRC, just like the English version is a translation.

    However, there are plenty of Latin translations of the Cherubic Hymn; it's not an obscure piece. As Wikipedia's (much more elaborate than it used to be) entry notes, the St. Denis books from Carolingian times give a Latin translation, although they were apparently singing it in Greek in honor of their patron saint's linguistic heritage.

  2. I inherited the English version of this when I moved to my current church 2 years ago. I'd not heard it anywhere else. Nice piece, good background info. Now… would using this at Offertory fall under Option 4, if the Proper is not chanted first?

  3. I've never thought about it, but what are the rules about the use of Greek in the Extraordinary Form? (Aside from the Kyrie, of course.)

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